Paraguay will be in the spotlight as it celebrates 200 years of independence with ceremonies and celebrations May 14-15.
Paraguay has much to be proud of. This sparsely populated country the size of California has seven million people and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $17 billion. Last year, the country caught the attention of business leaders and economists around the world with its spectacular GDP growth of 15.3 percent, the third highest worldwide, largely due to the commodities boom. A traditional friend and ally of the United States, which has a 64 percent favorability rating among the Paraguayan public, Paraguay even has a state named after U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes.
Paraguayans boast that 85 percent of the population speaks both Spanish and Guarani, an indigenous language. The country is known for its rich red soil, spectacular Jesuit ruins, and the national instrument, the harp. Land-locked Paraguay is also the largest exporter of electricity on the globe thanks to the Itaipu hydroelectric enterprise, the second largest in the world.
Representing the United States at Paraguayan bicentennial celebrations will be Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela, and U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay Liliana Ayalde. The U.S. Embassy in Asuncion will contribute a rich array of cultural programming to the bicentennial celebrations, including a blues trio and Grammy-award winning classical guitar player Sharon Isbin, who shared the stage with famed Paraguayan guitarist Berta Rojas. The Embassy will participate in the official parade and at the bicentennial hall of nations, where we will highlight the historic ties between our two countries and important American contributions in education, the arts, health, environment, and commerce. The country is buzzing with anticipation and I can't imagine a more exciting time to be here.