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His radical views made his position as a teacher there untenable, and he soon gave up theology to study law. Eventually, he became a lawyer and learned five languages: Guarani, Spanish, French, Latin, and some English. During his studies, he was influenced by the ideas of Enlightenment and later the French Revolution. Francia was disgusted by Paraguay's class system imposed by Spain, and as a lawyer would defend the less fortunate against the affluent. He demonstrated an early interest in politics.
He had tried before, in but failed because of his humble background. Francia shocked the other members by saying it was irrelevant which king they had. When Paraguay's independence was declared on 15 May , he was appointed secretary to the three-man ruling junta and included in the five-man governing junta by Congress meeting on 17 June On 1 August, he resigned because of the army's dominance over Congress.
He retired to the countryside, where he spread rumours that the country was going to be betrayed by the incompetent government. He was one of the few men in the country with any significant education, and soon became the country's real leader. Only one other Paraguayan had a doctorate: Juan Bogarin, one of the five junta members. He returned to the junta in October on condition that Bogarin was removed, and resigned again on December He did not return again until 16 November , and then only if he was in charge of foreign policy and half the army.
Paraguayans often referred to him simply as "Dr. A few Indians meanwhile believed he had supernatural powers: when some saw him measuring the stars with his theodolite, they thought he was talking to night demons. On 1 October , Congress named Francia and Fulgencio Yegros as alternate consuls for a year, Francia taking the first and third four-month periods. Each controlled half the army. On October 12, Paraguay declared independence from the Spanish Empire. In March , Francia banned Spaniards from marrying each other; they had to wed Indians, blacks, or mulattoes.
On 1 October , Congress named him as sole consul, with absolute powers for three years. He consolidated his power to such an extent that on 1 June , another Congress voted him absolute control over the country for life. For the next 24 years he ran the country with the aid of only three other people. According to historian Richard Alan White, these congresses were actually very progressive for the era; all men over 23 could vote for them. From he appointed cabildo members, but in decided to close it.