Everyone living in Paraguay struggles to stay cool in the almost constant heat. Sometimes there is a breeze. Sometimes it rains. But, with the regularity one should expect from a tropical region, Paraguay swelters in a humid heat. Because of this, the way people live here, in terms of housing, is very different from what I knew in the northeastern United States. Mainly, the lines between the indoors and the outdoors are blurred.
Most families with any wealth live in houses built of bricks and with tile roofs. The bricks are hollow terracotta and about half the size of a cinder block. Families with less money live in wooden houses with thatch or metal roofs. There is no insulation and most people do not have AC or a heating system in their home… fans are a staple.
Many families cook outside using either wood or charcoal fires. Some of these outdoor cooking spaces have a roof, but not always. Smaller houses, perhaps the norm in Paraguay, do not always have a living room or a dining room. Those rooms are not necessary because relaxation takes place outside. Paraguayans use their patios as the main living space. They sit out there to drink terere and to hang out. Some families even eat outside and will move their TV so they can sit in the shade of a tree to watch their favorite show or the soccer game.
The challenge of beating the heat does not only dictate where people spend most of their time but, also, influences how Paraguayans construct their homes. Paraguayan architects and home builders erect houses with doors and windows positioned carefully to create a cross breeze. Homes may have few windows, because the sun coming in is too hot, but the openings in a house maximize air flow. Further, Paraguayans leave all their doors and windows wide open until they go to bed.
I never thought about how much time I spent locked away from fresh air, but since coming to Paraguay it has been hard to ignore how much of my time in the States was passed in buildings. It is rejuvenating to see the sky, feel the wind, and sit among plants.