Asunción, the capital city, is the center of Paraguay in almost every sense of the word “center.” Imagine if Washington, DC was the only city in the entire USA with everything you might need. Picture a USA where NYC, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston…all the big cities didn’t exist, or Washington, DC alone filled each’s role.
Paraguay is a centralized country in the sense that as you get farther from Asunción you have less access to resources like consumer goods, government services, and employment opportunities. For example, you might be able to buy sneakers in any urban center, but not the brand you want. You might be able to see a doctor to get your cough checked out, but you might not be able to get tested for HIV or see a dermatologist. You might be able to work for a nonprofit, but not an international NGO. You might be able to join a gym, but not a cross-fit gym.
Let’s say I want to buy a tent, Asics running shoes, peanut butter, a violin, and a good bicycle. Let’s also say I want to go to the movies, go to a sit down restaurant that serves non-Paraguayan cosine, and sleep in a room with air conditioning. I want to withdraw money from an ATM, use wifi, make some calls with my cell phone, and get my Mac computer fixed. On top of that, I need to go see a specialist and get a new government ID. I also want to work for a big company, volunteer at a nonprofit that focuses on girls’ empowerment, and be part of a young professionals’ group. I want do karate and join a book club. Lastly, I like to travel so I want to have access to an airport with flights to other continents and a bus terminal with buses to other parts of Paraguay and to neighboring countries. The only place in Paraguay where ALL those things exist is Asunción.
In Paraguay, it’s not just a question of city versus countryside. It’s a question of Asunción versus anywhere else in Paraguay.