Asunción (full name: Nuestra Señora Santa María de la Asunción), population 1,212,112 (2002), is the capital and largest city of Paraguay. The "Ciudad de Asunción" is an autonomous capital district not part of any department. The metropolitan area, named Gran Asunción also includes the cities of San Lorenzo, Fernando de la Mora, Lambaré, Luque, Mariano Roque Alonso, Ñemby and Villa Elisa, which are part of the departamento Central. The Asunción metropolitan area has more than 1.8 million inhabitants. Asunción is located at (-25.2667, -57.6667).
It is the home of the national government, principal port, and the chief industrial and cultural centre of the country. Local manufacturing production includes footwear, textiles, and tobacco products.
The Spanish word asunción means assumption in English. It refers to the Assumption of Mary; the full name means Our Lady, Holy Mary of the Assumption.
In 1731 an uprising under José de Antequera y Castro was one of the first rebellions against Spanish colonial rule. The uprising failed, but it was the first sign of the independent spirit that was growing among the criollos, mestizos and natives of Paraguay. The event influenced the independence of Paraguay, which then materialised in 1811. The secret reunions between the independence leaders to plan an ambush against the Spanish Governor in Paraguay Bernardo de Velasco were held at the home of Juana María de Lara, in downtown Asunción. On the night of May 14 and May 15 the rebels succeeded and were able to force governor Velasco to surrender. Today, Lara's home is known as Casa de la Independencia (House of the Independence) and serves as a museum and historical building.
After Paraguay became independent, there was significant change in Asunción. Under the presidency of Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia roads were built throughout the city and the streets were named. However, it was during the presidency of Carlos Antonio López that Asunción (and Paraguay) progressed, as the new president implemented new economic policies. More than 400 schools, metallurgic factories and the first railroad service in South America were built during the López presidency. After López died, his son Francisco Solano López became the new president and led the country through the disastrous War of the Triple Alliance that lasted for five years. After the War of the Triple Alliance (1865-70), Asunción was occupied by Brazilian troops until 1876. Many historians have claimed that this war provoked a steady downfall of the city and country, since it massacred two thirds of the country's population. Progress slowed down greatly afterwards, and the economy remained stagnated.
After the War of the Triple Alliance, Asunción began a slow recovery attempt. Towards the end of the 19th Century and during the early years of the 20th Century, a flow of immigrants from Europe and the Ottoman Empire came to the city. This led to a change in the appearance of the city as many new buildings were built and Asunción went through an era more prosperous than any since the war.
Population is approximately 539,000 people in the city proper. Roughly 30% of Paraguay's 6 million people live within Greater Asunción. Sixty-five percent of the total population in the city are under the age of 30.
The population has increased greatly during the last few decades as a consequence of internal migration from other Departments of Paraguay, at first because of the economic boom in the 1970s, and later because of economic recession in the countryside. The adjacent cities in the Gran Asunción area, such as Luque, Lambaré, San Lorenzo, Fernando de la Mora and Mariano Roque Alonso, have absorbed most of this influx due to the low cost of the land and easy access to Asunción. The city has ranked as the least expensive city to live in for five years running by Mercer Human Resource Consulting. These cities have also experienced significant economic growth and expansion, to the point that the boundaries between Asunción and its adjacent cities have almost disappeared.
For a time, Asunción was an important city for the Spanish colonial administration. It was an easy voyage by sailboat from Spain: across the Atlantic, up the Río de la Plata, and over to the Río Paraguay. Its growing port was a staging area for traveling to the rest of the South American heartland.
Asunción developed along the river bank. To the east of the river, fertile land supported the growing population and the city thrived. Buildings from the colonial period attest to the prosperity of the city, which the Spanish enjoyed as something of a vacation resort.
After that era, the city has gone through many changes. Being isolated from coastal areas, Paraguay became insulated and closed itself off to visitors. Wars, political upheavals and dictatorships made the country, and the capital city Asunción, a less desirable tourist destination. In recent decades, however, Asunción is once again drawing visitors because of its tropical climate, the friendliness of the Azuceños, and its gateway to the Gran Chaco.
Asunción is a beautiful city, and its location on the Paraguay River facilitates transportation.
The city of Asunción is composed of the following neighborhoods:
Although the economically active population of Asunción has not increased significantly in the last 10 years, it has doubled since 1962.
The industrial distribution of the economically active population show that the tertiary (business and services) sector is the most important, employing 8 out of 10 of all economically active people. The secondary sector (manufacturing and construction) employs 16% of the active population, while the primary sector (farming) is practically non-existent, as Asunción is a completely urban district.
In terms of commerce, it should be noted that this sector has grown considerably in recent years stretching towards the suburbs where shopping malls and supermarkets have been built.
Paraguay's only stock exchange, the BVPASA, is located here.
The city is home to the Godoi Museum and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (which contains old paintings from the 19th century), the Church of La Encarnación and the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the National Pantheon of the Heroes, a smaller version of Les Invalides in Paris, where many of the nation's heroes are entombed. Other landmarks include the Palacio de los López, , the old Senate building (a modern building opened to house Congress in 2003), the Catedral Metropolitana and the Casa de la Independencia (one of the few examples of colonial architecture remaining in the city).
Calle Palma is the main street downtown where several historical buildings, plazas, shops, restaurants and cafes are located. The "Manzana de la Rivera", located in front of the Presidential Palace, is a series of old traditional homes that have been restored and serve as a museum showcasing the architectural evolution of the city. The old railway station maintains the old trains that now are used in tourist trips to the cities of Luque and Areguá (see rail transport in Paraguay).
Asunción also has luxurious malls that contain shops selling well-known brands. The biggest shopping malls are Shopping del Sol, which includes a Macy's-style department store; Mariscal López Shopping, Shopping Villa Morra in the central part of the city, and the Mall Excelsior downtown.