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The New York Times, January 14, 1852:


Its Population, Agriculture, and Trade

A LECTURE--by E.A. Hopkins

    Last evening the American Geographical and Statistical Society held a meeting at the Rooms of the Historical Society, to hear a paper read by E.A. Hopkins, Esq., upon the Population, Trade and Agriculture of Paraguay, and the upper waters of the Rio de la Plata.
    ...Mr. Hopkins observed that strange events in that country had closed it from the knowledge as well as the curiosity of mankind for forty years...

    The vast territory, formerly known by the apellation of Paraguay, comprised all that portion of South America which was bounded on the North by the Northern frontier of the provinces of Santa Cruz de la Sierra and Charcas, in 16 deg. South latitude; on the South by the Straits of Magellan; by Brazil on the East; and by Chili and Peru on the West. But the country now distinguished by that name is entirely contained within the shores of the Paraguay and Parana Rivers, from an undefined boundary with Brazil in about 17 deg. S.L., to their junction in 27 deg. S.L. The maps of these regions are manifestly incorrect... The Rio de la Plata is formed by the confluence of the Uruguay with the Parana, and, from thence to the ocean, it is remarkable for its great breadth and shallow waters and should be properly considered an estuary of the sea.

    The River Parana rises in the western slope of the highlands near the sea-board, to the North-westward of Rio de Janeiro, and flowing westerly and south-westerly to its junction with the Paraguay, continues a southerly and south-easterly course to the ocean. In this course, through 16° of latitude, and as many of longitude, its navigation is only interrupted in at longitude 23° 40'. Here the river flows for thirty-six leagues through a narrow gorge, which it has burst through the chain of mountains running from the province of Sao Paulo in Brazil, westward till they are lost before reaching the Cordilleras. Probably no living white man has ever seen these extraordinary rapids. They were described in 1808, by D. Felix d'Azara, from hearsay; because, owing to domestic dissentions, barbarism has greatly encroached upon the frontiers originally conquered from the Aborigines by the Spaniards.
    These rapids probably form the most remarkable cataract in the world next to Niagara. The river Paraguay is the most perfect for the purposes of navigation of any in the world. On its East lies the rich Brazilian provinces of Matto Grosso--the population of which is estimated at 150,000. On the West, descending, we meet with the three most populous provinces of Bolivia, Moxos, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, and Chiquitos, from whence the celebrated Peruvian bark is chiefly procured...

    ...In Paraguay itself there are 1,200,000 souls. The country is intersected by many rivers, all more or less navigable from ten to fifty leagues. Of these the river Tibicuari is the most important; it was fully explored in 1785 by D'Zara, as well as last year by myself...
    Yet it will be asked, "How is it that all this has just been found out?"... The story is one of dark crime. Its cause is simple when explained. Two extraordinary characters will be found to be the chief impediment: Rosas, the dictator of Buenos Ayres, and Francia, the tyrant of Paraguay; while at the same time our own Government has heavy sins of omission to answer for... 1811 [Paraguay] established on the ruins of the Spanish power a Government of her own, securing her independence from a colonial vassallage mainly by her isolated geographical position. This fact was one cause of the tyranny to which she was subjected under the Dictator Francia.

    ...Beginning his career in 1811, in 1814 [Francia] was elected dictator for three years. He died on the 23rd of September, 1840. During this time he adopted as a principle non-intercourse with all the world... The reason why Paraguay still remains virtually in the same position as Francia left her is to be found in the history of the Dictator of Buenos Ayres, Manuel de Rosas... under his rule the country has decreased in population; the liberty of the press has been annihilated, and the public schools, colleges and hospitals are all gone.
    A twelve years knowledge of them satisfies me that it is not necessary to rule the Argentine people in such a way... The policy of Rosas is to avoid the light of civilization and commerical intercourse, and the only communication he has permitted Paraguay to have with the outside world for the past two years consisted of a monthly mail carried by an Indian scout.

    ...In Paraguay the forests teem with every description of ornamental and useful woods.
    The vegetable kingdom of Paraguay presents the richest attractions. The medicinal herbs, which abound in the greatest profusion, are rhubarb, sasparilla, jalap, bryoniat, indica, sassafras, hollywood, dragon's blood, balsam of copaiba, nux vomica, liquorice and ginger. Of dye-stuffs, too, there is an immense variety--the cochineal, which is indeed an insect, but requiring for its food a species of the cactus plant; two distinct kinds of indigo, vegetable vermillion, saffron, golden rod, and other plants producing all the tints of dark red, black and green. Many of the forest trees yield valuable gums, not yet familiar to commerce or medicine, and they comprise some of the most delicious perfumes and incense that can be imagined. Others again are like amber, hard, brittle, and insoluble in water. Some cedars yield a gum equal to gum Arabic; others a natural glue, which, when once dried, is unaffected by wet or dampness. The seringa, or rubber tree, the product of which is now almost a monopoly with Para, and also the Palo Santo, which produces the gum guiacum, crowd the forests, ready to give up their riches to the first comer; and the sweet flavored Vanilla modestly flourishes, as if inviting the hand of man.
    Upon the hills, the celebrated Yerb Matte [Yerba Mate], which is the exclusive beverage of one-half of South America, has only to be gathered.

    Upon the fertile alluvial banks of so many large streams, sugar cane, cotton, tobacco of a superior quality, rice, mandoca, Indian corn, and a thousand other productions, vegetate with profusion; while seven varieties of bamboo line the river banks, and dot the frequent lake with islets of touching beauty. On the plains, quantities of hides, hair, horns, bones, tallow, &c., are lost for want of transportation. If we go to the forests, we find two or three kinds of hemp, vast quantities of wax, the nux saponica or soap nut, the cocoa, and vegetable oils in abundance, with two kinds of wild cotton, admirably adapted for the manufacture of paper. But it is with the forest trees of Paraguay that I love most to dwell. Giants! there they are, vast and noble in their aspect, and able, as it were, to utter for themselves the sublime music of the wilderness. Sixty varieties already known, furnish timber of all kinds and colors, and degrees of durability, elasticity and buoyancy. I have seen timbers of the Lapacho that have supported the roofs of houses in Buenos Ayres for more than two hundred years. They are now as sound as ever, and to all appearance, capable of performing the same service to the end of the world. A door-sill of the same wood, half imbedded in the ground, and marked "1632," belonged to the front door of the house which I inhabited in the city of Asunçion. Upon the closest inspection, it was in a state of perfect preservation...

    In conclusion, I wish it to be distinctly understood, that though I have made some forcible statements, and drawn therefrom my own conclusions, I do not desire to wound the prejudices or the partialities of any person whatever...

The Los Angeles Times, February 26, 1899, p.16:


From Our Own Correspondent.
    Ascuncion, Jan. 6, 1899.--Come with me this morning and have a look at the capital of Paraguay. We are in the very heart of the South American continent. It is now summer. Every on is going about in cottons or linens, and at midday there seems to be only a sheet of brown paper between us and hades. The children go to school very early, and every one is resting or dozing at noon. The mornings and evenings, however, are pleasant, and there are mule street cars which will take us to all parts of the city...
see also: Colombia News - Ecuador News - Chile News - Brazil News

Paraguay is one time zone at GMT-4, with DST from the 3rd Sunday in October to the 2nd Sunday in March.

  Paraguay News

    The Republic of Paraguay, a landlocked country, is bordered by Bolivia to the northwest and north, Brazil to the northeast and east, and Argentina to the southeast, south, and west. The capital is Asunción. The area of Paraguay is 157,048 square miles (406,752 square km). The estimated population of Paraguay for July, 2007 is 6,669,086. The official languages are Spanish and Guaraní, a Native American language, which is commonly spoken by about 90% of the people.

    Gold-seeking Spaniards first established a fort on the Paraguay River on August 15, 1537, and called it Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Our Lady of the Assumption). Colonial Paraguay and Argentina were ruled jointly until 1620, when they became separate dependencies of the Viceroyalty of Peru.
    In 1750 King Ferdinand VI of Spain, by the Treaty of Madrid, ceded Paraguayan territory to Portugal. This led to a Jesuit missionary-incited Guaraní (native) revolt.
    In 1776 Spain created the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, which included Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Bolivia, with its capital in Buenos Aries. This made Paraguay became an relatively unimportant dependency of Buenos Aires. In 1767 the Jesuit missionaries were expelled from Spanish America.
    In 1808 the armies of French emperor Napoleon I overran Spain and Portugal and deposed Ferdinand VII of Spain. Spanish colonies in America saw this as an opportunity for independence. Argentina proclaimed its independence of Spain in 1810, and Paraguay proclaimed its independence on May 14, 1811.

    In the disastrous War of the Triple Alliance (1865-70), Paraguay lost two-thirds of all adult males and much of its territory. It stagnated economically for the next half century.
    In the Chaco War of 1932-35, large, economically important areas were won from Bolivia.
    The 35-year military dictatorship of Alfredo STROESSNER was overthrown in 1989, and, despite a marked increase in political infighting in recent years, relatively free and regular presidential elections have been held since then.
    CIA World Factbook: Paraguay

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    Asuncion has only about thirty thousand people. Her buildings are almost all small. They are chiefly one-story houses, and outside the government structures there are not two hundred more than thirty feet high. The Paraguayan who lives in a two-story house struts about like a king, and the owner of a three-story block is a nabob.

    Still this maiden Asuncion is wonderfully beautiful. Mother Nature has clothed her in the brightest of dresses. In her gardens lemons and oranges grow. Great palm trees throw their shadows upon her, and the amorous waters of two mighty rivers are always washing her feet.
    She is seated on the high east bank of the Paraguay River, which corresponds to the Mississippi, and, on its south and southeast, the Parana, corresponding to the Ohio. Both the Paraguay and the Parana are navigable for large river steamers, giving a broad waterway from here to the Atlantic, similar to that of the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

    Paraguay proper is just about as big as Illinois. It is 375 miles long and about 200 miles wide, and it includes all the land lying east of the Paraguay River. There is a vast wilderness to the west of the stream called the Chaco. This is the wild west of Paraguay. It is inhabited by Indians and wild animals, and has good forests and pastures, but as yet is not much explored.
    Paraguay proper is not unlike Illinois in character. It has excellent soil and great pastures. The face of the country is rolling. In some places there are low mountains which furnish numerous streams, so that you can hardly fence off a farm without including good water.

    It is in Paraguay proper that the greater part of the people of Paraguay live. The country has not more than 600,000, and... a large majority of these people are women. The Paraguayans are the offsprings of the Indians united to some of the best Spanish element that settled South America.
    One of the first cities established on the continent was this town of Asuncion. It was built seventy years before John Smith landed at Jamestown...

    Paraguay was for years the leader of wealth, civilization and culture in this part of the world, and it was not until the close of our civil war that it fell out of the race. It then had a fight with its neighboring republics which lasted five years, and killed off almost all of the men. This ruined the country. A report went forth that it was desolate, and the bulk of the European immigration since then has gone to the Argentine, Uruguay and Brazil.

    There are today less than 10,000 foreigners in all Paraguay. I have an estimate from the Secretary of State which says that there are now here 5000 Argentines, 2000 Italians, 600 Brazilians and 800 Germans. The rest are French, Swiss, Americans and English.
    In addition to these and the 600,000 native whites and of the mixed breed, there are about 150,000 pure Indians. There is so much Indian blood in the whites that it is hard to tell... The language generally used is that of the Guarani Indians. It is a beautiful language, more soft and melodious than even the Spanish, and is used by everyone outside the cities...

    The small towns are composed of thatched huts from 15 to 25 feet square. The smaller cities have one or two streets of one-story brick dwellings, the walls of which are covered with stucco, and which are roofed with red tiles. Some have walls of stone, and are roofed with palm bark.
    The larger cities have parks or plazas, but none outside Asuncion have paved streets or any modern improvements. Even Asuncion is still lighted by coal oil, and but few of its people have ever heard of a sewer. The sanitary arrangements of many of its houses are filthy, those of the chief hotel, for instance, being dirty and unhealthy to an extreme.

    Although Asuncion is older than any city of North America, it appears delightfully clean and fresh. Its streets cross one another at right angles, and they so slope toward the water that every good rain washes them clean. We have sixty inches of rain here every year, and when it does rain it pours. Only a few of the streets are paved. The most of them are red sand, giving the city a rose-tinted foundation.

    Let us notice the houses. They are built close to the sidewalks in solid blocks, forming great one-story walls with here and there a door or an iron-barred window opening into the street. You can tell the different houses by the colors. Some are painted rose pink, others sky blue, some blood red, and others all the tints of yellow and green.
    We are now going toward the post office. It is a light lavender. On our way we pass a market house painted rose pink, and a little further on there is a cathedral, the color of rich Jersey cream. Even the public buildings are painted...

    It seems funny to think of newspapers in Paraguay. But there are newsboys everywhere poking the dailies under your nose. The papers are printed in Spanish, and they sell for 10 cents a copy, or about 2 cents of our money. They are little folios of the old blanket-sheet shape, containing little news, but big advertisements. Here is one that has telegraphic dispatches, including cables from Washington and Rome.
    Asuncion has a telegraph line connecting it with Buenos Ayres, from where dispatches can be sent to all parts of the world. There are also one or two wires to the interior of the country, and these are patronized to such an extent that 46,000 messages were received last year.

    Asuncion has telephones. They are owned by a stock company, which pays dividends of 24 per cent. every year, notwithstanding that its telephone rates are lower than any in the United States. The company charges business houses $2 gold per month, and for telephones in residences the monthly charge is only $1.50 in gold.
    We can visit the central station. It is an interesting sight. The "hello girls" of Paraguay have even sweeter voices than our own hello girls, and some of them are quite pretty. Most of them are in their bare feet, and their low-neck dresses are as white as the orange blossoms that some of the girls wear in their hair. There are orange trees just back of the office, so that the flowers are ready at hand.
    The girls stand up to their work, making the connections by putting pegs in and out of a wall of numbered holes, thereby bringing together the various customers. I ask the manager some question as to salaries, and am told that each girl receives about $6 gold a month, or $1.50 a week.

    We see tram cars on the principal streets. The cars are open at the side, and are so rudely made that they seem to have been chopped out with a hatchet. Each is drawn by three mules, which go on the dead gallop, and the cars run so far apart that you often have to wait a half hour for a ride. The different lines connect the wharves with the railroad depot, and they go out to the suburban towns. They are well patronized, but are not paying investments.

    It is the same with Paraguay's only steam railroad. This was built under a guarantee from the government by English constructors. The English made money building it, but the road has paid no dividends since it was opened.
    It goes about one hundred and fifty-six miles into the interior. It connects Villa Rica with Asuncion, and will be extended, it is said, down to the Parana River. Another line which is talked of, but which I fear will not soon be constructed, is to run from Asuncion to the port of Santos, Brazil, on the Atlantic. Such a road, while very expensive to build, would open much good country, and would probably have a large traffic.

    One of the queerest things about Asuncion is the money. That in circulation is a paper currency, poorly printed and of poor material. It now comes from Germany, and is not nearly so good as the old paper money which was made in the United States. The bank notes are in all denominations, from 5 cents to $100, and the paper is at such a discount that a Paraguayan dollar is now worth about 13 cents of our money. The banks of Asuncion handle this stuff by the basketful. They cord it up like paper, and they are making a lot of money out of their business.

    Indeed, it seems to me there is a chance for some of our idle American funds to be used in banking in Paraguay. The usual rate of interest outside the banks 15 per cent., and in the banks you cannot borrow money for less than 1 per cent. per month. The usual discount rate is 12 per cent., and a bank gives no favors without receiving a money compensation. As a result, the banks pay big dividends.
    Take the Mercantile Bank of Paraguay, upon which I have letters of credit. This bank paid a dividend of 16 per cent. last year, and its president tells me it has never paid less than 10 per cent. Its capital is only $120,000 in gold, and still its business last year amounted to $2,000,000. The Territorial Bank, which has a capital of $70,000, paid a dividend of 12 per cent. last year, and other private banks do, it is said, even better.

    From these figures it will be seen that it takes a good deal of money to do the business of Paraguay. There is now between $8,000,000 and $10,000,000 of Paraguayan money in circulation, and the government is trying to increase the value of the currency by withdrawing a certain amount every year. It takes almost $5,000,000 annually to run the government, and the exports and imports amount to about $14,000,000 gold a year.

    Considerable money is made in the raising of cattle. There is a great deal invested in shipping hides, and a large amount in preparing and shipping mate, or Paraguayan tea.
    Paraguayan tea [Yerba Mate] comes from the leaves of a bush which grows wild in some parts of Paraguay. The leaves are gathered, roasted over a fire and ground to a powder. They are then put into skin bags, being packed so tightly that the bags are as hard as stones. In this shape the tea is shipped to all parts of South America. There are millions who use it in the Argentine, Uruguay and Brazil, and will find it for sale in Chile and in the lands further north.
    The people prefer it to tea or coffee, and even in the coffee districts of Brazil it is greedily drunk. The usual breakfast of the poorer Paraguayans consists of a cup of this tea, or rather a little bowl, for it is always served in a gourd about the size and shape of a baseball. This is half filled with the powdered leaves. Boiling water is then poured upon it, and the person who drinks it sucks up the liquid through a silver or brass tube at the end of which are a lot of small holes which act as a strainer.
    Nearly all the foreigners who come to Paraguay drink mate. They say it is an excellent brain stimulant, and that it has no bad effects if used in moderation. I have tried it several times, but I always burn my tongue with the tube. The tea tastes to me somewhat like a decoction of quinine and hay, and I doubt if I shall ever be able to acquire a love for it...

    The immigrants who come to Paraguay settle in colonies, and not upon their farms... There is one not far from Asuncion, called San Bernardino, populated by Germans. There is another of Australians... Another colony of special interest to the United States is just across the river from Asuncion, in the Chaco. This was named after President Hayes, because he decided a territorial question between the Argentine and Paraguay in favor of the latter. The colony is called Villa Hayes, but they pronounce it here as though it were spelled Villa Eyes.
    This colony... is largely engaged in cultivating sugar cane and distilling its juice into a rum so villianous that it will kill at forty rods. Inasmuch as rum is an article that is in demand in all parts of Paraguay at all times, the colony is probably in good financial condition.

The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1899 was equivalent to $24.71 in 2007.

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