Paraguay

Paraguay, officially the Republic of Paraguay, is one of the two landlocked countries which lie entirely within the Western Hemisphere, the other being Bolivia, both in South America.

It lies on both banks of the Paraguay River and is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Because of its central location in South America, the country is sometimes referred to as Corazón de América — Heart of America. As of 2009 the population was estimated at over six million.

The music of Paraguay, which consists of lilting polkas, bouncy galopas, and languid guaranías is played on the native harp. Paraguay's culinary heritage is also deeply influenced by this cultural fusion. Several popular dishes contain manioc, a local staple crop similar to the yuca root found in the Southwestern United States and Mexico, as well as other indigenous ingredients. A popular dish is sopa paraguaya, similar to a thick corn bread. Another notable food is chipa, a bagel-like bread made from cornmeal, manioc, and cheese. Many other dishes consists of different kinds of cheeses, onions, bell peppers, cottage cheese, yellow cornmeal, milk, seasonings, butter, eggs and fresh corn kernels.

Social life revolves largely around an extended family of parents, children and blood relations as well as godparents. The Paraguayans' chief loyalty is to their family, and it, in turn, is their haven and support. Family interests determine to a large extent which political party they will join, to whom they will marry, what sort of job they will get, whether they will win a lawsuit, and—in some cases—whether they would be wise to emigrate for a time. Even so, they are very heart warming and open to tourists and foreigners.

Inside the family, conservative values predominate. In lower classes, godparents have a special relationship to the family, since usually they are chosen because of their favorable social position, in order to provide extra security for the children. Particular respect is owed them, in return for which the family can expect protection and patronage.

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