Yulia came down the stairs, silent as a cat. Imani looked up from the sewing table and saw the tears streaking her young face.
“Oh child,” she said softly. “Don’t blame yourself. He’s always like this during the Navidád.”
“He screamed at me,” the girl said, voice choking. “Called me the aborted spawn of a she-calf. I don’t even know what that means.”
“It means nothing. It’s just his personality. You don’t become the ruler of a country without a strong personality. Now come here and help me with this button.”
Yulia walked over and studied the jacket, its enormous bullion epaulets and glittering gold lace. “Will he actually wear all this?”
“You’ve seen the photographs. Of course it won’t be this exact tunic. We can expect His Excellency to change his mind six or seven times, usually with a tantrum. But don’t take it personally. It’s just his way.”
General Alfredo Stroessner oversaw the longest dictatorship in the modern history of South America, from a military coup in 1954 until 1989, when his longtime collaborator Gen Andrés Rodríguez led a military uprising that removed him from power.
Stroessner’s Paraguay was characterised by the violent oppression of opposition groups. These practices were revealed to the world in 1992, when about 700,000 documents created by the regime’s security forces – which have come to be known as the “Archives of Terror”– were discovered in a locked room in a police station in Asunción.
In addition to his numerous crimes against his people, Stroessner was also rumored to be a pedophile, though these allegations have never been proven. In 2008, human remains were found buried beneath one of his many residences.