Monday, January 23, 2012

Filadelfia, The Grand Chaco, Paraguay

NASA took me to Filadelfia

The above is neither misspelled or the result of interesting experiments with Guarani herbs. NASA is the name of the bus company that I used to get to the wonderful town of Filadelfia. More accurately this is the stadt of Filadelfia. This place is a Mennonite colony. Although Filadelfia itself is populated by emigrants of the Ukraine and Ex Soviet Russia, the language of choice is still Deutsch (or whatever weird ancient variant they sprechen)

For those of you unfamiliar with Mennonites, they are an anabaptist sect and a hippy one at that. Some of the original anabaptist were crazy genocidal arseholes. Mennonites are pacifists. Methinks pacifism became a wise chice after the Munsterites found out that regular Christians were more than ready to have a fight. The Mennonites still got persecuted and as a result they are spread across the globe. Here in Paraguay they are known for going to one of the most inhospitable places (the Gran Chaco) and turning it into very, very productive cattle grounds. Apparently they produce most of the dairy products in Paraguay.

The result is a very weird town. Many signs are biligual and there are very Krautlike youth loafing around doing fuck-all yet somehow looking more active than Paraguayans. They keep in tune with their European cousins by having crap hairrcuts and godawful music blasting from their ipods. It's on a very inflexible grid with neat houses and the odd museum dedicated to their forebears. All closed I'm afraid. In my wisdom I decided to come to an agricultural town full of religious nuts in high summer on a Sunday. There is absolutely naff all to see and do.

I did pop over to a church to see what was going on but the Teutons do their worshipping early so things had already started. I pondered going in but realised I didn't know when it finishes, how weird they are and how easily they would make me for a heathen. Even worse, most of them are in mufti. Some of the oldies were in costume but too few to make photography unobtrusive. The garb is like an attempt to make the Amish look cooler. The women wear still get frumpy dresses but the men get to shave and wear black shirts.

I was also tasked with a mission from one of the Kraut poker players of the hostel in Asuncion. He had come here with his parents and they had gone to worship with the locals. They met an old couple who where apparently ignorant of the story of the great German Volk. The poker player's parents remedied this by sending him a set of DVD on the history of the Germans (Amusingly the last chapter is the Weimar Republic. Nothing significant happened after that). The gambler had been waiting for someone dumb enough to go to Filadelfia. Enter yours truly. The couple in questions live a fair bit away from the hotel and it's 40 degrees so I did my duty by dumping it on the hotel receptionist.

So why am I here getting bored? The answer is the bus trip and a desire to have been to places I have heard of. In this case the Gran Chaco. This is the one famous place in Paraguay. It covers more than half of the country but has less than 3% of the population. It's where Paraguay had a war with Bolivia. Tintin's "the Broken Ear" satirised the callous positioning of western companies. Oil companies picked a side and the Bolivians got told by the Brits that they could kill Paraguayans but had better not touch the railway. As such I knew about it and therefore wanted to come here. Filadelfia happened to be the easiest town to access in the Chaco. The German god squad presence was just a bonus.

Basically I accomplished my wish by taking the bus and looking out the window. It's basicaly swampy and full of palm trees most of the way from Asuncion and then gets dry and spindly near here. It's stepping out of the bus while they fixed stuff that made me understand just why this place is so sparsely populated. It's basically a big oven with cows.

I must learn not to base my trips on borderline racist Belgian children's books.

Next stop Concepcion. A town named after shagging and hailed as the" pearl of the north".

Take care,



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