A History of Paraguay
By Baruja, Paiva & Pinto
was in turmoil when Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia died on September
20, 1840. Francia, the “Supreme one”, did not leave a
successor in “El Difunto”. He was so despised by the Catholic
Church that none of the priests wanted to officiate the mass and a
Cordovan priest had to officiate it instead. A few days later, vindictive
hands made his body disappear in the waters of the Paraguay River.
few days later, a military faction rose up and overthrew the Difunto’s
assistant, Policarpo Patiño, who tried to become a dictator.
Political prisoners were released after the rebellion, but they were
incapable of governing the nation. On January 22, 1841, this new committee
was overthrown by another military faction. Sixteen days later, another
blow followed, and the chaos continued until March 12, 1841, when
the congress chose Carlos Antonio Lopez as its first consul. In 1844,
another congress named him as the President of the Republic, a position
that he maintained until his death in 1862. By then, Paraguay already
had its second dictator.
Don Carlos Antonio Lopez, a lawyer, was one of the most educated men
in the country. Until his consecration as the consul, Lopez, born
on 1787, had lived in obscurity. Although Lopez’s government
was similar to the system of ‘The Deceased’, Gaspar Rodriguez
de Francia, his appearance and the policies were quite different.
In contrast to the Karaí Guazú that was thin, Lopez
was obese, like a "great sea of human meat", as described
by someone who knew him well. Don Lopez was a dictator who wanted
to start a dynasty and to administer Paraguay like a personal feudal.
Francia considered himself the first citizen of a revolutionary state,
Lopez, however, used his power to make himself and his family rich.
became the richest and biggest landowner in the country and his fortune
only increased because of the state’s yerba mate monopoly. Despite
of his incommensurable greed, Paraguay prospered under Lopez, known
as the Excelentisimo, or the most excellent one. Under Lopez, the
population of Paraguay increased from about 220,000 in 1840 to approximately
400,000 in 1860. Several highways and a system of the telegraph were
constructed. A British company began to build a railroad, one of the
first in South America in 1858. During his rule, Lopez improved the
national defense, abolished the surpluses of the Jesuits reductions,
stimulated the economic development, and tried to fortify the relations
with foreign countries. He also took measures to reduce the threat
of the indigenous tribes who still roamed the Chaco. Paraguay also
advanced in education. When Lopez became President, Asunción
only had one primary school. More than 400 schools with capacity for
25,000 primary students were built during Lopez’s rule, and
in addition to that, Lopez established the secondary education as
a state program. Nevertheless, the educative development plans of
Don Lopez progressed with difficulty because Francia had eliminated
the educated elite, including teachers of the country. Don Carlos
Lopez of yapa founded the first national newspaper that made its first
appearance on April 26, 1845: "The Independent Paraguayan",
in defense of independence and national sovereignty.
rigorous than Francia, Lopez alleviated the restrictions in the matter
of communication with the foreigners, encouraged exports, invited
foreign engineers and investing doctors to settle down in the country,
and paid for Paraguayan students to study abroad. He also sent to
his son, Francisco Solano, to Europe for education and also with the
objective to buy arms.
Francia, Lopez had the exclusive objective to defend and conserve
Paraguay. He always organized the reforms with this goal in mind.
The commerce was less restricted, and so business activities increased
the state’s income. The foreign experts helped to implant a
metallurgical factory and a great arsenal. The new railroad would
be used to transport troops. Lopez used the diplomacy to protect Paraguayan
interests abroad. In spite of its clear liberality, the Most excellent
one was a dictator who kept the Paraguayans under an iron hand. Unlike
Francia, Lopez did not allow any opposition. The congress was his
faithful puppet and the people had to forget their political rights.
So in the constitution of 1844 all the power was in the hands of Lopez.
Lopez, Paraguay began to raise the question of the slavery that had
existed from the colonial days. The colonos had slaves to work as
domestic crew members but were generally indulgentes with them. But
the conditions got worse after 1700 with the import of about 50,000
African slaves to being used like agricultural workers. Under France,
the state acquired approximately 1,000 slaves when it confiscated
elitist properties. Lopez did not release to these slaves, however
she promulgated the law of the Free Uterus in 1842 that ended the
esclavista commerce and guaranteed that the children of slaves would
be free as of the 25 years of age. But that new law only caused that
it increased the population enslaved and at the same time to lower
the sale prices of slaves whom the natality of slaves raised.
foreign relations became more important under Lopez, who still maintained
the traditional distrust about the intentions of the neighboring states.
At first, Lopez feared an attack from the dictator of Buenos Aires,
Juan Manuel de Rosas. With Brazilian stimulus, Lopez left the policy
of neutrality imposed by France and began to interfere in the chaotic
Argentine policy. Using their slogan "Independence or Death",
Lopez declared the war against Roses in 1845 to support an unfruitful
rebellion in the Argentine province of Currents. Although the military
maneuvers of England and France prevented a counterattack against
Paraguay, Rosas established an embargo on Paraguayan products. During
that nuisance, Lopez sent some diplomats to Uruguay in 1846 for a
conference with foreign powers and on their return, they brought the
National anthem written by Francisco Coins of Figueroa, father of
the Uruguayan National anthem, back to him.
the fall of Rosas in 1852, Lopez signed a treaty in which the independence
of Paraguay was recognized with the victorious Argentine confederates,
even though the porteños (Buenosaireans) never ratified this
treaty. In the same year, Lopez signed treaties of friendship, commerce,
and navigation with France and the United States. However, the increasing
tensions with several countries, including the United States, plagued
the latter half of Lopez’s rule. In 1858, the United States
had sent a fleet to Paraguayan waters, a successful action to demand
a compensation for an American sailor who died three years before.
he maintained his distrust of the foreigners as his loyalty to the
nation, Lopez was not as cautious as he seemed. He imprudently disregarded
Francia’s important policies on neutrality without giving the
others any options and to contract non-harmful commitments for the
national sovereignty. He did not do anything about controversies and
disputes on country borders with Brazil and Argentina. These two big
nations admitted Paraguayan independence partly because Paraguay was
useful for verifying the expansionistic tendencies of each one. Both
powers were in agreement that the other could not dominate in the
Paraguayan subjects. But at the same time, a Paraguay that was antagonistic
to both countries would give a reason for both Brazil and Argentina
to be united against Paraguay.
Solano López and Elisa Alicia Lynch
in 1826, Francisco Solano Lopez was the second and the last governor
of the Lopez dynasty. He had a comfortable childhood which proved
that his father named him as the only heir of his power and gave him
the military general decorations (jinetas) when Francisco Solano Lopez
turned eighteen years-old. He was an insatiable lady’s man and
was abounded in histories with his cruel actions against a woman who
had the courage to defy him. His trip to Europe in 1853 to buy arms
was no doubt the most important experience of his life. Solano Lopez
admired the luxurious life in Paris under Napoleón III.
his stay in Paris, he fell in love with an Irish woman named Elisa
Alicia Lynch who became his mistress but never married him. Known
as "La Lynch" in Paraguay, she was a willful, charming,
ingenious, and intelligent woman who had a lot of influence in Paraguay
because of her relationship with Solano Lopez.
Lynch’s Parisian manners, or style, showed a tendency in Paraguay’s
capital; she made enemies as easily as she made friends. Madame Lynch
bore Solano Lopez five children. The family became the most important
landowner in the country when Solano Lopez amassed large sums of land
from Paraguay and Brazil during the war and put the land under his
family’s name, though when the war ended the land was returned.
Madame Lynch, with tears and grief, buried Solano Lopez with her own
hands after the last battle in 1870. Few years later, La Lynch died
miserably in Europe.