The core of Paraguayan history lies in the fusion of two cultures and traditions: European and Guarani. A central characteristic of this cultural fusion is the bilingualism that still endures today with 80% of Paraguayans able to speak both Spanish and Guarani, and many using a mix of the two languages called “Jopará.”
The typical dishes of Paraguay use meat, corn, and cassava as the principal ingredients. The typical delicacies include chipa and mbeju (distinct forms of bread made of starch and fresh cheese), chipa guasu (a cake comprised of fresh corn grains), pajagua maskada (a cake made of cassava and meat), and sopa paraguaya (a cake with cornflour, fresh cheese, and onion).
The most traditional rhythms of Paraguay are Polka and Guarania. Paraguayan Polka, a name adopted from its European predecessor, relies heavily on its poetic lyrics, but there are also instrumental pieces emblematic of Paraguayan music itself, like Félix Pérez Cardozo’s Pajaro Campana (“Bellbird”). Guarania, on the other hand, was created by the great musical artist José Asunción Flores (1904-1977), and it is the most well-known music of Paraguay.
The most widely used instruments of the Paraguayan musical tradition are the guitar and the harp, both of which were brought by the Spanish conquistadors and then customized by Paraguay’s own style and culture. This customization eventually gave birth to the Paraguayan harp.
Throughout the year in all the towns and cities, there are festivals that entertain and amuse with the traditional customs of the country. There are some festivals of a religious nature: the Immaculate Conception in Caacupé; the Holy Week festivities of Tañarandy, Piribebuy, and San Juan; the festival of plumes and masks in Emboscada; and the celebration of Our Lady of Candeleria, among many others.
There are also festivities of the secular variety, such as the Carnival in Encarnación, which is the largest celebration of carnival in the country, and the festivals of Santiago and San Miguel, which are highlighted by the show of equestrian skills set to the rhythms of folkloric musical groups. Although all of these celebrations have the same common denominator of the cultural union between Europe and Paraguay, there are some that are expressed in a more distinct manner, such as the Festival of San Pedro and San Pablo, which is celebrated in Altos.
The artistries most notable in Paraguay are in leather; weavings of nanduti, encaje ju (high-quality embroidery in thread), and karanday; works of cowhide leather (typically used in guampas designed for drinking mate and terere); precious metal work (particularly in the watermark of Luque, which is reproduced in fine threads of gold and silver); and ceramics (especially the works from Itá, Tobatí, and Areguá).
The fabrication of musical instruments also deserves special recognition: with the background and the experience passed down from the Jesuit Missions of old, Paraguayan luthiers, utilizing the fine woods of this land, have become experts in the production of guitars and harps
Beautifully made, the pieces of art produced by different indigenous communities are crafted through natural fibers, diverse types of wood, seeds, and other materials. The feather-work art is also worthy of admiration as it is imbued with the magic of ancient ceremonies, replete with all of their colors and power.