From Coronel Oviedo, Route 8 extends south through the department of Guaira which offers tourists several interesting attractions. First up is the quaint town of Yataity where the majority of the country’s finely woven and embroidered ao po’i textiles are made. Nearby is the German colony of Colonia Independencia. This is an excellent place to enjoy the natural beauty of the Ybytyryzu mountain range, from afar or up close and personal, depending on how much outdoor activity you are up for. Villarrica is the capital of the department but still manages to maintain a small town feel. During February and March (depending on the year) the streets are full of music and dancing as the annual Carnaval Guaireno (holding its own against larger Carnavales Encarnacenas) takes hold of the city. All three locations are easily accessible by car and bus from both Asuncion and nearby Coronel Oviedo. The newly paved road connecting Paraguari to Villarrica makes the sights of Guaira a doable day trip from Asuncion, although you should plan to spend at least one night in order to have time to really take in the relaxing environment. Travelers connecting in Coronel Oviedo via bus should note that both Yataity and Colonia Independencia are approximately two kilometers removed from Route 8 so it is best to verify whether the bus goes into town (entra al pueblo) or just lets passengers off at the entrance to town. At the southern end of Route 8 is the department of Caazapa, which, while picturesque, is rarely visited by tourists.
A common nickname for a native of Guaira is guaireno or gua i. Villarrica is often referred to jokingly as the Republica Independiente de Villarrica and the department itself as the Republica del Guaira. Guairenos have a reputation amongst Paraguayans for swimming against the current. At any rate they definitely have a distinct pride in their department and capital city which gives the area a particular charm.
Yataity del Guaira
The idyllic town of Yataity is synonymous with the production of finely embroidered cotton known as ao po ‘i. In households throughout Yataity women, men and children work to create all manner of elaborately embroidered clothing and linens out of this finely woven cloth. There are various small storefronts in town where one can peruse different ao po’i options, all surprisingly affordable, especially when you take into account the lengthy production process.
Ao (pronounced ow) means cloth or clothing in Guarani and po ‘i (pronounced poe-e) means fine or thin. Ao po’i developed as a result of the isolationist policies of Paraguay’s first postcolonial leader Dr. Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia. Without access to imported cloth Paraguayan women had to make their own fabric starting with raw cotton which was spun into thread, woven into cloth and later decorated with embroidery. Nowadays much ao po ‘i cloth is made by machine at the Textiles Pilar cotton factory in Southern Paraguay but still hand sewn and embroidered. However the Narvaja sisters of Yataity, Na Digna, Na Paula and Na Sara, still maintain this tradition, selling delicately woven items out of their homes and the Tejedora del Poyvi stand at the yearly Expoferia del Ao po’i. Originally all of Guaira was dedicated to this but now only Yataity maintains the town-wide tradition.
When visiting Yataity keep in mind that most stores close for siesta time. Plan to arrive early in the morning or afternoon in order to not get caught during downtime. If you end up in Yataity during siesta you could do worse than hang out under the shady trees of the town’s main plaza or walk down to the local pond where there are plenty of birds (watch out for loose cows though). There is no lodging within the town of Yataity itself, although Granja Nemity is located right at the entrance to town. Most visitors choose to stay in nearby Villarrica.
Instituto Paraguayo de Artesania – Filial Yataity
If you are interested in learning more about the process of making ao po ‘i visit the Yataity office of the Paraguayan Handicrafts Institute. Try your hand at turning raw cotton into thread and test your hand-eye coordination on the working loom (expert cloth makers can make up to two meters per day). It is best to call ahead of time as IPA employees are often out in the community leading classes. Tel: 0549 200 96, Coronel Bogado almost at Pat Hadra, Mon-Fri, 7am-3pm Expoferia del Ao po’i
During this yearly event the area’s ao po’i artisans gather in the town plaza to sell their wares. The Expoferia usually takes place between the end of November and early December and includes dance and music performances and a fashion show where artisans can show off the latest ao po ‘i fashions, as well as the crowning of Miss Expoferia Ao po’i. Although ao po ‘i is sold in Yataity’s stores year round the Expoferia is a good time to visit as it saves you the time of going from store to store.