The Paraguayan Border Jigsaw
Ciudad Del Este, Paraguay
|Ciudad Del Este’s shopping slope and billboard chaos|
Like most foreign visitors, I was in the area to gawp at the wondrous Iguacu Falls on the Brazilian-Argentine border. However this border jigsaw also includes Paraguay. The intrigue and uncertainty surrounding Paraguay were the main reasons behind a day trip to Ciudad Del Este, a run-down tax free shopping city on Paraguay’s eastern edge.
I walked across the footbridge that separates Brazil from Paraguay with the swirling Rio Parana running beneath. I was accompanied by hordes of Brazilians on the hunt for a bargain. Alarmingly, I left Brazil and entered Paraguay on foot without passing a single immigration official! Once firmly inside Paraguay ‘life’ quickened – everything, including pedestrians, whizzed around at break-neck speeds.
Ciudad Del Este is built on a slope. At the bottom of the slope is the footbridge and the Rio Parana (river) signifying the border. The slope is packed with gigantic shopping malls, all trying to capitalise on their ability to sell branded electrical goods tax-free. Everywhere else in the urban mess, market traders fill gaps on the pavement, selling anything they can get their hands on. The flavour of the month seemed to aviator sunglasses and Hollywood DVDs.
|Walking the Bridge – making my way back into Brazil over the border bridge with the Brazilian shopaholics|
Back on the chaotic streets, the comfort of the air conditioned malls seemed a distant luxury. Hawkers approached offering perfumes and after shave lotions. As I declined their offers they all mumbled ‘coke’ which was slightly confusing considering they didn’t seem to be carrying any of the popular sugary soft drink! Other last ditch efforts included ‘te gusta marijuana amigo?’ and ‘tu quieres droga’s?’ as the shifty hombres all took on a totally different persona. Having drugs proffered to you in broad daylight on streets jammed with people gives you the impression that anything goes in Ciudad Del Este.
The drug pushers had unnerved me so I sought refuge in a utopia of copied CDs. Now that I had a new personal CD player I had to bolster my album collection and bought well into double figures. At these prices, shopping was actually becoming my ‘thing’. My Paraguayan copies saved me about Â£200 on their legal equivalents back home!
|The Border Jigsaw – the view from Argentina facing Brazil with Paraguay to the left. The point where the Iguacu and Parana Rivers converge (Ciudad Del Este in the distance)|
Later that afternoon I left Foz de Iguacu in Brazil and crossed into the Argentinean frontier town of Puerto Iguacu. Reassuringly, I was given the appropriate stamps on this occasion and made my way to the point where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet. It was a political geographer’s dream. At the t-junction where the Rio Iguacu joins the Rio Parana I was stood in Argentina facing Brazil with Paraguay to my left.
The three way border was actually a scene of tranquillity and not the hive of import/export activity one might imagine. However if the Ciudad Del Este experience was anything to go by, these borders must play host to a seedy underworld of smuggling and trafficking but I guess for the unsuspecting tourist, what you can’t see can’t hurt you!