Today, all of Paraguay is celebrating and rejoicing in its 204th year of independence from Spain. The Spanish arrived in the 1500’s and stayed for nearly 300 years as it colonized the region, converted natives to Christianity, and enslaved native Indian populations.
Paraguay gained independence from Spain in 1811 but not before becoming the primary site of Jesuit missions and settlements.
Paraguay is home to an estimated 6.7 million people, the majority of which are Roman Catholic. After surviving several financial and political corruption scandals in the ‘90s, the country continues to move away from an informal economy and have a more transparent government.
BBC News reports that the country suffered some setbacks in 2013 after "Congress controversially impeached President Lugo over the mishandling of a land eviction in which police officers and peasant farmers were killed, returning the Colorado Party back to power." Many claimed that it was all a coup, resulting in much unrest in the country. The most recently elected President Horacio Cartes, one of the country’s richest businessmen, vows to eliminate corruption.
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry sent the following congratulatory message to the People of Paraguay in 2013:
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I extend my best wishes to the people of Paraguay as they celebrate 202 years of independence on May 15.
The United States values our strong relationship with Paraguay and we are committed to advancing our shared interests, including improving democratic institutions, promoting the rule of law, reducing poverty, meeting basic needs for health care and education, and expanding trade and economic opportunities.
We congratulate the Paraguayan people for their recent presidential elections, and we look forward to working with President-elect Cartes and his team.
Our citizens share a great friendship, enhanced by the new direct flights between our nations that will increase tourism and trade. As more citizens of the United States are introduced to Paraguay, they will have the opportunity to experience your vibrant culture, appreciate Paraguay’s rich history, explore new eco-tourism opportunities, and observe Paraguay’s extraordinary biodiversity. Similarly, we look forward to welcoming more Paraguayans to the United States.
May this year, and many to come, bring "py’aguapy ha akãpu’ã" — "peace and prosperity" — to all Paraguayans.
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