Posted on: 15th October 2010  |
Author: Margaret Hebblethwaite
Publication details: Bradt Travel Guides, 2010 340 pages
ISBN: 978 1 84162 315 3

Paraguay by Margaret Hebblethwaite is an unusual guide book. It gives all the usual information a tourist requires about travel, hotels, restaurants and shopping. But, in addition, it contains much valuable information about the cultural, artistic and historical life of the Paraguayan people. This is partly because Margaret has been living in Paraguay in a poor campesino community for the past ten years and, as she freely admits, has fallen in love with the country. As she herself puts it: ‘There is no tourist rush to Paraguay. It is, to a large extent, pure, virgin, undiscovered territory. You do not want to tell other people about it, for fear of spoiling it for yourself. And yet at the same time you do want to tell other people, because you love it so much’. (vii)

The three special concerns that make this guide book a mine of fascinating information are, first, the Jesuit reductions which started in the early 17th century and lasted until the suppression of the Society in 1773. It was largely due to their protection and promotion of the indigenous people that the Guaraní language has survived and is spoken today by some 87% of the population. Connected with this is Margaret’s second concern: the striking local art and handicraft of the people, especially in the rural areas. This is notably expressed in the Paraguayan harp, made entirely of wood and with no less than 36 strings. Finally there are the superb nature reserves and national parks, crowned by the famous and stunning Iguazú Falls on the frontier with Argentina and Brazil. They have a total length of 2,700m and the water plunges 70-80m into a narrow channel at the bottom. When Eleanor Roosevelt saw them she exclaimed, ‘Poor Niagara!’

Bradt Travel Guides should be congratulated for commissioning and publishing this introduction to Paraguay. It is a good example of their claim to produce travel books that are not just for reference, but also for reading.

The reviewer, Fr Michael Campbell-Johnston SJ, is former Provincial of the British Jesuits. He is now a member of the Jesuit community at Farm Street, Central London.

 Find this book on the Bradt Travel Guides web site



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