The Grandchildren of Solano López
Frontier and Nation in Paraguay, 1904–1936
Publication Year: 2013
Paraguay’s Chaco frontier, one of the least known areas in one of the least known countries in South America, became the unexpected scene of the bloodiest international war in the Americas, the Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia (1932–35).
A picture postcard from the Chaco War era shows a large heart, emblazoned with the word “Paraguayo,” pumping its way through the flat dusty wilderness of the Chaco and leaving a zigzag trail of smashed Bolivian forts and soldiers along the way. This visual propaganda shows why the Paraguayans were sure they would win the war: they were brave, passionate soldiers. They considered themselves invincible descendants of the great hero of the War of the Triple Alliance (1864–70), Marshal Francisco Solano López (El Mariscal).
But Solano López was not universally revered. A controversial figure, he was widely believed to have led Paraguay into economic, social, and cultural ruin. The debate over López’s actions shaped the country’s culture and politics for over a century after the War of the Triple Alliance. Bridget María Chesterton’s in-depth examination of Paraguay’s unique nationalism and the role of the frontier in its formation places the debate over López in the context of larger themes of Latin American history, including racial and ethnic identity, authoritarian regimes, and militarism.
Published by: University of New Mexico Press
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Title Page, Map, Copyright
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As I tell my students every semester, the writing of history does not happen without a community who supports, encourages, teaches, inspires, and evaluates. This book is no exception. An international array of family, colleagues, and friends contributed their expertise and assistance to this project. The network of contributors spans the globe: from Asunción, Paraguay,...
1: Introducing the Chaco Frontier
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A picture postcard from the Chaco War era (1932–1935) shows a large heart, emblazoned with the word “Paraguayo,” pumping its way through the f_lat dusty wilderness of the Chaco. The only people drawn were tiny Bolivian soldiers crushed by the organ. The heart, carefully illustrated to appear roughly in the shape of the nation, visually demonstrated the two parts of ...
2: Forgetting Solano López: Debating the Paraguayan Foundational Narrative
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In mid-1924 the small literary journal Juventud, written and published by university students, included a short narrative entitled “Cerro Corá.”1 The author, Ramón Corvalan Ortiz, recounted his pilgrimage to Francisco Solano López’s burial place where the sights, sounds, and smells of this remote jungle grave stirred great emotion in the young man. Arriving at Cerro Corá on a ...
3: Managing Rojas Silva: Rhetoric and Inaction
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On Saturday, March 26, 1927, fifty thousand people crowded into downtown Asunción to demonstrate their solidarity and outrage over the death of Lieutenant Adolfo Rojas Silva, the son of former Paraguayan president Liberato Marcial Rojas, at the hands of Bolivian “invaders.” According to reports in the newspapers, Bolivian forces near Fortín Sorpresa captured ...
4: Comparing Eastern and Western Paraguay: Scientific Nationalism
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For centuries the Chaco caused anxiety in eastern Paraguay, bringing to mind the dreaded Guaycurú Indians. During the colonial period and immediately after independence, “Guaycurú” referred to all Indians who inhabited the Chaco. These “savages and barbarians” raided Asunción, plundering and pillaging the city; the attackers then found safety on the other ...
5: Civilizing the Chaco: The Religious Arrive
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As spring arrived in the Southern Hemisphere in October 1925, Father Ramón Sosa Gaona penned a letter to his superiors in Asunción describing the state of his missionary work on the edge of the Chaco frontier. He had successfully established the centuries-old Catholic goal of a mission in the Chaco. Sosa Gaona gleefully reported the following to his superior on his ...
6: Becoming Guaraní: Soldiers, Agriculturalists, and Poets
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In a letter dated December 21, 1928, Juan Azuaga spoke of his concern about events on the Chaco frontier. He observed that while there was no official word in the newspapers of fighting in the Chaco, many asuncenos, himself included, assumed that there must be conflict because unnamed “official sources” reported that Bolivia had received supplies from Europe, ...
7: Remembering Solano López: The Rise of Febrerismo
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In 1933 poet and playwright Julio Correa predicted with great accuracy the national sentiment of 1936 and the tensions created with the end of the Chaco War and the return of soldiers from the Chaco frontier. Correa’s play, Guerra ayá (During the War), written in Guaraní, dramatically recreated the realities and hardships of rural Paraguayan life during the Chaco War. Of ...
8: Reconsidering the Frontier: The Decades Following the War
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With the end of hostilities in the Chaco, several questions remained. What would the Paraguayans do with their newly secured frontier? Would they settle in the region in droves, realizing the area as a land of new opportunities? Would scientists, naturalists, and ethnographers continue their extensive study of the region begun during the early decades of the ...
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Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2013