Paraguay’s cultural heritage can be traced back to the many intermarriages between the first male Spanish settlers and the indigenous Guaraní women. Their culture is strongly influenced by various European countries, including Spain. Therefore, Paraguayan culture is a fusion of two cultures and traditions: a European culture and a southern Guaraní culture. More than 93% of Paraguayans are of mixed race, making Paraguay one of the most homogenous countries in Latin America. One of the characteristics of this cultural fusion is the widespread bilingualism that remains today: more than 80% of Paraguayans speak both Spanish and the indigenous Guaraní language. Jopara, a mixture of Guaraní and Spanish, is also widely spoken.
This cultural fusion is expressed in arts such as embroidery (ao po’í) and lace (ñandutí). Paraguayan music, consisting of polkas, galopas and languorous guaranias, is played on the indigenous harp. Paraguay’s culinary heritage is also strongly influenced by this cultural fusion. Many popular dishes incorporate cassava, a local staple similar to the yuca root found in the southwestern United States and Mexico, along with other indigenous ingredients. A popular dish is sopa paraguaya, similar to a thick cornbread. Another notable food is chipa, a bread-like roll made from cornmeal, cassava and cheese. Many other dishes are made with various cheeses, onions, peppers, cottage cheese, cornmeal, milk, spices, butter, eggs and fresh corn kernels.
The 1950s and 1960s saw the emergence of a new generation of Paraguayan novelists and poets such as José Ricardo Mazó, Roque Vallejos and Nobel Prize nominee Augusto Roa Bastos. Several Paraguayan films were made.
Conservative values prevail within the family. In the lower classes, godparents have a special relationship with the family, as they are usually chosen for their favourable social position in order to give the children additional security. They are owed special respect and, in return, the family can expect protection and patronage.