Full Name: Republica del Paraguay / Republic of Paraguay
Languages: Guarani & Spanish
Meaning of Name: “water that goes to the ocean”, derived from the Guarani words: para (ocean), gua (to/from and y (water)
Paraguay is a landlocked nation in South America, lying on both banks of the Paraguay River, bordering Argentine, Brazil and Bolivia. Paraguay is a country of contrasts. Rustic vs. Sophisticated, Rich vs. Poor to name a couple.
The vast majority of the population shares a Paraguayan identity but many other cultural identities exist. The indigenous population is composed of 17 ethnic groups. Most immigrants have blended into the national population but some have maintained distinct identities. These include the Mennonites, Japanese, Koreans, Lebanese and from the 1960’s onwards Brazilians. The Indigenous Population of Paraguay is less than 3 percent of the national population.
Dance in General
Paraguayan dance has a strong Spanish influence. Today, the beat of the Polka dance is best known in Paraguay and takes after the European polka brought to the country by colonizers. Traditional dances like the Polka, Pericon, La Palomita, El Chopi and the Solito emerged as popular ballroom dances performed by aristocrats.
Dance was limited in Paraguay until well into the 20th Century. Classical dance was taught in schools. Amongst the first important dance troupes were the Municipal Folkloric Ballet and the Municipal Classical and Modern Ballet. Contemporary dance begin to filter into Paraguay in the 80s with the arrival of foreign instructors.
The Paraguayan dances are mostly performed by groups of artists, both male and female. The male dancers wear traditional Latin American costumes while the women wear long skirts. The Paraguayan Dance have come a long way and is amongst the most popular dance forms of the world.
Paraguayan Polka / Danza Paraguaya
This music style was created in the 19th century and is different from the traditional polka as it combines ternary and binary rhythms whereas the European Polka only uses binary rhythms. Variants include: Polca Syryry, Polca Kyre’y, Polca Popo, Polca Saraki, Polca Galopa, Polca Jekutu. All of them are slightly different because of influences and styles adopted by the early composers.
Instruments used: Spanish Guitar, European Harp and the Paraguayan Harp which deserves special mention as a popular instrument with a national style associate with it. This harp dates back to at least 1557 and had 26 – 38 strings, though most had more than 36 strings. It was frequently used in church in place of the organ or harpsichord.