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Paraguay, officially the Republic of Paraguay, is a landlocked country in South America, bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the country from north to south. Due to its central location in South America, it is sometimes referred to as Corazón de América ("Heart of America").


The indigenous Guaraní had been living in Paraguay since at least 1,000 years before the Spanish colonial empire conquered the territory in the 16th century. Jesuits introduced Christianity, and a syncretic form of Catholicism developed that absorbed some indigenous traditions. Jesuit Reductions relocated Indians to local communities near missions. Following independence from Spain in 1811, Paraguay was ruled by a series of dictators who implemented isolationist and protectionist policies. Development was further truncated by the disastrous Paraguayan War (1864–1870), in which the country lost 60% to 70% of its population through war and disease, and about 140,000 square kilometers (54,054 sq mi) of territory to Argentina and Brazil.


In the 20th century, Paraguay endured a succession of authoritarian governments, culminating in the regime of Alfredo Stroessner, who led South America's longest-lived uninterrupted military dictatorship from 1954 to 1989. He was toppled in an internal military coup, and free multi-party elections were organized and held for the first time in 1993. A year later, Paraguay joined Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay to found Mercosur, a regional economic collaborative.


As of 2009, Paraguay's population was estimated to be at around 6.5 million, most of whom are concentrated in the southeast region of the country. The capital and largest city is Asunción, of which the metropolitan area is home to nearly a third of Paraguay's population. In contrast to most Latin American nations, Paraguay's indigenous language and culture, Guaraní, remains highly influential. In each census, residents predominantly identify as mestizo, reflecting years of intermarriage among the different ethnic groups. Guaraní is recognized as an official language alongside Spanish. Both languages are widely spoken in the country, with around 92% of the general population speaking Spanish and 98% speaking Guaraní.