The Cult of the Dead in Paraguay: Francisco Solano López and Alfredo Stroessner

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 9:10 AM
Cabinet Room (Omni Shoreham)
Bridget M. Chesterton, University at Buffalo (State University of New York)
In the days following the June 2012 coup in Paraguay, the golpistas using the memory of dead heroes, particularly Francisco Solano López, justified their rise to power. Unbelievably, the strategy was proved highly effective.  More significantly for this paper however, since the golpitas rise to power there have been serious discussion in the media about the return of Alfredo’s Stroessner’s body to Paraguay since his death in Brazil in 2006.  Stroessner’s grandson has made repeated calls for the body to be returned. 

This rhetoric is not without a long history.  Paraguay’s dead “heroes” are found in a central located Panteón de los Héroes (the Pantheon of Heroes).  Men such as Carlos Antonio López, Francisco Solano López and José Felix Estrigarribia are all buried next to each other in the “Pantheon.”  This paper will explore the long legacy of the building in Asunción both as a place of protest by Paraguayan upset with the government and as a location of celebration for Paraguay’s heroes and holidays.   Although the family of Stroessner has not yet made public any plans to place Stroessner’s body in the Panteón, the powerful cult of the body in Paraguay has made the call for the return of Stroessner’s body a significant political and cultural issue.  While those opposed to the return of the body point to Storessner’s brutal dictatorial rule and the great harm and suffering of the Paraguayan people during his leadership, the reality is that men of power in Paraguay have, even if controversial, found their ultimate resting places in downtown Asunción.

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