Paraguay is a small landlocked country near the center of South America. It is surrounded by Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil. The Paraguay river flows through Paraguay from north to south and divides the country into two sharply different land regions. West of the river lies Chaco, a flat, thinly settled area of coarse grasses, scrub forests, and salt marshes. Eastern Paraguay, on the other hand, has rolling hills, fertile soil, and thick forests. The great majority of the Paraguayan people live in the eastern part of the country. About a fifth of them live in or near Asunción, the capital and largest city. Almost all Paraguayans are of mixed Guarani Indian and Spanish ancestry. Spain ruled Paraguay until 1811, when Paraguay declared its independence.
Over ninety percent of the Paraguayan people are Roman Catholics. The Constitution makes Catholicism the state religion, but it guarantees freedom of worship. Protestants, many of whom are Mennonites, make up about one percent of the population. Missionaries of the Jesuit order began to arrive in Paraguay in 1588 to convert the Guarani to Roman Catholicism. They organized mission settlements called reducciones or reductions, where the Indians lived and worked. The Jesuits taught the Guarani such skills as weaving, carpentry, and printing.
The Paraguay River flows southward through Paraguay. It divides the country into two major regions: the (1) Chaco, officially called Occidental Paraguay and (2) Eastern Paraguay, officially called Oriental Paraguay.
* Taken from The World Book Encyclopedia. (Chicago: World Book, Inc.), pg 145-149.