Paraguay republic in South America, bounded on the northwest and north by Bolivia, on the east by Brazil, and on the south and southwest by Argentina. Asuncion is the country’s capital. The Paraguay River divides the country into sharply contrasting regions, namely, in the west, the Gran Chaco, or Paraguay Occidental, and in the east, Paraguay proper, or Paraguay Oriental.

The main rivers are the Alto Parana, the Paraguay, and the Pilcomayo. Lake Ypoi is the only large inland body of water. Among Paraguay’s many spectacular waterfalls is Guaira Falls.

The plants and animals of Paraguay are substantially those of neighboring South American countries. Paraguay proper, where rainfall is heavy, is covered by dense evergreen forests interspersed with a wide variety of tropical grasses, ferns, palms, and exotic flowers. In the Gran Chaco, vegetation is comparatively sparse but includes the red quebracho tree, a rich source of tannin extract. The plains are covered by coarse tropical reeds, grasses, and stunted trees.

The animals of Paraguay include armadillo, capybara (a large rodent), tapir, jaguar, anteater, wild boar, deer, alligator, and various species of snake. Among the local birds are toucan, ibis, heron, parrot, black duck, dove, partridge, American ostrich, rhea, and parakeet. Many of these birds exhibit strikingly beautiful plumage.

Paraguay is a bilingual country. Spanish is the official tongue; however, Guaran­ is commonly spoken by about 90 percent of the people and is used in most folk poems and songs and in books and periodicals.

Roman Catholicism, the official religion, is the faith of more than 95 percent of all Paraguayans. Freedom of worship is extended to other faiths. A number of small Protestant groups exist, of which the Mennonite group is the largest.

Paraguayan culture is a blend chiefly of Guaranian and Spanish elements, supplemented by more recent Argentine, German, and Italian influences. The culture of Paraguay has remained isolated and therefore has retained many features introduced in the 16th and 17th centuries by the Spanish conquerors, artisans, and Jesuit missionaries. The Ateneo Paraguayo, a leading cultural center, sponsors art exhibits, lectures, and concerts, and Guaran­ culture is promoted by the Academy of Guaran Language and Culture, the Indian Association of Paraguay, and the Guaranà Theater.

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