Paraguay is a sparsely-populated country near the center of the South American continent. The official languages are Spanish and Guaran├¡. With a 95% mestizo population, intermarriage between people of native and European descent is the norm, and over 90% of residents speak both official languages. The terrain includes plains, marshes, hills, and forests. The climate ranges from subtropical to temperate. Native animal species include the pampas deer, the Redflank Bloodfin, and the Black-Footed Seriema bird, which is related to a type of pterodactyl. There are some real positives about the economy and industry of Paraguay. It has had the highest growth rate in South America over the past 40 years and inflation has recently reached a historical low. Energy production is clean and renewable, and health-conscious eaters may appreciate the high level of soy and stevia production. The mineral industry is a mainstay of the economy, and manufacturing and pharmaceuticals are also big business. However, the division between the wealthy and the poor in Paraguay can be extreme. You can visit the ruins of historic mission towns such as the well-preserved Trinidad, or San Cosme y Dami├ín, where an astronomical observatory was located. Mbaracay├║ Biosphere Reserve is an incredibly biodiverse place where the indigenous Ach├® tribe lives alongside big mammals and hundreds of rare bird species. Corn and manioc (cassava) are popular starchy staples. Typical vegetables may include squash, tomatoes, and carrots. Beef, chicken, smoked ham, and fish are frequently eaten. Beans, known commonly as porotos, can be a good alternative. Mbej├║ is a flat, fried cake typically made from manioc flour, and there are many variations on the similar chipa, a corn and/or manioc bread often made with eggs and cheese. They can be served with various meats. Try pira caldo, a traditional fish soup. You can find vegetarian Paraguayan and Chinese food, and an occasional natural foods market or raw restaurant. For refreshment, you can drink the cold version of yerba mate known by the Guaran├¡ term terer├® (the hot version is called ka'ay). It is added to various natural medicinal concoctions. Have a terer├® and a smile!