Paraguay, officially the Republic of Paraguay, is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the country from north to south. Due to its central location in South America, it is sometimes referred to as Corazón de América, or the Heart of America.
The Guaraní have been living in Paraguay since before the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, when Paraguay became part of the Spanish colonial empire. Following independence from Spain in 1811, Paraguay was ruled by a series of dictators who followed isolationist and protectionist policies. This development was truncated by the disastrous Paraguayan War (1864–1870) in which the country lost 60% to 70% of its population and large amounts of territory. During a large part of the 20th century, Paraguay was ruled by Alfredo Stroessner, who led one of South America's longest lived military dictatorships. In 1989 Stroessner was toppled and free elections were celebrated in 1993. In 1994 Paraguay joined Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay to found Mercosur.
As of 2009 the population was estimated at 6.3 million. The capital and largest city is Asunción. The official languages are Spanish and Guaraní, both being widely spoken in the country, with around 92% of the general population speaking Spanish and 98% speaking Guaraní.
Though it remains one of the region's poorest and least-developed countries, in 2010, Paraguay's economy grew by 14.5%, the largest economic expansion in Latin America, and the third fastest in the world after Qatar and Singapore. By 2011, economic growth slowed but remained high, at 6.4%