At the end of the year 1542, the governor Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca stepped foot for the first time on Chaco soil, while defending a friendly tribe that lived in front of what is known today as El Peñón from attacks by the Guaicurú.
In 1786 the priest Juan Francisco Amancio González y Escobar founded a village right where Cabeza de Vaca had set foot on Chaco soil. He called it the Reducción Melod̀a, in honor of Don Pedro Melo de Portugal y Villena, at that time governor of Paraguay. After a few years, the priest returned to Emboscada, where he officiated as parish priest until his death.
During the years of Father González's absence, the inhabitants of the place called the site Amancio Cué and so it was called until the president Carlos Antonio López, in 1855, gave it the name of Nueva Burdeos on the occasion of the settling of some 800 colonists from Bordeaux , France . After a short time many of the colonists abandoned the place, expressing that the facilities provided by the government were insufficient. Others remained, and many of their descendants reside in the locality to this day.
One year later President López decreed the dissolution of the colony and once again changed the locality's name, this time to Villa Occidental. The village was populated by converted Indians and retired army officers.
During the War of the Triple Alliance, the territory was occupied by Argentina , whose government handed out plots and fields to Argentinian citizens, giving special favor to its army's combatants. It is believed that the great house currently occupied by the Centro Cultural Melod̀a - dates from that time, and was possibly built by Paraguayan prisoners of war for an Argentinian officer.
At the end of the war, Argentina annexed the territory of the Chaco that extended from the Pilcomayo River to the Verde River, creating in 1872 the Chaco National Territory, with Villa Occidental as its capital. The Paraguayan government rejected this claim, and the dispute was subjected to the arbitration of the President of the United States.
Rutherford B. Hayes
In May of 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes ruled in Paraguay 's favor, and in his honor the Department was named Presidente Hayes, and the name of its capital was changed to Villa Hayes. Villa Hayes currently has approximately 25,000 inhabitants,
1542 Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca arrives at the Chaco
1786 Father Amancio González founds the Reducción Melod̀a
1800 The inhabitants name the village Amancio Cué
1855 The French colonists arrive and the village is named Nueva Burdeos
1856 The name is changed to Villa Occidental
1872 Argentina annexes the territory
1879 The Hayes arbitration awards the territory to Paraguay, and the village is named Villa Hayes