"I need not follow the beaten path; 
  I do not hunt for any path; 
  I will go where there is no path, 
  And leave a trail."


Paraguay, though one of the most isolated republics of South America, is one of the oldest. A hundred years before the "Mayflower" sailed from old Plymouth there was a permanent settlement of Spaniards near the present capital. The country has 98,000 square miles of territory, but a population of only 800,000. Paraguay may almost be called an Indian republic, for the traveller hears nothing but the soft Guarani language spoken all over the country. It is in this republic that the yerba mate grows. That is the chief article of commerce, for at least fifteen millions of South Americans drink this tea, already frequently referred to. Thousands of tons of the best oranges are grown, and its orange groves are world-famed.

The old capital, founded in 1537, was built without regularity of plan, but the present city, owing to the despotic sway of Francia, is most symmetrical. That South American Nero issued orders for all houses that were out of his lines to be demolished by their owners. "One poor man applied to know what remuneration he was to have, and the dictator's answer was: 'A lodgment gratis in the public prison.' Another asked where he was to go, and the answer was, 'To a state dungeon.' Both culprits were forthwith lodged in their respective new residences, and their houses were levelled to the ground."

"Such was the terror inspired by the man that the news that he was out would clear the streets. A white Paraguayan dared not utter his name. During his lifetime he was 'El Supremo,' and after he was dead for generations he was referred to simply as 'El Difunto.'" [Footnote: Robertson's "Reign of Terror."]

Paraguay, of all countries, has been most under the teaching of the Jesuit priest, and the people in consequence are found to be the most superstitious. Being an inland republic, its nearest point a thousand miles from the sea-coast, it has been held in undisputed possession.

Here was waged between 1862 and 1870 what history describes as the most annihilating war since Carthage fell. The little republic, standing out for five and a half years against five other republics, fought with true Indian bravery and recklessness, until for every man in the country there could be numbered nine women (some authorities say eleven); and this notwithstanding the fact that the women in thousands carried arms and fought side by side with the men. The dictator Lopez, who had with such determination of purpose held out so long, was finally killed, and his last words, "Muero con la patria" (I die with the country) were truly prophetic, for the country has never risen since.

Travellers agree in affirming that of all South Americans the Paraguayans are the most mild-mannered and lethargic; yet when these people are once aroused they fight with tigerish pertinacity. The pages of history may be searched in vain for examples of warfare waged at such odds; but the result is invariably the same, the weaker nation, whether right or wrong, goes under. Although the national mottoes vary with the different flags, yet the Chilian is the most universally followed in South America, as elsewhere: "Por la razon o la fuerza " (By right or by might). The Paraguayans contended heroically for what they considered their rights, and such bloody battles were fought that at Curupaita alone 5,000 dead and dying were left on the field! Added to the carnage of battle was disease on every hand. The worst epidemic of smallpox ever known in the annals of history was when the Brazilians lost 43,000 men, while this war was being waged against Paraguay. One hundred thousand bodies were left unburied, and on them the wild animals and vultures gorged themselves. The saying now is a household word, that the jaguar of those lands is the most to be dreaded, through having tasted so much human blood.

"Lopez, the cause of all this sacrifice and misery, has gone to his final account, his soul stained with the blood of seven hundred thousand of his people, the victims of his ambition and cruelty."

Towns which flourished before the outbreak of hostilities were sacked by the emboldened Indians from the Chaco and wiped off the map, San Salvador (Holy Saviour) being a striking example. I visited the ruins of this town, where formerly dwelt about 8,000 souls. Now the streets are grass-grown, and the forest is creeping around church and barracks, threatening to bury them. I rode my horse through the high portal of the cannon-battered church, while the stillness of the scene reminded me of a city of the dead. City of the dead, truly - men and women and children who have passed on! My horse nibbled the grass growing among the broken tiles of the floor, while I, in imagination, listened to the "passing bell" in the tower above me, and under whose shade I sought repose. A traveller, describing this site, says: "It is a place of which the atmosphere is one great mass of malaria, and the heat suffocating - where the surrounding country is an uninterrupted marsh - where venomous insects and reptiles abound." San Salvador as a busy mart has ceased to exist, and the nearest approach to "the human form divine," found occasionally within its walls, is the howling monkey. Such are the consequences of war! During the last ten years Paraguay has been slowly recovering from the terrible effects of this war, but a republic composed mostly of women is severely handicapped. [Footnote: Would the suffragettes disagree with the writer here?]

Paraguay is a poor land; the value of its paper currency, like that of most South American countries, fluctuates almost daily. In 1899 the dollar was worth only twelve cents, and for five gold dollars I have received in exchange as many as forty-six of theirs. Yet there is a great future for Paraguay. It has been called the Paradise of South America, and although the writer has visited sixteen different countries of the world, he thinks of Paraguay with tender longing. It is perhaps the richest land on earth naturally, and produces so much mate that one year's production would make a cup of tea for every man, woman and child on the globe. Oranges and bananas can be bought at six cents a hundred, two millions of cattle fatten on its rich pasture lands; but, of all the countries the writer has travelled in, Mexico comes first as a land of beggars, and poor Paraguay comes second.