Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Park, Ciudad del Este’s Taiwanese Garden

Chiang Kai Shek sculpture

photography by: Omri Westmark

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As weird as it might seem, despite being located on the opposite corners of the world, Paraguay and Taiwan are politically and culturally linked. One of only a handful of nations that maintain official diplomatic relations with the island country, Paraguay is also home to a growing Taiwanese community. Ciudad del Este, the country’s second largest city and where most Taiwanese Paraguayans live, is home to a Chinese-style garden that pays tribute to Chiang Kai Shek, the forefather of modern-day Taiwan.

Following the Chinese Civil War between the Communist led forces of Mao Zedong and the Kuomintang army headed by Chiang Kai-shek, the latter were defeated by the former in 1949. As a result, Kai-shek’s loyalists fled to the island of Taiwan, where they established the Republic of China, rivaling with the People’s Republic of China in the mainland over the representation of the Chinese nation worldwide.


Up until 1971, it was the Republic of China, aka Taiwan, which represented the entirety of China in the United Nations and elsewhere. After losing its UN seat to Communist China, most countries flipped their official recognition to Beijing, leaving the government in Taipei with only a few allies.


As of today, only 13 independent countries recognize the Republic of China’s sovereignty. While most of those thirteen countries are small island nations in the Caribbean and the Pacific, there are also 4 medium-sized countries, including Paraguay.


The reason behind the Paraguay’s unexpected support for Taiwan derives from the whim of a single person, Alfredo Stroessner, the country’s former dictator who ruled it with an iron fist for 35 years (1954-1989). Stroessner, who was a fervent anti-communist, backed the Taiwanese government against what he perceived as a global threat.


The warm ties between the two countries culminated in the early 1980’s, when Ciudad del Este, Paraguay’s second largest city, allocated a small land plot for a memorial park honoring the founder of Taiwan, Chiang Kai Shek. Formerly part of CDE airport, the Chiang Kai Shek memorial park was inaugurated in 1984 by Stroessner and a couple of Taiwanese officials. As the relatively new city had previously experienced a massive influx of immigrants from Taiwan, the garden soon became a source of local pride and inspiration for Ciudad del Este’s Taiwanese community.


Located along the hectic Gral. Bernardino Caballero Street, the Chinese-style memorial park offers a refreshing respite from the otherwise city’s hustle and bustle. The garden, whose main entrance is through a red-hued gate, is traversed by a series of paved walkways around a circular plaza, forming together a shape of double ten, a tribute to Taiwan’s national day of October 10th. Amid the place’s luxuriant greenery is also an artificial lake embellished with a zigzag bridge and pagoda gazebo.


However, the true protagonist of the park is the statue of General Chiang Kai-shek himself, nestled atop an elevated platform with multiple staircases. While the sculpted Taiwanese leader along with his verdant premises might not be as sumptuous-looking as they were a few decades ago, the park is still an interesting place to explore, even more so given its important political role.