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Anthony Bourdain

Paraguay: Quest for 'The Missing Bourdain'

Anthony Bourdain, CNNUpdated 25th March 2015
(CNN) — A lot of people have ventured to Paraguay over the years in search of some sort of a dream. My great-great-grandfather, Jean Bourdain, was one of them.
I've looked for this mysterious ancestor before -- in Uruguay, with my younger brother Chris. We were disappointed when our trail ran cold. We were left with a cryptic reference to the news that Jean had died in Asuncion, Paraguay.
Which raised the questions: "What the hell was he doing in Paraguay?" And "Where is Paraguay, anyway?"
Bourdain seeks information in Paraguay about his great-great-great grandfather, who emigrated from France in the 1850s.
It's certainly a country few of us know much about. Landlocked by its better-known neighbors, Paraguay is probably best known for being a hideout for escaped Nazis and for a succession of truly spectacularly lurid, out-of-a-comic-book dictatorships -- the last being the administration of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner.
It's certainly a country few of us know much about. Landlocked by its better-known neighbors, Paraguay is probably best known for being a hideout for escaped Nazis and for a succession of truly spectacularly lurid, out-of-a-comic-book dictatorships -- the last being the administration of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner.
When I first looked at the possibility of making a television show there, many years ago, descriptions of the country by visitors were not promising: crime, corruption, counterfeiters, failed institutions, looted banks -- in short, a backwater.
I thought I'd use the dubious quest for "The Missing Bourdain" as the spine of a show, a framework to investigate one of the least-known nations in the Americas.
Anthony Bourdain tries some late night grub in Paraguay
My crew, looking at various storytelling structures, settled on the terrific film "The Limey" as a rough template. In that film, Terence Stamp, playing a just-out-of-prison career criminal, voyages to Los Angeles in search of answers after the death of his daughter.
In this week's "Parts Unknown" episode, I explore Paraguay (and my family's past) in similar nonlinear fashion. It's an amazing-looking show. Everybody who worked on it, handcrafted it, is convinced it's some of their best work.
What I found out -- about Paraguay, about my family -- surprised me. I hope it entertains you.
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