We have been in Paraguay only a short time, relatively, so I can’t presume to know much about the country and its people, but we do have impressions that have raised questions. Since the beginning of our visit, the vast differences in wealth have been obvious. Many homes in Asuncion stand safely behind walled enclosures. And many of these enclosures are topped with broken glass, razor wire, and electric fences. In addition, some of these enclosed homes even take up an entire block. While one might imagine (and only imagine) what lies behind these walls, the streets right outside are in disrepair, to put it mildly. The homes without walls down by the river are wooden shacks separated by muddy paths and a portable toilet every so often. We passed by a water main leak that created a large pond-size puddle at the bottom of the hill that took five to six days to be repaired. The water flowed for that long! In front of every walled home, care is taken to sweep up, daily it seems, the leaves and any trash that might have accumulated, but the empty lot right next door remains full of trash and debris. The parks which might be lovely if tended to, are not. One park had a skate board ramp which hasn’t been in working order for what must have been a long time, it is mostly in shreds.
So, what is the legacy of a country that has been ruled by a ruthless dictator for over 30 years? What happens to the voice of the people? During that time, questioning the regime led to imprisonment, torture, and even death in some cases, making it easy to surmise why one wouldn’t been keen to complain when things weren’t working. How long does it take to undo the crime of silencing the people? We had dinner with a Paraguayan family and discussed briefly some of the infrastructure challenges here and it was said, “well, at least people are talking about it now.” We asked, “is that new?” and, “oh, yes” was the answer. So, if a kind of silence pervades the culture of not complaining and demanding a working infrastructure, how does that seep into every aspect of life? How free are people to voice their ideas, differences of opinion, challenge authority and so on. A city, and perhaps the country, that reveals such vast needs needs all the creativity and innovation of its people. So how to liberate that…to give people back their voice in the home, at work and in the streets? Fear may be manifested in the walls around the homes as it is in the wall of silence of the people. Perhaps more talking about that might help. Nothing can stop a people once they begin. Continue reading