The small commercial center is a set of blocks with shops that attract millions of Brazilians every year for buying. But Ciudad del Este (CDE) is not just about shopping. Outside it there is a whole universe where more than 300 thousand residents live. As a state capital (which in Paraguay is known as Department), Ciudad del Este is the second largest city in Paraguay, and head of a metropolitan area that already exceeds 500,000 inhabitants.

Perfil de Ciudad del Este visto desde Foz do Iguaçu
Perfil de Ciudad del Este visto desde Foz do Iguaçu

 

Alongside the “esteños” - gentile of those who are born in Ciudad del Este, there are the cities of Presidente Franco, where are located Monday Falls, Moisés Bertoni National Monument and the Paraguayan Three Borders Landmark; the city of Hernandarias, formerly Tapuru Puku, the center of Paraguayan production at the time of yerba mate and now home to Itaipu Binacional; and also, Mingá Guazu, where is located the Guarani International Airport, one of the three in the Trinational Region. It is also a gateway to adventures in nature reserves such as Mbaracayu, maintained by the Moisés Bertoni Foundation, the Maharishi Reserve and the Itaipu Binacional Preservation Areas, all in Alto Paraná.

Saltos de Monday
Saltos de Monday

 

Uma cidade nova que se destacou

On February 2nd, 1957, an airplane landed on a small airstrip in Presidente Franco, which then housed the V Military Region of the neighboring country. On board was then Paraguayan Interior Minister Edgar L. Ynsfran. He came in person to organize the reception and work the following day, Sunday, February 3, 1957.

Pedra Fundamental de Puerto Stroessner
Pedra Fundamental de Puerto Stroessner

 

On the morning of February 3rd, two planes: Douglas DC 3, of the Paraguayan Military Air Force, landed on the runway of Iguaçu National Park Airport, as it was then called Foz do Iguaçu Airport, in the central region, where today is located the 34th Mechanized Infantry Battalion.

Top officials of the Paraguayan government landed, led by President Alfredo Stroessner. All the ministers, politicians and even the Brazilian ambassador to Asunción, João Luis de Guimarães Gomes, came. Soon, after landing, everyone headed for the Foz do Iguaçu Official Harbor, from where, in boats, they crossed to the Paraguayan ravine of the Paraná River. The mission of the entourage was to lay the foundation stone for the construction of the first Paraguayan city. In the future, it was also chosen to be the base of the bridge that would connect the two countries.

Museu Moisés Bertoni
Museu Moisés Bertoni

 

In the chosen place, a small stream flowed into one of the arms of the Acaray River, affluent of the Paraná River, in front of the Brazilian island of the same name. In a brief vote they decided to rename the place with a poetic name: Fleur-de-lis, associated with European royalty and symbol of power, sovereignty, honor, loyalty and purity of body and soul. History books state that Flor-de-Lis was the first name of Ciudad del Este. The second was Puerto Presidente Stroessner or Port Stroessner.

 

Ethnical Diversity

If Foz do Iguaçu is known to be a city of coexistence between different ethnicities, Ciudad del Este is not behind. Although it is difficult to reach exact numbers on both sides of the border, Ciudad del Este shares with Foz do Iguaçu most of the nationalities and ethnicities present on the Brazilian side. Also, in Ciudad del Este there are Lebanese, Chinese, Argentines, Koreans, Syrians, Jordanians, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshi and Japanese. On both sides, the numbers are always in motion. Paraguay today has more Koreans and Chineses than on the Brazilian side, for example.

Europeans, South Americans and Central Americans are represented in Ciudad del Este by populations linked to commerce, study and work, among other reasons. To this number of ethnicities and nationalities, in the case of Ciudad del Este, can be added the approximately 15,000 Brazilians who study medicine in the Paraguayan city. This is a new phenomenon that is not going unnoticed by the authorities, scholars and social scientists of both countries.

When it comes to religion, Ciudad del Este has some particularities that do not occur in Foz do Iguaçu. Both, Foz do Iguaçu and Ciudad del Este, have Sunni and Shiite mosques. But the religious diversity of CDE, when speaking of foreign populations, is greater. One example is the Protestant Christian churches, both Korean and Chinese, representing various denominations. Thus, it is not difficult to see Korean and Chinese evangelical churches, as well as their support and social service organizations.

Ponte da Amizade
Ponte da Amizade - Friendship Bridge

 

Another human group, more present in Ciudad del Este than in Foz do Iguaçu, are the Chinese from Taiwan. Paraguay has plenipotentiary diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan), there is even a consulate general from China in Ciudad del Este, an embassy in Asuncion, associations and banks. The Chinese-Taiwanese population in Ciudad del Este exceeds 15,000 members. Also present there is the Chinese community Hakka, a Chinese minority “han”, with its own language form. The group maintains an active association, which promotes activities frequently.

In an ever moving border, the news is now the imminent beginning of the construction of a second bridge between Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil) and Paraguay. This time with the city of Presidente Franco. More changes on the way on a constantly evolving, active and culturally rich region.