After the initial encounter between the Europeans and the Gaurani indians, 70 years of peaceful co existence passed by. King Phillip II, the Spanish king, granted a charter to the Jesuit Priests to enter a region that was still barely touched, the Province of Guaira, for the purpose of the conversion of the Indians to the Catholic Church.
The Jesuits began teaching agriculture and eventually 200,000 Guarani indians were working on these projects. Formerly, the Guarani indians had been nomadic in nature but were now staying on farms. These indians were treated fairly well and this co existence lasted for 150 years during which time the indians were educated. At the same time, there were other Spanish colonies that were most assuredly taking advantage of the indians and using them for slave labor.
It is notable that the Jesuits fought against this abusive treatment of the Indians but in 1767, King Charles III of Spain, under influence of the Spanish colonists, dissolved the Jesuit grants in a rapid manner which led to much turmoil among the indians who had by now lived an agricultural life for nearly 200 years. This obviously led to wars and revolutions. A time marked by violence and upheaval.
Thus began the time of dictatorships in Paraguay. The dictator Antonio Lopez did manage to provide stability to the country and built schools, founded a newspaper and encouraged immigration, especially of Europeans with technological knowledge of value to the country. He also set up a strong army. He was followed by his son, Fransisco Lopez.
Fransisco's father had impressed upon him the need for diplomacy and to settle dispute by the pen or political means whenever possible, but in 1864, the young President launched a war. This is known as the War of the Triple Alliance and is one of the bloodiest wars to have ever been fought at any time on American soil.
The large, powerful Army of Paraguay ended the war with only 480 soldiers remaining alive. The President was one of the last to die. At the beginning of the war, the population of Paraguay was 1,377,000. At the end of the war only 6000 men remained alive and only 220,000 women and children survived. The Paraguayan women were often found fighting alongside their husbands and sons on the battle field. The infamous red headed mistress of the President also took to the battle field and buried him with her own hands upon his death.
Up to this time Paraguay had been one of the most prosperous South American countries but during the governorship of Marshal Francisco Solano Lopez, this prosperity was lost and has never been regained.
Because of the great loss of citizenry, the country has been very open to immigration seeing the need for workers to fill the void that is even yet left because of the great loss of life during this time. Many of these colonist are of German Mennonite descent and have established themselves in the Gran Chaco of the country and are prosperous, providing needed progress to the country of Paraguay.
For a personal history of a descendant of Mennonite colonists here in Paraguay, read this account by a friend of mine who lives here in the Chaco. We have yet to meet in person but we will one day!!!