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.
Jesuit ruins in rural villages near Encarnación are just a few kilometers from sophisticated colonial towns like Asunción. Steamy subtropical rainforests with metallic butterflies contrast with the dry and wild frontier of Northern Paraguay & the Chaco. Here, many Mennonites have created their haven, living alongside some of the country’s many indigenous groups.
Pre-Columbian society in the wooded, fertile region which is now present-day Paraguay consisted of seminomadic tribes, who were recognized for their fierce warrior traditions. These indigenous tribes were members of five distinct language families, and 17 separate ethnolinguistic groups still remain today. Europeans first arrived in the area in the early sixteenth century, and the settlement of Asunción was founded on August 15, 1537, by the Spanish explorer Juan de Salazar y Espinoza. The city eventually became the center of a Spanish colonial province, as well as a primary site of the Jesuit missions and settlements in South America in the eighteenth century. Jesuit Reductions were founded and flourished in eastern Paraguay for about 150 years until the expulsion of the Jesuits by the Spanish crown in 1767. Paraguay declared its independence after overthrowing the local Spanish administration on May 14, 1811.