Paraguay, is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the country from north to south. Due to its central location in South America, it is sometimes referred to as Corazón de América, or the Heart of America.
The Guaraní have been living in Paraguay since prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, when Paraguay became part of the Spanish colonial empire. Following independence from Spain in 1811 Paraguay was ruled by a series of dictators who followed isolationist and protectionist policies. This development was truncated by the disastrous Paraguayan War (1864–1870) against Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Since then Paraguay's relations with these three countries have improved and in 1994 the country joined with them to found Mercosur.
As of 2009 the population was estimated at 6.3 million. The capital and largest city is Asunción. The official languages are Spanish and Guaraní, both being widely spoken in the country, with around 92% of the general population speaking Spanish and 98% speaking Guaraní. Most of the population are mestizos.
In 2010, Paraguay experienced the largest economic expansion in Latin America and the second fastest in the world, only after Qatar.
Paraguay is divided by the Río Paraguay into the eastern region, called Eastern Paraguay (Paraguay Oriental) and known as the Paraná region; and the western region, officially called Western Paraguay (Paraguay Occidental) and also known as the Chaco. The country lies between latitudes 19° and 28°S, and longitudes 54° and 63°W. The terrain consists of grassy plains and wooded hills in the east. To the west, there are mostly low, marshy plains.
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