Living in Paraguay

23

I’m planning to leave Mexico, but I’m having difficulty determining what state to select for my subsequent house.

For the past few times, I’ve been reading online whatever I could find about Paraguay. That may seem to be an odd choice, however I will explain why below.

One site I’ve found that gives excellent info and clearheaded advice about Paraguay is Moving Overseas, written by Scott Lilly, an U.S. citizen who now lives in Asuncion after stops in Uruguay and elsewhere. Lilly’s website markets and sells two guides he’s written — I’ve really not yet bought these guides, but I would assume they’re well written, grounded in the quality of his own web site. One guide book is about Paraguay and also the other is about Uruguay.

Lilly’s most recent blog post about Argentina is an eye opener. “A few years back, many people were discussing relocating to Argentina,” Lilly writes. “People praised Argentina as a location to attain a terrific steak for US$5.”

Fast forward to 2012 and things are distinct. “A friend recently went to Buenos Aires and said he paid US$30 for a steak,” Lilly said. “And, as a result of price controls the government put in place on beef, the chances are greater that the recent steak was with an unhealthy, corn-fed cow.”

At the suggestion of the friend, I went with a number of Americans in the Guadalajara region to Mexico City for a gathering of the Latin America department of Democrats Abroad. Lugo was one of the speakers to this gathering of about 40 Americans. Four months later, the election was won by Lugo.

Before entering politics, Lugo was a Roman Catholic priest and bishop, serving as Bishop of Paraguay’s Diocese of San Pedro from 1994 to 2008. The Paraguayan constitution forbids the clergy from active participation in politics, so Lugo announced his resignation as a bishop. The Pope initially refused to acknowledge Lugo’s resignation, but later relented.

I’ve met hundreds of political leaders, from local to national levels in a lot of countries. I have an automatic suspicion and dislike of nearly all. I have also met tons of members of the clergy and nearly all gave the feeling to me that they were insincere money-grubbers, with a twisted notion of reality, and who had a hidden agenda that had little to do with theology. (I should say at this stage that I’m at best an agnostic and have not belonged to nor attended any church, other than weddings and funerals, but I did graduate from a Jesuit university.)

In a short chat with Lugo, I developed a liking for the guy. I might not agree with all his views, but I could have voted for him if I were a citizen of Paraguay. Lugo genuinely interested in what other folks needed to say and seemed to me to be honest, unpretentious – - even an old, semi-retired American speaking very poor Spanish.

My Spanish skills would be referred to as “survival level”, at best. When I know that I will have to say something beyond my capacities, I create my phrases and sentences in a laptop, and refer to my handy pocket dictionary and phrase book.

I’d rehearsed a couple of lines, anticipating that I’d get a chance to talk with Lugo. Normal items — pleasure to meet you, good luck in your campaign. But, I had rehearsed my lines a lot it sounded like I spoke Spanish fluently. Lugo asked me where I was from, and I answered California, but I was struggling to understand his Spanish and struggling even more to compose sentences in my head. Then I informed Lugo I didn’t speak Spanish. He said, needless to say, you speak Spanish, I understand you perfectly. It was at that time that a photographer walked by and had us pose for the picture above. Lugo is a good politician. He makes it look like we are old buddies.

Lugo asked me if I had actually been to Paraguay. I said no, but I’d like to visit some day. I can only see it now since I talk to the receptionist within the presidential palace: “I’m an American tourist and Fernando told me stop by and say hello.”

Naturally, I would not necessarily be prepared to meet President Lugo again. But, I would place a duplicate of the picture above in my passport. Couldn’t hurt.