EL 23 DE SETIEMBRE DE CADA AÑO COMO DÍA DE LA CULTURA AFROPARAGUAYA

On August 7, 2015 Paraguayan President Horatio Cartes signed legislation that establishes September 23 as Afro-Paraguayan Cultural Day.

As an advocate Silvia Diaz de Moore is largely responsible for this legislation and is the International Representative of the Saint Baltazar Traditional Group of Kamba Cua that is one of the Afro-Paraguayan communities. 

Silvia Diaz de Moore

Silvia Diaz de Moore

Silvia Diaz de Moore said that for the Afro-descendant community this achievement puts on the calendar a day that commemorates Afro-descendants.  She explained that September 23 was chosen as the day to commemorate Afro-Paraguayan culture because of the death of Gervasio Artigas.

General José Gervasio Artigas, also known as father of Uruguayan independence, included free slave soldiers (known as los lancercos de Artigas or the lancers of Artigas) in Uruguay’s war of independence from Spain.  Silvia and the Kamba Cua community’s descendants were los lanceros de Artigas, who fought in the war of Uruguayan independence in the early 1800s.  Artigas and his soldiers, including los lanceros de Artigas, received political asylum in Paraguay around 1820, but the Paraguayan dictator at that time, José Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia, would not allow them to mix with the “white” population.”  Francia provided Silvia’s ancestors land and livestock outside of Paraguay’s capital city of Asunción to survive.  Silvia’s Kamba Cua community has lived in that area ever since. Kamba Cua, is Guarani, the native indigenous language of Paraguay, and means “area of the black.”  Silvia’s descendants maintained their African heritage by performing African dance and musical traditions called Candombe.  Silvia and residents of Kamba Cua still practice Candombe and organize a festival every year in their community to celebrate their heritage and culture.  Other Afro-Paraguayan communities are in Paraguari, Emboscada, and Laurelty.  

African inspired Paraguayan Masks

African inspired Paraguayan Masks

Silva is married to Kansas native Shante Moore who graduated from Kansas State University.  Shante participated in a Kansas State community service project in Piribebuy, Paraguay in 1994. Silvia and Shante met in 2000 when he was working as a fellow in the U.S. Embassy in Asuncion. During his fellowship, he worked with Kamba Cua to set up a Kansas State Community Service Project with four students in 2001.  They later married. Shane is currently working in the U.S. Mission to the Organization of American States (OAS).

Economic Progress in Paraguay

Paraguay has a long history of economic activity attributed to corruption and contraband.  Ciudad Del Este is a well known center of such activity.  Now we finally have some good news about progress in this amazing city.  If you have ever been there, you know what I mean.  Ciudad del Este has it all.

http://www.startribune.com/growing-pains-in-paraguay-as-economy-modernizes/307520831/

Paraguayan Art

Kansas Paraguay Partners and Comité Paraguay Kansas have had both visual and performing artist exchanges for most of its existence. Recently there is a special visual arts project between KPP, CPK and the Paraguayan Binational Center (CCPA).  Amber Hansen and Eric Conrad have traveled to Paraguay to judge art contests and we await the visit of Sergio Jara the Paraguayan winner of the sculpture contest.  Paraguayan photographer Teresita Gonzalez has also visited Kansas recently.  All of this is to say that Paraguay has a vibrant visual art tradition.  KPP supporter Arla Jones sent this link to Paraguay’s participation in the Venice Biennale.  Take a look at some great work.

http://theculturetrip.com/south-america/paraguay/articles/paraguay-and-the-south-american-encyclopedic-palace-at-the-venice-biennale/

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?

http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20150421001131

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.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-32034353

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.

Paraguayan Land Reforms

Land disputes have a long history in Paraguay.  This may, in part, be because of an extensive history of dictatorships and corruption. The politically powerful obtained land by questionable means and those who lived there were expelled. A somewhat different but not dissimilar history than the United States Homestead Acts of the 19th Century.

Paraguay has seen many disputes in recent years between landless people and large landholders. Some of these have been violent and resulted in deaths.  Now from the International Committee of the Red Cross comes a nice positive article about the distribution of land to poor people in northern Paraguay (https://www.icrc.org/en/document/paraguay-shady-plot#.VQdRpBDF87M).

This is a nice story today but not a long term solution. The 6 people will farm 6 hectares (about 15 acres) that may sustain them today but not as the family grows and agriculture practices require much more land.  In a sense this family is competing against farmers with thousands of hectares of land. Perhaps the best chance for a sustainable future for the 3 grandchildren is an education that will equip them for a different economy.

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