15th May

1928 Mickey Mouse’s first cartoon, Plane Crazy

 

2010 Jessica Watson sails around the world nonstop and unassisted

 

1856 L. Frank Baum born, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

 

Paraguay Independence Day (from Spain, 1811).

Spanish explorers first arrived in 1516; before then the people were nomadic warriors. It became a missionary centre: the deal was, you sought refuge with the Jesuits, and then they protected you from becoming a Spanish slave so long as you converted to Christianity.

After Paraguay overthrew the Spanish control, José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia ruled until his death, forbidding colonialists from marrying each other so that the society became more mixed race (called mestizo). He also totally shut the borders, North Korea style, which is why Paraguay is called an ‘island surrounded by land’.

A couple more dictators followed, and one, Francisco Solano Lopez, went to war against Argentia, Brazil and Uruguay. No one’s quite sure why the war started, but it was probably to gain land and resources. Anyway, Paraguay was basically obliterated, losing 60% of its population.

From then on they were really unstable and no president stayed in power for very long until Alfredo Stroessner, who kept power for three decades. He was good for the economy, but he did tend to torture and kill people who disagreed with him.

Paraguay has the world’s biggest hydroelectric dam, which produces nearly all of its electricity. However, only 9.5% of its population use electricity. Only 2.5% have clean drinking water.

Almost everyone speaks Guarani, which is very rare for a Spanish colony to have kept its native language. It’s onomatopoeic, so words sound like the things they describe.

Nanduti lace is inspired by spider webs. Music includes polkas, bouncy galopas, and guaranías.

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