Paraguay, near Eusebio Ayala (Name of the farmer has been changed)
One cannot say that all Paraguayans are suspicious and will rip you off no matter what. Some people might think that this is true for many Cultures where (I classify here, I know), the “white men” are the rich and that one could try to rip them off, because they have more income anyway.
I want to share a story brought to me by Mauricio, a Paraguayan farmer who lives not far from Asunción, and takes care of his fields. Because sometimes, and more often than many people think, locals in South America have less trust in other locals than in travelers.
I have worked a little while in Paraguay on this farm and I experienced an overwhelming willingness to help each other and to increase life quality by the simple presence of a group of likewise people. All are farmers, and they all need help from each other.
After a couple of nights a storm brought hail just as big as you could form a hole from your thumb and forefinger. I had my separate wooden house to sleep in and I was impressed by the fact that in the next morning I was not injured nor the roof was perforated or anything, just Olli the dog came by in the night with fear in his eyes. I gave him shelter.
However, the neighbor did not have as much luck and well built houses than we had. His roof was uncovered almost completely, the walls of the stone house crumbled at many spots. Mauricio was down to help immediately together with at least ten other men and later, us. We helped where we could, build a line with the others to clean and sort the undamaged bricks. All in all the neighbor was lucky, not injured and saw self-evident help wherever she would ask for it.
My point is that, as it seems to me, people help and take care of other people the less material differences they have.
Now the opposite.
I learned a lot in these days, from farming to sustainability to self-efficiency to the culture of Paraguay. And I listened to the following story.
Farmers take care of each other, they would watch after another’s fields if necessary. People here built also something like a sense of sharing investments. That means that a few farmers would buy seeds together and earn fruits in same shares. Mauricio did so with his wife and a man they had trust in and bought white bean seeds.
The time to harvest was near, when Mauricio and his wife needed to visit friends and help them. Their partner would take care of the fields meanwhile and promised to be back for harvest. Eventually, when they came back, the white beans were gone completely.
A few days later a neighbor told Mauricio that he had seen the family of his partner harvesting all the beans while he was away. Since that they are very careful of who they trust and normally ask other, closer neighbors, about a new and unknown person.
This manner may carry more fruits than the stolen beans.
I learned from this that I was doing well in having a certain mistrust in unknown persons during my trips, because obviously and evidenced in many stories like this one, locals even mistrust other local people.
Nevertheless, while traveling to far countries and unknown cultures, one may detect himself in a certain comfort to hang out with people from similar cultures. That is understandable and completely fine as long as we keep the balance between mistrust and curiosity in both locals and other travelers. Because most of us explore countries for the sake of learning and we shall carry on so that images of certain culture groups may match reality.