Asunción, population 500,939 (1992), is the capital of Paraguay. Its Metropolitan Area, named Gran Asunción, includes the cities of San Lorenzo, Fernando de la Mora , Lambaré , Luque , Mariano Roque Alonso , Ñemby and Villa Elisa; having more than 1.500.000 inhabitants.
It is the seat of government, principal port and chief industrial and cultural centre of the country. Main outputs of the manufacturing industries include footwear, textiles, and tobacco products.
Asunción is one of the oldest cities in South America, being known as Mother of Cities because it was from here where the colonial expeditions to found other cities departed, including the second fundation of Buenos Aires. The site of the city may have been first visited by Juan de Ayolas , but the town, called Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Our Lady of the Assumption ), was founded in August 15, 1537, by Juan de Salazar and Gonzalo de Mendoza . In 1731 an uprising under José de Antequera y Castro was one of the first rebellions against Spanish colonial rule. After the War of the Triple Alliance (1865-70), Asunción was occupied by Brazilian troops until 1876.
The city is home to the Godoi Museum , the Church of La Encarnación , and the Panteón Nacional , a smaller version of Les Invalides in Paris, where many of the nation's heroes are entombed. Other landmarks include the Palacio de los Lopez (presidential palace) The old Senate building (a modern building opened to house Congress in 2003), the Catedral Metropolitana and the Casa de Independencia (one of the few examples of colonial architecture remaining in the city).
The downtown area of the city, near the port and centred on the Plaza de los Heroes, and the Plaza Uruguaya was largely developed during the 1970s and 1980s, leaving little of the colonial city. However it is now rather run down and somewhat dangerous at night. The 'better' areas of Asuncion are in the suburbs towards Avenida San Martin, where the Paraguayan elite shop in US-style shopping malls driving large SUVs.
The main universities in the city are the Universidad Catolica Universidad Catolica(private, run by the church) and the Universidad Nacional (state run)Universidad Nacional. The Catolica has a site in the centre, next to the cathedral and a larger campus in the adjoining city of Lambare, while the Nacional has it's main campus near the adjoining city of San Lorenzo. There are also a number of smaller privately run universities.
The major newspapers based in Asuncion are ABC Color, Ultima Hora,Noticias and La Nacion. Of these ABC and Ultima Hora are probably the best regarded, however all Paraguayan media has questions about its independence hanging over it.
The City is served by a river terminal downtown, an international airport in the suburb of Luque and the main long-distance bus terminus is on Avenida Republica Argentina
On August 1, 2004, a supermarket burned down killing at least 464 people and injuring approximately 409 more - the most tragic incident in the history of Paraguay. Many shoppers were forced to escape out of windows, as the supermarket had no fire escapes. It is alleged that the shopping center's security guards locked the exit doors to prevent people leaving without paying amid looting. It has also been reported that members of the fire department of the Policia Nacional (not the volunteer firefighters who make up the majority of the Paraguayan fire service) were filmed stealing money from the tills and victims of the fire.