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.

Ambassador Pangrazio Conquers The University of West Virginia

Last night the University of West Virginia beat the University of Kansas in men’s basketball. As a KU fan I was disappointed.  However Paraguayan Ambassador to the United States Igor Pangrazio (a KU graduate) was also visiting UWV and had a better outcome.  He was promoting studying in Paraguay and supporting President Obama’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas program that Partners of the Americas is promoting. The program seeks to have 100,000 students from the north to study in the south and visa versa.  Here is an article from the UWV student paper about the Ambassador’s visit.

http://www.thedaonline.com/news/article_9b0c7d9a-b658-11e4-8e79-a376f726cd49.html

Paraguayan Stevia

Paraguay is making news again with Stevia the sweet plant that goes so well with Terere. Now Japan is buying the entire crop. I I bet that there will still be plenty of plants around the patio to satisfy the locals.

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Sweet-Deal-Japan-to-Buy-All-of-Paraguays-Stevia-20150203-0006.html 

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.

http://www.pressreleaserocket.net/james-a-may-the-father-of-stevia-accepts-esteemed-visionary-award/44258/

POA President Steve Vetter and Ambassador Igor Pangrazio

This short video is from Partners of the Americas.  Steve is welcoming Ambassador Pangrazio to Washington as he starts his post as the Paraguayan Ambassador to the United States.  Igor is a graduate of the University of Kansas.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zj_XhRQP7ZY

Fighting Poverty in Paraguay

Here is an interesting press release by the World Bank about a poverty reduction project in Paraguay.  This project funded at about $1 Billion US dollars is an ambitious effort to increase the incomes of the poorest 40% of the population.  I am not sure of the success of these large scale development projects but it is a worthy goal.  Perhaps we could do something similar in the USA.

http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2014/12/16/new-world-bank-group-strategy-to-support-reduction-in-extreme-poverty-and-inequality-in-paraguay

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