A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy?

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South America » Paraguay » Ciudad del Este
March 27th 2006
Published: April 13th 2006
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The MarketThe MarketThe Market

Part of the market area in Cuidad del Este.
Before we arrived in Ciudad del Este, my perception of the town, based on everything I had heard about it, was that it was, in the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Actually it is just another city, not unlike many other cities in the world. The crime rate may be the highest in Paraguay, but then Paraguay is not exactly overrun with criminal activity (at least not the violent kind). But the odds are if they stole it from you in Argentina or Brazil it is likely to be sold on the streets on Ciudad del Este. The market area is crowded with vendors selling every imaginable product, and the town is famous as a source of cheap electronics for the Argentineans and Brazilians who cross the border. In some of the high end shop along the market area it is not unusual to see uniformed guards armed with shotguns standing watch.

Under the dictator Stroessner it was known as Ciudad Presidente Stroessner, and grew to the large city that it is during the construction of the Itaipú Hydroelectric Project (something we didn’t see, no time for any “dam” side trips). After the fall
Puente de la AmistadPuente de la AmistadPuente de la Amistad

The Friendship Bridge between Paraguay and Brazil.
of Stroessner they decided to rid themselves of that vile name and the city was renamed as Ciudad del Este (the City of the East).

The border crossing here is porous, the regulations barely enforced. We crossed over to the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu twice by just casually strolling past the official customs checkpoint. As a result, this border crossing is one of the busiest sites of illicit trafficking on the continent. Stolen goods, drugs, guns and who knows what else regularly cross the border. Because of its reputation the city played host to Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell a few months ago as they filmed part of the “Miami Vice” movie here.

Additional photos below
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Leaving BrazilLeaving Brazil
Leaving Brazil

The words Drogas Nao on the sign is a slogan comparable to "Just say no to drugs," an ironic exclamation at one of the busiest drug trafficking borders in South America.

Who knows what are in these bundles heading toward Brazil.
On the BorderOn the Border
On the Border

Rosa stands where Paraguay meets Brazil on the Puente de la Amistad.

13th April 2006

by any chance...
Could you ask Paul if he knows Jennifer Boyd, who was in the Peace Corps in Paraguay until she came back this past December? She's a friend of a friend/coworker of mine in AmeriCorps. Keep writing these entries!

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