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The form of Guarani spoken in the national culture is somewhat different from that used by indigenous Guarani speakers, and many indigenous people speak non-Guarani languages.

Religion, residence, and community affiliation—not language—are the cultural markers of indigenous identity.

The name "Paraguay" derives from the river that divides the eastern half of the nation from the western Chaco region.

The vast majority of the population (95 percent) shares a Paraguayan identity, but several other cultural identities exist.

The city was founded in 1537 by Juan de Salazar y Espinoza, a Spanish explorer who led an expedition upriver from the fort at Buenos Aires.

Befriended by the local Guarani, he established the fort of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción overlooking the bay where Asunción now stands.

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The capital, Asunción, lies on the Paraguay River at the point dividing eastern and western Paraguay.

Those groups include Mennonites, who settled in the western (Chaco) and the northern regions early in the early twentieth century; Japanese, who settled in agricultural colonies primarily during the 1950s and 1960s; and more recent Korean, Lebanese, and ethnic Chinese immigrants, who have settled in the urban centers of Asunción and Ciudad del Este since the 1970s.

In the 1960s and 1970s, large numbers of Brazilian immigrant farmers moved to the eastern frontier region and became the backbone of the soybean export sector. Paraguay is a land-locked nation of 157,047 square miles (406,752 square kilometers) in South America, surrounded by Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia.

By the 1990s, a second generation of Brazilians had been born and raised in Paraguay, and a few intermarried with the local population. The inhospitable and semiarid Chaco forms the western part of the nation.

Flat and infertile, much of it covered by scrub forests, the Chaco contains approximately 61 percent of the national land area but less than 3 percent of the population.

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