Today is August 1, an (in)auspicious day in Paraguay. It’s traditionally the day when Paraguayans drink Carrulim, a homemade concoction of sugar cane, root, and lemon that makes a potent, sour tonic that Paraguayans claim promotes health, happiness, and protection from maladies (in Korean culture, that honor is reserved for kimchi). It’s an old Guarani belief that manifests itself in a spirit that is passed around a group of native Paraguayans and Guarani aficionados who believe they must drink Carrulim to survive from year to year. (The Guarani represent the largest indigenous group in Paraguay–the Guarani language and culture are ingrained in the Paraguayan psyche.) The word “Carrulim” itself is derived from the drink’s three main components. I have to admit that I did not have a chance to try some Carrulim today, although my Guarani teacher promised to brew some for us to taste tomorrow in class. ABC Color, one of Asuncion‘s three main daily newspapers, published an article (in Spanish) about Carrilum Day:
Today is also notable in Paraguayan history because of the Ycua Bolanos supermarket fire, a tragedy that left over 400 people dead and 400 injured. It is single deadliest event in modern Paraguayan history since the 1930’s. On Sunday, August 1, 2004, while hundreds of shoppers shopped, cashed paychecks, and ate in a large food court, a fire broke out in the large supermarket in Asuncion. The owner alleged ordered all doors chained shut to prevent looting, preventing the victims from escaping. Those brought up on charges were acquitted earlier this year, leading to extensive rioting. The courts initiated a second review and may overturn the previous ruling.
Today also marks the day after the Supreme Court of Justice referred Lino Oviedo‘s case to the Military Court for possible amnesty. The former general and head of UNACE, a opposition party, was recently absolved of culpability in the assassination of former Vice President Argana and the 1999 student massacre, paving the way for President Duarte and the Military Court to pardon him for his alleged involvement in the 1996 failed coup against former President Wasmosy. It all adds up to a possible presidential run in 2008. If Oviedo is pardoned, he would be free to run for president.
Pass the Carrulim. I think I need some.