All You Need to Know About Uruguay

Thinking about going to Uruguay? First, you should learn a few things about the beautiful South American country.

Overview

Uruguay is located between Brazil and Argentina in South America. Though the smallest country in the continent, after Suriname, it harbors over 120 miles of the South Atlantic Ocean, which is ideal for Punta del Este, its most popular beach resort. In addition to sandy beaches, Uruguay, one of the most economically developed countries in continent, has pleasant weather which allows tourists to catch sight of the country’s beatific cities and vineyards.

Ancient History

Before Spanish discovery in 1516, Uruguay was colonized by the Charrua Indians, who comprised a small tribe that was driven south by Paraguayan Guarani Indians. The country was not immediately settled due to the Indians’ resistance against colonization and the lack of wealth in its soil. In early 17th century, the Spanish began to introduce cattle to the lands; this led to the first permanent Spanish settlement in Soriano.

Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay where 1.8 million people lives today, because of its natural harbor that was used as a commercial center for trade, became a military stronghold for the Spanish in 1726.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the British in their attempt to acquire Buenos Aires had occupied Montevideo until late 1807.

Uruguay had won independence after a struggle among Spain, Argentina and Brazil in 1828. The nation’s first constitution was put into effect on July 18, 1830.

History

The woes of the notion did not stop after its independence. From 1839 to 1852, in the Uruguayan Civil War, or Guerra Grande, the political scene of Uruguay was divided between the Colorados (liberals) and the Blancos (conservatives) who disagreed on issues of business and agricultural interests. After a long period, with interference from Brazil, Argentina, France and Britain, the two groups came to an agreement: Colorados would have control of Montevideo while Blancos would rule the agricultural lands of Uruguay.

The nation became more modernized with the help of former president Jos© Batlle y Ord³±ez, who established reforms in government participation, economy, and society.

Uruguay experienced a long battle with dictatorship which began in 1973. This led to a drastic increase in emigration from the country, and many citizens had to look for political asylum from other countries. Military government continued to elect different dictators, and massive protests broke up because of this. During these times of struggles, a large number of Uruguayans were killed, along with many missing people, who are referred to as desaparecidos, or the disappeared. It was not until 1985, did civilian rule return.

Culture

Uruguay is largely influenced by Spain, seen by its official language of Spanish. It hosts the diverse culture created by immigrants from Portugal, Italy, Germany and Russia. The nation shares many cultural aspects of its neighboring country Argentina. Music such as tango, milonga and folk are enjoyed by Uruguayans; Western musical genres have also become increasingly popular. Literature and poetry consist of references to the country’s former government and societal issues. Food, such as the beef dish parrillada and steak sandwich chivito, is also borrowed from Argentina. These are only a few aspects of the vivid culture in Uruguay.

Geography

In size comparison, Uruguay is a bit smaller than the state of Washington, with an area of more than 176, 000 square kilometers. Its climate is warm and temperate, ideal for fertile lowlands and grasslands.

Hot Spots

Colonia del Sacramento: This city, founded by the Portuguese, upholds intriguing history of Uruguay with the section of Barrio Historico. It is a popular tourist attraction for visitors because of its cobblestone streets that wind and unwind and are remnants of the Portuguese.

Montevideo, capital: With a capital of almost 2 million people, Montevideo is teeming with cultural diversity and urban life. Old architecture and buildings have been revamped to make room for boldly planned cafes, hostels and museums. Theaters for music and art and club scenes thrive in Montevideo. Expect a fun time in Uruguay’s capital.

Punta del Este: This is one of South America’s most glamorous beach resorts. Visited by designer Ralph Lauren, soccer star Zinedine Zidane, Punta is lately visited by big celebrity names'”and not without reason. Punta is comprised of white sand beaches, elegant seaside homes, high-rise apartments with beautiful view and delicious restaurants. Tourists should definitely look for this resort.

Staff, “South America: Uruguay,” CIA World Factbook