Holiday in Gran Chaco


From the well-manicured fancy pitches of Asuncion to the countryside fields with makeshift goal posts, futbol (soccer) is undoubtedly, the most predominant sport in Paraguay. The national team inspires pride like none other. In the 2010 Mundial (World Cup), the Albirroja as they are known, made it to the quarterfinals, a record for the team. There are several local and regional teams, and foreigners will frequently be asked which club they cheer for (de que club sos?). The largest national clubs, based in Asuncion, are Olimpia (with club colors black and white) and Cerro Porteno (blue and red). A match between these two clubs is referred to as a super clasico  and is among the most widely anticipated. Partake in Paraguay’s soccer fever by attending a match or joining locals in a bar or restaurant to watch televised matches. Both options are just as entertaining.

Volleyball and its more complex cousin piki volley are other popular sports in Paraguay. Piki volley is played on the same court as volleyball but instead of using their hands, piki volley players use their heads, chest, and feet to lob volleyball across the net. Volleyball is more popular with women while piki volley is almost an all-male sport. \blley and piki courts can be seen throughout the countryside, even in the poorest communities.

Attending a Soccer Game:

The sections behind either goal post are generally occupied by the barra brava – hardcore fans who often lead the entire section in chants against the other team, many times accompanied by drums and other instruments. Though the barra brava section is the most animated (and the cheapest), things can get a bit rowdy during heated matches. It is best not to take backpacks or thermoses to large stadiums, as they may not be allowed in for security purposes. In some cases, even belts are confiscated. It is usually easy to acquire scalped tickets near the stadiums, especially once matches have already started. Vendors will be shouting compro entradas (I’m buying tickets) to indicate that they are, in fact, selling tickets. Most will find it more practical to buy tickets ahead of time though.

Trans Chaco Rally

The TransChaco Rally is a grueling automotive rally that takes place every September in the Paraguayan Chaco. The three-day route winds its way through the Chaco’s difficult terrain, destroying many cars along the way. The rally is the biggest international sporting event held in Paraguay, drawing professional drivers from all over the world. Paraguay may soon be home to yet another international automotive rally. Due to safety concerns, the Dakar Rally has been transferred to Latin American from Africa and is scheduled to include sections of the Paraguayan Chaco in its 2013 route (for more information, see The Trans Chaco Rally).

Paraguayan Hand Gestures

Thumbs up – It’s all Good! : Paraguayans are big fans of the thumbs up gesture. Many times instead of (or sometimes in addition to) giving the thumbs up, people will say al pelo.  This means towards the hair, indicating that their thumb is pointing upwards.

Clapping: When in front of houses without doorbells, people make their presence known by clapping. Between one and four claps are made with hands cupped for maximum volume. Paraguayans like clapping in general – it is not uncommon to hear people break into applause during lectures, movies, and even in church. Occasionally, when a plane lands, passengers will burst into applause.

Emongaru: Emongaru is the Paraguayan version of a high five. It means feed in Guaram (in this form the word is a direct order). The hand motion is meant to simulate a mother hen feeding her baby chick. The proper way to perform an emongaru is as follows: press all five fingers together and extend your arm with your fingers downwards. Extend your hand towards the recipient. You may choose to say emongaru  as well. The recipient should then extend his or her hand in the same fashion but with fingers facing upwards. Once your fingers have touched briefly you have successfully completed an emongaru. The imaginary hen has fed her chick! It is anyone’s guess where this originated from, but it is a lot of fun, especially since everyone’s pseudo chicken is different. Some peck at the other hand while others prefer to just touch once. There are no accompanying sound effects, although if you make one up, it’ll be sure to get some laughs.

Vem Un Poco: The Paraguayan signal for come here is an extended arm with palm facing down and all fingers moving down into the palm (like a downward one-hand clap). Often this is accompanied with a chh chh  sound through closed teeth. In Spanish, people will say vent un poco  and in Guaram they say ejumina. 

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