Thursday, July 7, 2011

Paraguay #3: Through the Door...

We have arrived in Paraguay, Corazón de América.  Development and Peace has two main thrusts to its program here:
  1. Raising the awareness of Paraguayans on influencing public policies that can improve their standard of living
     2. Training community leaders who are in a position to set up sustainable development models.

We support five different Paraguayan organizations whose work falls into either or both of these two categories. In the coming two weeks we will meet  and travel with them all.

Catedral Metropolitana de Asunción
After a good night's sleep following our arrival last night in Asuncion, we head out through the door of our retreat house in search of the Cathedral for 11am mass.  Today is a free day to settle in and we decide to use it to explore the capital on our own a bit. 89.6% of the population in Paraguay is Catholic.

When the collection plate comes around, I have no money to give. Maybe we should have changed some money before mass instead of after!

1USD here buys you 3950 Guarani.  "You get to be a millionaire" says Maria with a smile.

We find a restaurant and treat ourselves to our first meal of traditional Paraguayan food.  It comes in two courses.  The second is a plate full of three different types of chipa.Over lunch the conversation turns to the Gospel reading from Mass, Matthew 10: 7-15  We try to imagine what it would be like for us to come to Paraguay according to these counsels Jesus sends his disciples out with. Certainly it would have lowered the financial cost of the trip! 

Casa de la Independencia in Paraguay

We go off in search of somewhere to access the internet and come across the Casa de la Independencia.  This restored house from colonial times is where Paraguay's independence from Spain was plotted and carried out May 14-15 1811.  This year marks Paraguay's  "Bicentenario."  There are reminders of this literally everywhere you go in the city we see.  From window stickers, to banners, to posters, to license plates, to garbage cans, you cannot go more than 100 feet without coming across something red white and blue.  The architects of Paraguay's independence walked through the door seen on the left here and marched to the seat of the Spanish government nearby where their independence was successfully declared.  I thought of how many momentous occassions begin by walking through a door...

Today, when Paraguayan politicians walk out the door of the congreso nacional, they are within steps of the Ricardo Brugada Quarter, a famous barrio more popularly known as La Chacarita. A song was even written about it by a famous singer named Maneco Galeano, "Yo soy de lay Chacarita" It was the sign in the photo below that cuaght our attention.  After asking a group of women sitting nearby what it was all about, they alleged that the government wants to evict them to make way for a park.

We made it back to our retreat house by dark in time for dinner, bringing our day to an end.  Evening prayer was lead by Maria in the small chapel.  My mother, Elizabeth, who is also on the trip, walked through the door to the dining area afterwards and caught me putting candles on a cake. "Happy Birthday Mumm!" How many people get to spend a day like this with their mother on her birthday?

Helen, Maria, Joseph, Mumm and I celebrate in Asuncion.

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