Prize-worthy ad: Personal plays on Paraguay's win over Argentina, loss of the War of the Triple Alliance

Print image from brilliant Personal ad. Source ABC Color

Paraguay has a reputation for being remote and so when I try to convey, particularly to scholars of Latin America, what Paraguay is like, I settle on two points: the use of Guaraní and the War of the Triple Alliance. Paraguay is really a bilingual country where the usage of Guaraní pervades all daily interactions--more people speak only Guaraní than only Spanish. And the majority of that indigenous language's speakers are not themselves Native Americans.

Next, the War of the Triple Alliance (1865-1870) is ever-present in Paraguayan memory. This was lost by Paraguay to the combined forces of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay-- Paraguay lost nearly half its territory, 90% of its male population, and around 50% of its entire population. This war is mentioned every day in the newspapers, any time when people discuss social ills (poverty, inequality, land issues)-- the important national holiday "Día del niño" (where you give kids easter-like baskets and toys) on Aug 16 commemorates the slaughter of pre-adolescent Paraguayan boys by Argentine troops in a battle towards the end of the war. This is Paraguay's holocaust, ever-present.

And so when Paraguay beat Argentina last week at soccer, it was seen in the context of that War. Need proof? Look at this ad for Personal, a Paraguayan cellphone company, featuring Salvador Cabañas (who we call gordinho, in all affection), the dude who set up Nelson Haedo's goal, and quite possibly the most likeable dude on the team. As he rallies his troops to victory in South Africa, the iconography is all about the War of the Triple Alliance and Mariscal Solano López who led his country into war and "murió con su patria" (died with his fatherland). All the right notes are hit--this ad should win a prize for cultural contextual excellence.

Even the title of the ad--Heroes--invokes the common term for the participants of that war.

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