It wasn’t an apple that tempted Eve, it was a mango. I can just see it now: that immense fruit, in all of its sun-kissed glory, sitting in her hands, barely fitting between her two palms. All the while, a calm serpent, whispering from its perch, coiled around bunches of leaves and plump fruits. Who could resist those yellow-and-red hues painted on firm, purple-green skin? The tremendous fruits, so easily plucked from low-hanging branches, as attractive in their accessibility as in their shear abundance, each one seductively voluptuous and tender. Each bite gashing open new veins that bleed with sweet, warm juice. Descended from heaven, surely—wrapped up and offered under the deliciously cool shade of heavy, twisted trees. It was a mango for sure, and she never stood a chance.
Paraguay in the summer seems to ferment in mango juice. The air is thick with the sickly smell of it as the locals collect and consume as many as possible, discarding the skins and pits like bread crumbs along windswept roads as they walk to and from the fields. Still, untold numbers of the succulent fruits are missed, picked apart by bees and insects on the ground. Hundreds are left to rot, to fertilize the soil and sow another generation of the world’s finest shade tree. For every person in Paraguay, there must be a million mangos or more each season. Money might not grow on trees, but mangos do, and on the hottest of summer days, nothing could be better.
There two kinds of mangos in Paraguay. Fruits of the more common variety are small and yellow and have a tough, fibrous flesh. These typically can’t be chewed easily—instead, one simply sucks out the juices and masticates the insides of the fruit to a mushy pulp before spitting out the rest, bit by fibrous bit. Delicious as they may be, they are undoubtedly quite a menace for people in a country that doesn’t seem to floss, although that doesn’t appear to stop anyone in the slightest.
Then there are the Brazilian mangos: brilliantly colored and radiant, textured yet smooth, their flesh like soft orange butter with only enough fiber to remind you that nothing is quite perfect. Everything that these mangos boast in taste and beauty they match in size—they are enormous, some barely fitting between two hands. Watching a little barefoot Paraguayan child with a full mango is like watching a mouse trying to swallow a soccer ball. Try as they might, they still struggle, giddy with all of their big-eyed, childish delight as rivers of juice run down their chins and onto their bare, protruding bellies.
As if to add to the bounty, there are enough passion fruits, peaches, pineapples, and bananas in Paraguay to feed armies, to cure the scurvy of a million wayward sailors, to drown the entire world in sweet, juicy surrender. Such plenty is one massively redeeming quality in a country that is otherwise suffocating in unbearable summer heat. That’s the trade-off, I guess—torrents of delicious tropical fruit, the product of incredible photosynthetic production, for mind-numbing afternoons. I’ll take it. I don’t really have a choice anyway. Here’s to summertime in South America. —Mario Machado