The Mennonites of Paraguay


Special thanks to fiction writer Juliette Wade for hosting the third article in a series on Paraguay’s Chaco region about the Mennonites of Paraguay.

Click here to read the article.

Juliette’s blog, TalkToYoUniverse, features the fabulous Writers’ International Cultural Share, a forum where writers can share their cultural experiences and insights from around the world. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute an article about the Mennonites to this cultural share.

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About Juliette Wade

Juliette is a fiction writer with several published works, including the short story, "Let the Word Take Me," appearing in the July/August 2008 issue of Analog Magazine. Her novelette, "Cold Words," appeared in the same magazine in October 2009. In October 2009, she achieved one of her major goals by signing with The Grayson Agency. "The Eminence’s Match" has since appeared in the Eight Against Reality anthology (July 2010). A novelette entitled, "At Cross Purposes" led the January/February 2011 issue of Analog, with cover art by Bob Eggleton. Originally from the Monterey Bay area of California, Juliette holds a Ph.D in Education and has lived in Japan three times, where she met her Australian husband. She has also taught the Japanese language. Visit her blog to learn more about her stories.

More About the Chaco

Earlier articles in my series on Paraguay’s western region focused on Filadelfia, the area’s largest town, and the rural Chaco. The final post will highlight the local indigenous community.

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

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The Paraguayan Chaco


This is the second article in a series on Paraguay’s Chaco region with highlights from the area. The first focused on Filadelfia, its largest town. Other posts will feature the local Mennonite and indigenous communities. Enjoy photos and stories from one of Paraguay’s most intriguing places.

If you are looking for a trip off the beaten path, try visiting the Chaco region of Paraguay. It’s quite the trip (figuratively and literally). My family and I headed to the “Wild West” of South America, in August 2008. It’s a fun destination for those who enjoy rural tourism and exploring scenic beauty. The Chaco has many hidden gems to discover — wildlife, livestock, farmland, salt lagoons, historic battlefields, dry terrain, and the local culture.

We spent a day driving in the back country on dirt and gravel roads. We passed palm trees and lapachos (jacaranda trees) with flowers that seemed to glow in the sunlight. The flowers of different lapachos bloom at different times of the year in bright yellow, orange, or lavender. We saw Mennonite ranches (estancias) with grazing cattle and crop fields. We drove through swaths of barren land with dead trees, disheveled earth, and patches of salt residue left behind by flash floods. The water table under the Chaco is salty and non-potable, so local residents must collect and preserve as much water as they can during the rainy season (November-February) in order to weather the brutal dry season (May-August). Hollow dirt mounds serve as water reservoirs for the estancias.

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We headed from Filadelfia to Isla Po’i, where we toured an experimental agriculture farm run by the Mennonites. We saw fields of cotton and mustard, two crops the Mennonites planned to introduce as cash crops.

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At Isla Po’I, we toured the ruins of a former Paraguayan military staging area used during the Chaco War (1932-35). The national monument is one of several dedicated to Paraguay’s victory over the Bolivians. The statue is of Mariscal José Félix Estigarribia, Paraguay’s military commander during the war and one of the country’s most celebrated heroes. The bomb shell and tank tracks were left behind by the Bolivians.

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We continued on to the Yakaré Sur saltwater lagoon, a sanctuary for flamingos and other birds in the heart of the semi-arid Chaco. It’s a great place for bird watching. The view from the observation tower is gorgeous – one of the few places where you can survey the Chaco for miles in all directions.

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We drove not far from Yakaré Sur to a Mennonite estancia. The scene looked idyllic with grazing cows, green pastures, windmills, and landscapes dotted with palm trees and jacarandas.

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It’s easy to get lost in the back roads even with GPS, the road conditions are unpredictable, and the best places to can be hard to find. As a result, it’s advisable to hire a local guide for a half day (U.S.$90 in 2008) or full day ($150 in 2008) trip who can show you what the Chaco has to offer. Most roads are unpaved and chock full of potholes. Consider using the guide’s vehicle (an additional $150) to spare your own from wear and tear. If you drive in the Chaco, bring plenty of food and water, and be prepared for roadside emergencies. Your guide can help you navigate the myriad roads that crisscross the area.

Most of all, don’t forget to bring the tereré, a beverage made with yerba mate leaves. It’s the drink of choice in Paraguay, and you will make new friends and feel more at home in Paraguay. Enjoy a cup with your guide.

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2008_08_31 Paraguay Chaco (39)

After driving more than 100 miles (160 kilometers), we opted not to visit two other attractions, Fortin Boquerón, a historic site from the Chaco War, and Fortin Toledo, home of the Tagua Reserve, a reserve for the endangered tagua boar (peccary). It’s impossible to see all the major points of interest in the Chaco in one day.

Our adventure continued when we returned to Asunción via the Trans-Chaco Highway. During the five-hour drive, we saw herds of cattle grazing amid fields of grass peppered with palm trees; fields charred by wildfires; igloo-size brick ovens; and cowboys (gauchos) herding cattle. We enjoyed taking in the wide open spaces and flatlands of western Paraguay.

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If you have the opportunity to visit Paraguay and the time for a few out-of-the-way excursions, head to the Chaco. Plan to take at least four days to see sites such as Filadelfia that are easily accessible from the Trans-Chaco Highway. For more remote locations such as Cerro León (Lion Hill) in Parque Nacional del Defensores del Chaco (National Park of the Defenders of the Chaco), set aside at least a week, hire a guide, and expect to rough it.

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More about the Chaco

  • Filadelfia, the capital of Boquerón Province and the largest town in the Chaco
Map picture

 

This is an update with photos of an article I posted in September 2008. Click here to read the original post.

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

The Support


A poem.

God provides the foundation

On which our home is built

A solid base that anchors it

To soft soil or shifting sand

Your strength is the structure

That keeps this delicate form

From blowing, washing away

When the wind and rain come

Your dedication is the frame

That holds up this fragile life

As it reaches toward heaven

Buttressing its soaring wings

And though we need the Lord

Who shelters and protects us

Our home would lie in ruins

If not held together by you

support

For my wife.

M.G. Edwards

July 2012

Filadelfia, Paraguay


This is the first post in a series on Paraguay’s Chaco region about its largest town, Filadelfia. The others will feature articles about the region and its Mennonite and indigenous communities. Enjoy photos and stories from one of Paraguay’s most intriguing places.

A visit to the Chaco, the remote western half of Paraguay located in the heart of South America, is like a trip back in time. It truly is the “Wild West” of South America. From the timeworn, semiarid terrain to the eclectic mix of Germanic, Spanish, and indigenous influences, the Chaco is out of this world.

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The heartbeat of the Chaco is in Filadelfia, the capital of Boquerón Province, about five hours northwest of Paraguay’s capital, Asunción. It lies just off the Trans-Chaco Highway headed toward Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The town of 10,000 was founded in the 1930s by Russian Mennonites of Germanic descent who emigrated from the former Soviet Union to avoid persecution under Stalinism. Mennonite influence dominates the town with the prevalence of Plattdeutsch, a Low German dialect, blond-hair and blue-eyed residents, and delicious German cuisine and pastries.

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In 2008, we visited Filadelfia and stayed in one of just two hotels in town at the time, a decent place with a so-so German-style buffet. Along the main street, Avenida Hindenburg, we stopped to see the monuments that commemorated the city’s 25th, 50th and 75th anniversaries and the Mennonite pioneers.

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We stopped to explore the town square, one of the nicer ones I’ve seen in Paraguay. The manicured lawn and gardens were a beautiful escape from the gritty, industrial atmosphere of the rest of the town. The aptly-named bottle trees (ceiba insignis; in Spanish, borrachos) stood like giant guardians. The untrained ear might have mistaken the Mennonite school next door for one in Germany were it not for the dry, windswept Chaco landscape on campus.

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We toured the Jakob Unger Museum adjacent to the town square. Named after a local specimen collector, the museum was filled with virtually every kind of animal found in the Paraguayan Chaco. It also housed a mish-mash of Mennonite and indigenous artifacts from Filadelfia’s past. Our young son enjoyed learning about armadillos, rheas, and cheetahs — up close and personal. We played a game of “which animal can hurt you” to help him learn respect for wildlife.

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Filadelfia was a beehive of activity when we visited. The town’s epicenter was a small strip mall that catered to the Mennonite community with a large German-style supermarket and boutique stores selling everything from wood furniture to ceramics. Smaller commercial enterprises on the outskirts of town served the local indigenous population and migrant workers, primarily “Brasiguayos,” or Brazilians who emigrated to Paraguay. Around town were numerous plants and factories, predominantly Mennonite owned and operated, that processed agriculture products from milk to honey. The ice cream was some of the most delicious I’d ever tasted.

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The region is Paraguay’s dairy heartland, but all this productivity has come at a cost. The Chaco is very dry, with frequent droughts and water management issues exacerbated by large farms that need irrigation. Although Filadelfia and surrounding communities such as Loma Plata and Kolonia Neuland use power from the Itaipu Dam, one of the world’s largest dams located in eastern Paraguay, coal and wood were still widely used as fuel when we visited. As a result, clear cutting to increase pasture lands for cattle and for fuel has contributed to deforestation in the area.

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Those who live in the harsh climate of the Chaco work hard to make the desert bloom, but they also find time to relax, have fun, and enjoy life. Filadelfia has several Mennonite churches, and many indigenous and Brasiguayos are Catholic. Soccer (fútbol) is a passion for many locals, as it is throughout Paraguay, and each year at the end of September, the Trans-Chaco Rally passes through town. Visiting Filadelfia during the rally is arguably the best time to go, but be sure to book your hotel room early! There aren’t many.

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2008_08_31 Paraguay Filadelfia (24)

Stay tuned for more exciting posts about Paraguay and the Chaco!

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This is an update with photos of an earlier post about the Paraguayan Chaco. Click here to read the original post.

Map picture

 

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Outtake Photos from Kilimanjaro


mge-kili-cover-front-thumbKilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill is a finalist for the 2012 Global Ebook Award. The book is a memoir that chronicles my attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. At forty years old and on the verge of a midlife crisis, I tried to change my life by climbing a mountain. This is my true story of facing Kilimanjaro and other challenges at middle age. The book is available to purchase as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers.

Most writers or filmmakers have draft scenes, narrative, or dialogue that they cut from the final version of their books or films. I did the same when I was writing my book, Kilimanjaro. When I decided to add photos, I searched through more than 1,000 photos of the climb and chose dozens that I thought would best illustrate the story. I whittled the final number down to 60. Unfortunately, some great photos in earlier versions of the manuscript did not make it into the final publication. Some did not enhance the story enough while others weren’t clear when viewed on an e-reader. Some were left out to keep the file size of the e-book manageable.

Whatever the reason, here they are…the outtake photos from Kilimanjaro. To enjoy the 60 photos that made the cut, check out the book!

A store near the town of Moshi on the way to Mount Kilimanjaro:

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First glimpse of the Kilimanjaro summit:

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Hiking into the clouds on the Rongai Route:

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Hiking through a dust storm:

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Porters taking a well-deserved break at Camp Two on the Rongai Route:

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On an acclimatization hike between Camp Three and Kibo Huts:

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The Face of Kibo looking down on Mount Mawenzi and The Saddle:

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Hiking in The Saddle between Kibo Peak and Mount Mawenzi:

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Horombo Huts on the Marangu (Coca-Cola) Route:

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Mandara Huts on the Marangu (“Coca-Cola”) Route:

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2011_12_29 Kilimanjaro (8)

For a limited time, the Kilimanjaro e-book is on sale at these booksellers:

Kilimanjaro is also available to purchase for $3.99 as an e-book from these booksellers:

Kilimanjaro is available to buy in print for $9.99 from these booksellers:

Pick up your copy today!

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Book Review. Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill


Special thanks to Lada Ray for her great review of my book, Kilimanjaro. Thank you, Lada!

Lada Ray Blog

Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill

 By M.G. Edwards

Book Review: Conquering your own Kilimanjaro

This book is about many things. At forty, the author, M.G. Edwards, finds himself at a crossroads. Leaving behind the unfulfilling job as part of the American Foreign Service, he embarks on a grueling, excruciating, and at times scary, journey to the top of Africa, the famous Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Sound familiar? How many of us have gone through the same thing at some point in our lives? How many left an unfulfilling job behind, packed a backpack or a suitcase and embarked on a far away journey to look for answers? Only to discover that all of our answers lie within.

I was interested to follow the author’s journey to the top and the challenges he encountered along the way. But I was especially curious to read about the dynamics of…

View original post 203 more words

Kilimanjaro Book a Global Ebook Award Finalist


My book, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, is a finalist for the 2012 Global Ebook Award in the Inspirational/Visionary – Non-Fiction category. The book is a memoir that chronicles my attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. At forty years old and on the verge of a midlife crisis, I tried to change my life by climbing a mountain. This is my true story of facing Kilimanjaro and other challenges at middle age.

To celebrate the occasion, I’ve put the ebook version of Kilimanjaro on sale for a limited time at these booksellers:

gebafinAmazon.com for Kindle (United States) – $1.99

Amazon.co.uk for Kindle (United Kingdom) – £1.32

Amazon.fr for Kindle (France) – €1,87

Amazon.de for Kindle (Germany) – €1,87

Amazon.it for Kindle (Italy) – €1,87

Amazon.es for Kindle (Spain) – €1,87

Barnes & Noble for Nook – $1.99

Smashwords for iPad and other e-readers – $1.99 / enter code SSW50 at check out

In addition, I added a fifth chapter to the excerpt from the book Kilimanjaro. Click here to read the first five chapters. If you like it, you can purchase the entire book from one of the booksellers listed on the last page. Thanks for reading it! I hope you enjoy it.

Readers have called Kilimanjaro “life changing,” “inspirational,” “an epic journey of self-discovery,” and “a peek into someone’s personal travel journal.” It’s a book for anyone who feels over the hill and needs encouragement to make a life change in the face of difficult odds. It’s also for the casual climber, mountaineer, or hiker who is interested climbing one of the world’s tallest mountains. Filled with insights and advice for those who are contemplating their own Kilimanjaro climb, my book will put you on the mountain and inspire you to go over it.

The Global Ebook Awards honor and bring attention to ebook publishing. Now in its second year, the Awards are given in 101 specific categories. They are open to all publishers. Each winner is chosen by category rather than based on size or region. This year, almost 1,000 submissions were judged by a panel of more than 250 judges who are experts in the categories and genres of the books nominated. The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony to be held in Santa Barbara, California on August 18, 2012. For more information, visit http://globalebookawards.com.

Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill is available to purchase for $3.99 mge-kili-cover-front-largeas an ebook from these booksellers:

Apple iTunes

Diesel Ebooks

Goodreads

Kobo Books

The Wordshop

Kilimanjaro is available to buy in print for $9.99 from these booksellers:

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

Createspace

Diesel Book Store

2011_12_29 Mike Kilimanjaro

Pick up your copy today!

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.