Monday, November 17, 2008
Paraguay - Early History
Spain had sent forth a large fleet consisting of 11 sea vessels and over 2500 men with the charge of conquering "the Countries of La Plata". It is written that on August 15, 1537, two of the smallest vessels had bravely managed to make their way into the deep interior of this wild, unknown country.
Disembarking upon the shores of the river known as the Paraguay River, the white men, dressed in their armor, planted their feet upon this strange new land with every intention of remaining.
The date, August15 th, on the Catholic calendar, was remembered as the day of the"Assumption of Maria". Therefor, they named the new place with the rather grandiose title, "Casa Fuerte Nuestra Senora de la Asunción."
Today, the capital of the country of Paraguay is known by this name but usually it is shortened to simply, 'Asunción'. For many years this city would be known as the heart of South America.
This meeting of Spaniards with the local indians, the Guarani, was remarkably peaceful, mostly because of the hospitality of the indians towards the Spaniards. The Spaniards had the, ahem, luck, ahem, of arriving at a time when the Guarani tribe found themselves lacking in males and with an over abundance of females. The reason for this is not clear, perhaps from a prolonged war or sickness.
They decided to share their women among the Spaniards in the hopes of preserving the tribe through the offspring. It seems the gentlemen from Spain were in agreement with this offered hospitality. According to the writings of a Father Paniagau who lived at that time, each Spaniard was offered between 30 and 50 Guarani women!
A product of this intermingling was that both indian and European developed strong familial ties to each other in a way not shared in other conquered lands.
The Governor during the years 1539 -1556, Domingo Martinez de Irala was said to have 70 Guarani wives! Consequently, the name Irala is still a common one among Paraguayans.
This peaceful co-existence between the two races due to the open hospitality of the Guarani indians towards the new arrivals is said to be the basis for the renowned friendliness and welcoming spirit which is still prevalent among the Paraguayans of this day.
As a foreigner recently arrived here upon the shores of the Paraguay River, in the city of Asunción, I am even now a recipient of their graciousness which they so freely bestow upon new comers. I have been impressed with a society that is so genuinely kind hearted and eager to offer assistance.
But, if anyone starts offering 50 Guarani wives to my husband, things could become violent very quickly!