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Carrera del Paraguay

Carrera del Paraguay

For 400 years the only practical outlet of Paraguay to the rest of Spanish America, and then to the outside world, was by means of the Paraguay-Paraná River system. Colonial exports, mainly high-bulk, low-profit commodities as tobacco, timber, and yerba maté flowed south to Santa Fe for transshipment to the interior, or on to the estuary.

Paraguayan-built and -crewed river craft dominated the Carrera to the early 1800s, as did Paraguayan-produced products. In the Bay of Asunción flat-bottomed craft for the one-way trip south were constructed. Elsewhere along the Paraguay River or the multitude of tributaries, rafts and log-booms were gathered. Skilled pilots and helmsmen guided these boats through the treacherous mud shoals of the Paraná, bound for their destination at Sante Fe or Las Conchas, a delta settlement serving Buenos Aires. Salaried peons from the Paraguayan countryside supplied the necessary muscle for rowing and lightering. For the return trip, small sailing vessels loaded with passengers and finished goods made the four-month voyage north to Asunción from Las Conchas. By the viceregal era, a complex web of credit from Buenos Aires merchants held this commercial network together.

After a twenty-year hiatus during the tenure of José Gaspar de Francia, the Carrera again served Paraguay well during the era of Don Carlos Antonio López (1844–1862). However, after the destructive War of the Triple Alliance (1864–1870), Argentine entrepreneurs and their steamers captured control of commerce on the Carrera. It remained the primary external transport for Paraguay into the twentieth century.

See alsoParaguay River .


Jerry W. Cooney, Economía y sociedad en la Intendencia del Paraguay (1990).

Thomas Whigham, The Politics of River Trade: Tradition and Development in the Upper Plata, 1780–1870 (1991).

Additional Bibliography

Irigoin, María Alejandra, Roberto Schmit, and Carlos Sempat Assadourian. La desintegración de la economía colonial: Comercio y moneda en el interior del espacio colonial, 1800–1860. Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2003.

                                      Jerry W. Cooney

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