Liberal Youth, Modern Exuberance, and Calamity: Aspirations for Modern Nationhood in Paraguay, 1858-1870

  • Michael Kenneth Huner Grand Valley State University
Keywords Paraguay, Triple Alliance War, Nation, Liberalism, Political Culture
Keywords Paraguay, Triple Alliance War, Nation, Liberalism, Political Culture


This article follows the sojourns of five Paraguayan youths sent by their government to study in Europe and be trained as lettered officials there. It subsequently explores the tensions that they faced upon returning to Paraguay and serving as publicists for the Francisco Solano López regime in the years immediately preceding the Triple Alliance War (1864-1870)—the largest international conflict in the history of South America. The article finds that the young men, filled up with the exuberance of the cultural liberalism of the age, crafted an image of a modernizing liberal republic for their country and its autocratic regime as promoted to much of the rest of Latin America and the North Atlantic world. It further alters the historical understanding of pre-war Paraguay from as, often thought, a hermit state steeling itself against the onslaught of modern economic and political forces, to rather a state that was anxious to engage those forces on its own terms. And, upon doing so, the article encourages a rethinking of the general depiction of the war itself.

Author Biography

Michael Kenneth Huner, Grand Valley State University
Michael Kenneth Huner is an assistant professor of Modern Latin American History at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. He received his Ph.D in Latin American History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011. His research focuses on language, state formation, popular political culture, and religion in nineteenth-century Paraguay.
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