Unlike Ciudad del Este, the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguacu is renowned for being both a centre of tourism and of agriculture. This city, the capital of the southern State of Parana, is located at the point where the river Iguaçu flows into the Rio Parana, creating the Iguaçu Falls. The population amounts to around 300,000 inhabitants, many of whom are Palestinian and Lebanese Arabs.
The Arabic communities of Foz do Iguacu are obviously connected to those of Ciudad del Este which strengthens further their commercial ties. Many of them, in fact, live in Ciudad del Este, which makes the frontier between the two cities even more porous. Its origins go back to the foundation of the military colony of Iguacu. The turning point was, however, in 1965, when work began on the construction of the “Puente Internacional de la Amistad” (“International Bridge of Friendship”) which increased the development of the flow towards Ciudad del Este, known at that time as Puerto Stroessner. The year 1970 was another important date in the development of the city when the building site for the construction of the Itaipù hydro-electric station, which, since it took on a large number of manual workers, – around 40.000 of them, many from the Middle East – caused the population of the city to increase by 400 per cent.
Transactions across the frontier
The network with Ciudad del Este developed in the eighties and the strong ties, based mainly on black market income, continued to increase through the years, giving rise to the broadening of that characteristic phenomenon known as ‘shopping tourism’ which, apart from causing an increase from 20,000 to 40,000 people (among whom are the above-mentioned sacoleiros) and about 20,000 crossing the bridge, also increased wholesale business and exports, giving more life to these relations. The activities in Ciudad del Este, while attracting this sort of tourist, have created a network of legal and illegal transactions across the frontier, and have also developed the tourism business of Foz do Iguaçu, with hotels, restaurants and structures providing other services that are springing up. The flow of people is facilitated by the possibility of freely crossing the border. (F.R.)