Tomorrow (April 22) is Korea Day in Paraguay

Here is an interesting article from the Korean Harold about Paraguay designating April 22 as a day to honor Korean immigrants.  This is an interesting idea for a couple of reasons.  Imagine if the US had a day to honor the immigrants from each nation.  Koreans also brought their food to Paraguay.  Imagine what the first Korean immigrants thought about the Paraguayan diet.  They had to spice it up a whole lot.

The articles states that the Korean population in Paraguay at one time was 30,000 and now is 5,000.  What happened?

Photos of The War of the Triple Alliance

BBC has a great article about photos from the War of the Triple Alliance.  Since the war was from 1865 to 1870 it was a long and difficult task to take these photos.  They belong to Uruguay and are touring Paraguay.  Clink the link and take a look.

Museo Diocesano de Artes Jesuiticas

It was a warm day in 1991 and the Santa María de Fe was sleepy.  Edith and I decided to take a side trip to visit a museum that Marianna Beech of Kansas Paraguay Partners help create and maintain.  Both the town and the museum are special.  We took the bus on the main highway from Asunción to Encarnación and after 5 hours got dropped off at the side road to Santa María.  We caught a small bus for the 10 km into town.

Jesuits established many missions in Paraguay in the 17th Century.  Along with proselytizing they helped maintain Guaraní the indigenous and first language of Paraguay. Each mission established a speciality for religious and economic reasons.  The mission at Santa María specialized in religious sculpture.  Here is an example.

Sept - 76

The workshop became known as the Great Workshop of the Ancient Missions due to its high quality work and Santa María became one of the largest missions with about 7,000 indigenous residents.  The museum is housed in a 1670s building that once housed the people living at the mission. It consists of 6 rooms that house 56 items. These details are from Romy Natalia Goldberg’s great guidebook to Paraguay.

Edith and I marveled at the workmanship. It was interesting that while many of the saints depicted were European they were represented in Paraguay with the features of local indigenous people. It would have been easy for these sculptures to disappear over the hundreds of years of existence. It is wonderful that they are preserved in this wonderful small museum.

In the 1970s Marianna Beech was president of Kansas Paraguay Partners and learned about the sculptures and worked to create the museum to preserve them. She was an avid supporter throughout the rest of her life.  Here she is in 1979 receiving an award for the creation of the museum. Marianna is next to the women holding the award.

Dec-79 - Mika Mersan, Marianna Beach

Back to our trip.  We easily found the museum and had a wonderful tour.  When we left the museum about noon we asked about the next bus back to the main highway.  We were told that it was not until 4 pm. We decided to have lunch at the local restaurant. Well calling it a restaurant is generous.  Remember this was some 25 years ago.  It was a dimly lit large rectangular room with a few tables.  The food was good and we heard English being spoken at another table.  We introduced ourselves and asked where these other gringos were from.  It turns out that they were from Kansas State University and there on a agriculture project.  A small world indeed. The partnership was alive and working.

The next challenge was waiting until 4 pm.  That was pretty easy.  Like most Paraguayan towns after lunch siesta was an important part of the day.  So the town shut down and we rested on the porch of the museum being entertained by a family of monkeys that lived in the park across the street.  We were fascinated by the family and they seemed happy to entertain. I imagine that at least some of the towns people considered the monkeys to be a nuisance.  When we have Paraguayan visitors who are in Kansas for the first time they tend to fall in love with squirrels.  We would be happy to trade our squirrels for their monkeys.

Remembering Elden Tefft: University of Kansas Sculpture and Friend of Paraguay

Earlier this month Elden Tefft died at the age of 95. Elden retired from the University of Kansas in 1990 but was an active sculptor until his death working with his son Kim in their studio close to Lawrence.

Elden made at least 3 trips to Paraguay supported in part by Kansas-Paraguay Partners. In 1984 he traveled to Asuncion to conduct a needs assessment for a bronze foundry. He met noted Paraguayan sculptor Hermann Guggiari. As his obituary (read his obituary at this link ( states when Elden started out bronze sculpture was considered a craft since the work had to be finished in a foundry at another location. Elden took it upon him self to help institutions construct their own foundries. He did that at the University of Kansas and the Catholic University of Asuncion among many other institutions around the world.

Elden returned to Paraguay in 1988 with his assistant Gerald Miller. They spent 7 weeks working with Hermann Guggiari constructing a metal casting foundry at the School of Sculpture/Atheneum.

In 1989 Elden returned to Paraguay to teach a 3-week class in Guggiari’s workshop. Elden taught his signature lost wax method. One of his students was Paraguayan sculpture Gustavo Beckelmann who visited Kansas in 2008 to be part of the exhibit of Paraguayan art at the Mulvane Art Museum at Washburn University. I hosted Gustavo in Lawrence for a couple of days and he mentioned how influential Elden Tefft was in his development as a sculpture. Gustavo and Elden were able to get together for a short visit. Gustavo told Elden about his artistic influence and showed him some of this work.

Gustavo wrote the following wonderful tribute to Elden upon hearing of his death.

Conocí a Elden Tefft en 1989 en el taller del escultor paraguayo Hermann Guggiari. él vino al Paraguay a dar un curso de fundición en bronce a la cera perdida, el año anterior había estado acá, para diseñar y construir los hornos y utensilios necesarios para esa técnica.

Elden era elegante, así como elegante era su manera de trabajar. Sólo dejaba de lado su saco y vestía un delantal, todavía con la corbata puesta, tanto para modelar o hacer un molde o fundir bronce, lo único diferente es que para la fundición el delantal era de cuero y lo acompañaba con una delicada gorra confeccionada con una hoja de diario.

Su aproximación a la cera perdida era elegante, esta es una ténica muy difícil y él conseguía con extremado trabajo reducir al mínimo las posibilidades de que la pieza tuviera problemas.

Lo volví a ver en Lawrence en 2008, ya con graves problemas de salud, pero tuvo la picardía de saludarme con un ejemplar del suplemento cultural de un diario, en que en primera página estaban él y una alumna en aquél famoso curso de fundición.

Elden y sus enseñanzas contribuyeron en gran medida a lo que es hoy mi vida y mi arte, así como me imagino que habrá sido con innumerables otros que pasaron por su cátedra. Eso hace que la memoria sea dulce y menos dolorosa. Hasta siempre Elden, maestro!

Stevia, Paraguay and Peace Corps

This is one of those why didn’t I think of that.  It is the story of James May who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay when he was introduced to Stevia.  That natural sweetener used in Terere and Cocido.  Take a look.

How Do Volunteers Accomplish So Much?

International partnerships under Partners of the Americas have achieved amazing results through volunteers.  To find out how that is possible take a look at a new book.  Steve Richard has supplied this short piece on The Power of Partnerships.

The Power of Partnership is the beginning of an ongoing project to document the histories of its chapters, partnerships, and networks. It draws on Partners’ institutional archives and more than 100 interviews with volunteers, staff members, and project participants including some from Kansas in March, 2013. Beyond commemoration, the 50th anniversary of Partners highlights the significance of people-to-people diplomacy in U.S.-Latin American relations. Partners appreciates KPP and the efforts of Merrill and Boots Raber in publishing “A 40-Year History of KS PY Partners” as a leading example. Of course all of this is only possible because of our southern partners at Comite Paraguay Partners.

You can order from under “Publications.” Discount applies for two or more books.





War of the Triple Alliance

Here is a nice piece about the Triple Alliance War. I have posted pieces about the war before but is good to get another perspective.  This is from Stratfor that describes itself as a global intelligence company.  The original article included pictures and a map that did copy here.  You might check out the original to see those.

The Bloodiest War in the Americas

December 13, 2014 | 14:00 GMT


On Dec. 13, 1864, the small landlocked but strategically positioned country of Paraguay declared war on the Brazilian Empire. The ensuing conflict became the worst in South American history, leaving nearly 90 percent of Paraguayan men of fighting age dead.

The Paraguayan War laid the foundation of contemporary South America’s geopolitical divisions. The conflict emerged as a result of Paraguay’s centrality in the Platine River Basin and its position in the heartland of South America. Their underlying geopolitical imperatives — the need to secure access to key waterways providing trade routes and outlets to the Atlantic — forced the national interests of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay to collide in the worst armed conflict in South America’s history. Today, 150 years later, the impact of the war still resonates, dominating and defining the nature of regional politics.


Paraguay is a flat, humid, landlocked country, and one of the most geographically isolated nations in the Western Hemisphere. Home to the indigenous Guarani people, the country had become the most industrially and technologically advanced nation in South America by the second half of the 19th century. By 1863, under the presidency of Marshal Francisco Solano Lopez, the Republic of Paraguay had developed the first iron foundry, railways and telegraph communication lines in South America and had built the continent’s first steam-powered iron ship. All of these things were achieved with virtually no recourse to slavery or private ownership of land.

Paraguay is located in the center of the Platine River Basin — a vast area that defines the region. The Platine River Basin, known locally as the Rio de la Plata Basin, is one of the most expansive river basins in the world, comprising parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. The Platine was also the most capital-intensive and productive region in South America, comparable to the Mississippi and Ohio river basins in the United States.

Brazil, Argentina and the Outbreak of War

Brazil’s inlands are rich in resources, but they are on a plateau whose only outlets to the Atlantic are the Paraguay and Uruguay rivers. Argentina, meanwhile, needed to secure the lower end of the two rivers to protect shipments of its growing timber and agricultural exports to Europe. With the collapse of the medieval Treaty of Tordesillas, which drew the lines between Spanish and Portuguese colonial territories in the New World, the newly independent nations of Brazil and Argentina had no regulations or European arbitration to limit their interests. Brazil and Argentina, natural rivals with each other as well as Paraguay, then sought to dominate the Platine River Basin — a situation that would not tolerate the emergence of a third party.

Uruguay, a longtime ally of Paraguay, requested Paraguay’s aid after Brazil and Argentina intervened to enforce a regime change during the civil war of late 1863. The intervening powers shared the goal of controlling the natural choke point where the Paraguay and Uruguay rivers converge, at the delta of the Rio de la Plata. Whoever controlled that point would be able to supervise, tax or plunder inbound and outbound shipments and thus control most of the wealth and trade from South America’s Southern Cone.

Meanwhile, the growing tension between Brazil and Argentina over the Paraguay River gradually strangled the Paraguayan economy by severely limiting navigation routes. Solano Lopez feared that Paraguay’s neighbors would take complete control of the river routes by seizing the Rio de la Plata delta, fully isolating Paraguay from the Atlantic export routes. Fearing a fate similar to that of Uruguay, Solano Lopez sought to help his ally and invaded Brazil’s Mato Grosso upriver, taking over gold mines and armories in an attempt to convince Brazilian Emperor Pedro II to abandon Uruguay. The emperor refused, and the Paraguayan army marched south. On the way to Uruguay, Paraguayan troops crossed Argentine territory, giving the country an excuse to get involved in the conflict. Despite Solano Lopez’s efforts, the Uruguayan government was ousted, and the new leaders joined Brazil and Argentina in a Triple Alliance to move against Paraguay.

The War’s Aftermath

The conflict lasted until 1870, costing Paraguay nearly half of its territory and almost 90 percent of its men of fighting age. Estimates differ, but Paraguay’s overall population is thought to have dropped from 1.3 million to less than 250,000. The conflict was probably the closest thing to Clausewitzian “total war” ever fought in Latin America. After the war, Paraguay never managed to recover its previous position. Meanwhile, the war efforts of the Triple Alliance nations pushed them to the brink of bankruptcy, which is why the bulk of these countries’ first sovereign debt was acquired during this period.

Ever since the war, Paraguay and Uruguay have been buffer states between Argentina and Brazil and, between about 1870 and 1970, the two moved from Argentina’s economic orbit into Brazil’s. Having assured the free flow of goods, a geographically advantaged Argentina was able to fully exploit the agricultural potential of the Platine Basin and quickly build up capital to develop its industries, maintaining a broad lead over Brazil in such development until the middle of the 20th century. However, economic mismanagement and an unresolved imbalance between Argentina’s core and periphery jeopardized its growth. Brazil, however, resolved its inner divisions by the middle of the 20th century and was then able to concentrate its development efforts, rapidly surpassing Argentina.

Lasting Effects

Although war is an improbable option, the geopolitical forces that gave rise to the Paraguayan War still play a fundamental role in the region. Paraguay and Uruguay still serve as trustees of their respective rivers, as non-contesting parties, to avoid the monopolization of crucial choke points along the navigable waterways. They thus buffer the tensions between the two naturally opposed giants, Brazil and Argentina. Paraguay serves as a checkpoint upriver, where the Paraguay and Parana rivers converge, while Uruguay serves the same function downriver, where the Uruguay and Parana rivers converge at the intersection of the Rio de la Plata delta and the exit to the Atlantic. These rivers are the arteries of the Southern Cone and are key sources of electricity for Brazil and Argentina: The Itaipu and Yacyreta hydroelectric dams are positioned on the Parana and Paraguay rivers, and the Salto Grande dam is on the Uruguay River. Paraguay and Uruguay serve as meek guarantors, ensuring that the flow of water and electricity continues without truly being able to challenge the stronger powers upstream or downriver.

Brazil and Argentina historically have not been able to strike a sustainable balance through war. However, the presence of two weaker buffer states along their contested rivers and a healthy income from trade can dampen the tensions between them. This was the geopolitical purpose of Mercosur: to tie the natural rivals’ interests together and leave little room for animosity to grow. However, as regional trade declines, economic cooperation between Brazil and Argentina will erode and the reasons for Mercosur’s creation will cease to exist. With the wealth that tied its members together absent, the ideologically sympathetic relations within Mercosur will be inevitably offset by pragmatism and suspicion — a reminder that geopolitical imperatives and the conflicts they create never entirely fade. The Platine River Basin and the Paraguay and Uruguay rivers will remain the axis around which the Southern Cone’s economics and politics turn.


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