Paraguay is famous for being one of the first South American countries to establish independence from colonial rule. In 1811, Paraguay achieved independence from Spain after over 250 years of colonial rule.
Spain colonized Paraguay during the early 16th century. Juan de Salazar established a city where Asunción is now located, and the colonists converted the indigenous natives to Catholicism. The Spanish crown hoped to use the colony as a resource for gathering precious resources, especially gold and silver. However, these resources were not found, so Spain put little effort into developing Paraguay. Instead, it remained only vaguely in the central government's consciousness.
When Napoleon defeated the Spanish in 1811, the Paraguayan citizens used the disruption of the government to initiate a move to independence. The succeeding years saw a series of dictatorships and wars throughout the country, including particularly bloody wars in the middle of the 19th century that led to the death of two thirds of the adult male population. These dictatorships persisted well into the 20th century; in 1989, the military dictatorship run by Alfredo Stroessner was defeated, and the country moved toward democratic rule. However, this period has still exhibited major political unease, including multiple attempted coups to overthrow the government. As of 2014, the country maintains free democratic elections despite the political strife.