The statement, technically speaking, is not false. In 1980, in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Moon’s boat was declared the winner of an international tuna-fishing tournament organized by the Unification Church. “I don’t want to be second even in catching tuna,” he said in a speech delivered a few months after the competition. “In every field and competition, I have been second to none.”
Apparently, the True Father’s fishing jones was a deciding factor in the placement of Puerto Leda. Moon first visited the Paraguay River on fishing trips in the 1990s, and by decade’s end he was cruising down it and ordering church members to wade along the muddy banks to plant 63 signposts demarcating the land he had decided to buy.
In 1999, Moon called his most devoted Japanese followers to join him on a 40-day spiritual retreat outside Fuerte Olimpo, about 25 miles south of Puerto Leda. I’d read a brief description of those days on a church website. One Messiah had written: “It was very hot and we wanted to bathe in the water. But we could not because piranhas would come. It’s a big problem! Also there are problems with ants. One National Messiah became very sick from an ant bite. It’s a dangerous place. There are all these problems, but Father just says, ‘Ah, the purity of nature!’”
Clarity was never the True Father’s specialty. Even Moon’s followers had trouble understanding him at times. In addition to calling for a return to Original Creation here, he told his devotees, in 2000, that “we need to build the best underwater palace in the world.” In 2011, he declared, “It is time to establish God’s throne at the top of the Grand Canyon.” Once, he held up his fourth finger and told some followers, “I was ready for today’s meeting before 1 a.m. Today is the seventh day of the tenth month. Today is the seventh day but there isn’t an eighth day. Who decided that? It was me, but I am in a position where I can’t do what I decided, because 10 fingers are related.”
A Moon website that publishes the English transcripts of his speeches warns that they’re based on notes and “may bear no similarity to what was originally said in Korean.” Deciphering Moonspeak is even more daunting when your task is building a new Eden. Back in 1999, when Moon called on the Messiahs to assemble in Paraguay for the 40-day retreat, he spent most of that time fishing. Near the end of their time together, he instructed them to build an ecologically sustainable city that could serve as a model for the whole world. The plan, such as it was, lacked specifics; not all of the founders agreed on what the city should look like. Yet they forged ahead, determined to create something extraordinary in a place where wilderness reigned.
Now, as I glance at the scene, I see huge dormitory buildings, guesthouses, and sheds for mechanical repairs. I count seven freshwater fish farms, fully stocked with pacu, a toothy species that looks like an overgrown piranha. I see no other people.
“Normally, there are about 10 of us who live here,” Mister Date tells me. “But this week six are away in Asunción. So there are just four now.”
WE WALK THROUGH EARLY-morning light on smooth sidewalks, past manicured gardens of hibiscus and bougainvillea, beside an Olympic-size swimming pool. A young man hired from a nearby village slowly sweeps a filtering net through the deep end. Nothing—not a single foreign particle—seems to mar the clean blue rectangle of water. We enter a two-story communal building that resembles an office complex. I see Wilson in a small room, tapping away at a computer. We climb a stone staircase to the second floor, following Mister Date into what appears to be a rec room. There’s a television hooked up to a satellite system, and Mister Date pops a disc into a DVD player. The DVD, Mister Date tells us, explains everything.