Life of Hardin in Paraguay

Laugh as you travel through life with Josh Hardin.

Location: Spring Hill, TN, United States

Josh Hardin began writing in high school and published his first novel when he was twenty-two. He won an EPPIE award for his mystery novel "The Pride of Peacock." His non-fiction work includes "The Prayer of Faith", a book aimed at making personal prayers both powerful and effective. He has traveled widely and taught a summer philosophy course at the International University in Vienna. Hardin grew up in Tennessee and moved to Paraguay in 2006. He moved back to Tennessee in 2008.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Life of Hardin Vol. III, No. 11


A large park sits in the center of town, an oasis of green amidst the forest of concrete buildings. On the corner of this park, which covers about four blocks, is the Plaza de los Heroes, or Heroes Plaza . It is a squarish building with a round cupola on top. Should you ever venture to Paraguay and be interested in learning some of the country's history, this would be a fine first stop. In the very middle of the one large room of the memorial is a circular pit. Down in the pit are entombed the remains of many of Paraguay 's former leaders. It is full of rascals. I will tell a little about a few of the most famous.

Over here we have Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia, considered the country's first dictator after independence had been gained. He was known as El Supremo Dictador. He ruled with an iron fist and wore a long black duster in every drawing I have seen of him. I respect him for that, if nothing else, considering the heat here. I am told he was painfully honest to the point that he never took money from the treasury, returned much to the people at his own expense, and never told a lie. I cannot be much impressed by that last until I know whether his wife ever asked his opinion on wallpaper. He is now known as El Difunto, which means "The Dead One."

Over here we have Carlos Antonio Lopez. He also ruled with an iron fist, but whether it was the same one Francia used, I do not know. During his reign Paraguay prospered, but not as much as Lopez himself. He was reportedly very fat, and was known as El Excelentisimo. He too is now dead, but so far as I know does not share the title of El Difunto, apparently to avoid confusion.

Over here we have Francisco Solano Lopez, the son of the former Lopez. He plunged the country into war with Argentina , Brazil , and Uruguay and successfully killed off two-thirds of his country's male population. I can't really agree with his politics, but I must admire his spunk. He now has a main thoroughfare and a shopping mall named after him.

In between them all is the Unknown Soldier. I wonder if he considered it an honor to be buried there or not. I assume that is why he asked his name to be left off.

Across the street is the famous Lido Bar (see Life of Hardin Vol. III, No. 10). During the dictatorship of Stroessner (1954-1989) it was the only public place in town where curfew was not enforced. Its famous dish is fish soup with sopa paraguaya (similar to cornbread). A group of about ten of us ate there one day. It is always very crowded, so we sat with a Paraguayan gentleman of about 65 who had confiscated a large table for his empire. He was glad to have us after we called him chief and asked him to sit at the head of the table. He wore a black suit, had a few silver hairs slicked back over his bald head, and no teeth at all. The fried pork chop he ordered must have been old, he said, because he couldn't chew it. He was self-taught, I gathered, because he kept repeating, "I tell myself this . . ." and then expounded on many subjects. He told himself that he disliked George Bush but believed him to be intelligent, admired JFK greatly, and got most of his political views from watching old Errol Flynn swashbucklers (or so he told me as fact). He studied the Bible for ten years and then, having found he had mastered it, moved on to newer horizons.

I believe he is campaigning for a spot in the tomb alongside El Difunto. I feel confident he will make it