This fine large format map is the best map of Republic of Paraguay from the period of the nation’s revival during the First Colorado Era. It was made by the French geographer-explorer Dr. Emmanuel de Bourgade, who toured Paraguay from 1887 to 1888, and is predicated on his own observations blended with the most authoritative published sources.
The map only depicts the eastern half of today’s Paraguay (Paraguay Oriental), east of the Paraguay River, as the lands beyond, the Chaco Paraguayano (Paraguay Occidental), were then very sparsely settled and disputed with Bolivia. Paraguay Occidental would only be fully integrated into the republic following the Chaco War (1932-5).
The present map shows all major cities and towns; labels the recent European settlement colonies; the sites of missions; delineates roads; and depicts the line of the Paraguay Central Railway (P. C. R. C.). The line was the nation’s only completed, operational railway, built in stages between 1856 and 1888, between Asunción and Villa Rica. The map also labels the numerous proposed rail lines, including an envisaged transcontinental link (almost all of which were never built). Overall, the map shows that while the southwestern quadrant of the country was being intensively developed, the rest of the territory was still sparsely populated jungle and Chaco land.
The upper-right corner of the composition features a fine city plan of the capital, Asunción, designating tram routes and 16 major sites by key.
The present map was extracted from Bourgade’s memoir of his exploration in Paraguay, published in 1889. In creating the map, Bourgade built upon Ernest Amédée Barthélemy Mouchez’s maps of Paraguay (published 1861-2) and other respected sources. Notably, Bourgade’s map is a marked improvement upon Wisner de Morgenstern’s Carte Topographique de la République du Paraguay (Vienna, 1873), the last major general map of the country to have been published.
Historical Context: The Paraguayan Revival of the First Colorado Era
Paraguay has an exceptionally dramatic history for such a small, isolated land. From the 16th century until 1767, it was the centre of an immensely wealthy, quasi-independent empire run by the Jesuit Order. Following Paraguay’s independence from Spain, in 1811, the country endured decades of instability before become embroiled in the Paraguayan War (1864-70), whereupon the republic was totally throttled by a coalition of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Paraguay lost 60-70% of its population and one-quarter of its territory to Brazil and Argentina.
However, from 1878 to 1904, the Colorado Party established a dictatorship over the Paraguay, that while oppressive, proved to be the basis for unprecedented stability and economic growth. The regime encouraged foreign investment and immigration, as Paraguay enjoyed a renaissance. The present map showcases the county at the height of this era.
References: OCLC: 52435814; Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans, GE C-1158. Cf. [On Historical Background:] G. W. Harris, Rebirth of the Paraguayan Republic: The First Colorado Era, 1878-1904 (1985).