Map of Paraguay. Source: The World Factbook
Asunción, the capital and largest city of Paraguay, is located roughly 1,500 km. (930 mi.) up the Parana-Paraguay River from Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 1537 Spaniards, eager to find a route to the legendary goldfields in Peru, navigated up the river system and established a small fort, on the site of what later became the city of Asunción. Because of its strategic position, Asunción flourished initially, but later its growth stagnated. A new spurt of growth developed after the Chaco War (1935), and especially in the 1950s. Since the 1950s the city's appearance has changed considerably. The colonial heritage is still evident, but the invasion of technology is noted in the considerable number of high-rise office buildings in the old center of the city. In the years immediately prior to 1987, many connecting roads to other parts of the country were paved, making travel easier and predictable. The city houses government offices, the central bank, a number of hotels and theaters, and several universities. Most of the commercial activity in Paraguay is centered in Asunción, a city of 500,000 residents in 1987 (1,200,000 in 2002).
Mennonites have lived in Asunción since the early 1930s. The Mennonite colonies established in the Chaco region, sent representatives to the capital. Other Mennonites were attracted to the city by business opportunities or to study Spanish. Economic survival in the early years was easier in Asunción than in the colonies. In the 1940s, the Mennonite Home was established by the Mennonite Central Committee, and soon became the center of activities for Mennonites in the city. It remains a popular center, where visitors from the colonies can lodge. Many foreign tourists also stay there.
The German-speaking Mennonites in the city have established a Mennonite Brethren and a General Conference Mennonite congregation. Both congregations share the same facility. They also operate a private school ("Concordia"), which offers classes from first through twelfth grade.
Since the late 1950s, mission work, mainly by the Mennonite Brethren, has been carried out among Spanish-speaking citizens in the city and its environs. A number of Spanish- and Guarani-speaking congregations have been established. These congregations have organized into two separate conventions and take an active part in Mennonite activities throughout Paraguay. They help sponsor a missionary effort and voluntary service work. They also participate in the two theological institutions that have been established in the city to serve both Spanish- and German-speaking Mennonite churches throughout the country, in the task of leadership training (Centro Evangélico Menonita de Teología Asunción; Instituto Biblico Asunción).
The headquarters of the Paraguayan Mennonite voluntary service program are also located in Asunción. Most Mennonite congregations in the country now participate in this program, as they try to respond to the growing socio-economic needs of large sectors of the population
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 42. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
MLA style: Niebuhr, Gundolf. "Asunción (Paraguay)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 24 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A82.html.
APA style: Niebuhr, Gundolf. (1987). Asunción (Paraguay). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A82.html.