In Paraguay

I came across this fragment online: An interview film featuring two characters living as husband and wife in a small, Paraguayan town. One that includes a large community of ethnic Germans, within its population.

While at no point in the clip is a date mentioned, the fashion, furniture, quality of the picture, sound and the historical references divulged, gives a feel of the late 1950s.

Most of the filming takes place in a spartan-furnished lounge, with the pair shown seated together on a charcoal-grey settee. A bland, greenish landscape painting hangs framed on the wall. To the left and smaller, a pictorial calendar displays August’s arrangement of a white teapot, cup, saucer and a pile of books. A ribbon-tied spray of pink carnations lay across the open pages of the topmost book. The wallpaper, floral and faded, completes the scene.

“Ja, nien.” The woman is wearing a sleeveless white blouson top and a black wrap-around skirt. Her make-up and hair are immaculate. Initially hesitant, she directs her answers to a man positioned off-camera, evidenced by the occasional plume of cigarette smoke drifting across the scene.

“Natürlich, ven veer arrived hier, zwölf years ago – mein Schatz?” She glances, an eyebrow raised, seeking confirmation of her recall. The husband’s head and hand movement, synchronised together, communicates agreement. “Ja und veer could not believe it, how es vas like, hier. I mean, you recall, ven veer left Deutschland, it vas in such a big mess! It vas not like veer had a choice to stay. You understand, it vas kaput all around us!”

“So, you got aboard a boat, sailed to South America, winding up here in Paraguay as your final destination.” Despite the consistent crackle of the sound recording, the Interviewer’s accent is discernibly Californian, with the soft, reassuring tone of a psychoanalyst.

“Das ist korrekt. Since arriving, veer have learnt a little Spanish, but also have met many, many Deutsches Volk, ex-patriots.” She pauses to reflect. “Veer vur velcomed mit open arms, ist like eine große Familie hier.

“I understand that the ethnic German population,” the Interviewer interjects, “has adapted well since the first arrival of their ancestors… Oh, let’s see, that must be what, seventy years ago?”

“Ja, das ist almost right, I think.”

“Today,” the Interviewer continues, “the German people are established as farmers, shopkeepers, bankers, civil engineers, own factories, run the church, the schools, are suitably employed within accountancy and public-sector administrative work, throughout this entire region.”

Fired by pride and flattery while listening to the Interviewer’s assessment, the two faces on screen brighten.

“Ja, I understand they got off to a bumpy start – as you say in Amerikanisch.” Her voice softens, “But, mit determination und hard verk, they succeeded. Das ist der deutsche vay.” The wife is seen stroking her husband’s knee in a comforting, affectionate manner.

Ein Nueva Germania!” Silent up until this point, her husband delivers the statement with pronounced gusto, a momentary flame glowing in his eyes. His fingers roll-up into a fist, which begins to rise slowly into the air.

At this segment, the film quality falters, implying regular rewind and replay. For a few seconds, the image and sound quality breaks down completely. An untidy edit sets the next sequence further forward in time by several minutes.

Reading into the body-language of the husband, it’s apparent there has been an unseen, recent outburst of emotion. While the couple remain seated, they are observed making slight adjustments to their weight distribution. The wife emotes awkwardness, while her husband returns to his solace of private contemplation, hands held in prayer fashion, tips of his fingers pressed into the underside of his chin.

“I wonder if you could tell me…” The Interviewer clears away a large frog in his throat, “ERRP-HUM, excuse me, what have you done, since your arrival – do you contribute towards the community – for example are you both working?”

“Oh ja!” Taking the opportunity to lighten the atmosphere, the wife displays mock indignation. “Natürlich veer contribute!”

“Outside, I came past a paddock with some horses, a barn, stables. By the looks of things, I’d say you’re operating an equestrian school here. Am I right?”

“Originally, veer taught dressage; a popular interest hier. But now, as mein Mann würder like to take things a little easier, veer are promoting my idea for health und exercise, incorporating the horses.” Her attention diverts, her eyes conducting a casual search of the interior environment.

Incorporating the horses?”

“Ja, they are so good you see, sehr diszipliniert, they don’t run away with you or throw you off. We have no broncos here, whatsoever. The breeding ist tadellos.” She hands the off-screen Interviewer a three-fold flyer, taken from a teak wooden side table.

“I see. Do you mind if I hold onto this?” A cloud of smoke unfurls and dissipates into the air.

“Not at all, please do.” It’s her turn for sparkling eyes. “Hier, you see, read on the back: Buchen two lessons and you get one absolut kostenlos!”

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.