The population is largely mestizo, of mixed Spanish and Guaraní descent. Spanish and Guaraní, which is spoken by most of the population, are the official languages. The Jesuit missions (the reductions, active from the late 16th to the 18th cent.) were instrumental in the blending of Spanish and Guaraní cultures. Later immigrants—German, Italian, and French, and most recently Brazilian and Japanese—added new elements to the distinctive civilization of Paraguay. The country's arts and handicrafts reflect the various strains. A notable musical contribution is the guaranía, a form developed from native melodies by José Asunción Flores during the Chaco War. Nanduti (spider web) lace is the most famous Paraguayan handicraft. The isolated indigenous groups that live in the Chaco and elsewhere have little part in the national life. Roman Catholicism is the established religion; most of the small number of Protestants are Mennonites.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.