Under the shades of the American civil war, another conflict took place a bit more south. Paraguay was facing Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.
What the hell did Paraguay do to anger the entire region? We have to go back to 1842. Carlos Antonio López came to power and started a massive industrialization. He imported European experts to build modern infrastructure and was modernizing his army. The prospects were good and even the relations with hostile neighbor Argentina, who saw Paraguay as a rebel province until 1852, cooled down.
The turning point, however, was when Carlos died and his son, Francisco Salano López, came to power. He was really an old-fashioned dictator, forbidding people to turn their backs on him and to sit while he stands. He was upset about Brazilian interference in the Uruguayan civil war at the time, thinking it would disturb the regional balance of power.
So, according to what he thought was rational, he decided to invade Uruguay and Brazil in 1964 to fight the Brazilians on both soils. When Argentina refused to let Paraguayan troops march through their territory, diplomatic tensions were revived. When the Brazilian sided troops won the battle in Uruguay, the governments with anger towards Paraguay signed a secret pact. Pleading to conquer and divide half the territory of Paraguay and keep fighting until Francisco López is dead.
At this point Paraguay was facing three countries with a population 25 times larger than his own. The Paraguayans fought a hopeless war, led by a crazy dictator. He killed his mother and brother and thousands of his closest followers due to minor trust issues. With a lance, though, to save ammunition. Even when the capital was taken by the Brazilians, he would just claim another town to be the capital ( he did this several times).
He painted pieces of wood to look like guns and drew beards on children to look like full grown men. It did not save Francisco’s cause, since he eventually died. “For the homeland”, are said to be his final words. Statistics show that it did his homeland little good. Some estimates tell us that 60% of the entire population and 90% of all men died during six years of war. At least Francisco López died with ‘honor’.