Museo Municipal de Villa Hayes - Atlas Obscura

Museo Municipal de Villa Hayes

Villa Hayes, Paraguay

How did 19th U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes become so beloved in Paraguay? 

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Rutherford B. Hayes was born in the city of Delaware, Ohio, where his birthplace is now the site of a British Petroleum gas station. Though the 19th U.S. President is not terribly well-remembered or celebrated in his home country, his legacy is celebrated in another part of the world, which may be surprising: Paraguay. The Villa Hayes Municipal Museum celebrates his foundational role in the country’s history.

It is impossible to reflect on Paraguay’s history without acknowledging the Paraguayan War, also known as the War of the Triple Alliance. From 1864-1870, Paraguay defended itself against the combined forces of its neighbors Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. It was the deadliest war in Latin American history. Over the course of the conflict, as much as two-thirds of Paraguay’s total population died (though the exact numbers have. been the subject of much dispute).

Even after the war technically ended in 1870, Argentine and Brazilian troops continued to occupy Paraguay during the long process of negotiating treaties. During this negotiation process, Paraguay was forced to cede massive swaths of territory to its neighboring countries. When Argentina tried to lay claim to the Chaco, a vast wilderness region in northern Paraguay, the two countries could not reach a consensus.

There was no United Nations at the time, so the United States was asked to step in to arbitrate an agreement. President Hayes, who had taken office in 1877,  sided with Paraguay. The decision essentially cemented Paraguay’s future as a nation. 

Because of this decision, Rutherford B. Hayes is seen as a national hero in Paraguay. The museum is located in the city of Villa Hayes, which is located in the Paraguayan department of Presidente Hayes. At the Municipal Museum, you can see a wax sculpture of Rutherford B. Hayes, as well as other artifacts from the various periods that comprise the historical memory of Villa Hayes. 

Know Before You Go

The museum is free to visit, and maintains updated hours of operation on Google Maps.

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