The packed Friendship Bridge between Brazil and Paraguay

Welcome to Paraguay

Squatter camps opposite the bus terminal in Ciudad del Este

The Itaipu dam

View from the Itaipu dam of Foz do Iguacu and Ciudad del Este

Machine room in the Itaipu dam

The concrete retaining wall of the dam

Ciudad del Este, Paraguay


May 21, 2008

Sometimes we find ourselves in desperate need and we look to those of privilege and power

It's then we learn compassion sits inert upon the shelves and we're at the mercy of imbeciles

- Bad Religion

The next day I crossed into Paraguay by taking a bus to the Friendship Bridge and then walking across the disordered mess of traffic and pedestrians that were crawling across the bridge. While Puerto Iguazu is by far the least developed of the three border cities, Ciudad del Este is overwhelmingly chaotic. Either side of the main avenue leading to the Friendship Bridge is packed with stalls and shops selling all sorts of fake watches, sunglasses, clothes, every kind of electronic good imaginable, and lots of junk.

There was one guy selling fake Puma socks who followed me for almost 3 blocks, without a single word of encouragement on my part, very persistent in his efforts to sell me the socks. After wandering through the markets and quickly becoming fed up with the sheer effort it took to navigate around the voracious salespeople I caught a bus to the Itaipu Dam.

The Itaipu Dam is now the world´s second largest dam after the completion of the Three Gorges Dam in China. The dam provides 80% of Paraguay´s power and 25% of Brazil’s. At the moment, Paraguay uses only a fraction of its share and sells the rest to Brazil at cost until 2030 or so, according to the agreement in place; however, the new president of Paraguay has talked about nullifying this contract. The scale of the dam itself was very impressive and the film they showed was interesting. Overall they did a good job of trying to spin the amount of environmental destruction the dam caused as a result of flooding much of the upstream area that displaced people and wildlife. On the other hand, the bus tours of the dam were lacking, with only 2 stops, one at the base and one in the machine room, the more interesting views from the top of the dam were neglected.

With nothing else to see in the triple frontier area it was off to Asuncion to see more of Paraguay. To show the poverty in Paraguay, there was a squatter community just opposite the bus terminal of considerable size with people living in makeshift plastic tents and total squalor, a marked difference from Argentina and Brazil, at least in such a central area. I suppose such is life in the second poorest country in South America.