Last weekend I was able to discover the rich diversity and culture that exists inside the landlocked country that is Paraguay. Tourism is growing rapidly and the Government seems to be investing more and more in promoting all that Paraguay has to offer. I even came across some familiar cultures…
I went with my Paraguayan family to the 12th edition of the International Tourism Fair of Paraguay, FITPAR. Upon entering we were greeted by a beautifully arranged Paraguayan pavillon with stands for different parts of the country. In addition to catering to international tourists, the Tourism Minister is promoting tourism amongst Paraguayans, encouraging them to get to know and explore more of their own country.
‘Date una vuelta por tu pais’ is the tourism slogan, meaning ‘Take a tour of your country’.
They were displaying traditional goods and materials such as nanduti, which is a very intricate and colorful Paraguayan embroidered lace used for clothes and decoration. We met two ladies who were showing us the laborious work involved in creating this beautiful product. In addition to nanduti they were exhibitng Paraguayan liquor, honey and of course terere.
Going there got me curious and excited about exploring more. Paraguay is made of up 17 departments and 1 central district (the capital, Asuncion). This time around I got to know more about the Itapua district, which some would argue is the most beautiful and culturally interesting. Itapua is located in the South East of Paraguay, bordering Argentina. The capital city, Encarnation, lies on the Parana River. It is home to Paraguay’s number 1 tourist destanation, the Jesuit Ruins which are a UNESCO world heritage site. There is so much to say about the ruins that they deserve their own blog entry.
As we were walking around the tourism fair, I spotted some girls parading around the pavillion in traditional dresses. They looked like they were competing in a beauty pageant, the ‘cultural dress’ category. I couldn’t quite make out what they were representing until I see a big banner across one of the girls outfits saying ‘SUIZA’. How strange! Some of the other girls were also representing Japan, Germany and Hungary. They were descendents from these countries. The girl representing Switzerland didn’t speak Swiss German, but proudly told me in Paraguayan Spanish that that her great grandparents were from Zurich and more specifically from a small town called Dietikon which is where my aunt and uncle and cousin live. What a coincidence! I couldn’t believe it. It seems that the first Swiss settled in Paraguay in the 19th century.
The girls were promoting a big national festival of the ‘Colectividades’ which are the associations of descendents from their countries. They will have typical food, outfits and dances from various countries. It will take place in Itapua, in a town called Hohenau, where it seems most of the foreign settlements are. I really hope to go! All in all it was a wonderful cultural experience to get information about all that Paraguay has to offer, even Swiss food and traditions!