Uruguay: Wikis


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Oriental Republic of Uruguay
República Oriental del Uruguay  (Spanish)
Flag Coat of arms
MottoLibertad o muerte  (Spanish)
"Liberty or Death"
AnthemHimno Nacional Uruguayo  (Spanish)
(and largest city)
34°53′S 56°10′W / 34.883°S 56.167°W / -34.883; -56.167
Official language(s) Spanish
Ethnic groups  88% European, (Spanish, Italian, others), 6% Mestizo, 4% West African, 2% Asian, (Lebanese, Chinese, Japanese)[1]
Demonym Uruguayan
Government Presidential republic
 -  President José Mujica
Independence from Empire of Brazil 
 -  Declaration August 25, 1825 
 -  Constitution July 18, 1830 
 -  Total 176,215 km2 (90th)
68,037 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 1.5%
 -  2009 estimate 3,494,382[1] (131st)
 -  2002 census 3,399,236 
 -  Density 19.8/km2 (195th)
51.4/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $42.624 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $12,784[2] 
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $32.187 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $9,654[2] 
Gini (2006) 45.2[3] (high
HDI (2007) 0.865 (high) (50th)
Currency Uruguayan peso ($, UYU) (UYU)
Time zone UYT (UTC-3)
 -  Summer (DST) UYST (UTC-2)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .uy
Calling code +598

Uruguay (English pronunciation: /ˈjʊərəɡwaɪ/, Spanish pronunciation: [uɾuˈɣwai]), officially the Oriental Republic of Uruguay[1][4] (Spanish: República Oriental del Uruguay, pronounced [reˈpuβlika oɾjenˈtal ðel uɾuˈɣwai]), is a country located in the southeastern part of South America. It is home to some 3.3 million people,[1] of whom 1.1 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area. An estimated 88% of the population are of European descent.[5]

Uruguay's only land border is with Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, to the north. To the west lies the Uruguay River, to the southwest lies the estuary of Río de la Plata, with Argentina only a short commute across the banks of either of these bodies of water, while to the southeast lies the South Atlantic Ocean. Uruguay is the second smallest country in South America, being larger only than Suriname.

Colonia del Sacramento, one of Uruguay's oldest European settlements, was founded by the Portuguese in 1680. Montevideo was founded by the Spanish in the early 18th century as a military stronghold. Uruguay won its independence in 1825–1828 following a three-way struggle among Spain, Argentina and Brazil. It is a constitutional democracy, where the president fulfills the roles of both head of state and head of government.

The economy is largely based on agriculture (making up 10% of GDP and the most substantial export) and the state sector. According to Transparency International, Uruguay is rated as the least corrupt country in Latin America (along with Chile),[6] with its political and labor conditions being among the freest on the continent.[1]

Uruguay is one of the most economically developed countries in South America, with a high GDP per capita and the 47th highest quality of life in the world. In 2007, it became the first Latin American country to legalize same and different sex civil unions at a national level.[7]



The Oriental Republic of Uruguay is named after its geographic location to the east of the Uruguay River. Since the word orient is derived from the Latin word oriens, meaning east, this caused the Uruguayans to be called "Orientals", even though Uruguay is situated in the Western Hemisphere. The word Uruguay, coming from the Guarani language, means "river where the painted birds live".[8]


Pre-Columbian times and colonization

River Plate Indians with Boleadoras (Hendrick Ottsen, 1603)

The only documented inhabitants of Uruguay before European colonization of the area were the Charrua, a small tribe driven south by the Guaraní of Paraguay. There have also been identified examples of ancient rock art, at locations such as Chamangá, and elsewhere.

The Spanish arrived in the territory of present-day Uruguay in 1516, but the people's fierce resistance to conquest, combined with the absence of gold and silver, limited settlement in the region during the 16th and 17th centuries. Uruguay became a zone of contention between the Spanish and the Portuguese empires. In 1603 the Spanish began to introduce cattle, which became a source of wealth in the region. The first permanent settlement on the territory of present-day Uruguay was founded by the Spanish in 1624 at Soriano on the Río Negro. In 1669–71, the Portuguese built a fort at Colonia del Sacramento. Spanish colonization increased as Spain sought to limit Portugal's expansion of Brazil's frontiers.

Montevideo was founded by the Spanish in the early 18th century as a military stronghold; its natural harbor soon developed into a commercial area competing with Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires. Uruguay's early 19th century history was shaped by ongoing fights between the British, Spanish, Portuguese, and colonial forces for dominance in the Argentina-Brazil-Uruguay region. In 1806 and 1807, the British army attempted to seize Buenos Aires as part of their War with Spain. As a result, at the beginning of 1807, Montevideo was occupied by a 10,000-strong British force who held it until the middle of the year when they left to attack Buenos Aires.

Struggle for independence

In 1811, José Gervasio Artigas, who became Uruguay's national hero, launched a successful revolt against Spain, defeating them on May 18 in the Battle of Las Piedras. In 1814 he formed the Liga Federal (Federal League) of which he was declared Protector.

The constant growth of influence and prestige of the Federal League frightened Portugal (because of its republicanism), and in August, 1816 they invaded the Eastern Province (with Buenos Aires's tacit complicity), with the intention of destroying the protector and his revolution. The Portuguese forces, thanks to their numerical and material superiority, occupied Montevideo on January 20, 1817, and finally after a struggle for three years in the countryside, defeated Artigas in the Battle of Tacuarembó.

In 1821, the Provincia Oriental del Río de la Plata (present-day Uruguay), was annexed by Brazil under the name of Província Cisplatina. In response, the Thirty-Three Orientals led by Juan Antonio Lavalleja declared independence on August 25, 1825 supported by the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata, present-day Argentina.

This led to the 500-day Argentina-Brazil War. Neither side gained the upper hand, and in 1828 the Treaty of Montevideo, fostered by the United Kingdom, gave birth to Uruguay as an independent state. The nation's first constitution was adopted on July 18, 1830. The remainder of the 19th century under a series of elected and appointed presidents saw interventions by — and conflicts with — neighboring states, political and economic fluctuations, and large inflows of immigrants, mostly from Europe.

The "Guerra Grande" 1839–1852

The political scene in Uruguay became split between two parties, the conservative Blancos ("Whites") and the liberal Colorados ("Reds"). The Colorados were led by Fructuoso Rivera and represented the business interests of Montevideo; the Blancos were headed by Manuel Oribe, who looked after the agricultural interests of the countryside and promoted protectionism. The two groups took their names from the color of the armbands that they wore; initially, the Colorados wore blue, but when it faded in the sun, they replaced it with red. The Uruguayan parties became associated with warring political factions in neighbouring Argentina.

The Colorados favored the exiled Argentinian liberal Unitarios, many of whom had taken refuge in Montevideo, while the Blanco president Manuel Oribe was a close friend of the Argentinian ruler Manuel de Rosas. Oribe took Rosas's side when the French navy blockaded Buenos Aires in 1838. This led the Colorados and the exiled Unitarios to seek French backing against Oribe and on June 15, 1838, an army led by the Colorado leader Rivera overthrew the president, who fled to Argentina. The Argentinian Unitarians formed a government-in-exile in Montevideo and, with secret French encouragement, Rivera declared war on Rosas in 1839. The conflict would last thirteen years and become known as the "Guerra Grande" (the "Great War").

In 1840, an army of exiled Unitarios attempted to invade northern Argentina from Uruguay but they had little success. In December 1842, President Joaquín Suárez formally abolished slavery. Two months later, an Argentinian army overran Uruguay on Oribe's behalf. They seized most of the country but failed to take the capital. The siege of Montevideo, which began in February 1843, would last nine years and capture the world's imagination. Alexandre Dumas, père compared it to a new Trojan War. The besieged Uruguayans called on resident foreigners for help and a French and an Italian legion were formed. The latter was led by the exiled Giuseppe Garibaldi, who was working as a mathematics teacher in Montevideo when the war broke out.

Garibaldi was also made head of the Uruguayan navy. He was involved in many famous actions during the war, notably the Battle of San Antonio, which won him a worldwide reputation as a formidable guerrilla leader. The Argentinian blockade of Montevideo was ineffective as Rosas generally tried not to interfere with international shipping on the River Plate. But in 1845, when access to Paraguay was blocked, Britain and France allied against Rosas, seized his fleet and began a blockade of Buenos Aires, while Brazil joined in against Argentina.

Rosas reached peace deals with Great Britain and France in 1849 and 1850 respectively. The French agreed to withdraw their legion if Rosas evacuated Argentinian troops from Uruguay. Oribe still maintained a loose siege of the capital. In 1851, the Argentinian caudillo Justo José de Urquiza turned against Rosas and signed a pact with the exiled Unitarios, the Uruguayan Colorados and Brazil against him. Urquiza crossed into Uruguay, defeated Oribe and lifted the siege of Montevideo. He then overthrew Rosas at the Battle of Caseros on February 3, 1852. With Rosas's defeat and exile, the "Guerra Grande" finally came to an end.

The War of the Triple Alliance

In 1855, new conflict broke out between the parties. It would reach its high point during the War of the Triple Alliance. In 1863, the Colorado general Venancio Flores organized an armed uprising against the Blanco president, Bernardo Prudencio Berro. Flores won backing from Brazil and, this time, from Argentina, who supplied him with troops and weapons, while Berro made an alliance with the Paraguayan leader Francisco Solano López.

When Berro's government was overthrown in 1864 with Brazilian help, López used it as a pretext to declare war on Uruguay. The result was the War of the Triple Alliance, a five-year conflict in which Uruguayan, Brazilian and Argentinian armies fought Paraguay, and which Flores finally won, but only at the price of the loss of 95% of his own troops. Flores did not enjoy his Pyrrhic victory for long. In 1868, he was murdered on the same day as his rival Berro.

Both parties were weary of the chaos. In 1870, they came to an agreement to define spheres of influence: the Colorados would control Montevideo and the coastal region, the Blancos would rule the hinterland with its agricultural estates. In addition, the Blancos were paid half a million dollars to compensate them for the loss of their stake in Montevideo. But the caudillo mentality was difficult to erase from Uruguay and political feuding continued culminating in the Revolution of the Lances (Revolución de las Lanzas) (1870–1872), and later with the uprising of Aparicio Saravia, who was fatally injured at the Battle of Masoller (1904).

Social and economic developments up to 1890

After the "Guerra Grande" there was a sharp rise in the number of immigrants, above all from Italy and Spain. The number of immigrants had risen from 48% of the population in 1860 to 68% in 1868. In the 1870s, a further 100,000 Europeans arrived, so that by 1879 about 438,000 people were living in Uruguay, a quarter of them in Montevideo. In 1857, the first bank was opened; three years later a canal system was begun, the first telegraph line was set up, and rail links were built between the capital and the countryside.

The economy saw a steep upswing after the "Guerra Grande", above all in livestock raising and export. Between 1860 and 1868, the number of sheep rose from three to seventeen million. The reason for this increase lay above all in the improved methods of husbandry introduced by European immigrants.

Montevideo became a major economic centre of the region. Thanks to its natural harbour, it became an entrepôt for goods from Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The towns of Paysandú and Salto, both on the River Uruguay, also experienced similar development.

20th century

Development accelerated during the latter part of the 19th century as increasing numbers of immigrants established businesses and bought land. Partly through their efforts, sheep were introduced to graze together with cattle, ranches were fenced, and pedigreed bulls and rams were imported to improve livestock. Earnings from wool (which became the leading export in 1884), hides, and dried beef encouraged the British to invest in railroad building and also helped to modernize Montevideo, notably in its public utilities and transportation system—which thereby encouraged additional immigration.

In 1876, the Uruguayan armed forces took over the government and, aided by improved communications, began to establish firmer control over the interior. However, public support for the regime eventually waned because of the brutality and corruption of some of its leaders, and a civilian Colorado government returned to power in 1890.

Blanco's demands for a larger role in government escalated into the Revolution of 1897, led by Aparicio Saravia, which ended when the Colorado president, Juan Idiarte Borda, was killed by an assassin not associated with the Blancos. Although conflicts between Colorados and Blancos continued to impede economic development, by 1900 Uruguay’s population grew to one million—a 13-fold increase over the level of 1830. The Colorado leader José Batlle y Ordóñez was elected president in 1903. The following year the Blancos led a rural revolt, and eight bloody months of fighting ensued before Saravia was killed in battle and government forces emerged victorious. In 1905 the Colorados won the first largely transparent legislative election in 30 years, and domestic stability was finally attained.

Batlle, who had become a Colorado hero, took advantage of the nation’s stability and growing economic prosperity to institute major reforms, including increasing state intervention in economic matters. His administration helped expand cattle ranching, reduce the nation’s dependence on imports and foreign capital, improve workers’ conditions through far-reaching social reforms, and expand education. In addition Batlle abolished the death penalty, allowed women to initiate divorce proceedings, augmented the rights of children born out of wedlock, and reduced the political influence of the Roman Catholic Church—reflecting growing trends toward social liberalization and secularization in Uruguay.

Batlle had two terms (1903–07 and 1911–15) in which to initiate his policies, but, realizing that his program might be reversed by a future president or dictator, he promoted a constitutional reform to end the presidency and replace it with a plural executive, the colegiado. Batlle’s audacious plan split the Colorados and reinvigorated the Blanco opposition, and in 1916 the colegiado was defeated in the country’s first election by secret ballot. Batlle retained a significant amount of prestige and support, however, which allowed him to strike a compromise that partly rescued the colegiado; thus, in a constitution promulgated in 1918, executive responsibility was split between the president and a National Council of Administration.

A consensus government emerged with policies that were more cautious than innovative, except in social legislation. Higher living standards were supported by a ranching economy that had stopped growing, a dilemma hidden by the high export prices of the late 1920s.

In 1930, Uruguay was chosen as the site of the first Football World Cup. Although the field was much smaller than the competitions of today, the event provided national pride when the home team won the tournament over neighboring Argentina.

In the late 1950s, partly because of a decrease in demand in the world market for agriculturial products, Uruguay began having economic problems, which included inflation, mass unemployment, and a steep drop in the standard of living for Uruguayan workers. This led to student militancy and labor unrest.

1950 also saw Uruguay win its second FIFA World Cup, defeating Brazil 2–1 in the competition's final match to take spot in the championship group, an event that became known as the Maracanazo.

An urban guerrilla movement known as the Tupamaros formed in the early 1960s, first engaging in Robin Hood type protest activities,such as robbing banks and distributing the proceeds to the poor, and attempting political dialogue. As the government banned their political activities and the police became more oppressive, the Tupamaros took up overtly armed struggle, engaging in armed struggle with the police and kidnappings of corrupt officials and perceived enemies.[9]

The US Office of Public Safety (OPS) began operating in Uruguay in 1965. The US Office of Public Safety trained Uruguayan police and intelligence in policing and interrogration techniques.

President Jorge Pacheco declared a state of emergency in 1968, followed by a further suspension of civil liberties in 1972 by his successor, President Juan María Bordaberry, who brought in the Army to combat the guerrillas MLN, led by Raúl Sendic. After defeating the Tupamaros, the military seized power in 1973. A state of martial law was effectively used to decompose the MLN (Movement of National Liberation). The MLN heads were isolated in improvised prisons. Bordaberry was finally removed from his "president charge" in 1976. He was first succeeded by Alberto Demicheli. Subsequently a national council chosen by the military government elected Aparicio Méndez.

In 1980, the army forces proposed a change in the constitution that would be passed with a referendum. The "No" to the constitution reforms won the vote with 57.2% of the votes, showing the unpopularity of the de facto government, that was later accelerated by an economic crisis. In 1981, General Gregorio Álvarez assumed the presidency.

In 1984, massive protests against military rule broke out. After a 24-hour general strike, talks began and the armed forces announced a plan for return to civilian rule. National elections were held in 1984; Colorado Party leader Julio María Sanguinetti won the presidency and, following the brief interim Presidency of Rafael Addiego Bruno, served from 1985 to 1990. The first Sanguinetti administration implemented economic reforms and consolidated democratization following the country's years under military rule. Nonetheless, Sanguinetti never supported the human rights claims, and his government didn't prosecute the rebels, terrorists, or military leaders who were accused of killings and torture. Instead, he opted for a more peaceful option, signing an amnesty treaty called in Spanish "Ley de Amnistia".

Modern Uruguay

Sanguinetti's economic reforms, focusing on the attraction of foreign trade and capital, achieved some success and stabilized the economy. In order to promote national reconciliation and facilitate the return of democratic civilian rule, Sanguinetti secured public approval by plebiscite of a controversial general amnesty for military leaders accused of committing human rights violations under the military regime and sped the release of former guerrillas.

The National Party's Luis Alberto Lacalle won the 1989 presidential election and served from 1990 to 1995. President Lacalle executed major economic structural reforms and pursued further liberalization of trade regimes, including Uruguay's inclusion in the Southern Cone Common Market (MERCOSUR) in 1991. Despite economic growth during Lacalle's term, adjustment and privatization efforts provoked political opposition, and some reforms were overturned by referendum.

In the 1994 elections, former President Sanguinetti won a new term, which ran from 1995 until March 2000. As no single party had a majority in the General Assembly, the National Party joined with Sanguinetti's Colorado Party in a coalition government. The Sanguinetti government continued Uruguay's economic reforms and integration into MERCOSUR. Other important reforms were aimed at improving the electoral system, social security, education, and public safety. The economy grew steadily for most of Sanguinetti's term until low commodity prices and economic difficulties in its main export markets caused a recession in 1999, which has continued into 2002.

The 1999 national elections were held under a new electoral system established by a 1996 constitutional amendment. Primaries in April decided single presidential candidates for each party, and national elections on October 31 determined representation in the legislature. As no presidential candidate received a majority in the October election, a runoff was held in November. In the runoff, Colorado Party candidate Jorge Batlle, aided by the support of the National Party, defeated Broad Front candidate Tabaré Vázquez.

The Colorado and National Parties continued their legislative coalition, as neither party by itself won as many seats as the 40% of each house won by the Broad Front coalition. The formal coalition ended in November 2002, when the Blancos withdrew their ministers from the cabinet, although the Blancos continued to support the Colorados on most issues.

Batlle's five-year term was marked by economic recession and uncertainty, first with the 1999 devaluation of the Brazilian real, then with the outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (aftosa) in Uruguay's key beef sector in 2001, and finally with the political and economic collapse of Argentina. Unemployment rose to close to twenty percent, real wages fell, the peso was devalued and the percentage of Uruguayans in poverty reached almost forty percent. These worsening economic conditions played a part in turning public opinion against the free market economic policies adopted by the Batlle administration and its predecessors, leading to popular rejection through plebiscites of proposals for privatization of the state petroleum company in 2003 and of the state water company in 2004.

In 2004 Uruguayans elected Tabaré Vázquez as president, while giving the Broad Front coalition a majority in both houses of parliament. The newly elected government, while pledging to continue payments on Uruguay's external debt, has also promised to undertake a crash jobs programs to attack the widespread problems of poverty and unemployment.

Geography and climate

Satellite image of Uruguay.
Cabo Polonio, departamento de Rocha, Uruguay.
A carob tree orchard next to Route 3 in the department of Paysandú, Uruguay.


At 176,214 km2 (68,037 sq mi) of continental land 142,199 km2 (54,903 sq mi) of jurisdictional water and small river islands,[10] Uruguay is the second smallest sovereign nation in South America (after Suriname) and the third smallest territory (French Guiana is the smallest). The landscape features mostly rolling plains and low hill ranges (cuchillas) with a fertile coastal lowland.

A dense fluvial network covers the country, consisting of four river basins or deltas; the Río de la Plata, the Uruguay River, the Laguna Merín and the Río Negro. The major internal river is the Río Negro ('black river'). Several lagoons are found along the Atlantic coast.

The highest point in the country is the Cerro Catedral at 514 metres (1,686 ft) in the Sierra Carapé hill range. To the southwest is the Río de Plata, the estuary of the Uruguay River, which forms the western border, and the Paraná River.

A longstanding border dispute with Brazil involving territory in the north of Uruguay has not harmed close diplomatic relations with Brazil in years


Snow is not very common (most important events were in 1962 and 1991), though winter sees regular frosts. One of the coldest winters (since 1951) was 2007: July averaged 7–8 °C (45–46 °F) in Montevideo, and 6–7 °C (43–45 °F) in Florida city.

National extreme temperatures sea level are, Paysandú city 44.0°C (01-20-1943) and Melo city -11.0°C (06-14-1967).[11]


Uruguay consists of nineteen departments (departamentos, singular "departamento"). The first departments were formed in 1816 and the newest, Flores, dates from 1885. The departments are governed by an intendente municipal who is elected for five years. The members of the Departmental Assembly (Junta Departamental) form the legislative level of the department.

Map of the departments of Uruguay in alphabetical order.
Department Area (square kilometres) Population* Capital
- Artigas 11,928 79,317 Artigas
- Canelones 4,536 509,095 Canelones
- Cerro Largo 13,648 89,383 Melo
- Colonia 6,106 120,855 Colonia del Sacramento  
- Durazno 11,643 60,926 Durazno
- Flores 5,144 25,609 Trinidad
- Florida 10,417 69,968 Florida
- Lavalleja 10,016 61,883 Minas
- Maldonado 4,793 147,391 Maldonado
- Montevideo 530 1,342,474 Montevideo
- Paysandú 13,922 115,623 Paysandú
- Río Negro 9,282 55,657 Fray Bentos
- Rivera 9,370 109,267 Rivera
- Rocha 10,551 70,614 Rocha
- Salto 14,163 126,745 Salto
- San José 4,992 107,644 San José de Mayo
- Soriano 9,008 87,073 Mercedes
- Tacuarembó 15,438 94,613 Tacuarembó
- Treinta y Tres   9,676 49,769 Treinta y Tres
* 2007


World Trade Center.

Uruguay's economy relies heavily on trade, particularly in agricultural exports, leaving the country vulnerable to taxmarketers in commodity prices. After averaging growth of 5% annually in 1996–1998, in 1999–2001 the economy suffered from lower demand in Argentina and Brazil, which combined account for nearly half of Uruguay's exports. Despite the severity of the trade shocks, Uruguay's financial indicators remained more stable than those of its neighbours, a reflection of its solid reputation among investors and its investment-grade sovereign bond rating—one of only two in South America.[12] In recent years Uruguay has shifted some of its energy into developing the commercial use of technologies and has become the first exporter of software in Latin America.[13]

A worsening economic condition played a part in turning public opinion against the mildly free market economic policies adopted by the previous administrations in the 1990s, leading to the popular rejection of proposals for privatization of the state petroleum company in 2003 and of the state water company in 2004. The newly elected Frente Amplio government, while pledging to continue payments on Uruguay's external debt,[14] has also promised to undertake an emergency plan to attack the widespread problems of poverty and unemployment.[15] In May 2008, the unemployment rate was below 7.2%. In October 2009, the unemployment rate was 6.4 percent.[16]


Agriculture played such an important part in Uruguayan history and national identity until the middle of the twentieth century that the entire country was sometimes likened to a single huge estancia (agricultural estate) centered around Montevideo, where the wealth generated in the hinterland was spent, at its administrative head.

Today, agriculture contributes roughly 11% to the country’s GDP and is still the main foreign exchange earner, putting Uruguay in line with other agricultural exporters like Brazil, Canada, and New Zealand. Uruguay is a member of the Cairns Group of exporters of agricultural products. Uruguay’s agriculture has relatively low inputs of labor, technology, and capital compared to other similar countries, which results in comparatively lower yields per hectare but also opens the door for Uruguay to market its products as "natural" or "organic."

Estancia tourism has developed recently, showcasing Uruguay's gaucho culture, historic Estancias, and natural resources.


Legislation hall, Montevideo

Uruguay is a multiparty presidential representative democratic republic, under which the President of Uruguay is both the head of state and the head of government. The president exercises executive power with his cabinet. Legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the General Assembly of Uruguay. The Judiciary branch is independent from that of the executive and legislature.

The Colorado and National parties have been locked in a power struggle throughout most of Uruguay's history. The elections of 2004, however, brought the Broad Front, a coalition of socialists, former Tupamaros, communists, social democrats, and Christian Democrats among others to power with majorities in both houses of parliament. A majority vote elected President Tabaré Vázquez.

Uruguay adopted its first constitution in 1830, following the conclusion of a three year war in which Argentina and Uruguay fought as a regional federation: the United Provinces of Río de la Plata. Sponsored by the United Kingdom, the 1828 Treaty of Montevideo built the foundations for a Uruguayan state and constitution.

For most of Uruguay's history, the Partido Colorado has been the government. The other "traditional" party of Uruguay, Partido Blanco has ruled only twice. The Partido Blanco has its roots in the countryside and the original settlers of Spanish origin and the cattle ranchers. The Partido Colorado has its roots in the port city of Montevideo, the new immigrants of Italian origin and the backing of foreign interests.

Tabaré Vázquez, former president of Uruguay and President of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva

The Partido Colorado built a welfare state financed by taxing cattle revenue.[citation needed] The elections of 2004, however, brought the Frente Amplio, a coalition of socialists, communists, former Tupamaros, former communists and social democrats among others to govern with majorities in both houses of parliament and the election of President Tabaré Vázquez by an absolute majority.[17] The Reporters Without Borders worldwide press freedom index has ranked Uruguay as 43rd of 173 reported countries in 2008.[18]

According to Freedom House, an American organization that tracks global trends in political freedom, Uruguay ranked twenty-seventh in its "Freedom in the World" index. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Uruguay scores an 8.08 in the Democracy Index, located in the 23rd position among the 30 countries considered to be Full Democracies in the world. The report looks at 60 indicators across five categories: Free elections, civil liberties, functioning government, political participation and political culture.[19]

Uruguay ranks 25th in the World Corruption Perceptions Index composed by Transparency International.[20]

The Uruguayan Constitution allows citizens to repeal laws or to change the constitution by referendum. During the last 15 years the method has been used several times; to confirm a law renouncing prosecution of members of the military who violated human rights during the military regime (1973–1985), to stop privatization of public utilities companies, to defend pensioners' incomes, and to protect water resources.[citation needed]

Uruguay's president José Mujica

Attempts to reform the 1830 constitution in 1966 led to the adoption of an entirely new document in 1967. A constitution proposed under a military revolution in 1980 was rejected by a vote of the entire electorate. Uruguay's Constitution of 1967 created a strong presidency, subject to legislative and judicial balance. Many of these provisions were suspended in 1973 but reestablished in 1985.

The president, who is both the head of state and the head of government, is elected by popular vote for a five-year term, with the vice president elected on the same ticket. Thirteen cabinet ministers, appointed by the president, head various executive departments. The General Assembly (Asamblea General) has two chambers.

The Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados) has 99 members, elected for a five year term by proportional representation. The Chamber of Senators (Cámara de Senadores) has 31 members; 30 members are elected for a five year term by proportional representation and the Vice-president who presides over it.

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land. Its judges are elected for 10-year terms by the General Assembly. Below the Supreme Court are appellate and lower courts, as well as justices of the peace. There are also electoral and administrative ("contentious") courts, an accounts court, and a military justice system.


Flag of Uruguay.svg

Foreign relations



Uruguayans share a Spanish linguistic and cultural background with its neighbour country Argentina. Most Uruguayans are descended from colonial-era settlers and immigrants from Europe with almost 88% of the population being of European descent.[21]

The majority of these are Spaniards and Italians, followed by the French, Germans, Portuguese, British (English or Scots), Irish, Swiss, Russians, Poles, Croats, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Latvians, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Belgians, Austrians, Greeks, Scandinavians, Armenians and Turkish. There are also smaller numbers of Georgian and Lebanese people.

Many Swiss colonies such as Colonia Suiza, Colonia Valdense and Nueva Helvecia are located in the department of Colonia. Also, there are towns founded by early British settlers, like Conchillas and Barker. A Russian colony called San Javier, is found in the department of Río Negro. Also there are Mennonite colonies in the department of Río Negro and in the department of Canelones. One of them, called El Ombú, is famous for its well-known Dulce de Leche "Claldy", and is located near the city of Young.

Many of the European immigrants arrived in Uruguay in the late 1800s and have heavily influenced the architecture and culture of Montevideo and other major cities. For this reason, Montevideo and life within the city are very reminiscent of Western Europe.

The rest of the Uruguayan population, approximately 10%, is Black/Afro-Uruguayan of African descent (4%) and about 1 or 2% are of Asian descent, mostly are Lebanese/Syrian Arab, and Chinese or Japanese ancestry.

Amerindians make up a small population in the Rural North-West region, with Mestizos making up 6% of the Population.

Demographic distribution

People in Montevideo

Metropolitan Montevideo, with about one and a half million inhabitants, is the capital and largest city. The rest of the urban population lives in about 20 towns and cities. Montevideo is about 200 kilometers (124 miles) away from Buenos Aires in neighboring Argentina.

Uruguay is distinguished by its high literacy rate (97.3%) and a large urban middle class. During the 1970s and 1980s, an estimated six-hundred thousand Uruguayans emigrated, principally to Spain, Italy, Argentina and Brazil. Other Uruguayans went to various countries in Europe, Australia and the USA.

As a result of the low birth rate, high life expectancy, and relatively high rate of emigration of younger people, Uruguay's population is quite mature. In 2006, the country had a birth rate of 13.91 births per thousand population, lower than neighboring countries Argentina (16.73 births/1000 population)[3] and Brazil (16.56 births/1,000 population).

Church and state are officially separated. While the Government keeps no statistics concerning religious affiliation, a 2004 survey published in the daily newspaper El Pais reported that 54% of those interviewed described themselves as Roman Catholics, 11% as Protestants, 9% as believers without a religious affiliation, and 26% as nonbelievers.[22]

Although the majority of Uruguayans do not actively practice a religion, they are nominally members of the Catholic Church and other communities. Political observers consider Uruguay as the most secular country in South America.[23]

Uruguay has a traditional mixed economy welfare state program since the 1990s.

Cultural and linguistic similarities, coupled with the short distances between Uruguayan cities and the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, have encouraged many very talented Uruguayans to settle in Argentina. Some famous Uruguayans who excelled in Argentina are entrepreneur and financier Juan Navarro, sports journalist Victor Hugo Morales, singer and actress Natalia Oreiro, football/soccer players Antonio Alzamendi, Enzo Francescoli and Carlos Goyen, actress China Zorrilla, entertainer Carlos Gardel, Carlos Perciavalle and former playboy and journalist Luis César Avilés.

Emigration to the United States also rose recently, but remains a small part of the US Hispanic population. The majority of Uruguayans in the US live in Miami, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C..


Uruguayan Spanish has some Italian modifications due to the considerable number of Italian immigrants. As is the case with neighboring Argentina, Uruguay employs both voseo and yeismo (with [ʃ] or [ʒ]). English is common in the business world, and its study has risen significantly in recent years, especially among the youth. However, it is still a minority language, as are French and Italian. Other languages include Portuguese and Portuñol, a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese. Both are spoken in the northern regions near the Brazilian border.


The current vehicle registration plate design was introduced in the 2000s. The departments previously issued their own plates, each with a unique design.


Paved roads connect Montevideo to other urban centers in the country, the main highways leading to the border and neighboring cities. Numerous unpaved roads connect farms and small towns. Overland trade has increased markedly since Mercosur (Southern Common Market) was formed in the 1990s. Most of the country’s domestic freight and passenger service is by road rather than rail.


The basic railroad network, purchased from the British after World War I, is outdated and no longer in use except for a small line that runs from Montevideo to San José passing through the cities of Las Piedras and Canelones (as of February 2009).


Oceangoing ships call mainly at Montevideo. Vessels of various sizes navigate the inland waters, and a hydrofoil service connects Buenos Aires and Montevideo across the Río de la Plata.


An international airport lies near the Carrasco beach resort some 13 miles (21 km) from downtown Montevideo. The government-owned airline, Primeras Líneas Uruguayas de Navegación Aérea (PLUNA), links Montevideo with some international destinations.


Telecommunications in Uruguay are more developed than in most other Latin American countries, being the first country in the Americas to achieve complete digital telephony coverage in 1997. The telephone system is completely digitized and has very good coverage of all the country. The system is government-owned, and since the 1990s there have been controversial proposals to privatize it, or at least to sell some of its shares, which have been voted against by the people, the exception being the mobile phone market, shared by the state owned company Ancel, and two private companies, Movistar and Claro.


Uruguay has an impressive legacy of artistic and literary traditions, especially for its small size. The contribution of its alternating conquerors and diverse immigrants has resulted in native traditions that integrate this diversity. Uruguay has centuries old remains, fortresses of the colonial era. Its cities have a rich architectural heritage and an impressive number of writers, artists, and musicians. Uruguayan tango is the form of dance that originated in the neighborhoods of Montevideo, Uruguay towards the end of the 19th century. Tango, candombe, and murga are the three main styles of music.


A "livable sculpture," Carlos Páez Vilaró's Casapueblo is his home, hotel and museum.

A prominent exponent of Afro-Uruguayan art is abstract painter and sculptor Carlos Páez Vilaró. He drew from both Timbuktu and Mykonos to create his best-known work: Casapueblo. His home, hotel and atelier near Punta del Este, Casapueblo is a "livable sculpture," and draws thousands of visitors from around the world.[24] The 19th-century painter Juan Manuel Blanes, whose works depict historical events, was the first Uruguayan artist to gain widespread recognition. The Post-Impressionist painter Pedro Figari achieved international renown for his pastel studies of subjects in Montevideo and the countryside. Blending elements of art and nature, the work of the landscape architect Leandro Silva Delgado has also earned international prominence.

Uruguay has a small but growing film industry, and movies such as Whisky by Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll (2004) and Marcelo Bertalmío’s Los días con Ana (2000: Days with Ana) have earned international honours.


The folk and popular music of Uruguay shares with Argentina not only its gaucho roots but also the tango. One of the most famous tangos, La Cumparsita (1917), was written by the Uruguayan composer Gerardo Matos Rodríguez. The candombe is a folk dance performed at Carnival mainly by Uruguayans of African ancestry. The guitar is the preferred musical instrument; and, in a popular traditional contest called the payada, two singers, each with a guitar, take turns improvising verses to the same tune. Numerous radio stations and musical events reflect the popularity of rock music and Caribbean genres known as música tropical (“tropical music”). Early classical music in Uruguay showed heavy Spanish and Italian influence, but since the 20th century a number of composers of classical music, including Eduardo Fabini, Vicente Ascone and Héctor Tosar, have made use of Latin American musical idioms.


José Enrique Rodó (1871–1917), a modernist, is considered Uruguay’s most significant literary figure. His book Ariel (1900) deals with the need to maintain spiritual values while pursuing material and technical progress. Besides stressing the importance of upholding spiritual over materialistic values, it also stresses resisting cultural dominance by Europe and the United States. The book continues to influence young writers. Outstanding among Latin American playwrights is Florencio Sánchez (1875–1910), who wrote plays about contemporary social problems that are still performed today

From about the same period and somewhat later came the romantic poetry of Juan Zorrilla de San Martín (1855–1931) - who wrote epic poems about Uruguayan history -, Juana de Ibarbourou (1895–1979), Delmira Agustini (1866–1914), Idea Vilariño (1920–2009) and the short stories of Horacio Quiroga. The psychological stories of Juan Carlos Onetti (such as No Man's Land and The Shipyard) have earned widespread critical praise, as have the writings of Mario Benedetti. Uruguay’s best-known contemporary writer is Eduardo Galeano, author of Las venas abiertas de América Latina (1971; "Open Veins of Latin America") and the trilogy Memoria del fuego (1982–87; "Memory of Fire"). Other modern Uruguayan writers include Mario Levrero, Sylvia Lago, Jorge Majfud and Jesús Moraes. Uruguayans of many classes and backgrounds enjoy reading historietas, comic books that often blend humour and fantasy with thinly veiled social criticism.


Uruguay is South America's most secular country. It has no official religion and church and state are separate. Religious freedom is guaranteed. Sixty-six percent of Uruguayans are Roman Catholics. Most Uruguayans baptize their children and marry in churches but less than half attend church on a regular basis. There is a small Jewish community in Montevideo (about 1% of the population) as well as several evangelical Protestant groups (about 11%). Macumba and Umbanda, religions of Afro-Brazilian origin, are currently growing in Uruguay.


Uruguayans are known to eat a lot of meat, such as asado. The parrillada (beef platter), chivito (a substantial steak sandwich), and pasta are the national dishes. The latter is due to Uruguay's many Italian immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Other Uruguayan dishes include morcilla dulce, a type of blood sausage cooked with ground orange fruit, orange peel and walnuts, and milanesa, a breaded veal cutlet similar to the Austrian Wiener Schnitzel. Snacks include olímpicos (club sandwiches), húngaras (spicy sausage in a hot dog roll), and masas surtidas (bite-sized pastries). Typical drinks include mate, tea, clericó (a mixture of white wine and fruit juice), medio y medio (part sparkling wine and part white wine), and red wine.

The cuisine of Uruguay is traditionally based on its European roots, like Mediterranean foods from Italy, Spain and France, but also Germany. Many foods from those countries such as pasta, sausages, and desserts are common in the nation's diet. A sweet paste, Dulce de Leche is the national obsession, used to fill cookies, cakes, pancakes, milhojas, and alfajores. The alfajores are shortbread cookies sandwiched together with Dulce de Leche or a fruit paste. Dulce de Leche is used also in flan con Dulce de Leche. On rainy days, the traditional snack is "tortas fritas," a food similar to Indian fry bread, fried in lard.

The national drink is the Grappamiel. Grappamiel is an alcoholic drink which is very popular in rural areas. It is distilled from sugar cane and honey. It is often consumed in the cold mornings of autumn and winter to warm up the body.

A traditional drink is an infusion called mate. The dried leaves and twigs of the yerba mate plant (Ilex paraguariensis) are placed in a small cup made from a gourd. Hot water is then poured into the gourd at near-boiling point so as to not burn the herb and spoil the flavour. The drink is sipped through a metal or cane straw, known as a Bombilla.

  • Asado: both the tradition of grilling beef over embers (which translates to barbecue in American English), and the dish, "tira de asado".
  • Chivito: a baroque sandwich containing steak, ham, cheese, tomato, lettuce, fried egg, red pepper, olives and mayonnaise.
  • Chorizo al pan: a very popular Uruguayan fast food. A grilled "chorizo" and a crusty bread such as a baguette, with tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise.
  • Empanada : a small pie or turnover, most commonly filled with meat or ham and cheese.
  • Empanada Gallega: a fish pie, with sauce, onions and green peppers. Brought by the immigrants from Galicia.
  • Fainá: a mix of chick pea flour, salt, water and olive oil, originally called "farinata" cooked like a pizza on a flat tray. Brought by immigrants from Liguria (Italy).
  • Gnocchi (known as "ñoquis") is traditionally eaten on the 29th day of each month. This was the day before payday, when people were at their poorest. Gnocchi made a cheap meal prepared from only mashed potatores and flour and provided a hearty meal. On these occasions, some people leave a coin or a banknote under the plate to attract prosperity.
  • Húngara: very similar to the Frankfurter, but very spicy.
  • Milanesa: a thin, breaded steak. There is a great variety, such as: Milanesa Napolitana (with ham, mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce), Milanesa Rellena and Suprema Maryland (made with chicken meat).
  • Lehmeyun: an Armenian dish, brought by the Armenian immigrants.
  • Pancho: the typically Uruguayan hot dog: a bun called "pan de Viena" filled with a "Frankfurter" with mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise or "salsa golf" on top.
  • Pascualina: a spinach pie, not unlike the spinach pies found throughout the Mediterranean. The name makes a reference to Pascua, 'Easter'.
  • Pastel de carne: in English: meat pie. Chopped meat, mashed potatoes, green peppers, olives, eggs.
  • Russian salad: potatoes, carrots, peas and mayonnaise.

Due to its strong Italian tradition, all the famous Italian pasta dishes are found in Uruguay: ravioli, spaghetti, lasagna, tortellini, fettuccine, cannelloni, fusilli, agnolotti, tagliatelle, capellini, vermicelli, penne rigatti, fagioloni, cellentani, rotini, bucatini, farfalle and the traditional gnocchi. Although the pasta can be served with a lot of sauces, there is one special sauce that was created by Uruguayans. The Caruso Sauce is a pasta sauce made from double cream, meat extract, onions, ham and mushrooms. It is very popular with sorrentinos and agnolotti. There is also a huge variety of pizza, as well as calzone, fugazzetas, figazzas, fainás, and cheese fainá.

  • Alfajores: shortbread cookies, sandwiched together with Dulce de Leche or a fruit paste.
  • Bizcochos: buttery flaky pastry with many variants, the croissants being one of the most popular.
  • Budín inglés: in English: "English pudding". A pudding with fruits and nuts, very popular in Christmas and New Year's Eve.
  • Chajá: a dessert with meringue, sponge cake, "Chajá" cream and peaches. It is created by a well know firm in the city of Paysandú.[25]
  • Dulce de leche: a sweet treat made of milk and sugar. Is used in many Uruguayan desserts.
  • Dulce de membrillo: a sweet quince paste.
  • Flan: is a kind of rich custard dessert with a layer of soft caramel on top. It can be served with Dulce de Leche too (Flan con dulce de leche).
  • Garrapiñada: a very popular treat, made with peanuts, cocoa, vanilla and sugar. It is sold in little bags in the downtown streets.
  • Martín Fierro: a slice of cheese and a slice of quince paste (dulce de membrillo).
  • Pastafrola: an pie made of quince paste (dulce de membrillo).
  • Ricardito: Also as popular, this is a cream filled treat, covered with chocolate on a waffle base. It has different variants and it's sold in most kiosks in individual boxes.
  • Strudel: the famous apple pastry from Germany.


Centenario Stadium

The main sport in Uruguay is football (soccer). In 1924, Uruguay sent its national team to the Olympics in Paris, the first South American nation to compete in Europe. They won gold at the competition, as well as at the next Olympics in Amsterdam in 1928. In addition, the Uruguay national football team is one of only five nations to win the FIFA World Cup on two or more occasions. In 1930, Uruguay hosted the first ever World Cup and went on to win the competition, defeating Argentina 4–2 in the final. Uruguay won the 1950 FIFA World Cup as well, famously defeating the favored hosts, Brazil, 2–1 in the last game of the final series. Uruguay is by far the smallest country, population wise, to win a World Cup. Out of the World Cup winners, the nation with the second smallest population is Argentina (winners of the 1978 and 1986 editions), which has over 40 million people according to the latest estimate; the 2002 census has Uruguay's current population slightly under 3.4 million. In fact, only six nations with population smaller than Uruguay have ever participated in any World Cup.

Uruguay is also the smallest member nation of CONMEBOL, South American Football Association. Nevertheless, the Uruguayan national team has won the Copa América 14 times, a record it shares with Argentina.

The most popular football teams in Uruguay are Club Nacional de Football (Three times World champions, three times Copa Libertadores de América champions, two times Copa Interamericana champions, one time Recopa Sudamericana champions) and Club Atlético Peñarol (Three times World champions, five times Copa Libertadores de América champions). Those two, are followed by, Defensor Sporting Club, Danubio, historic teams as Montevideo Wanderers, and other popular teams like Cerro and Rampla Juniors. Uruguay has had many great known players such as Obdulio Varela, Juan Schiaffino, Enzo Francescoli, Alvaro Recoba and Diego Forlan (2005 and 2009 European Golden Shoe winner).


Uruguay was the first country to have reached, in 2009, full coverage of their primary students (and their teachers) population by the OLPC's (One Laptop Per Child) XO through the Plan Ceibal. Due to their telecommunication infrastructure, students from primary schools from all over the country are able to access the Internet and its corresponding huge resources base. The Plan Ceibal included training of primary teachers to use the XO system, to maximize results. This represented a total of 350,000 primary students and their 16,000 teachers.[26]

Estancia tourism

A heartland of historic estancias : Estancia San Eugenio, Casupá, southern department of Flórida

Estancia tourism is based upon traditional, folkloristic and/or historical elements of Uruguay and the remaining resources of the historic ranches (estancias) from Uruguay's "golden era".

International rankings

Political and economic rankings
GDP per capita – 60th highest, at I$11,969
Human Development Index – 46th high, at 0.852
Income Equality, 0.449 (Gini Index)
Literacy Rate – 51st, at 97.7%
Unemployment rate – 112th, at 8.70%
Health rankings
Fertility rate- 140th most fertile, at 1.85 per woman
Birth rate – 157th most births, at 13.91 per 1000 people
Infant mortality – 128th most deaths, at 1 per 1000 live births
Death rate – 84th highest death rate, at 9.16 per 1000 people
Life Expectancy – 47th highest, at 76.4 years
Suicide Rate – 24th highest suicide rate, at 15.1 for males and 6.4 for females per 100,000 people
HIV/AIDS rate – 108th most cases, at 0.30%
Other rankings
CO2 emissions – 125th highest emissions, at 1.65 tonnes per capita
Electricity Consumption – 88th highest consumption of electricity, at 7,762,000,000 kWh
Broadband Internet access – no data
Global Peace Index – 25th highest peace rate in 2009
Comparative ranking by index
Index (Year) Author / Editor / Source Year of
Human Poverty, HPI-1 (2005)(3) United Nations (UNDP)[27]
Poverty below $2 a day (1990–2005)(4) United Nations (UNDP)[28]
Global Peace (2009) The Economist[29]
140 21º
Corruption Perception (2008)(6) Transparency International[30]
180 23º
Democracy (2006) The Economist[31]
167 23º
Prosperity Index (2008) Legatum Institute[32]
104 36º
Press Freedom (2007) Reporters Without Borders[33]
169 37º
Economic Freedom (2008) The Wall Street Journal[34]
157 38º
Human Development (2005) United Nations (UNDP)[35]
177 46º
Quality-of-life (2005) The Economist[36]
111 46º
Travel and Tourism Competitiveness (2008) World Economic Forum[37]
130 63º
Global Competitiveness (2009–2010) World Economic Forum[38]
131 65º
Income inequality (1989–2007)(5) United Nations (UNDP)[39]
126 88º
(1) Worldwide ranking among countries evaluated.
(2) Ranking among the 20 Latin American countries (Puerto Rico is not included).
(3) Ranking among 108 developing countries with available data only.
(4) Ranking among 71 developing countries with available data only. Countries in the sample surveyed between 1990 and 2005. Refers to population below income poverty line as defined by the World Bank's $2 per day indicator
(5) Because the Gini coefficient used for the ranking corresponds to different years depending of the country, and the underlying household surveys differ in method and in the type of data collected, the distribution data are not strictly comparable across countries. The ranking therefore is only a proxy for reference purposes, and though the source is the same, the sample is smaller than for the HDI
(6) The 2008 CPI for Uruguay is equal to that of Chile, therefore both countries are tied in first place for Latin America.


  1. ^ a b c d e Central Intelligence Agency. "Uruguay". The World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/uy.html. Retrieved January 5, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Uruguay". International Monetary Fund. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2009/02/weodata/weorept.aspx?sy=2006&ey=2009&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=298&s=NGDPD%2CNGDPDPC%2CPPPGDP%2CPPPPC%2CLP&grp=0&a=&pr.x=72&pr.y=15. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  3. ^ "CIA - The World Factbook - Field Listing - Distribution of family income - Gini index". Cia.gov. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2172.html. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  4. ^ "Uruguay". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2008. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/620116/Uruguay#tab=active~checked%2Citems~checked&title=Uruguay%20--%20Britannica%20Online%20Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2008-09-02. "Official name: Oriental Republic of Uruguay" 
  5. ^ "Extended National Household Survey, 2006: Ancestry" (in Spanish) (pdf). National Institute of Statistics. http://www.ine.gub.uy/enha2006/flash/Flash%20Ascendencia.pdf. 
  6. ^ Transparency.org.
  7. ^ http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/20071129-1132-uruguay-gay-.html
  8. ^ Ministerio de Turismo y Deporte del Uruguay (Spanish, English and Portuguese)
  9. ^ Scott Meyers, Los Años Oscuros 1967-1987Editorial Latina 1997.
  10. ^ "Uruguay in Numbers" (in Spanish) (pdf). National Institute of Statistics. http://www.ine.gub.uy/biblioteca/uruguayencifras2006/Territorio%20y%20medio%20ambiente.pdf. 
  11. ^ http://www.rau.edu.uy/uruguay/geografia/records.txt
  12. ^ http://gosouthamerica.about.com/library/blUrurfactpage.htm About.com: Go South America, based on information from the CIA World Factbook.
  13. ^ Diego Stewart, Building out: Uruguay exports architectural services to India and Latin America," in Latin Trade, May 2005. Retrieved August 11, 2007.
  14. ^ Michael Fox, Uruguay's Frente Amplio: From Revolution to Dilution, June 19, 2007. Retrieved August 11, 2007.
  15. ^ BBC (See leaders, President Tabare Vazquez 'On taking office he announced a $100m emergency plan to help the poor'
  16. ^ Uruguay Unemployment Falls Sharply To 6.4% In October - INE. NASDAQ.
  17. ^ Politics and International Relations Data Bank at the Social Science School at the Universidad de la República (Uruguay)
  18. ^ Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2008
  19. ^ The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index of Democracy 2008 (pdf)
  20. ^ "2006/cpi/surveys_indices/policy_research". Transparency.org. http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2006. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  21. ^ Constituciones Hispanoamericanas - Constituciones - Uruguay
  22. ^ International Religious Freedom Report 2007
  23. ^ UMM | Latin American Area Studies - Countries
  24. ^ Carlos Páez Vilaró
  25. ^ Postre Chaja
  26. ^ http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plan_Ceibal
  27. ^ UNPD Human Development Report 2007/2008. "Table 3: Human poverty index: developing countries" (PDF). http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/hdr_20072008_en_indicator_tables.pdf. Retrieved 2008-03-20.  page 240
  28. ^ UNPD Human Development Report 2007/2008. "Table 3: Human poverty index: developing countries" (PDF). http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/hdr_20072008_en_indicator_tables.pdf. Retrieved 2008-03-20.  page 238–240
  29. ^ The Economist Intelligence Unit et al. (Vision of Humanity website). "Global Peace Index Rankings". http://www.visionofhumanity.org/gpi/results/rankings/. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  30. ^ Transparency International. "2008 Corruption Perception Index Ranking Table". http://www.transparency.org/news_room/in_focus/2008/cpi2008/cpi_2008_table. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  31. ^ The Economist Intelligence Unit. "The World in 2007, Democracy Index 2006" (PDF). http://www.economist.com/media/pdf/DEMOCRACY_INDEX_2007_v3.pdf. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  32. ^ "The 2008 Legatum Prosperity Index Table 2008" (PDF). Legatum Institute. http://www.prosperity.com/downloads/2008LegatumPItable.pdf. Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  33. ^ Reporters Without Borders. "Corea del Norte, Turkmenistán y Eritrea: el trío infernal de la libertad de prensa" (in Spanish). http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=19387. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  34. ^ The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. "Index of Economic Freedom 2008". http://www.heritage.org/research/features/index/countries.cfm. Retrieved 2008-03-14. 
  35. ^ UNPD Human Development Report 2007/2008. "Table 1: Human development index" (PDF). http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/hdr_20072008_en_indicator_tables.pdf. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  36. ^ The Economist Intelligence Unit. "Pocket World in Figures 2008" (PDF). http://www.economist.com/media/pdf/QUALITY_OF_LIFE.pdf. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  37. ^ World Economic Forum (2008). "The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2008" (PDF). http://www.weforum.org/pdf/CGR08/Rankings.pdf. Retrieved 2008-03-09. 
  38. ^ World Economic Forum. "The Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010". http://www.gcr.weforum.org/. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  39. ^ UNPD Human Development Report 2007/2008. "Inequality in income or expenditure". http://hdrstats.undp.org/indicators/147.html. Retrieved 2008-03-14. 

External links

Related information

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

South America : Uruguay
Quick Facts
Capital Montevideo
Government Constitutional republic
Currency Uruguayan peso (UYU)
Area total: 176,220 km2
land: 173,620 km2
water: 2,600 km2
Population 3,386,575 (July 2002 est.)
Language Spanish (official), Portuñol, or Brasilero (Portuguese-Spanish mix on the Brazilian frontier)
Religion Roman Catholic 66%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, nonprofessing or other 31%
Calling Code +598
Internet TLD .uy
Time Zone UTC -3

Uruguay [1] is a country in South America. It has a south Atlantic Ocean coastline and lies between Argentina to the west and Brazil to the north. It is the second-smallest country in South America (after Suriname). Often called the Switzerland of South America not for geographical features but for a stable democracy and social benefits such as free education. In 2002 Uruguay faced one of its biggest economic crises which had very negative effects on crime, and although the activity levels in 2008 were at pre crisis levels, crime is sill relatively high, but still low for the region. Long a desired country for immigration, Uruguay has been suffering from high levels emigration for almost four decades, mainly of highly trained workers and people with high level studies (brain drain) seeking for better opportunities abroad.

Uruguay has a rich agricultural and civic history within its indigenous people. The dominant pre-20th century live stock driving techniques are still utilized in some areas, and are less visited tourist attractions than the pleasant beaches and city centers.


Uruguay is divided in 19 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); Artigas, Canelones, Cerro Largo, Colonia, Durazno, Flores, Florida, Lavalleja, Maldonado, Montevideo, Paysandu, Rio Negro, Rivera, Rocha, Salto, San Jose, Soriano, Tacuarembo, Treinta y Tres

Map of Uruguay
Map of Uruguay

Beaches on the Atlantic Ocean (Punta del diablo, Fortaleza de Santa Teresa, Cabo Polonio), birdwatching in Rocha touristic "estancias".


The name Uruguay means river of the colorful birds. It is related to the name Guyana: Arawak Guayana, land of many waters.

The country has a mostly low-lying landscape. Cerro Catedral, the country's highest point, is 514 m high.


Subtropical. Due to the absence of nearby mountains, which act as weather barriers, all locations are particularly vulnerable to rapid changes from weather fronts.


A Marxist urban guerrilla movement, the Tupamaros, launched in the late 1960s, led Uruguay's president to agree to military control of his administration in 1973. By the end of the year the rebels had been crushed, but the military continued to expand its hold throughout the government, with widespread torture of political opponents. Civilian rule was not restored until 1985. Uruguay's political and labor conditions are among the most free on the continent. In 2004, a leftist coalition which included the Tupamaros won elections which left them in control of both houses of congress, the presidency, and most city and regional governments.

Get in

Holders of passports (or MERCOSUR ID cards) from the following countries can enter without a visa: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, South Korea, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal , Dominican Republic, Czech Republic, Romania, South Africa, Seychelles, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela. Travellers from other countries should contact the local consular section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [2]. But usually Uruguay has its frontiers open to tourists and visitors from all countries and it is quite easy to get in or out.

By plane

Pluna [3] (the Uruguayan carrier) and Iberia have connecting flights from São Paulo, Asunción, Santiago de Chile and Madrid.

There are other companies that also have flights to Montevideo. American Airlines has a non-stop flight from Miami to Montevideo. The flight is 4 times a week and runs all year round, the other three days it connects via Buenos Aires (EZE). Most long haul flights from Montevideo stop in Buenos Aires, Santiago, or Sao Paulo before going on.

Iberia, the Spanish airline also provides very regular flights between Europe and Uruguay, and LAN connects to Australia and New Zealand via Chile.

By train

There are limited commuter train services around Montevideo. There are some tourist trains which do not have a fixed schedule. You need to find announcements for them at the Montevideo train station. There is no regular long distance train service. The most usual means of public transport is the bus (inside Montevideo inner buses and from Montevideo to other main cities of the country).

By car

The highways are in good shape. Speed limit is 90 km/hour to 110 km/hour on most of them but it's not enforced. Most people go about 120 km/h and slow down a little when they see a highway patrol car! The main highway is the one that goes from Montevideo to Punta Del Este (main tourist city of Uruguay), it is double lane from both sides. However this is strange since most of the highways are single lane and therefore you should take precautions when driving long distances (a "long distance" in Uruguay is 500 km max), trying to pass another car. Always keep your distance from the car in front of you. Signaling is good enough. Take notice of the emergency phone numbers on the highways and keep them noted. Uruguay is not a dangerous country, but since it is mostly agricultural if your car breaks down it can take you a while for you to walk to a phone. It is recommended to carry a cell phone with you, cell phone coverage by Ancel (the state company and main provider) is pretty decent. In Uruguay drive on the right. You should have the "carta verde" licence to drive in Uruguay, you can find it in the embassy.

By bus

There are many buses running from the Brazilian cities of Porto Alegre, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Bus service is very extended and there are many services that run from Montevideo to different cities across the country. Terminal Tres Cruces [4], Agencia Central and Terminal Ciudad Vieja are the three main hubs. Travel by bus is very safe. International Services are available to Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre, (Brazil), most of the Argentinian Provinces (Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Mendoza, Entre Rios), Asuncion (Paraguay) and Santiago de Chile (Chile). The service is catered and buses have an outstanding level of service, much better than the average European service.

Bus service to Buenos Aires has been made much longer due to the ongoing conflict between Uruguay and Argentina over a cellulose plant built on the uruguayan side of the boarder at Frey Bentos. Because of the conflict the bridge has been blocked, and will remain blocked until the conflict is resolved. For this reason it's much better to take the ferry from colonia rather than do the whole trip via bus.

By boat

The Buquebus [5] ferry service operates between Buenos Aires, Argentina, and both Colonia del Sacramento and Montevideo, Uruguay. Some services continue from there to Punta del Este. For the Buquebus-Ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento there are two options. One takes three hours and the other one hour to get there. A ticket for the one-hour ferry is about 124A$ (07/2008, 26EUR, 40US$).

Get around


Uruguay has an extensive internal bus system. Non-local / departmental buses leave from the Tres Cruces station which also serves the international buses. The buses are frequent and many companies serve the same routes.


Taxis in Uruguay are safe and fairly affordable, costing about $2 USD per km. All taxis in Uruguay use meters and have fixed costs.

Hitch Hiking

In rural areas hitch hiking is fairly common and as safe as hitching is anywhere. Uruguay has the lowest level of violent crime in Latin America outside Cuba. If you are female don't hitch hike alone. Play it safe but it's more likely that the car is going to crash (1 in 100 chance) then something bad is going to happen.


Spanish is spoken everywhere. The pronunciation and the use of the vos pronoun instead of tu is practically identical to the Spanish variety spoken in Argentina. Examples of "vos" and the different verbs forms can be found at Voseo Spanish [6].

Portuñol (or Brasilero) is a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish used on the Brazilian border.

Amerindian traits can be found everywhere in Uruguayan culture, from cuisine to vocabulary.(But there is no amerindian population left)

Most Uruguayans living in the cities have studied some English at school but do not actually speak it. Outside Montevideo and Punta del Este there are few English speakers. You will find English spoken in most tourist spots (shopping centers and in Punta del Este) and some restaurants will probably have English-speaking staff.


The Uruguayan currency is the peso. Prices are often quoted using the U$ symbol, which may be easily confused with the US$ (US dollar) symbol. As of December 2007,

  • 1 U$ (peso) = US$ 0.050 (five cents)
  • 1 U$ (peso) = Euro €0,033 (three cents)

Prices in Uruguay are considerably lower than in the US or Western Europe and comparable (if a little higher) to other Latin American countries.

Popular items to buy include yerba mate gourds and antiques.


Prices: Uruguayan cuisine is typical for temperate countries, high on butter, fat, and grains, low on spice. If you are from the Mediterranean, you will find it bland, but if you come from the UK or Russia or the Midwestern US, you won't have trouble getting used to it.

  • Breakfast for 4 people can cost as little as $58 pesos (US$3) in a supermarket
  • 1 box(1 litro) of Tropical Fruit Juice - $35 pesos
  • 2 packages(5 ounce each) of coconut biscuits - $28 pesos

There are many public markets where you can get a hundred varieties of meat. Vegetarians can order ravioli just about anywhere.

Empanadas (hand-sized meat or cheese pies) make an excellent portable, inexpensive, and delicious snack or lunch. You can find them easily at many corner bakeries.

At bars the local specialty is gramajo, a dish made of fried potatoes, eggs, and ham. If you ask they can make it without the ham. One dish that should not be missed is chivito, a heart-attack-on-a-platter sandwich that combines a combination of excellent Uruguayan meat, tomato, lettuce, onion, eggs, ham, bacon, mozzarella cheese and mayonnaise and fries. The meat is excellent, "asado" is typical from Uruguay (try it at the "del Puerto" market, in Montevideo); the fish and other sea food is good.

For desserts, dulce de leche, a kind of caramel, is found in all manner of confections, from ice cream to alfajores (dulce de leche-filled cookie sandwiches).


Yerba Mate is widely drunk on the streets, but can hardly be ordered in restaurants. You may have to buy a package at a super mercado and make your own. The drinking gourds are widely available and range from economical to super-luxe silver and horn. Yerba Mate is a social drink. If you are with a group of Uruguayans they will probably not offer you any because they assume that foreigners do not like the bitter taste. If you try some it will make everybody happy.

Uruguay is also acquiring a reputation for its fine wines, especially those made from the Tannat grape.


For nature lovers, birdwatchers, and those seeking a respite from the fast-paced world, there are many "estancias" in serene and peaceful environments, surrounded by many species of native and migrating birds, which offer an unique opportunity to reconnect with nature.

There are many more beach houses to rent along the coast than actual hotel rooms. They are plentiful, and outside the high season affordable. During the first two weeks of January it's impossible to find anything, every cottage and hotel room is booked months in advance.


There are numerous English language schools which are looking for native speakers as teachers. They can arrange papers or pay teachers under the table. The pay is not good, but enough to live on in Montevideo. Work permits are not particularly difficult to obtain and Uruguay lets you convert a tourist visa to a work visa without leaving the country. Residency visas without permission to work simply require you prove access to $500 USD a month. Work permits are not particularly hard to get.

Stay safe

Crime may be a problem in Uruguay. Precautions should be taken. Montevideo provides the highest opportunity for a run-in with pickpockets. However, Uruguay is one of the most secure countries in the region.

In an emergency, call 911 or 999.

Stay healthy

Tap water is safe to drink in all major cities. The Hospital Britanico near the Tres Cruces central bus terminal has European-quality service and is clean and efficient. Just don't make any unwise drinking decisions.


Uruguay is a socially progressive country. Women got the vote in Uruguay 12 years before France. Uruguay is a secular state unlike Argentina, Chile or Paraguay; the Uruguayan state has not supported any religion since 1917. The population is mainly Catholic, but not very practicing.

Uruguay is not particularly open to its gay and lesbian communities in comparison to Brazil. There are a few gay and lesbian bars in Montevideo and in Punta del Este, but outside those two cities there is no public "queer" community. The only public monument to sexual diversity is in Ciudad Vieja (the old city). However, it was the first Latin American country to pass a civil union law and is considered to be safe and welcoming to gay and lesbian visitors. Civil unions are legal in Uruguay, which convey the full rights of marriage, and there is currently a law in the works to legalize full gay and transgendered marriage. Even in rural areas gay travelers and expats experience little overt discrimination.

Uruguayans are somewhat sensitive about their relationships with Argentina; avoid comparing them to Argentines. The similarly sounding country Paraguay has very little in common with Uruguay.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

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URUGUAY (officially the Oriental Republic of the Uruguay, and long locally called the Banda Oriental, meaning the land on the eastern side of the river Uruguay, from which the country takes its name), the smallest independent state in South America. It runs conterminous with the southern border of Brazil, and lies between 30° and 35° S. and between 53° 25' and 57° 42' W. (for map, see Argentina). It has a seaboard on the Atlantic Ocean of 120 m., a shore-line to the south on the Rio de la Plata of 235 m., and one of 270 m. along the Uruguay on the west. The boundaries separating it from Rio Grande do Sul, a province of Brazil, are Lake Mirim, the rivers Chuy, Jaguarao and Quarahy, and a cuchilla or low range of hills called Santa Ana. The extent of the northern frontier is 450 m. The southern half of the country is mostly undulating grass land, well watered by streams and springs. The northern section is more broken and rugged; barren ridges and low rocky mountain-ranges, interspersed with fertile valleys, being its characteristic features. There is no forest, timber of any size being found only in the valleys near running water. Uruguay is intersected nearly from west to north-east by the river Negro and its affluent the Yi. The Uruguay is navigable all the year by steamers from the island From Strasburger's Lehrbuch der Botanik, by permission of Gustav Fischer.

FIG. I. - Stinging Hair of Urtica dioica, with a portion of the epidermis, and, to the right, a small bristle (X60).

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FIG. 2. - Male Flowerof the Nettle (Urtica). The four sepals are arranged symmetrically, an outer median and an inner lateral pair. A stamen is opposite each sepal, and in the centre of the flower is the rudiment of a pistil.

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of Martin Garcia at the mouth to Salto (200 m.). Above this place the navigation is interrupted by rapids. The ordinary volume of water in the Uruguay averages 1 r millions of cub. ft. per minute. Excluding the Uruguay, the Negro, of which the principal port is Mercedes, is the principal navigable river. Others are navigable only for short distances by steamers of light draught. Besides the rivers mentioned, the chief streams are the Santa Lucia, which falls into the Plata a little west of Montevideo; the Queguay, in Paysandu; and the Cebollati, rising in the sierras in Minas and flowing into Lake Mirim. These rivers as well as the Uruguay are fed by innumerable smaller streams or arroyos, such as the Arapey in Salto, the Dayman in Paysandu, the Jaguary (an affluent of the Negro) in Tacuarembo, the Arroyo Grande between the departments of Soriano and San Jose, and the San Jose (an affluent of the Santa Lucia). None of the sierras or mountains in Uruguay exceeds (or perhaps even attains) a height of 2000 ft.; but, contrasting in their tawny colour with the grassy undulating plains, they loom high and are often picturesque. They are ramifications of the highlands of Brazil. The main chains are the Cuchilla de Haedo on the north and west and the Cuchilla Grande on the south and east.

Geology.-Little is known of the geology of Uruguay. There is a foundation of schists and crystalline rocks upon which rests a series of sandstones. The latter is, no doubt, identical with the similar sandstone series which is found in the neighbouring Brazilian province of Rio Grande do Sul, and which has there yielded plants which prove it to belong to the Permian or the upper part of the Carboniferous. The plains are covered by a formation similar to that of the Argentine pampas and by the alluvial deposits of the present rivers.

Climate.-Uruguay enjoys the reputation of possessing one of the most healthy climates in the world The geographical position ensures uniformity of temperature throughout the year, the summer heat being tempered by the Atlantic breezes, and severe cold in the winter season being unknown. Endemic diseases are unknown and epidemics are rare. In the interior, away from the sea and the shores of the great rivers, the temperature frequently rises in summer to 86° F. and in winter falls to 35°. 6. In the districts bordering on the coast the thermometer seldom falls below 37°; and only for a few moments and at long intervals has it been known to rise as high as 105°. The annual rainfall is about 43 in.

Flora.-The pastoral wealth of Uruguay, as of the neighbouring Argentine Republic, is due to the fertilizing constitutents of "pampa mud," geologically associated with gigantic antediluvian animals, whose fossil remains are abundant. The country is rich in hard woods, suitable for cabinet work and certain building purposes. The principal trees are the alder, aloe, palm, poplar, acacia, willow and eucalyptus. The montes, by which are understood plantations as well as native thickets, produce among other woods the algarrobo, a poor imitation of oak; the guayabo, a substitute for boxwood; the quebracho, of which the red kind is compared to sandalwood; and the urunday, black and white, not unlike rosewood. Indigenous palms grow in the valleys of the Sierra Jose Ignacio, also to some extent in the departments of Minas, Maldonado and Paysandu. The myrtle, rosemary, mimosa and the scarlet-flowered ceibo are common. The valleys within the hill ranges are fragrant with aromatic shrubs. In the plains below, the swards are gay with the scarlet and white verbena and other brilliant wild flowers. The country abounds in medicinal plants. The sarsaparilla even colours the water of the Rio Negro and gives it its name-the "black river." Fauna.-Among wild animals the tiger or ounce-called in the Guarani language the ja-gud or "big dog"-and the puma are found on the frontier of Brazil and on the wooded islets and banks of the larger rivers. The tapir, fox, deer, wild cat, wild dog, carpincho or water hog and a few small rodents nearly complete the list of quadrupeds. A little armadillo, the mulita, is the living representative of the antediluvian giants Mylodon, Megatherium, &c. The ostrich-Rhea americana-roams everywhere in the plains; and there are a few specimens of the vulture tribe, a native crow (lean, tall and ruffed), partridges and quails. Parakeets are plentiful in the montes, and the lagoons swarm with waterfowl. The most esteemed is the pato real, a large duck. Of the birds of bright plumage the humming-bird and the cardinal-the scarlet, the yellow and the white-are the most attractive. The fish of the lagoons and streams are coarse, and some of them primitive in type; but two or three kinds, found generally in the large rivers, are much prized. The varieties of fish on the sea coast are many and excellent. More than 2000 species of insects have been classified. The scorpion is rare, but large and venomous spiders are common. The principal reptiles are a lizard, a tortoise, the vivora de la crux (a dangerous viper, so called from marks like a cross on its head) and the rattlesnake in Maldonado and the stony lands of Minas.



Sq. Miles.



Artigas. .. ... .



Canelones. .. .. .



Cerro Largo. .. .. .



Colonia. .. .. .



Durazno. .. .. .

5, 5 2 5


Flores. .. .. .

1, 744


Florida. .. .. .

4, 7 6 3


Maldonado. .. .. .



Minas. ... .



Montevideo. ... .



Paysandu. .. .. .



Rio Negro. .. .. .



Rivera. .. ... .



Rocha. .. ... .



Salto. .. .. .

4, 863


San Jose. .. .. .



Soriano. .. .. .

3, 5 60


Tacuarembo. .. .. .



Treinta-y-Tres. ... .



Total. .


1,042, 668

Area and Population.-The area of the republic is estimated at 72,210 sq. m., and has a population of 1,042,668 according to the census of 1908 (in 1900 it was 915,647). The country is divided into 19 departments, the area and the population of which, according to the census of 1908, are given in the subjoined table: The average density of population on the above figures is 12.9 per sq. m., ranging (exclusive of Montevideo) from 47.9 in Canelones to 5.8 in Tacuarembo and 6 in Artigas. The great majority of the foreign population are Italians or Spaniards, with lesser numbers, in descending scale, of Brazilian, Argentine and French birth. British, Swiss and Germans are comparatively few. In 1907, 26,105 Italian immigrants arrived, 21,927 Spanish, 2355 British, 2315 French and 1823 German. The natives of Uruguay, though living in conditions similar to those of the Argentine population, are in general more reserved, showing more of the Indian type and less of the Spaniard. In the north there is a strong Brazilian element and the people are intensely conservative. The average annual birth-rate is about 35 per 1000, and the death-rate about 15.5 About 26% of the births are illegitimate. The principal towns are Montevideo, Salto, Paysandu and San Jose.

Agriculture.-The condition of agriculture is fairly satisfactory. In 1885 Uruguay imported most of her breadstuffs; now not only is wheat grown in sufficient quantities to meet the local demand, but a surplus (about 20,000 metric tons in 1908-9) is annually available for export. Land for farming purposes is expensive, and wages are high, leaving small profit, unless it happens that a man, with his family to assist him, works his own land. The farmers are chiefly Italians, Canary Islanders and Frenchmen. The principal crops in addition to wheat are oats, barley, maize, linseed and bird seed. Since 1890 the cultivation of the grape and the manufacture of wine have considerably extended, especially in the department of Salto, Montevideo, Canelones and Colonia. Red wine, a smaller quantity of white, grape alcohol and wine alcohol are produced. The olive-planting industry is becoming important; the trees thrive well, and the area devoted to their cultivation is annually increasing. Tobacco is also cultivated.

Cattle-breeding and sheep-farming, however, are the principal industries. The lands are admirably adapted for cattle-breeding purposes, although not capable of fattening animals. The cattle are destined chiefly for the saladero establishments for the preparation of tasajo, or jerked beef, for the Brazilian and Cuban markets, and for the Liebig factory, where large quantities of extract of meat are prepared for the European trade. Cattle-breeding is carried on in all parts of the republic, but chiefly in the departments of Salto, Paysandu and Rio Negro. In the southern districts, where the farmers are Europeans, the breed of cattle is being steadily improved by the introduction of Durham and Hereford bulls. Dairy-farming is making some progress, especially in the Swiss colony near San Jose.

Sheep-farming flourishes chiefly in Durazno and Soriano. Uruguayan wool is favourably regarded in foreign markets, on account of the clean state in which it is shipped, this being largely due to the natural conditions of the land and climate. The business of shipping live sheep and frozen mutton has not been attempted on a large scale, owing principally to the lack of facilities for loading at the port of Montevideo or elsewhere.

Table of contents


Minerals are known to exist in the northern section of the republic, and gold-mining is carried on to a small extent. Expert opinions have been advanced stating that gold-mining in Uruguay is capable of development into an important industry. The other minerals found are silver, lead, copper, magnesium and lignite coal.


The economic development of Uruguay was retarded by the corruption of successive governments, by revolutionary outbreaks, by the seizure of farm stock, without adequate compensation, for the support of military forces, by the consequences of reckless borrowing and over-trading in 1889 and 1890, and also by the transference of commercial undertakings from Montevideo to Buenos Aires between 1890 and 1897, on the opening of the harbour and docks at that port. The annual value of the imports (4.7 dollars taken at £1) was £5,101,740 in 1900 and £7,365,703 in 1908; that of exports was £6,257,600 in 1900 and £7,932,026 in 1908.

The principal imports consist of machinery, textiles and clothing, food substances and beverages, and live stock. The chief exports are animal products and agricultural products. Of the imports about 27% in value are from Great Britain, 14%% from Germany, and smaller proportions from France, Argentina, Italy, Spain, the United States and Belgium. Of the exports, France, Argentina, Belgium and Germany take the bulk. Trade is controlled by foreigners, the British being prominent in banking, finance, railway work and the higher branches of commerce; Spaniards, Italians and French in the wholesale and retail trade. Uruguayans find an insignificant place in commerce. The foreign trade passes mainly through Montevideo, wherekhe port has been greatly improved.

In addition to the natural lines of communication provided by the rivers bordering on or belonging to the republic, there are about 2240 m. of national road, besides more than 3000 m. of departmental roads. The railways had a length of 1380 m. open for traffic, and the system is steadily extending. There are over 170 m. of tramway in operation.


The legislative power of the state rests with the general assembly, consisting of two chambers, one of senators (19 in number) and one of representatives (75). The deputies of the lower house are elected for three years directly by the people, one deputy for every 3000 male adults who can read and write. One senator is named for each department by an electoral college, whose members are elected directly by the people. The senators are elected for six years, and one-third of their number retire every two years. The executive power is exercised by the president of the republic, who is elected by the general assembly for a four years' term. He is assisted by a council of ministers representing the departments of the interior, foreign affairs, finance, war and marine, industry, labour and instruction and public works. Each department or province of the republic has a governor appointed by the executive, and an administrative council, whose members are chosen by popular vote. The judicial power is vested in a high court and many subordinate courts. The general assembly elects the five judges who compose the high court. There are civil, commercial and criminal courts in Montevideo, a departmental court in each departmental capital, and a justice of the peace in each of 205 judicial districts into which the republic is divided, with sub-district courts under deputy judges in addition. The administration of justice in Uruguay has long been of bad repute. It was reformed on the above lines in 1907.

Education is much neglected, and the public-school system is inefficient. The attendance of children at the schools is small, and the instruction they receive is inferior. Primary instruction is nominally obligatory; nevertheless at the beginning of the 10th century nearly half the population over six years of age was illiterate. Montevideo possesses a university and a number of preparatory schools, a state-supported technical school and a military college. The state religion is Roman Catholic, and there is an archbishop of Montevideo with two suffragan bishops. A number of seminaries are maintained throughout the republic. Other religions are tolerated.










1904 -1905


£ 3,438,510


4,971, 660



There is a standing army with a peace strength of about 7000 officers and men. Service is nominally voluntary, though it appears that a certain amount of compulsion is exercised. In addition to this there is compulsory service in the National Guard (a) in the first class, consisting of men between seventeen and thirty years of age, liable for service with the standing army, and numbering some 15,000; (b) in the second class, for departmental service only, except in so far as it may be drawn upon to make up losses in the more active units in time of war, consisting of men from thirty to forty-five years of age, and (c) in the third class, for local garrison duty, consisting of men between forty-five and sixty years old. The army and guard are well equipped with modern arms. Finance. - Of the national revenue nearly half is derived from customs duties, taxes being levied also on real estate, licences, tobacco, stamped paper and in other ways. Nearly half the ex- penditure goes to meet debt charges, while government, internal development and defence absorb most of the remainder. The receipts for the years specified were as follows, Uruguayan dollars being converted into sterling at the par value, 4.7 = £ 1: - 1 Estimate.

In 1891, when the debt of the republic amounted to $87,789,973, or about £18,678,710, the government suspended payment of interest, and an arrangement was made with the bondholders. A new consolidated debt of £20,500,000 was issued at 32% interest, and, as security for payment of interest, 45% of the customs receipts at Montevideo was assigned. At the same time the interest guaranteed to the railway companies was reduced from 7 to 32%. In 1896 a 5% loan of £1,667,000 was issued, and the debt was subsequently increased, until on January I, 1909, it was £27,692,795, and in the same year the annual debt charge amounted to £2,185,347.

The Bank of the Republic was established in 1896 with a nominal capital of $12,000,000, and in 1899 it received the right to issue further shares amounting to $5,000,000. Its note issue (for which it has an exclusive right) may not exceed the value of half the subscribed capital. Besides a number of local banks, branches of German, Spanish, French and several British banks are established in Montevideo.

There is no Uruguayan gold coin in circulation, but the theoretical monetary unit is the gold peso national, weighing 1.697 grammes, .917 fine. The silver peso weighs 25 grammes, .900 fine. A half, fifth and tenth of a peso are coined in silver, in addition to bronze coins.

The metric system of weights and measures has been officially adopted, but the old Spanish system is still in general use. History. - In 1512 Juan Diaz de Solis entered the Paranaguazu or "sealike" estuary of the Plata and landed about 70 miles east of the present city of Montevideo. Uruguay at that time was inhabited by Indians, of whom the dominant tribe was called Charrua, a people described as physically strong and well-formed, and endowed with a natural nobility of character. Their habits were simple, and they were disfigured neither by the worst crimes nor by the primitive superstitition of savages. They are said to have revealed no vestige of religion. The Charruas are generally classified as a yellow-skinned race, of the same family as the Pampa Indians; but they are also represented as tanned almost black by the sun and air, without any admixture of red or yellow in their complexions. Almost beardless, and with thin eyebrows, they had on their heads thick, black, lustrous hair, which neither fell off nor turned grey until extreme old age. They lived principally upon fish, venison and honey. In the Guarani language "Charrua" means turbulent, and by their enemies the Charruas were accounted as such, and even ferocious, although admitted to be generous to their captives. They were a curiously taciturn and reticent race. Their weapons were the bow and arrow and stones.

Solis, on his second visit, 1515-1516, was slain by the Charruas in Colonia. Eleven years later Ramon, the lieutenant of Sebastian Cabot, was defeated by the same tribe. In 1603 they destroyed in a pitched battle a veteran force of Spaniards under Saavedra. During the next fifty years three unsuccessful attempts were made by the Spaniards to subdue this courageous people. The real conquest of Uruguay was begun under Philip III. by the Jesuit missions. It was gradually consummated by the military and commercial settlements of the Portuguese, and subsequently by the Spaniards, who established themselves formally in Montevideo under Governor Zavala of Buenos Aires in 1726, and demolished the rival Portuguese settlement in Colonia in 1777. From 1750 Montevideo enjoyed a provincial government independent of that of Buenos Aires. The American rebellion, the French Revolution and the British invasions of Montevideo and Buenos Aires (1806-7), under GeneralsAuchmuty(i 756-1 822)andJohnWhitelocke (1757-1833), all contributed to the extinction of the Spanish power on the Rio de la Plata. During the War of Independence, Montevideo was taken in 1814 by the Buenos-Airean general Alvear (see further Montevideo). A long struggle for dominion in Uruguay between Brazil and the revolutionary government of Buenos Aires was concluded in 1828, through the mediation of Great Britain, Uruguay being declared a free and independent state. The republic was formally constituted in 1830. Subsequently Juan Manuel Rosas, dictator of Buenos Aires, interfered in the intestine quarrels of Uruguay; and Montevideo was besieged by his forces, allied with the native partisans of General Oribe, for nine years (1843-52).

After the declaration of independence the history of Uruguay becomes a record of intrigues, financial ruin, and political folly and crime. The two great political factors for generations have been the Colorados and the Blancos. So far as political principles are concerned, there is small difference between them. Men are Colorados or Blancos largely by tradition and not from political conviction. The Colorados have held the government for many years, and the attempts of the Blancos to oust them have caused a series of revolutions. The military element, moreover, has frequently conspired to elect a president amenable to its demands. In 1875 General Latorre headed a conspiracy against President Ellauri and at first placed Dr Varela in power as dictator, but in 1876 proclaimed himself. In the following year Latorre caused himself to be elected president, but political unrest caused him to resign in March 1880. The president of the senate, Dr Vidal, nominally administered the government for two years, when General Santos, who had held the real power, became president: His administration was so vicious and tyrannical that the opposition organized a revolution. Their forces, however, were surprised by the government troops at Quebracho, on the Rio Negro, and defeated. Ultimately the Colorados themselves exiled Santos. He had plundered the national revenues and scorned constitutional government. The Colorados now made General Tajes president, the practical direction of the administration being in the hands of Julio Herrera y Obes. In March 1890 General Tajes handed over the presidency to Herrera y Obes, a clever but unscrupulous man, who filled every official post with his own friends and ensured the return of his supporters to the chamber. In 1891 he was obliged to suspend the service of the public debt and make arrangements by which the bondholders accepted a reduced rate of interest. The country was at this period conducted practically as if it were the private estate of the president, and no accounts of revenue or expenditure were vouchsafed to the public. In 1894 the Colorados nominated Senor Idiarte Borda for the presidency. He seemed at first inclined to govern honestly, but corruption soon became as marked as under the preceding regime. The Blancos, using the fraudulent elections in 1896 as a pretext, now broke out in armed revolt under the leadership of Aparicio Saraiva. The president made no attempt to conciliate them, and in March 1897 a body of government troops suffered a reverse. On the 25th of August 1897 Borda, after attending a Te Deum at the cathedral in Montevideo, was shot dead by a man named Arredondo, who was sentenced in 1899 to two years' imprisonment. The defence was that the murder was a political offence, and therefore not punishable as an ordinary case of assassination for personal motives.

The president of the senate, Juan Cuestas, in accordance with the constitution, assumed the duties of president of the republic. He arranged that hostilities should cease on the conditions that representation of the Blancos was allowed in Congress for certain districts where their votes were known to predominate; that a certain number of the jefes politicos should be nominated from the Blancos; that free pardon be extended to all who had taken part in the revolt; that a sufficient sum in money be advanced to allow the settlement of the expenses contracted by the insurgents; and that the electoral law be reformed on a basis allowing the people to take part freely in e1ctions. Cuestas, on attempting to reform corrupt practices, was soon threatened with another revolution, and on the 10th of February 1898 he assumed dictatorial powers, dissolved the Chambers and suspended all constitutional guarantees. In the following year he resigned and was re-elected to the presidency on the 1st of March 1899. His second term was marked by premonitions of further disorder. In July 1902 a plot for his assassination was frustrated, and in 1903, on the election of Jose Battle to the presidency, civil war broke out. On September 3, 1904, the revolutionary general Saraiva died of wounds received in battle; and later in the year peace was declared. Claudio Williman became president in 1907. The Colorados favoured Battle as his successor, and before the elections to the chamber in November 1910 the Blancos were again in arms.

See F. Bauza, La Domination Espanola en el Uruguay (Montevideo, 1880); F. A. Berro, A. de Vedia and M. de Pena, Album de la Republica Oriental del Uruguay (Montevideo, 1882); R. L. Lomba, La Republica Oriental del Uruguay (Montevideo, 1884); The Uruguay Republic, Territory and Conditions, reprinted by order of the ConsulGeneral of Uruguay (London, 1888); V. Arreguine, Historia del Uruguay (Montevideo, 1892); M. G. and E. T. Mulhall, Handbook of the River Plata (London, 1892); H. Roustan and C. M. de Pena, Uruguay en la Exposition. .. de Chicago (Montevideo, 1893) O. Aran j o, Compendio de la Geografia Nacional (Montevideo, 1894); Uruguay, its Geography, History, &c. (Liverpool, 1897); P. F. Martin, Through Five Republics (London, 1905); Anuario Estadistico and Anuario Demografico (official, Montevideo); British and American Consular Reports; Publications, Bureau of American Republics.

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  1. Country in South America. Official name: Oriental Republic of Uruguay.


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Uruguay n.

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