Vive Paraguay!

I was there.

Yesterday, Paraguay inaugurated its first democratically-elected president in more than 60 years. The political vestiges of a characteristically corrupt and brutal South American dictatorship literally [if only symbolically] handed over the keys to this characteristically corrupt and impoverished South American country to a 57 year-old ex-bishop wearing sandals and a homespun shirt.

Lugo’s first speech as president was inspiring, powerful at times. One line I will likely never forget; “I refuse to live in a world where some do not sleep because they are afraid, and others do not sleep because they are hungry.”

But Paraguayans are at times heartbreakingly pragmatic. And it’s difficult for even the young to believe he can or will do it. I’ve been here long enough not to have expected euphoria, but I was surprised by how tired, how ambivalent [in the most literal sense of the word] the crowd of 50,000 felt. It’s like all of Paraguay is trying to decide whether it dares to hope.

They cheered Chaves and Morales. They chanted for renegotiation of the Itaipu dam. The socialists sang some very catchy tunes. But the one time all morning that the kind of tangible wave of energy I so craved actually swept over that crowd was at the end of the ridiculously pompous national anthem when everyone, really everyone shouted, “Vive Paraguay!”

I’m actually not sure what the phrase means. Having only ever heard it shouted, I don’t know how it’s spelled and therefore can’t reverse-engineer the conjugation. If it’s indicative, it’s an exclamation; “Paraguay lives!” If it’s imperative, it’s a command, a challenge; “Live, Paraguay!”

Yesterday, in the centro, it felt like both.

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One response to “Vive Paraguay!

  1. Koprina

    So, I don’t know if this will get to you while you are still in Paraguay… I’ve just read a few of your messages… actually this is the second blog I’ve ever participated in.

    Wow… what an experience you are having. I love the occassional spanish word (despedida) that just doesn’t translate with the same feeling… it still comes out of my mouth when I’m speaking English too. Well, when you get back to Utah, give me a call. My number hasn’t changed (234-9375) and I rarely use email. We’ll get together. I would love to hear it all… the whole experience, and I could introduce you to Alam and Spencer (husband and son).

    I’ve missed you. Take care and get home safe.

    Koprina

    P.S. “Vive Paraguay” (spelled correctly – good job!) is respectively common in every latino american country. It best translates to the British equivalent of “Long live the Queen” but instead “Long-live Paraguay.” A chant or cheer that is both optimistic and rich in pride.

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