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MapGeography: Located in South America, Paraguay is a land-locked country about the size of the state of California, bordered by Bolivia to the north, Brazil to the east, and Argentina to the west and south.  The country is divided in half by the Paraguay River.  To the east of the river, there are grassy plains, wooded hills and tropical forests.  West of the river is the Chaco area, consisting of low, flat, marshy plains.

Population: 6,375,830.  The vast majority of the population lives in the eastern half of the country, with about 25% of the country’s population concentrated around the capital city of Asunción and its surrounding areas.

Peoples: Ninety-five percent of the population is of mixed Spanish and Indian (Native American) descent.  The other five percent consists of remaining native tribes and descendants of other foreign nationalities.

Languages: The official language is Spanish.  However, 90% of the population also speaks Guarani, the native Indian language, and in rural areas the majority of the population only speaks Guarani.

Economy: The majority of the economy is agriculture-based, with most exports consisting of soybeans, cereals, beef, cotton and tobacco.  There is a smaller, but growing, manufacturing and construction segment of the economy.  Paraguay imports almost all of its mineral fuels, manufactured goods, electronics and motor vehicles.

Religion: Over 96% of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholic; however, most are only nominally religious. The remaining 4% identify themselves with Protestant denominations.

Climate: Temperate/tropical.

Government: Constitutional Republic.

History: Paraguay was settled by Spain beginning in the 1500s.  Unlike other parts of the world, where the indigenous peoples were mostly wiped out by warfare or disease, the original Paraguayan natives were assimilated into the colonial population, which produced a unique national culture, with both European as well as native influences.  This assimilation also led to the persistence of the original native language, Guarani, as the "heart" language of Paraguayans.  Paraguay remained a Spanish colony until it achieved independence in 1811.  However, for almost all of its history, Paraguay has been governed by dictators or oligarchies, who used the country's resources to enrich themselves and stayed in power through corruption and by curtailing or downright eliminating the population's civil liberties.  Two devastating international conflicts and multiple civil wars in the 19th and 20th centuries decimated the country's population and forced many Paraguayans to flee to other countries.  The country is still struggling to recover from these events.  In 1989, the country began the road to democracy and the rule of law, but the preceding centuries of corruption, bad governance, lack of established institutions, and lack of economic development have continued to hinder the nation's progress.  While some segments of society, mainly in urban areas, have benefited economically from the country's changes in the last two decades, there is still a very large segment of the population living in poverty and has little hope of improving their situation.  Corruption is still endemic in all areas of daily living, many people still lack basic services, such as electricity, potable water, and access to education and healthcare, while both organized and petty crime remain at high levels due to the extreme poverty and hopelessness experienced by most the country's population.