Friday, August 21, 2009

And Now...

Part Two

...the rest of the story.

Present day Paraguay can thank two individuals in particular for their present day boundaries and existence. The first is Martin Thomas McMahon. McMahon was a Major General in the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery.


After the war he went back to his law practice and in 1868 he was appointed as the United States Minister to Paraguay. He arrived just in time to be an eye witness to the ending days of the War of the Triple Alliance. He was appalled by the atrocities he saw being inflicted upon the Paraguayan people. When you realize he had been active in the Civil War and that this was not a man who had never seen the terrible realities of war, and yet, what he saw here moved him to action in defense of the Paraguayan people, you will gain a sense of the scope of cruelty involved.

When Asuncion fell to the enemy, most foreign Ambassadors stayed in their embassies and accepted the invaders as the de facto government of Paraguay. Not so McMahon! McMahon moved his family and staff to where the Marshal President Lopez had set up his new seat of government.

At one point, the Alliance was bombarding the home of Lopez where his children were in residence. McMahon took the family into his own home and placed them under the protection of the United States and this saved the lives of the children.

During this time, McMahon was able to view first hand the many atrocities of the Brazilians , and Argentines, upon the civilians of Paraguay such as setting fire to a hospital and burning alive over 300 patients. Men, women, and children. He was witness to the fact that not only was the Alliance intent upon taking the territory from Paraguay, but in truth, were waging a war of genocide against the Paraguayan people even making it illegal to speak in their native tongue, Guarani. Any teacher found teaching in the Guarani language could be imprisoned for doing so.

By 1868 most of the Paraguayan army was gone. McMahon reported that those remaining in the fight were boys no older than 10 or 12 years of age, wearing false beards to try and convince the enemy that they were older men. Their bravery is still celebrated here in Paraguay.

McMahon also observed the prison camps where men, women, and children were tortured and enslaved by the Alliance.

When it became clear that Lopez would be killed , he placed his son in the care of McMahon and asked that he be allowed to return to New York to study American law.

By this time even the boys were mostly dead and as Lopez withdrew for his final stand, he left behind the women and children telling them to remain and surrender to the Brazilians. Paraguayan women are not ones to surrender and many took up weapons and attempted to defend themselves against the invading soldiers. They were not shown leniency and atrocities were committed against them in those days.

Although Paraguayans had no lost love for the now dead Dictator Lopez, most did realize that they had been fighting for more than his ego and were indeed fighting for their own right of existence.

In 1878, President Hayes was asked by the Argentinians to be the intermediary between Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay as they were now disputing who would lay claim to the lands taken from the Paraguayan nation.

McMahon was recalled to present his finding and observations to the American Congress. This report compelled President Rutherford. B. Hayes to intervene on behalf of the Paraguayans. President Hayes began to arbitrate for the Paraguayans in 1878 and ordered the return of a large portion of the Chaco to Paraguay. This region, which composes 60% of the nation, is now named the 'Territory of Hayes 'in his honor. There is a national holiday to honor Hayes. And more importantly in this culture, he even has a soccer team named for him!



In 2007 Paraguay issued a stamp in honor of the former Ambassador and General Martin T. McMahon who served Paraguay so well and was their strongest international advocate during the War of the Triple Alliance.



There is to this day a strong bilateral relationship between Paraguay and the United States. Most Paraguayans feel that the United States has come to their aid in times of need. A special affection is held for McMahon and President Hayes because of their part in telling the world of the plight of the Paraguayan people, of their bravery in battle, and the atrocities committed against them by the Alliance.

Hayes is such a hero to the people here that they assume he is as revered in the US, right behind Washington and Lincoln. The acts of McMahon and Hayes provided a good will towards the United States which is still felt to this day.


I wonder how many Americans know anything about this bit of history in regards to President Rutherford B. Hayes and his role in support of Paraguay? Is it not something to be proud of? Two great American statesmen who are very much unsung heroes!

Did you know?

11 comments:

Charles said...

Very interesting story. I think if more people studied history the gain a greater understanding and a greater love of country.

I am now inspired to dig further

T. Anne said...

Wow. Most of us don't even realize who Hayes was! Thank you for the education.

Findalis said...

I wish the history books in the US would teach this instead of the PC nonsense they do teach.

I never admired Rutherford B. Hayes until now. I can see him in a better light, more humane and showing the best side of the American people and spirit.

Thank you Jungle Mom.

Lazy Writer said...

What an interesting story! I learned a great deal. Thanks for posting it.

Webutante said...

You've written a little about Hayes but this really fleshes it out and the long history of alliance with the US is well worth the read. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Betty said...

I have noticed Paraguayans love for America. Not I know why. Thanks for that!

Kathy said...

You did a beautiful job of telling the story Rita. I also enjoyed the history of Asuncion you posted some time ago. It's all so interesting.

Anonymous said...

Well its Sat. Nite and thought I would check to see what the latest is in SA...Low and behold a complete history lesson on Paraguay which I knew nothing of.. Thanks Rita, for posting such an interesting time for those people and also something of what Hayes did.. as I had always thought of him as a "do nothing" president..I'm like Charles and want to dig deeper.. Don(Penless writers friend)

Jungle Mom said...

Charles, We do need to renew the love of our country which seems to have been lost to so many.

T ANNE, You are welcome!

Findalis, Yes, not much is really known of his good deed here.

Lazy Writer, I find history to be so fascinating!

Webutante, yes, I did do a short piece on this back in February.


Betty, It is there isn't it?

Kathy, I fond it all fascinating!

Don, its always good to see you drop by! Hope you have fun digging deeper!

Jungle Mom said...

Charles, We do need to renew the love of our country which seems to have been lost to so many.

T ANNE, You are welcome!

Findalis, Yes, not much is really known of his good deed here.

Lazy Writer, I find history to be so fascinating!

Webutante, yes, I did do a short piece on this back in February.


Betty, It is there isn't it?

Kathy, I fond it all fascinating!

Don, its always good to see you drop by! Hope you have fun digging deeper!

Bob said...

I am glad there is the goodwill toward the U.S.