Paraguay Old History

By | January 2, 2023

Paraguay is an independent nation in South America. With the capital city of Asuncion, Paraguay 2020 population is estimated at 7,132,549 according to countryaah. When Spanish colonizers in the early 16th century came to what is today Paraguay, the area was inhabited by close to a million guaraní and several smaller peoples. A deeply rooted mixed culture emerged. After 300 years of Spanish rule, Paraguay became independent in 1811. But the small country, closed between large and threatening neighboring countries, was ruled dictatorially and lagged behind in development.

  • Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Paraguay, covering history, economy, and social conditions.

The Spaniards came to the area from Argentina and sought via the Paraná and Paraguay rivers a shortcut to the gold and silver riches in Peru. Guaraní showed them the way, and in return the Spaniards helped them in fighting with other peoples, such as payaguá (which gave Paraguay its name), guaycurú and abipón. The interdependence caused Spaniards and guaraní to form families together, and thus the mixed culture arose. For Paraguay political system, please check diseaseslearning.

In 1537, the Spaniards founded the city of Asuncion, which became the starting point for further colonization of southern South America. But there was neither gold nor silver and the area did not develop economically. The colonizers’ interest cooled and in the 17th century Catholic Jesuits instead came to mission. They were given large tracts of land which they developed into self-sufficient collective with the indigenous peoples. The approximately 100,000 so-called Indians who lived in the collective were legally protected from being taken to work on plantations, in mines or in the military. The system tormented the upper class of Asuncion and in 1768 all the Jesuits from Paraguay were banished.

Independence from Spain

In 1811, Paraguay was liberated from colonial power Spain. After independence, the country’s history came to be dominated by leaders who resorted to dictatorial methods to hold the nation together against hostile neighboring countries.

The first three dictators were civilians. During José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia’s dictatorship (1814-1840), the country underwent major social improvements, but Francia demanded complete loyalty and an isolationist policy of welding the country against Argentina, which had plans to annex Paraguay. All emigration was stopped and attempts to leave the country were punished with death.

After Francia’s death, Carlos Antonio López assumed power. He had the infrastructure and defense expanded and the country’s neutrality policy liquidated. Antonio López was succeeded by his son Francisco Solano López, who continued the industrial development.

Devastating war against the triple alliance

In 1864 Francisco Solano López ruled the country straight into a disastrous war against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay (the Triple Alliance). Paraguay was inextricably equipped and Argentina and Brazil conquered large parts of the country, which were laid in ruins. When the war was over 1870, 300,000 Paraguayans had lost their lives, well over half the population. Over 90 percent of the adult male population died. Extensive famine followed.

The situation was aggravated by internal conflicts over how Paraguay would relate to the two powerful neighboring states. The Liberal Party supported Argentina and the Conservative Colorado Party supported Brazil. The Conservatives had power in the late 1800s and began selling off state land to become rich themselves. It aroused strong protests and contributed to the 1904 revolution, when the Liberals took power. However, the Liberal Party was divided and the shifts of power then became dense and violent.

The Chaco War against Bolivia

Some stabilization and economic recovery had been achieved when oil was found in the 1920s in the Chaco area near the Bolivia border. The country was drawn into a land conflict with the neighboring country and eventually an open war broke out. The Chaco War of 1932-1935 claimed the lives of 100,000 people, including a third of Paraguayans. Paraguay was allocated a large part of the disputed area when the border was later established. But Bolivia got the area where the oil should be. However, test drilling did not produce any results.

Dissatisfaction with the terms of the peace agreement contributed to the so-called February Revolution of 1936, a military coup that set the point for the Liberal government. The country had then had 22 presidents in 32 years.

Civil War beds for the Colorado Party

The war against Bolivia was followed by a series of new coups and counter-coups, in which officers and parties dared to dismiss each other. In 1940 General Higinio Morínigo took power. He banned all political parties, cracked down on the labor movement, and sympathized with the Nazis during World War II. The military dictator Morínigo ruled with an iron hand but beneath the surface, the contradictions between different groups intensified. Political parties were again allowed in 1946 and the following year a real civil war broke out. The war was between the government with the support of the Colorado Party on the one hand, and liberals and left parties on the other.

After just under six months, the Colorado Party emerged victorious, and Paraguay became a one-party state from 1947.



Ban on foreign landowners

Foreigners are prohibited from buying land in Paraguay. Tensions prevail between landless peasants and foreign, mainly Brazilian, landowners. The government buys 22,000 hectares of land from Brazilian landowners in San Pedro, to be allocated to landless farmers.

Violent in land occupation

One person is killed in a clash between police and farm workers who have occupied land in Alto Paraná.


The President accuses representatives of the coup plans

Lugo accuses his representative Nicanor Duarte and former military leader Lino Oviedo of forging dome plans. They refute the charges.


Lugo becomes President

August 15th

Lugo is joining. He apologizes in the name of the state for the many abuses of the dictatorship, which the Truth and Justice Commission has investigated for four years (see Political system).


Historical victory for Lugo

April 20

Former Bishop Fernando Lugo wins in a historic presidential election that marks the Colorado Party’s more than half-century-long power holdings.

Paraguay Old History