Paraguay Independence Day starts on May 14 and ends on May 15 every year, and we know what that means — two days off and unlimited fun and feasting for the people of Paraguay. On this day in 1811, Paraguay gained its independence after nearly 300 years of Spanish rule. History books contain several accounts of popular revolutions, but modern discourse barely includes Paraguay. However, it was the second independent nation in the new world after the United States. How did a small country assert its identity against Spanish colonialism? Imagine the resolve of a people determined to fight for their right to self-determination, despite the odds seemingly stacked against them. The road was fraught with uncertainty, but Paraguay prevailed. ¡Feliz día de la independencia, Paraguay!
History of Paraguay Independence Day
Paraguay’s journey to statehood originated in the 16th century during the Spanish invasion of the region. Spanish King Carlos III created the Viceroyalty of the Rio de La Plata in 1776, with Buenos Aires as the capital. The viceroyalty contained parts of Bolivia, present-day Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul. Paraguay came into existence years later when the Spanish introduced a municipality system. The tiny province had only one city to call its own — Asunción, the center of Paraguayan culture, society, and politics.
Discontent with the Spanish had been brewing for several years. One of the primary reasons was Argentina’s rising influence and political ambitions. By the 19th century, Paraguay became the battleground for three groups with vastly different interests: the gachupines (people born in Spain), the criollo (elite Paraguayan-born groups), and the porteños (those of Buenos Aires).
Future conflicts involved numerous power struggles among the three groups. Things came to a head when the Primera Junta was formed in Buenos Aires with the ambition of ruling over the entire viceroyalty. In 1810, the junta attempted to bring Paraguay under its control to no avail. Meanwhile, the governor of Asunción, Bernardo de Velasco, galvanized 200 criollos to declare their continued loyalty to Spanish King Ferdinand VII while rejecting the authority of the Primera Junta. Despite this, the porteño attempt to seize power in Asunción raged on unabated. In 1811, they launched a second offensive against the province but, once again, met with defeat. Emboldened by these successive victories, the criollo army hatched a plan to overthrow the royalists and then-Governor Velasco. Spanish influence was already waning in the region due to the Napoleonic Wars and mismanaged governance under Velasco. The Paraguayans, led by Dr José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia, overthrew the Spanish in a virtually bloodless revolution on May 14, 1811.
Paraguay became the second independent nation of the new world after the United States. Dr. Francia, the first President of Paraguay, ruled from 1814 to 1840. He was the brains behind the design of the country’s flag, the only one in the world with a different image on each side.
Every year, Independence Day celebrations in Paraguay are a riot of colors. Winding streets come alive with music and dance. People wearing vibrant clothes and straw hats dance, sing, host barbeques, or play soccer. Paraguay also celebrates Mother’s Day on this day to honor Juan María De Lara, who was instrumental in helping to gain the country’s independence.
Paraguay Independence Day timeline
The municipality of Paraguay is formed under the Viceroyalty of the Rio de La Plata.
The Primera Junta sends Col. José de Espinola to take over Asunción, who fails spectacularly in his mission.
Dr José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia and a military garrison lead the Paraguayan march to independence.
The United States recognizes Paraguay as an independent country.
Paraguay Independence Day FAQs
Why did Paraguay declare independence?
The Paraguayan fight for freedom has roots in the ambitions of the local elite and land-owning class. Their desire for independence from Spanish rule ignited the calls for revolution.
What is Paraguay famous for?
Aside from its natural and cultural beauty, Paraguay is the only land-locked country with a navy. It has several centenarian ships, and they were able to last this long because they are usually in fresh water.
What is Paraguay's motto?
The Paraguayan national motto is “Peace and Justice.” The seal features a seated lion underneath a liberty cap mounted on a staff.
How to Observe Paraguay Independence Day
Celebrate like Paraguayans
Can’t travel to Paraguay? Bring Paraguay to you. There is no better day than today for an evening of barbeque, drinks, and dancing.
Attend the parade
Don’t miss the colorful parade if you're in the country. Dress up in fancy clothes like the locals and join the fun.
Learn about Paraguay
From the incredible history to food and dance, Paraguay is a culture lover’s paradise. Take the time to read up on the country today.
5 Facts About Paraguay That Will Blow Your Mind
Native languages first
Paraguay is one of the few Latin American countries where the native language, Guaraní, takes precedence over Spanish.
Home to natural treasures
The country contains the world’s largest water reserve, the Guarani Aquifer, also known as ‘Acuifero Guaraní.’
Unique archaeological treasures
It’s the only Latin American country famous for ancient Jesuit ruins built in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Duels are legal
Anyone can settle feuds here the old-fashioned way, but they must be registered blood donors to participate.
Home to America’s largest cats
Jaguars roam the wilderness of Paraguay, along with panthers and ocelots.
Why Paraguay Independence Day is Important
A unique community with a unique culture
Paraguay is home to a community that values its identity and culture. They have a long history and a colorful culture that deserve to be understood and celebrated.
The world needs more historical accounts that aren’t mainstream. Everyone everywhere should know about Paraguay’s incredible road to independence.
Spotlight on Paraguay
Discussions on South America tend to revolve around Argentina and Brazil. Today, the rich history and culture of Paraguay need some much-deserved attention.
Paraguay Independence Day dates