Uruguay Facts

Uruguay Facts and History

South America

Uruguay – “River of Colorful Birds”

Anyone who travels to the “República Oriental del Uruguay”, i.e. the “Republic east of the (river) Uruguay”, will get to know a Spanish-speaking country that has an area of 176,215 km², in which Hungary and Austria would find a joint place.

Uruguay becomes bounded by its huge neighbors Brazil and Argentina that have left their cultural and linguistic influences here. The east of the country meets the Atlantic Ocean. The famous Río de la Plata, the “river of silver” as the Spaniards called it, cuts deep into the southern interior of the country in the vain hope of finding immense treasures here. For the “river of colorful birds”, as the Guarani translate the word “Uruguay”, the horses and cattle should rather form the economic wealth, which were released here by the Spanish conquistadores and which increased into large herds over time. Even today the main part of the South American Republic is pure pastureland for the thousands of cattle and sheep.

Like so many countries on this fascinating continent, Uruguay also combines scenic contrasts: the flat south, which is a kind of foothills of the Argentine pampas, is contrasted by the extensive swamp plains on the Río Uruguay and the ranges of hills in the central land area and in the north. The highest of them, such as the “Cuchilla de Haedo” or the “Cuchilla Grande”, however, reach a height of just over 500 meters. The Uruguayos subject the generally fertile soil to primarily agricultural use.

The poverty of the country in forest areas contrasts with an enormous wealth of water, with the largest river in the country also giving its name and being around 1,815 km long. It acts as a border river with Argentina. In addition, the country is determined by the Río de la Plata, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean and at this point forms the largest estuary on earth.

In addition to these bodies of water and many magnificent lakes, Uruguay also has one of the largest groundwater reserves in the world with the subterranean sandstone deposit Botucatu (together with parts of Paraguay, northern Argentina and southern Brazil). Despite this enormous amount of water, the Uruguayos did not underestimate the importance of wet gold, as they ensured in a referendum in 2004 that the right to water was constitutionally anchored and therefore everyone had access to it – something that had never been seen anywhere in the world Event.

The capital of the country is Montevideo, one of the safest cities in the world, where a little less than half of the country’s residents have settled. The immense importance of this port city for industry and trade in the South American Republic, as well as the concentration of residents there, are so obvious that jokers of Uruguay speak of a “city with a few farms in the hinterland”. This is of course an exaggeration, even if it remains true that Montevideo has remained the untouched center of life of the state.

Every year, Uruguay is visited by millions of tourists, who are an important economic source for the country and mainly from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and the USA. The seaside resorts on the coast are particularly popular. These include in particular Punta del Este, where in the months of high summer between December and February the population increases almost tenfold and international sporting events are celebrated. The coast of the place offers countless pearly white beaches where the sun never seems to set. But Piriápolis or Atlántida in the south of the country as well as the fishing port of Paloma should not be forgotten. Those who care more about the architecture than the physical culture will hardly get past the city of Minas, because the most impressive colonial buildings in the country are lined up there.


addition to the Spaniards and Italians who make German the third largest group of immigrants is to Uruguay. Currently, about 10,000 live “Alemanes” in the country and about 40,000 with German ancestry.


Since July 2017, cannabis can be legally purchased in the country. You have to be a citizen of the country and have previously registered.

The drug can then be purchased without a prescription in selected pharmacies in five gram packets.

Name of the country República Oriental del Uruguay
Name in German Republic of East Uruguay
Form of government Presidential Republic
National anthem Orientales la Patria o la Tumba!
National holiday August 25 (independence 1825 – internationally recognized 1828)
Population 3.5 million (Credit: Countryaah: Uruguay Population)
Ethnicities 85% Caucasians (of European descent),3% mulattos and 5% mestizos and about 50,000 people of German origin
Religions 46% Catholics, 9% Protestants and other Christian faiths,30% non-denominational believers, 14% unbelievers and agnostics and 1% Jews
Languages SpanishIn the border area with Brazil there is Portunol, a Spanish-Portuguese dialect.
Capital Montevideo with about 1.4 million residents
Surface 176,215 km²
Highest mountain Cerro de las Animas with 514 m
Longest river Río Negro 804 km
Largest lake Embalse del Río Negro with 10359 km²
International license plate ROU
National currency Uruguan peso (urug $) UYU
Time difference to CET – 4 h
International phone code + 598
Mains voltage, frequency 220 volts, 50 hertz
Internet TLD (Top Level Domain) .uy

Uruguay: history

From prehistoric times to 1516

Uruguay has probably been around since about 11,000 BC. Settled. Semi-settled Indians and some nomadic tribes inhabited the country at the time of the invading Spaniards in the 16th century. The Charrua were the largest and best known group. They lived as hunters and gatherers and also practiced agriculture to a small extent.

Colonial period from 1516 to 1810

According to Abbreviationfinder website, Juan Díaz de Solís set foot on the north bank of the Río de la Plata in 1516 as the first European. He and most of the other participants in the expedition were killed by the Charruas that same year. The warlike Charrua successfully prevented an occupation of the country by the Spaniards. Fernando Magelhães explored the country three years later before venturing into the Pacific Ocean in 1520. He too could not cope with the strong resistance of the Indians and his planned trip around the world was delayed. Uruguay had no mineral resources, so the region was economically uninteresting for the colonial powers.

It was not until 1603 that cattle breeders were settled here. As a result of the rivalry between Spain and Portugal in the 17th century, the country between Paraná and Uruguay came back into the focus of the colonial powers. The Portuguese founded Fort Colonia del Sacramento in 1680 to compete with the Spanish in Buenos Aires. The Spaniards founded Montevideo in 1724 and had to wait until 1777 for the Portuguese to leave. The country was called Banda Oriental de Uruguay and became part of the viceroyalty Río de la Plata.

Independence from 1810 to 1903

Under their leader José Gervasio Artigas (1764 – 1850) the residents of Uruguay rose against Spain in 1810. In the same year, independence was proclaimed in Argentina. Argentinians supported the Uruguayans in their fight. In 1811 Montevideo was besieged. In 1814 the Spanish governor had to flee the capital. The country came into conflict with Brazil and Argentina, both of which claimed the Banda Oriental. In 1817 Brazil occupied the area until 1825 freedom fighters expelled the Brazilians. In 1828 Uruguay was recognized as a state by Brazil. In 1830 a republican constitution was passed.

The political conflict between the representatives of the large estates (Blancos) and the representatives of free trade (Colorades) led to a civil war in 1837. Argentina intervened in this conflict on the side of the conservative large farmers, Brazil intervened on the side of liberal trade capital. The Liberals won the war and were in government from 1865 to 1958. As a three-way alliance, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay waged war against Paraguay from 1865 to 1870. The Indian tribes were almost exterminated during the first half of the 19th century.

Reform and heyday from 1903 to 1973

In 1903 the reform policy of the government of José Batlle y Ordonez began. He had the infrastructure and the banks nationalized. Its social policy brought citizens the eight-hour day, social security and free school and university education. In contrast to the other states in South America, the constitution was changed and the presidential system was converted into a collegial system. In this system, the president shares power with the National Council. The country’s economic success was based on animal husbandry and export. At the beginning of the 1930s, the global economic crisis hit Uruguay and President Luis Alberto Herrera dissolved the National Council and Parliament and established a dictatorship.

When the economy recovered during and after World War II, the National Council and Parliament were convened again. The office of president was then abolished from 1952 to 1966. In 1967 a presidential constitution was passed again. Another economic crisis led to a change of government in the elections in 1958. The new conservative government did not solve the economic problems, but came into conflict with the urban guerrilla “Tupamaros” in Montevideo. Their terrorist actions and the government’s military operations brought Uruguay to the brink of civil war.

Uruguay received worldwide attention when, at the beginning of the Second World War, the German armored cruiser ” Admiral Graf Spee “, which was sailing in the South Atlantic, sought refuge in the neutral port of Montevideo after a battle with British warships on December 13, 1939, badly damaged. The government gave the crew an ultimatum to leave the port or to be interned. Unaware of the true strength of the British fleet in front of the port area, the captain Hans Langsdorf decided on December 17, 1939 to sink the ship in the Rio de la Plata, about 3 nautical miles from the port. He shot himself on December 19, 1939 in Buenos Aires, where the crew members had gone and were interned.

Dictatorship and Democratization from 1973 to the Present

In 1973 the parliament was dissolved by the president. In 1976 the military staged a coup and took power until 1984. The parties and unions were banned. The permanent economic crisis could not be resolved, however, and in 1980 the population refused to follow the military in a referendum on constitutional changes. In 1985 demonstrations and strikes resulted in the junta’s abdication. The following governments followed neoliberal policies. Uruguay has been a member of the Mercosur free trade area since 1995. In 2002, Uruguay got caught up in the Argentine currency crisis.

Many Argentines had deposited money in banks in Uruguay and after Argentina s economic collapse liquidated their assets in Uruguay. The result was the closure of the banks in Uruguay, with which the government in Montevideo wanted to get the crisis under control. Furthermore, the important export market collapsed by 23%. Unemployment rose to 17%. The well-developed welfare state, which enabled the country to achieve democratic stability, came under fire. Since then, high inflation, high foreign debt and the banking crisis have burdened the economy of Uruguay. Nevertheless, the middle class in Uruguay is relatively wealthy and the extreme differences between rich and poor, as is usual in South America, are unknown.

Uruguay Facts