Paraguay Culture and Literature


In the culture of the country, traditions of the Spanish immigrants merge with those of the Guaraní Indians. This becomes tangible in the 17th and 18th centuries. Jesuit missions operated in the 19th century. Jesuits housed Guaraní there in order to proselytize them and protect them from slave hunters and exploitation. These closed settlements were exemplary social projects with churches and schools as well as accommodation and workshops that were built in the »Guaraní Baroque«, a hybrid of European and Indian architectural styles. The Guaraní’s craftsmanship has been preserved to this day, especially in Ñandutí weaving. The bilingualism of Paraguay is unique. Since 1992 the Paraguayan is Guaraní In addition to Spanish, it is recognized as an official language and is also taught in schools. During the Jesuit missions, a rich literature developed in Guaraní, including particularly religious texts and even baroque opera libretti. Today there is popular music with folkloric texts, but the guaraní plays a subordinate role as a literary language and in the media. The most famous writer in Paraguay is A. Roa Bastos , who is assigned to magical realism. His novel “I, the Almighty” (1974) is set in the time of the Francia dictatorship in the 19th century (Paraguayan literature). In the Gran Chaco, Mennonites, mostly of German or Swiss origin, maintain their own language (Low German) and culture. Visit for types of travel in South America.

Low German as a colloquial language in Paraguay

Low German as a colloquial language – Mennonites in Paraguay

The colonies »Menno«, »Fernheim«, »Neuland«, names such as »Waldesruh«, »Schönhorst«, »Neu-Mölln« would hardly be suspected in the middle of the Chaco, an impassable, partly dry thorn bush savannah in western Paraguay. Low German is spoken – enriched with loan words from Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, English and Spanish – and High German in the service. Low German is not only spoken by residents of German descent, but also partly by the Indians who live and work on site.

Around 15,000 German-speaking settlers live in the Chaco. They are Mennonites who have immigrated from Canada, Mexico and the Black Sea region (eastern Ukraine, southern Russia) since the 1920s. In 1921, Canadian communities agreed with the Paraguayan government on settlement, which began in 1927. The Mennonites were among others. Freedom of religion, exemption from military service, own German schools, autonomous jurisdiction and other privileges guaranteed.

The Mennonites bought land and founded the “Menno” colony in the Loma Plata area. In 1929/30 a second group came from the Black Sea region and founded the “Fernheim” colony with the main town Filadelfia. Finally, in 1947, the last group followed, building the “Neuland” colony.

The life stories of the settlers were often adventurous, the travel and escape routes, especially for those who had come from Ukraine and Russia, were difficult. The first time as a farmer in the “green hell” of the Chaco was so hard that a large number of the immigrants died or moved away again. But the economic upswing began in the 1960s. The Mennonites have become important producers for Paraguay’s agriculture. You have developed the Chaco into a particularly important center in the dairy industry.

Tereré is an indispensable part of everyday culture. The caffeinated national drink made from the leaves of the mate plant is drunk chilled and develops its stimulating effect more slowly than coffee.

World Heritage Site in Paraguay

World Heritage Site

  • Jesuit Missions of La Santisima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesús de Tavarangue (1993)

Paraguayan literature

Paraguayan literature, is part of Latin American literature in Spanish.

The only literarily interesting work of the colonial era is the chronicle “La Argentina manuscrita” (created around 1612) by the mestizo conquistador Ruy Díaz de Guzmán (* 1554 [?], † 1629). Apart from occasional patriotic poetry, there was next to no literature in the 19th century.

It was only with modernism that there was broader literary activity. The poet and prose author Natalicio González (* 1897, † 1966), who used elements of Guaraní folklore, should be emphasized. Apart from Juan Stefanich’s (* 1889, † 1976) socially critical novel »Aurora« (1920), Costumbrismo dominated modern prose.

The process of reorientation was initiated by the Chaco War of 1932–35. The poet and essayist Josefina Plá (* 1909, † 1999) paved the way for avant-garde tendencies. The poet Herib Campos Cervera (* 1905, † 1953) was under surrealist influence. The first novel in which national reality was treated critically was »La babosa« (1952) by Gabriel Casaccia (* 1907, † 1980).

Some of the poetry of the 1950s and 1960s served as a protest against a corrupt regime of violence. Important poets, most of whom have also emerged as essayists, include: Elvio Romero (* 1926, † 2004), Roque Vallejos (* 1943, † 2006).

The development of prose led to the magical realism of A. Roa Bastos. His great novel “Yo, el supremo” (1974; German “I, the Almighty”) is a reinterpretation of the dictatorship by J. G. T. Rodríguez de Francia. The 1970s and 1980s were largely determined by established authors (J. Plá; A. Roa Bastos ; Rubén Bareiro Sagüier, * 1930, † 2014; Lincoln Silva, * 1945).

Because of the dictatorship, free literary development was not possible; almost all writers lived in exile. Nonetheless, the volume of poetry “Paloma negra, paloma blanca” by Jorge Canese (* 1947), published in 1982 and immediately banned, became one of the greatest bestsellers in Paraguay’s history. After the end of the dictatorship in 1989, literary life revived considerably.

Mario Halley Mora (* 1926, † 2003) shaped the development of theater in the second half of the 20th century with an extensive dramatic oeuvre.

Paraguay Culture