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About Montevideo and Uruguay


Uruguay (etymologically from the Guarani language, “river of coloured birds”) offers a great deal of natural landscapes as well as historical treasures, close to almost any geographical point, is a natural destination par excellence. Paradisiacal beaches wait for tranquillity lovers while other busier beaches receive those who prefer amusement or just enjoying social life. The Oriental Republic of Uruguay is named after its geographic location to the East of the Uruguay River. This geographic factor together with historical reasons has caused Uruguayan people to be named “Oriental”, although Uruguay belongs to the Western Hemisphere. Natural pastures or extensive wetlands, thermal or oceanic waters, historical monuments considered as Human Heritage, a wide range of activities such as bird or whale watching are just some of the multiple options Uruguay offers to the visitor. Preservation and care for the environment place Uruguay among countries with the best sustainability indicators, it being acknowledged by several international organisms.

Geography: Uruguay is located between 53° and 58° west longitude and 30° and 35° south latitude. It is administratively divided into 19 departments. It has an area of 176.215 square kilometres. It is bounded on the north and northeast by Brazil, on the west by Argentina, separated by the Uruguay River; and on the south by the Atlantic Ocean and the Rio de la Plata River. Uruguay has more than 120 thousand square kilometres of territorial water plus jurisdictional waters of rivers and lagoons. Amidst a landscape of meadows and low hills of unique beauty, a great sensation of peace and tranquillity enchants its visitors.

Climate: Due to its location in the Temperate Southern Zone of the Southern Hemisphere, Uruguay enjoys a moderate climate. Average temperatures range from 17º C in spring; 25º C in summer; 18º C in fall; and 12º C in winter. Highest average temperatures are experienced in December, January and February and the lowest average temperatures are experienced in June, July and August, according to the region. Predominant winds are from the North, which are wet and hot; and from the South, which are cold and dry as well as Pampers.

Population: Population in Uruguay descends from Europeans, mainly from Spain and Italy, and from other nationalities to a less degree, as a consequence of an open immigration policy. There is a low degree of African descendants, who arrived in the country from African coasts, during the Spanish domination. According to the last population census, Uruguayan population reaches 3.286.314 inhabitants; consequently, density rate is low. Although one of the most important Uruguayan economic activities is cattle-breeding, Uruguayan population is mostly urban (95%); practically half of it (40%) is concentrated in the capital, Montevideo. The birth rate is the lowest of South America. However, life expectancy is high, reaching 73 years for men and 80 years for women, which indicates a satisfactory grade of sanitation conditions and alimentation. Uruguayan people have a high cultural level and are in general friendly and courteous to visitors. People have simple taste and familiar habits, loving outdoor life and sports, mainly football, the national passion par excellence. Food preferences include the famous “churrasco” and “asado con cuero” coming from its excellent national beef.

Education: The official education system in Uruguay is secular, free, and compulsory. Since 1877 this system has governed elementary education. Later on, secondary education also became compulsory, and University attendance became free of charges as well. The Official Secular system does not hinder religious education in private institutions. Literacy rate reaches 95% for children older than 10 years.

 Government: Uruguay has a representative democratic republic under a presidential system, with separation of powers: Legislative, Executive and Judicial. Each five years, according to the Constitution in force, Uruguayans, devotees of freedom and democracy, cast compulsory vote to choose the authorities to rule de country.

Religion: The Constitution of the Republic guarantees freedom of religion. There exist several religions and systems beliefs in the country. However, Catholicism is the dominant religion in Uruguay.

History: The territory now occupied by Uruguay, was discovered by Spaniards in 1516. It became independent from both Spain and Portugal in 1825, and adopted the first Constitution in 1830. Since the late of 19th century up to the second half of 20th century, Uruguay received two great migration currents which significantly founded the country. Spaniards and Italians have strengthened the cultural foundations of it. Less numerous contingences of immigrants coming from France and other European and Asian regions arrived in our country looking for a better future. It is important the cultural influence of the Afro-Uruguayan population, mostly descendants from African slaves during colonial time. In the beginning of 20th century, Uruguay was considered the “Switzerland of America” for it was an avant garde country in the political and cultural field in South America. Within this prosperous environment, it was built the highest building of Latin America, called Palacio Salvo in 1925, and the Centenario Stadium in 1930 –the largest stadium of the world at that time. Furthermore, several sport triumphs were obtained. Uruguay won several football championships, at the Olympic Games held in Paris in 1924 and in Amsterdam in 1928, besides the Football World Cup, held in Montevideo in 1930 and in Brazil in 1950. These brave deeds helped to immortalize the “golden age” myth in Uruguay. Between 27 June 1973 and 28 February 1985 Uruguay went under a dictatorship which changed the direction of the country. During this period, Uruguay was ruled by a civic-military government which took control after the coup d’état on 27 June 1973. After a period of profuse popular demonstrations, elections were held on 1 March 1985 and Julio Maria Sanguinetti, of the Colorado Party, became President of the Republic.

Montevideo is the capital of Uruguay and administrative seat of MERCOSUR. It is an attractive city of shady streets, nice combination of extensive green areas, parks and squares, classic and modern architecture, which offers countless cultural alternatives and a wide range of first class hotels. It has an area of 530 square kilometres and great part of it traverses the entire waterfront and beaches of the city, many of them very close to downtown. It has a population of about 1.319.108 inhabitants which represents 40% of the total population of the country. It was founded by Governor and Captain of Rio de la Plata, Bruno Mauricio de Zabala, as a military and commercial spot. The city of Montevideo became soon an outstanding military settlement and the main port of the Rio de la Plata as well. The foundational process occurred between 1724 and 1730, during which the first settlers arrived from Buenos Aires and the Canary Islands. In 1833, a new layout of the New City was implemented, to be fully executed in 1861. There are still traces of those times. Some witnesses remain in the Current Old City such as Montevideo Port, the Cabildo, the Matriz Church and the Ciudadela Gate. The Old City was walled all around, while the New City was laid out with broad and shady streets where luxurious premises and residences were set. Montevideo also shelters architectural 20th century treasures, surrounded by the splendour of the Capital Rambla: Salvo Palace, Legislative Palace, Pitamiglio Castle, the Train Station, the Centenario Stadium, Carrasco Hotel, Parque Hotel, among others remarkable buildings. The Uruguayan capital is also outstanding due to its environmental features. Through the Urban Sanitation Program financed by the IDB, the works of the drain line will be completed and will be extended to 100% of the city, thus significantly improving quality of life.

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