Dr. José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia y Velasco (January 6, 1766 – September 20, 1840) was the first leader of Paraguay following its independence from Spain. He ran the country with little outside influence from 1814 to 1840. His nephew Carlos Antonio López succeeded him as dictator 1841 - 1862 and continued his policies.
Born in Yaguarón, Francia's father was an officer turned tobacco planter from São Paulo, Brazil, and his mother was a Paraguayan descendant of Spanish colonizers. He received at baptism the name Joseph Gaspar de Franza y Velasco, but later used the more popular name Rodriguez, and changed Franza to the Spanish Francia. Although his father was simply García Rodríguez Francia (or Garcia Rodrigues França in Portuguese), the dictator inserted the particle de to style himself "Rodríguez de Francia y Velasco". He became a doctor of theology and master of philosophy at the University of Córdoba. Eventually, he would learn five languages (Guarani, Spanish, French, Latin and some English). He was trained for the Catholic priesthood, but never entered it. As a lawyer, he became a social activist and defended the less fortunate against the affluent.