It started in 2003. I arrived here in early July on a year-long leave of absence and began to teach at Asunción Christian Academy. I heard that the presidential inauguration of Nicanor Duarte Frutos was happening so I got up early and headed downtown on a bus. After his inspiring speech about ridding Paraguay of corruption and providing economic opportunities for everyone, I stuck around for the concert behind the presidential palace that night.
Nicanor came out from his big new house around 8 pm, ascended the stage, and gave what was apparently an inspiring speech. I understood none of it but the crowd cheered and laughed and really loved it.
Guaraní. It's one of two national languages here. The street vendors speak it. The military and police communicate in Guaraní. The Paraguayan national soccer team uses it. And, most importantly, if I'm not around, most older adults and everyone the towns outside Asunción drop into Guaraní.
Anyway, I had been here in 2003 and 2008 and I was happy to attend the latest presidential inauguration. Here's Horacio Cartes' inauguration speech if you speak Spanish. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQ8NXfEEEJ4
We arrived in time to witness a group of protesters accost a senator. He responded with shouts of "For the last 50 years, Stroessneristas like you have held back the country with your stupid isolationist policies and constant corruption." I think they were members of different arms of the same party.
It was pretty heated, but he entered the building so we headed off to the street called Paraguayo Independiente where all the dignitaries were to pass on their way from the Presidential Palace to the Cathedral Nuestra Señora de Asunción.
My wife greeted her favorite Senator,
while Paravision reported:
and police and military watched over us.
I think he's checking me out.
We were all awaiting the new president who arrived with horses behind and before.
That's his daughter sitting with him.
You can get really close to important people here. In 2008, at the inauguration of Lugo, I was within 10 feet of Presidents Chavez of Venezuela, Morales of Bolivia, Kirchner of Argentina, da Silva of Brasil, and Correa of Ecuador. in 2003, Fidel Castro was here and I saw him with my own eyes as he gave a 4 hour speech on the history of the proletariat.
Anyway, they were heading to the national cathedral for the obligatory Catholic mass after the inauguration in which they called upon la Virgen de Asunción and la Virgen de Caacupe to guide the new president.
After everybody left the cathedral, we passed a couple of hot dog shops
in search of another fabulous hamburger.
On our way to see the palace, we saw a collection of motorcycles that the national police were using. My favorite was a group of Ducati Multistrada 1200s.
We also found out that 'Chavez lives' in the form of the communist youth of Paraguay. This is an ANDE truck - the national electricity company.
Finally we arrived at the palace:
Behind the palace along the river, they've recently moved huge quantities of dirt and sand to develop the riverfront - the Costanera de Asunción. Several naval ships were anchored there.
Later that night, I returned to the palace and the concert that was held on the Costanera. It was televised and had all the traditional songs, famous bands, and Paraguayan bottle dancers.
All in all it was a great day. Not as many socialist presidents as in times past and more security, but I hope to get down here in 2018 for the next one.
I'll close with an image of the Palace at night. The Special Forces guy directing traffic actually started a conversation with me later. Kinda cool.