The city of Concepcion was founded in 1773 to protect territories to the south from attacks by indigenous tribes and the neighboring Portuguese. This area saw much action towards the end of the Triple Alliance War. Mariscal Lopez met his demise in Cerro Cora (now a national park) to the east and his wake was held in Concepcion. With its strategic location on the Paraguay River, Concepcion became an important shipping hub during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Yerba mate and wood arrived from Paraguayan provinces to the east as well as the Brazilian province of Matto Grosso. These goods were then transported downriver to Argentina. During this period Concepcion received a large influx of Italian, Spanish, and Arab immigrants who left their mark on the city in the form of beautifully decorated manors. Many of these buildings are still standing and, though some have been left to crumble, others have been nicely restored.
Though its prominence faded somewhat Concepcion continues to be an important national transportation hub. Boats departing from Concepcion serve as a lifeline for the people in the departments of Alto Paraguay (on the western side of the river) and the department of Concepcion (on the eastern side of the river) where the roads are frequently impassable. Adventurous backpackers are increasingly traveling to Concepcion in order to board passenger boats which make their way north to Vallemi, Fuerte Olimpo and Bahia Negra as well as south to Asuncion. During the weekends Concepcion fills with youth from nearby towns who arrived in droves on motorcycles. The city also draws crowds from Pedro Juan Caballero who comes to enjoy nightlife without the risks inherent in Pedro Juan’s after hours.
The city is home to three museums, each representative of a different era of Paraguay’s history. The Museo Villa Real is a testament to the city’s role during the Triple Alliance War when it was used by Mariscal Lopez as a headquarters for his troops. The Museo Crvico has on display several paintings from Concepcion’s heyday as a trading post. And the small Museo de Arte Contemporaneo has examples of Paraguayan contemporary art including works by renowned artist and Concepcion native Carlos Colombino.
Sidebar: Concepcion is known as “La Perla del Norte” (the pearl of the north).
Restoring Concepcion’s Historic Buildings
A handful of the city’s important historic buildings have recently been restored by students of the Escuela Taller de Concepcion. This school offers two-year programs in trades such as construction and electrical wiring with students putting their education to practice by working on restoration projects throughout the city’s historic district. Restored buildings include the Palacete Municipal (Municipal building), the Obispado de Concepcion, and the Palacio Otano (now home to the Contemporary Art Museum).
Concepcion’s lively director of tourism, Celso Ruiz Diaz, can be found in the Municipal office (see Palacete Municipal) or in his house directly across the street. Tel: 0331 242 710, 0981 292 179
Immigration Office Though Concepcion is not technically a border town, the immigration office is equipped to provide exit stamps for those venturing northwards to Bolivia or Brazil along the Paraguay River (see Traveling Along the Paraguay River). If you plan to continue from Bahia Negra to Bolivia it is imperative to get your exit stamp in Concepcion before boarding any passenger boat headed north. If you are planning to cross over in to Puerto Murtinho, Brazil, you can get an exit stamp at Isla Margarita (see Obtaining Exit-Stamps Before Continuing to Bolivia and Brazil), however it may be easier to obtain it in Concepcion. Tel: 0972 193 143, Corner of Presidente. Franco and Pedro Juan Caballero (inside past the office of the Registro Civil), Mon-Fri 7am-1pm, 2pm-4pm, the Director of Immigration, Hever Centurion is happy to coordinate with tourists who are unable to pass by during office hours. It is best to call ahead either way as the office sometimes does not re-open in the afternoons.