In synthesis: the ones suspected of the cannibalism are the Guaraní Indians who populate the islands in the Río de la Plata, but not the mainland areas in that region. Those islanders were cultivators, a characteristic belonging to the Guaraní, not the Charrúas.
The remaining members of the expedition named the tributary "Río de Solís". They then attempted to return to Spain, but on the return, some of their boats were shipwrecked on the Island of Santa Catalina, part of the present-day Brazilian coast.
Among the survivors was Alejo García a Portuguese adventurer who had made contact with the Guaraní while living among the Indians. García astounded the natives with tales of the “White King” who lived, it was said, farther west and ruled cities of incomparable riches and magnificent splendor.
After eight years, García had gathered enough mena and supplies to attempt a voyage to the land of the "White King".Marching towards the west, García’s company discovered the massive waterfalls of Iguazú (in Guaraní, "Great Waters"), they then crossed the river Paraná (according to historian Efraim Cardozo, he only crossed the Paraná at the smaller waterfall called Monday; the bigger waterfalls of Iguazú were discovered by Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and not by Alejo García, years later), and arrived at the site of present-day Asunción thirteen years before it was founded.
During 1524 and 1525, the small group recruited an army of 2,000 local Guaraní soldiers as reinforcement to invade the promising new land. They had to enter the Chaco, a rough semi-desert region on their expedition. There they were faced with obstacles such as dryness, rainstorms and tribes of Chaco Indians.García was the first European to cross the Chaco and even managed to penetrate the outer defenses of the Inca Empire on the hills of the Andes, in present-day Bolivia. He was able to accomplish this eight years before Francisco Pizarro.
Garcia had a plan to accomplish his mission, which included looting. He was able raised an impressive booty of silver. Earlier, the army of Huayna Cápac had arrived to challenge him. García then retreated with the spoils, only to be assassinated by his Indian allies near San Pedro on the Paraguay River.
The Indians, however, spared the life of his son, who was the first Paraguayan mestizo. News of the excursion into Inca territory seduced Spanish explorers later and attracted Sebastián Gaboto to the Paraguay River two years later.
Sebastián Gaboto was the son of the famous Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto, who had attempted the first European expedition to North America. Gaboto was sailing east to the Orient in 1526 when he heard of García’s feats and concluded that the Río de Solís could provide easier passage to the Pacific and the East than the treacherous and stormy labyrinths of the Strait of Magellan, which was the only route known at that time towards the wealth of Peru. Gaboto was the first European to deliberately decide to explore the estuary of La Plata.
Leaving a small force on the northern border of the wide estuary, Gaboto came slowly up the Paraná River for about 160 kilometers and founded a fort named Sancti Spiritu near the present-day Argentine city of Rosario. He continued upstream for another 800 kilometers, past the joining of the Paraguay River and the Paraná, but stayed on the Paraná. When navigation became difficult, Gaboto retraced his steps, but not before obtaining some objects of silver that the Indians affirmed came from a place well into the west. Gaboto then decided to retrace his steps from the Paraná River and to follow the Paraguay River. Approximately forty kilometers south of Asunción, Gaboto found a Guaraní tribe that had possession of silver-plated objects, perhaps some of the treasure left by García. Believing that he had found the route towards the wealth of Peru, Gaboto named the Paraguay River “Río de La Plata”, meaning “River of Silver”, though today that name only applied to the section of the river that borders Buenos Aires.
The uncertainties generated by the exit of Pedro de Mendoza took Carlos V to issue a certificate which granted the colonists the right to elect the governor of the Río de Plata province if Mendoza had not designated a successor or if the successor had died. Two years later, the colonists elected Irala as governor. His domain included Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, most of Chile and portions of Brazil and Bolivia. In 1542, the province was transformed into part of the recently established Viceroyalty of Peru, with the capital in Lima. Beginning in 1559, the Audience of Charcas (today Sucre, Bolivia) controlled the legal issues of the province.
The administration of Irala set the standard for the subjects on the interior of Paraguay until the independence. Asunción was not only populated by the Spanish, but also by people from France, Italy, Germany, England, and Portugal. This community of approximately 350 men chose Guaraní women as wives and concubines. Irala had several aborigine concubines and encouraged his men to marry Indian women so they would lose feelings of homesickness. Paraguay quickly became known as a land of mestizos. Following the example set by Irala, the Europeans raised their children as Spanish who became the creole elite despite the continual arrival of more Europeans.
The Guaraní, the Kario, the Tape, the Guarajos, and the Tupí were tribes who inhabited an immense area between the mountainous regions of the Guyanas near Brazil and the Uruguay River. The Guaraní were always surrounded by other hostile tribes and so warred frequently. They considered permanent marriage improper for warriors in the way that some tribes practiced polygamy with the objective of augmenting the number of offspring. Many times the caciques had twenty or thirty concubines, whom they sometimes shared with visitors. The chiefs treated their official wives with respect but punished adulteresses with death. The Spanish felt inclined to follow such a way of life. And as they shared the women, the Indians were decimated by syphilis, a disease previously unknown in America. In that manner, the pure-blood Guaraní were dramatically reduced over the next few decades.
In contrast with the hospitable Guaraní, the tribes of the Chaco, like the Payaguás, the Guaycurúes, the M’bayá, the Abipones, the Mocoríes, and the Chiriguanos were implacable enemies of the Europeans. The travelers in the Chaco told how the Indians were capable of quickly learning the use of the horses (introduced by Europeans) to win wars. The Guaraní accepted the arrival of the Spanish and looked to them for protection from the ferocious neighboring tribes but also waited for the Hispanics to join them in battle against the Incas once more.
The peaceful era established by Irala prevailed until 1542 when Carlos V named Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca governor of the province. Cabeza de Vaca arrived at Asunción after spending 10 years with the Indians in Florida. The people who opposed Cabeza de Vaca at that time accused him of abusing his power against the Indians. He sent dissenters north in search of a route to Peru through the Chaco, provoking a local tribe to war. Cabeza de Vaca’s time was about to end. In one of the first many rebellions of the colony against the Crown he was arrested and sent back in chains to Spain.
Irala governed all the way until his death in 1556, and in many ways his governing system was one of the most humane in colonial Latin America, setting him apart from the conquistadores. Irala maintain a good relationship with his people and the Guaraní Indians. He pacified the hostile Indians in Chaco and started to trade with Peru, boosting textile production and introducing cattle to Paraguay. The arrival of Pedro Fernandez de la Torre in April of 1556 marked the beginning of the Catholic Church in Paraguay.
In the last years of his life Irala surrendered to colonial complaints and pressure, causing him to establishing an encomienda. Under this system, the colonial citizens received land with rights to labor and production of the Indians living in that area. Although it appeared to be a good idea, the system quickly degenerated into a form of slavery. Despite all this, however, Irala was beloved by his people and left a lasting legacy for successive rulers of Paraguay.
The Viceroyalty in Perú and the Charcas Audiencia had authority over Paraguay. Madrid had ignored this colony to avoid complexity, spending money, and defending a remote colony that was loyal in the beginning but useless in the end to the crown. Because of these reasons, Paraguay does not have a troop of its own, and must depend on an irregular militia composed by the colonist. The Paraguayan nati took advantage of the situation and demanded that the certificates of 1537 give them rights to choose and demote their own governors.
The colony (particularly Asunción) gained a reputation as the rebellious colony that is always fighting against the crown.
The tension between the authorities and the colony reached its highest point in 1720 because of the Jesuits, whose efforts to organize the Indians had denied the colony’s use of Indian labor. A great rebellion known as the Paraguayan Revolt of the Comuneros happened when the Viceroyalty in Lima refunded a pro-Jesuits governing, which the colonies had already demoted before. This revolt was a ‘rehearsal’ of the events that ended at the Independence of 1811. The most prosperous families of Asunción (whose plantations of tobacco and grass kill competed directly with the Jesuits) organized the revolt but when the movement attracted support of the poor farmers in the interior, the rich ones left it and next they asked authorities the restore order. In response to this, the farmers began to seize properties of the high class and to take them to the field. A radical army almost captured Asunción and, ironically, it was repelled by the Indian troops of the Jesuits’ reductions.
The revolt was a sign of decline. From the refund of Buenos Aires in 1580, the rapid deterioration of Asuncion’s importance contributed to the growth of the political instability within the province. In 1617 the province of the Rio de la Plate was divided in two smaller provinces: Paraguay with Asunción as its capital, and the Rio de la Plate with Buenos Aires as its main city. With this action, Asunción lost the control of the estuary of the river and became employee of Buenos Aires for marine shipments. In 1776, the Crown founded the Viceroyalty in Rio de la Plata. Paraguay, which was subordinate to Lima, happened to be a region controlled by Buenos Aires. Located in the periphery of the empire, Paraguay served as a state cork: the Portuguese blocked the Paraguayan territorial expansion in the north, the Indians blocked it in the south until their expulsion, and the Jesuits blocked it in the east. They forced Paraguayan young people to serve in the colonial military service to make tours extended far from home, and this contributed to a severe labor shortage.
Because Paraguay was located far from the colonial centers, it had very little power in the important decisions that can affect its economy. Spain took control of the wealth of Paraguay through heavy taxes and other regulations. At the same time, Spain was collecting resources and raw materials in the New World to be manufactured in the most industrialized countries in Europe, especially in England. The Spanish businessmen asked the British businessmen to support their finances, at the same time the Argentine businessmen asked for Spanish support. The people in Asunción asked for rendering from the “porteños” (those born in Argentina) and finally the Paraguayan laborers (farmers without land and in debt with the landowners) bought merchandise on credit. Its result was the horrible poverty in Paraguay and a gradual impoverished empire.
The Porteño’s actions had unexpected consequences in Argentine and Paraguayan history. The news of the events in Buenos Aires stunned Paraguayans, who still felt loyal to the crown. The Porteño junta insisted in including Paraguay under its jurisdiction and chose a Paraguayan, José Espínola y Peña, as their spokesman. Regardless of any grievances they might have with the old regime, Paraguayans did not want to be under Porteño rule. According to the historian John Hoyt Williams, Espinola was perhaps the most hated Paraguayan during his time, in part because he was associated with the atrocious politics of the ex governor, Lázaro de Rivera, who had arbitrarily shot hundreds of fellow citizens and had been forced to resign in 1805. Therefore, Espinola’s reception in Asunción was anything but amiable. Officials in Paraguay arrested Espinola and sentenced him to exile in northern Paraguay, but he escaped and made it to Buenos Aires. He lied about the amount of support in Paraguay for the Porteño junta, convincing Buenos Aires to send its entire cavalry to Paraguay. Manuel Belgrano, a lawyer turned Porteño general, assembled a force of about a 1,100 men with the intention of occupying Asunción. However, the Paraguayan troops spectacularly routed the Porteños in Paraguarí and Tacuarí. Nevertheless, officers from both armies fraternized openly during the campaign and due to these contacts Paraguayans realized that Spanish domination in South America was at its end and that they, not Spain, had real power.
If Espínola and Belgrano’s efforts helped to stir up up the first nationalist sentiments in Paraguay, the actions of the remaining royalist officials in the colony inflamed them. The royal governor, Bernanardo de Velasco, came to believe that the officers who had defeated the Porteño army represented a threat to his government and ordered the demobilization of the units under them. He sent most of the soldiers home without pay for their eight months of service. Velasco had already lost respect of the officers when he had fled the battlefield at Paraguarí. The breaking point came when Asunción’s municipal council solicited the protection of the Portuguese army against Belgrano’s forces, which were camped just beyond the border. Far from bolstering the position of the royal government, the request triggered a coup on the night of May 14 and May 15, 1811, which overthrew the Spanish authorities.
Independence was formally declared on May 17.
After independence had been achieved under the "Consul" José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia, Carlos Antonio López became his successor as the first President of Paraguay in 1844 and led the country to a remarkable economic and cultural level; many schools were opened, immigration brought in talented workers, and Paraguay established the first railway in South America. After his death in 1862, his son Francisco Solano López took over and imprudently led Paraguay into the disastrous War of the Triple Alliance. The war led to major loss of life, almost wiping out the nation. It has been estimated that from the 1.377 million inhabitants only 6,000 men and 220,000 women and children survived.. Brazil and Argentina adjusted their borders and the Brazilian forces occupied the country for some time.
On September 17, 1980, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, former president of Nicaragua, was assassinated in Asunción. Governmental response to this assassination led to further restrictions in Paraguayan civil rights.
On February 3, 1989, Stroessner was overthrown in a military coup headed by General Andrés Rodríguez. In 2006 Stroessner died in Brazil where he went into exile. At the time of his death he had several human rights cases against him in Paraguay. Rodríguez orchestrated a political campaign with the Colorado Party and easily won the presidency in an election held on May 1989 and the Colorado Party dominated the Congress. In 1991 municipal elections, however, opposition candidates won several major urban centers, including Asunción. As president, Rodríguez instituted political, legal, and economic reforms and initiated a rapprochement with the international community.
Oviedo became the Colorado candidate for president in the 1998 election, but when the Supreme Court upheld in April his conviction on charges related to the 1996 coup attempt, he was not allowed to run and remained in confinement. His former running mate, Raúl Cubas, became the Colorado Party's candidate and was elected in May in elections deemed by international observers to be free and fair. However, his brief presidency was dominated by conflict over the status of Oviedo, who had significant influence over the Cubas government. One of Cubas' first acts after taking office in August was to commute Oviedo's sentence and release him from confinement. In December 1998, Paraguay's Supreme Court declared these actions unconstitutional. After delaying for 2 months, Cubas openly defied the Supreme Court in February 1999, refusing to return Oviedo to jail. In this tense atmosphere, the murder of Vice President and long-time Oviedo rival Luis María Argaña on March 23, 1999, led the Chamber of Deputies to impeach Cubas the next day. The March 26 murder of eight student antigovernment demonstrators, widely believed to have been carried out by Oviedo supporters, made it clear that the Senate would vote to remove Cubas on March 29, and Cubas resigned on March 28. Despite fears that the military would not allow the change of government, Senate President Luis González Macchi, a Cubas opponent, was peacefully sworn in as president the same day. Cubas left for Brazil the next day and has since received asylum. Oviedo fled the same day, first to Argentina, then to Brazil. In December 2001, Brazil rejected Paraguay's petition to extradite Oviedo to stand trial for the March 1999 assassination and "Marzo Paraguayo" incident.
González Macchi offered cabinet positions in his government to senior representatives of all three political parties in an attempt to create a coalition government. While the Liberal Party pulled out of the government in February 2000, the Gonzalez Macchi government has achieved a consensus among the parties on many controversial issues, including economic reform. Liberal Julio César Franco won the August 2000 election to fill the vacant vice presidential position. In August 2001, the lower house of Congress considered but did not pass a motion to impeach González Macchi for alleged corruption and inefficient governance. In 2003, Nicanor Duarte Frutos was elected and sworn in as president.
On July 1, 2005, the United States reportedly deployed troops and aircraft to the large military airfield of Mariscal Estigarribia as part of a bid to extend control of strategic interests in the Latin American sphere, particularly in Bolivia. A military training agreement with Asunción, giving immunity to US soldiers, caused some concern after media reports initially reported that a base housing 20,000 US soldiers was being built at Mariscal Estigarribia within 200 km of Argentina and Bolivia, and 300 km of Brazil, near an airport which could receive large planes (B-52, C-130 Hercules, etc.) which the Paraguan Air Forces do not have. At present, no more than 400 U.S. troops are expected. The governments of Paraguay and the United States subsequently declared that the use of an airport (Dr Luís María Argaña International) was one point of transfer for few soldiers in Paraguay at the same time. According to the Clarín Argentinian newspaper, the US military base is strategic because of its location near the Triple Frontera between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina; its proximity towards the Guarani aquifer; and, finally, its closeness toward Bolivia (less than 200 km) at the same "moment that Washington's magnifying glass goes on the Altiplano and points toward Venezuelan Hugo Chávez as the instigator of the instability in the region" (El Clarín), making a clear reference to the Bolivian Gas War.