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Asunción was founded on August 15, 1537—the Feast of the Assumption, or Asunción in Spanish. Take a step back and you'll see traces of the city that was once the colonial capital of southern South America. On the drive from the airport, taxis whisk by the magnificent mansions lining Avenida Mariscal López—a furtive glimpse through a doorway reveals a peaceful patio reminiscent of those in southern Spain. Remnants of Asunción's prosperous past can also be detected in the delicately decorated facades and balconies of belle epoque buildings that have survived the vagaries of fashion, although in some instances they've yielded to commercialism by leasing the ground floor to fast-food joints with blaring neon signs. Alongside the money changers and peddlers of fake Rolex watches who patrol the streets and plazas, indigenous women sell bundles of herbs and roots—centuries-old remedies for every ailment. Contrasting with the hustle and bustle of the nearby commercial center, the pristine columned government buildings overlook the Bay of Asunción as cool breezes rustle through flame trees in the riverside park.

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