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The largest of the three Mennonite colonies established in the Chaco region. Filadelfia is very different from most of Paraguay's cities and towns because of its remote location and being surrounded by a harsh, desertlike environment. A large number of its 18,000 inhabitants are descended from German Mennonites who immigrated from the former Soviet Union in the 1930s. The Fernheim Cooperative is responsible for many aspects of life in the city like the hospital, the main supermarket, the savings bank and the city schools, which are paid for by the profits from the cooperative which is one of the largest in the country.
The Mennonites comprise 30% of the population and run most of the local businesses and tourist facilities. There are four indigenous communities — the Nivaclé, the Guaraní, the Enxet and the Ayoreo — who account for 60% of the population. The remainder are Latin Paraguayans and foreigners who are neither Mennonites nor indigenous.
Due to the desert environment, summertime heat can be severe and winter temperatures can drop below freezing, so bring proper clothing and buy plenty of water.
The first settlers moved in during the 1920s, and the town was founded in 1930 as Colonia Fernheim. The Mennonites still speak their ancestral Low German language (Plattdeutsch), but Spanish and Guaraní are also widely spoken.
The economy of Filadelfia is mostly cattle herding, beef processing, dairy products, and peanuts for export. Nearly all of the Mennonite families have shares in the cooperative. Outsiders (non-Mennonites) can rent or buy land, on condition to living one year among the community so their character can be judged. 10% of members' earnings are submitted to the cooperative. In return, members get use of all the benefits the cooperative offers such as health insurance, elderly care, university scholarship, among others which are not provided by the Paraguayan government. They may also get financial dividends, but they will sometimes hold votes on whether to retain the dividends and invest them in new facilities and benefits. Members get discounts at the supermarket. The cooperative provides services for non-members, such as schools and radio broadcasts for the indigenous population.
Water is a major issue in the Chaco; all households are able to collect rainwater which can be stored for use. A project of desalinisation of ground water is underway, as rainfall can sometimes be low. Power is supplied by Itaipu dam; it used to be generated locally by burning wood. Population is growing 4% per year, while demands on power grow 20% per year, as affluence increases. The colony produces five main agricultural goods: castor beans (for hydraulic oil), cotton, sorbum (for biodiesel), sesame and peanuts.
Overland is the only way to get to Filadelfia.
1 Buses terminate at the NASA office on Calle Chaco Boreal; you may also disembark on the hotels located along Avenida Hindenburg, the main street. Some buses stop in Loma Plata first. The main bus company serving the area is NASA, which also uses the name Golondrina
- Asunción (467 km), ~10hr35min, 3 buses per day (one overnight), U$S13
- Loma Plata (21 km), ~45min, 1 bus per day, ₲10,000
- Mariscal Estigarriba (73 km), ~1hr, 2 buses per day, ₲15,000
Filadelfia is 15 km (9 mi) off the Transchaco Highway and 467 km (290 mi) from Asunción; travelling time is about 7 hours.
The town sprawls several kilometers in all directions, but most of the interesting and tourist places are within easy reach on foot along Avenida Hindenburg. Blocks can be quite long. There is a taxi rank around the bus terminal.
- 1 Jakob Unger Museum, Avenida Hindenburg at Calle Unruh (in front of Hotel Florida), ☎ . Mon-Sat 7:00-11:30. The building in which the museum is housed was built in 1933/34 shortly after the founding of the colony. It was originally used for civil and religious ceremonies, In 1980 it was converted into a museum to reflect its historic significance. The museum is named after Jakob Unger, a Mennonite specimen collector, who was the first of the pioneers to perform a scientific study of the fauna of the Chaco from 1950 to 1975. The museum compound now occupies two adjacent buildings, the original building is devoted to Mennonite history, including a butter churn, and the printing press for the Mennonite paper Mennoblatt, which is still published today. There is also a collection of indigenous items (arrows and bows) and relics of the Chaco War. In the second building is the natural history section, with many stuffed animals, including a jaguar, armadillo, coatí, puma, anteater, wolf, tapir, tree sloth, skunk and a boa constrictor. There are also 210 out of 250 bird species found in the Chaco, and a large section devoted to insects. The museum has a pleasant garden, the Plaza de los Recuerdos, and the First Monument erected in town, a small obelisk, placed in 1955, on the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the colony. free.
- 2 The Second Monument (Faith, Unity and Labor monument). Built in 1980 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the colony. This monument is the symbol of Filadelfia and is in the middle of a roundabout at the junction of Avenida Hindenburg and Avenida Trébol.
- 3 The Third Monument, Avda. Hindenburg and Calle Carayá. Erected in 2005 to commemorate the 75th anniversary and located at the entrance of town, is of a more ambitious design. Five figures of varying heights hold up a ring with a cross in the middle. It looks its best at night when it is floodlit and resembles a crown.
- 4 Parque de la Memoria (Avda. Hindenburg, between the museums). M-F 06:00-20:00; Sa 06:00-12:00. A park built to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the colony. In the park there is a memorial to the hard times of the first settlers.
- Relax in the shaded 1 park, watching the butterflies and birds flit around the interesting bottle trees (shaped like bottles, high in water content - used to keep cattle hydrated in drought).
- Explore the dusty streets and take in the regular, solid German architecture.
- 1 Fernheim Co-op. The Fernheim Co-op supermarket and the stores around it are the main places to buy in town; other stores will be found along the main street, selling a wide variety of goods, from second-hand clothes to electronics.
Local artisan goods from jewellery to statuettes, both of Guaraní and German tradition can be found in local shops.
If you need to exchange currency, there are two banks in town (both along Av. Hindenburg) and they reportedly take US dollars and Brazilian reais. Cooperativa Fernheim is between Calle Unruh and Calle Industrial and InterBanco is just south of the supermarket. The latter is also equipped with an ATM, which accepts international cards.
Most businesses are closed weekdays from noon-2PM, Saturday afternoon and Sunday.
- 1 Remi Pizza, Calle Unruh. M W-Sa 17:00-22:30; Su 11:00-13:00. A pizzeria.
- 2 Girasol, Calle Unruh. A restaurant heavy on meat, beef in particular (no surprise in this part of the world). Does buffet lunches, sold by the kilogram. As you would expect from a buffet, ok food but not great.
Other than these, you will find a few hamburguesa joints along Calle Hindenburg, further south than the co-op supermarket.
Again, south of the Fernheim supermarket (where the indigenous and Latino neighbourhoods are located) you will find a few small bars.
- 1 Hotel Florida, Avenida Hindenburg 165-S (Unmissable, right across from the museum and park), ☎ . Check-out: 13:00. Generally agreed to be the best hotel in Filadelfia. Also has a decent restaurant (good pizzas); also a buffet. Evening dinners are good quality and reasonably priced. Good service, pool & a pleasant inside courtyard. Rooms in old section are cheaper. SGL U$S 48; DBL U$S 65; TPL U$S 72; QPL U$S 84; Suite U$S 102.
- 2 Hotel Golondrina-centro ((formerly Hotel Safari)), Industrial 149-E (One street across from Chaco Boreal, where the NASA bus office is), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Fairly average place, clean but nothing special. Basic twin room ₲105,000, ₲170,000 with air-con and TV checkin=.
- 3 Hotel Golondrina-Avenida, Avda. Hindenburg 635-S, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Single without bathroom and breakfast ₲45,000, with bathroom and breakfast ₲65,000.
- 4 Hotel Las Delfines, Calle Unruh (On the right, white and blue building). Mostly in use by local workers without a house. Cheap restaurant in the front. ₲35,000 per person regardless of room type; better double or twin rooms with air-con and tv for ₲120,000.
- 5 Hotel Touring Club Filadelfia, Ruta Transchaco and Desvío Filadelfia (15km south from city centre.), ☎ . Pool, good restaurant, breakfast included. Good value even is quite off the city. 10% discount for automobile touring club card holders. DBL U$S 32; TPL U$S 36; QPL U$S 42.
- Most hotels offer Wi-Fi for guests.
- Why not send post cards from the post office located at the supermarket? A Filadelfia stamped card will have probably one of the most unlikely frank-marks anyone will ever receive from you.
- Loma Plata — another Mennonite town, less than a hour's bus ride away
- Buses to Asunción leave at 13:00 and 14:30 daily. Also an overnight bus is possible. ₲90,000. Buses tend to be a little old, but usually have air-con.
- Bolivia: Catch the 20:30 bus from the NASA office to Mariscal Estigarriba (1 hour), ask the driver to drop you off at immigration. You will then have to wait several hours for the bus to Bolivia, it is advisable to wait at the immigration office rather than the bus station due to safety concerns. The bus to Bolivia arrives at 03:00 when the immigration officer will wake up and issue your exit stamp. Pre-purchase your bus ticket at Stel Turismo, on the main road in Filadelfia as the drivers are not supposed to pick you up en-route. Once you have boarded the bus, you will travel for several hours before you arrive at Bolivian immigration, approx 6-7 hours later. ₲220,000 to Villamontes, ₲250,000 to Santa Cruz (you pay for the entire journey from Asuncion).