Paraguay is a landlocked country in central South America. It is bounded by Bolivia to the northwest, Argentina to the south, and Brazil to the north and east. The capital is Asunción. The highest peak is Cerro Pero, at 2,762 feet (842 m), and the country’s lowest point is at the juncture of two rivers, the Rio Paraguay and the Rio Parana, where the elevation is 151 feet (46 m).
The country, officially titled Republic of Paraguay, is a constitutional republic, with seventeen divisions, called departments. The population in July 2007 was estimated at 6,669,086.
Paraguay has two official languages: Spanish and Guaraní, the language of the indigenous people of the region. The Guaraní language is the source of some English words, for example, jaguar, petunia, and agouti, and guaraní is also the name of the currency. Ninety-five percent of the population is mestizo, that is, mixed Spanish and Amerindian background.
There is very little arable land; nevertheless, agriculture in Paraguay produces crops such as cassava, corn, cotton, soybeans, sugarcane, wheat, and fruits and vegetables. Beef, pork, eggs, and milk are also produced. Industries in Paraguay include sugar, beverages, textiles, wood products, and electric power, but deforestation and loss of wetland territory are both environmental issues.
A good amount of the economy of Paraguay is informal, and therefore, not easily accountable. The service sector makes up the largest part of the economy. Paraguay’s top trading partners for exports are Uruguay, Brazil, and Russia. For imports, such as vehicles, consumer goods, and petroleum products, they rely primarily on China, Brazil, and Argentina.
Paraguayan foods include beef dishes such as So’O Yo-Sopy, a hearty beef soup, Bori-Bori, a beef soup with dumplings, and Milanesa, breaded fried steak. Corn dishes include locro, a corn stew, mazamorra or cornmeal mush, and sopa paraguaya, a national dish incorporating cheese and onions with cornbread.
The Paraguayan culture was greatly influenced by the Jesuit missions in that country, particularly in the areas of music and religion. Twentieth century Paraguayan writers include Augusto Roa Bastos, Gabriel Cassaccia, and Elvio Romero, but little of the work by Paraguayans has been translated into English.