Paraguay has two official languages, since the adoption of the Constitution of 1992: Spanish and Guaraní. The latter is the first indigenous language that has achieved the status of official state language in the Americas. Within the Paraguayan territory, other languages and dialects are also spoken and pertain to other four linguistic families: Toba-Maskoy language, Mataco Mataguayo, Zamuco and Guaicurú.
In the 1980s an estimated 92 to 97 percent of all Paraguayans were Roman Catholics. The remainder were Mennonites or members of various Protestant groups. The 1967 Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but recognizes the unique role that Catholicism plays in national life.
In Paraguay the Sopa Paraguaya, the Mandioca, the Chipá Guazú and the Chipá are present in almost every lunch or dinner at least twice a week (sometimes more and especially if it involves a social gathering). However you may come across these other types of food that are typical of Paraguay:
Arró Quesú - Paraguayan style rice, is similar to a cheese and milk risotto but it has to be made only with white rice and Quesú Paraguai (Paraguayan cheese - see below)
Asado - literally barbecue though the Paraguayan Asado is often accompanied with Sopa Paraguaya or Chipá Guazu. Note, an asado has many types of meat, and LOTS of it! No scrawny hamburger patties here!
Bifé Koygua - meat (steak) topped with fried onions and one or two fried eggs on top (similar to the Chilean Dish Bife a lo pobre).
Bori Bori - a thick soup to which dumplings (or small balls) of cornmeal and cheese and sometimes chicken are added.
Chipa Guazú - basically a corn cake, made with cheese, fresh corn, eggs, oil and milk, and cooked in the Tatakua (a clay oven). It is similar to the Sopa Paraguaya which has corn flour instead of grains of corn.
The first inhabitants of modern day Paraguay were various Indian tribes that are seminomadic and have a warrior culture. By the early 16th century the Europeans arrived led by the Spanish conquistador Juan de Salazar y Espinoza and established the Asuncion settlement on August 15, 1537. The settlement became a city and the center of the Spanish colonial authority. This was also the main site of the Jesuit settlements and missions that lasted for 150 years until the Spanish authorities expelled the religious order from the country in 1767. The country became independent on May 14, 1811 by ousting the Spanish colonial administration.
The Paraguayans then became involved in a series of fighting among themselves and with their neighbors, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. In the War of the Triple Alliance which lasted for five years, the republic fought and was defeated by its three neighbor countries 1870. It lost more than half of its population and substantial territories to Argentina and Brazil. Then in the 1930s it fought against Bolivia in the Chaco wars where it emerged victorious. The republic was able to reestablish its authority in the Chaco region but had to renounce additional territory gains as part of the peace settlement. The country from 1904 to 1954 saw 31 presidents each serving an average of more than a year and half. Most did notcomplete their term as they were forced out of office.
In 2008 former Bishop Fernando Lugo won by a comfortable majority the nation’s presidential election ending more than 60 years of consecutive rule by the conservative party.