Mbarete means strong in Guarani. It is an accurate description of the Paraguayan people. They have had to be strong to survive as a nation.
I have been reading Paraguayan history so that I will better understand the people of my new country. Coming from a family of Marines, I can't help but admire their patriotism and unity when it comes to resisting outside influences wishing to take their country or exploit it.
Lately I have been reading about the War of the Triple Alliance. Have you heard of it?
The War is known here as The Great War and was fought between 1864 and 1870. It has been the most violent war in the South American continent to date and was fought in Paraguayan territory, between Paraguay and Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay which made up the Triple Alliance. It is second only to the American Civil War in number of deaths, and nearly the same, when looked at as percentages of the population killed.
Look at the map! Paraguay took on the three countries lying to the east, south and west, between it and the coast. Much of the cause for war was over the strategic need to dominate the Rio de Plata and river transportation which was coveted by both Argentina and Brazil. It was a case of geopolitical issues, which is common for countries surrounded on all sides. Paraguay is in the middle of South America making it a pivotal spot for trade and transport to either coast.
I have heard Paraguay referred to here as 'Mediterranean' or middle earth (I keep looking for Hobbits and such!) and if you consider the clashes so common in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, you can see how Paraguay suffers from the same problem of geography. Paraguay is also called the 'Heart of the Continent'.
Paraguay lost the war, which is not surprising given the odds! However, little Paraguay held out against three large adversaries through the sheer will power of the people, even the women took up arms in what they considered to be defense of their very existence. Paraguayan deaths caused by the war, through battle and disease, is thought to be as high as 90% of the male population. Estimates are that the prewar population of the country was numbered 500,000 and it is documented that 300,000 Paraguayans died in this war.
This has brought about a uniqueness of culture to Paraguay in that males are extremely esteemed in the family! It also might well explain the fact that Paraguay has continually supported Israel, casting their vote in support of UN resolution181 which allowed for the creation of the State of Israel. Paraguay has also established a relationship with Taiwan. Israel and Taiwan, two small countries fighting for their very right to exist. Paraguayans can identify with this.
After the war, Brazil and Argentina intended to divide the country of Paraguay among themselves.
Do you know what stopped this from happening?
If not, come back tomorrow for Part Two!