When Italian explorer Sebastian Cabot first sailed up what is now called the Parana River in 1526, the surrounding lands here were home to many fierce indigenous Indian tribes.
Spain's famed navigator, Juan de Salazar, subsequently founded the now capital city of Asuncion in 1537. In short order the Spanish began to colonize the interior, the Jesuits converted the Indians to Catholicism, and all seemed right on track.
On the surface Paraguay appeared to be a potentially valuable Spanish dominion, but then, with no gold found, no silver to be mined, and no local Indians forced into slave labor, this isolated colony remained peaceful, and for the most part, out of the spotlight of the Spanish Crown.
After 250 years of Spanish rule, and the overthrow of the Spanish King by Napoleon, Paraguay finally became independent in 1811, and in fact, was one of the first countries on the continent to do so.
Independence in Paraguay fathered dictatorships, revolutions, coups and brutal military rule, as well as a number of costly wars. In the disastrous War of the Triple Alliance (1865-70), Paraguay lost two-thirds of all adult males and much of its territory.
And you guessed it, Paraguay's economy crashed, political infighting continued, and a long series of dictatorships prevailed on into the late 20th century, including the 35-year military dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, which was overthrown in 1989.
Despite a marked increase in political unrest in the last few years, as well as a public assassination and three failed coups, Paraguay has held relatively free presidential elections since 2000.
And with Paraguay's access to the Atlantic Ocean through the Parana River; numerous natural resources, and an improving tourism infrastructure and it remains a land of opportunity and great promise.
|Land Area||397,302 km2|
|Water Area||9,450 km2|
|Total Area||406,752km2 (#59)|
|Government Type||Presidential Republic|
|GDP (PPP)||$64.67 Billion|
|GDP Per Capita||$9,500|