As of 2009 the population was estimated at 6.3 million. The capital and largest city is Asunción. The official languages are Spanish and Guaraní, both being widely spoken in the country. Most of the population are mestizos.
The Guaraní have been living in Paraguay since prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, when Paraguay became part of the Spanish colonial empire. Paraguay gained independence from Spain in 1811.
A Jesuit Reduction was a type of settlement for indigenous people in Latin America created by the Jesuit Order during the 17th and 18th centuries. In general, the strategy of the Spanish Empire was to gather native populations into centers called Indian Reductions (reducciones de indios), in order to Christianize, tax, and govern them more efficiently. The Jesuit interpretation of this strategy was implemented primarily in an area that corresponds to modern day Paraguay amongst the Tupi-Guarani peoples. Later reductions were extended into areas now part of Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia.
Jesuit reductions were different from the reductions in other regions because the indigenous people (Indians) were expected to convert to Christianity but not necessarily to European culture. Under the leadership of both the Jesuits and native caciques, the reductions achieved a high degree of autonomy within the Spanish colonial empire. With the use of Indian labour, the reductions became economically successful. When their existence was threatened by the incursions of Bandeirante slave traders, Indian militia were created that fought effectively against the colonists. The resistance by the Jesuit reductions to slave raids, as well as their high degree of autonomy and economic success, have been cited as contributing factors to the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Americas in 1767. The Jesuit reductions present a controversial chapter of the evangelisational history of the Americas, and are variously described as jungle utopias or as theocratic regimes of terror.