Paraguay (S5.02)

Audio: Paraguay


In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about Paraguay, a small South American nation sometimes referred to as the “heart of South America”, bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. One of only two landlocked countries in South America, the other being Bolivia, Paraguay was home to a number of Native Indian groups, most prominently the Guarani, before being colonised by Spanish conquistadores in the early 1500s.


During the 17th century, Paraguay became home to a large number of Jesuit missions, where the native Guaraní people were settled and converted to Christianity. Following independence from Spain in the early 19th century, the country was involved in a number of regional conflicts and subject to the whims of numerous dictatorial governments. This period culminated in the disastrous Paraguayan War, which began in 1864 and resulted in the country losing up to half of its prewar population and up to a third of its territory.  Since colonisation, the Guarani culture, language and traditions have remained integral to the country’s national identity, and the majority of modern day Paraguayans are mestizo, descending from a mix of settlers and Guarani. The country has around seven million inhabitants today, and has a land area of around 400,000 sq km or 150,000 sq miles, comparable in size to Norway and slightly smaller than the US state of California. Despite a history of poverty and political repression, Paraguay often ranks as the “world’s happiest place” based on global polling data.

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Dublin, Ireland, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Galway, Ireland. Our theme music and other stings come from Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella. 

Some further reading:

  • Do your homework if you haven’t already and check out our Uruguay episode from way back in season 2.
  • Read more on the Jasuka Venda discovery of human habitation dating to 5,000 years, displaying “footprint style rock art”
  • More on the indigenous groups, including the Payaguá (whence the name Paraguay), Guaycurú, M’bayá, Abipón, and Chiriguano.
  • Historian Adalberto Lopez has written extensively on this region. His book on the The Revolt of the Comuñeros, 1721–1735 can be found here.
  • For more on the life of the Guarani and how their traditions have persisted through to the modern day, check out this video, which Joe mentions toward the end of this episode.
  • The trailer for period film The Mission, in all its glory, can be found on YouTube.
  • The UNESCO World Heritage website has more on the Jesuit Missions of La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesús de Tavarangue.
  • The Library of Congress also has a wealth of info on Paraguay which can be found here.
  • Wikipedia has a whole article dedicated to the unique Paraguayan Flag.
  • This fascinating video shows how the Paraguayan War played out day by day using map visualisations.
  • Military Wiki also has an extensive article on Francisco Solano Lopez, who is discussed at length in this episode.
  • Historian Leslie Bethell has written a paper on the Paraguayan War which can be found here.
  • Thomas L Whigham’s book The Paraguayan War: Causes and Early Conduct, quoted in this episode, is also available in its entirety online is here.
  • Eliza Lynch has an extensive page over on Wikipedia.
  • The two 150th anniversary articles referenced on the impact of the war on Paraguay are available from The Economist and The Guardian.
  • The New York Times has an article on the 1887 Nueva Germania colony that Joe speaks about in his second section.
  • TIME has a piece on the Nazi outposts in San Bernadino that are discussed in this episode, as does OZY.
  • The US Library of Congress has a short paper on Paraguay and WWII.
  • Read more on Paraguay’s hydropower capabilities at
  • José Felix Estigarribia, who Mark discusses in this episode, is profiled here at Britannica.
  • The graphic below gives an interesting indication of the plurality of languages spoken in Paraguay in the modern day.
  • For more on food, check out Culture Trip for 6 Traditional Foods You Have to Try in Paraguay

Some music by composers from in and around this region include:

  • Sanapana music from the Gran Chaco tribe, taken from this video.
  • The polka song, written in Guarani by Emiliano Fernandez about the Chaco War and performed by Romón Vargas Colman, can be found here.
  • We also include some Paraguayan Harp in this episode, which you can find more of here.
  • For a selection of music from Augustin Barrios, one of Paraguay’s most famous musicians, click here.

Lapland or “Sápmi” (Christmas Special)

Christmas Special: Lapland audio

For the festive season, 80 Days brings you a Christmas special on the most appropriate place we could think of, complete with reindeer and Santa Claus: Lapland, or – as the native Sami people prefer to call it – Sápmi. This is a large region of Fennoscandanavia, north of the Arctic Circle, with its territory spanning parts of Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia (see map). This episode will touch on all areas of Lapland, but will focus primarily on the Finnish and Norwegian sides. The area is named for the indigenous people (and their specific language grouping), who have sparsely inhabited the region for several thousand years. 

In Lapland, winter lasts from early October to early May, with temperatures well below freezing throughout the region and up to 60 cm or 23 inches of snow during midwinter. However, in summer the sun does not set on the region for several weeks at a time.  Population has declined quite significantly since 1990, and the region is now home to approximately 180,000 people. Residents are spread across a total area of just over 100,000 square kilometers, or 38,000 square miles, and there are as many reindeer here as there are people. Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach, in Hong Kong, the UK and Switzerland, respectively. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle)

File:Corrected Sapmi in Europe.PNGFile:Sami flag.svg

Some things you might like to know more about:

Toppkandidater Vesthavet valgkrets.jpg

File:Hram Sv Simeona Mirotočivog (Novi Beograd) 040.jpgFile:USMC-101208-M-8527P-077.jpg

  • A lot has been written about Lapland’s most famous resident and how he came to be here. Most of it is mysterious and people make some wild guesses (often not true), but here, in no particular order, are a few resources that might be useful about Santa Claus and his village near Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland. Who is St. Nicholas (about his early years in Myra); Andrea McDonald’s account of visitingHistory of Santa Claus (on, Santa Claus and His Works (New York Times piece describing the contributions of artist Thomas Nast to the image of Santa’s snowy abode); Head to Finnish Lapland… (a 2009 article in the Independent, including descriptions of Santa’s village); Checking Out Santa’s Workshop in Lapland (a 1988 article in the LA Times describing visiting Santa in Rovaniemi). For the more cynical, a stuffy article on postmodernism and Finnish tourism policy can be found here (for all the Scrooges out there!).
  • You can often watch people visiting Santa live (or look back at earlier recordings) at this website, which is wonderfully magic

We hope you have a happy Christmas and a wonderful new year and that you are looking forward to joining us for Season 2 in the coming months. As always, please get in touch if you are enjoying what you are hearing or have anything to share with us!


Find out about our Christmas Kickstarter campaign by clicking here. With your help we can make Season 2 even better than Season 1!