THE SPANISH LANGUAGE
is the second most spoken language in the world due to the number of speakers who claim it as their native tongue (after Mandarin Chinese). It is spoken as a first and second language amongst 450 and 500 million people. It is the third most spoken language as a first or second language after Mandarin Chinese and English combined, and is the mother tongue to 400 million people worldwide... Read more
URUGUAY Country Profile
Uruguay is a country located in the southeastern part of South America. It is home to 3.46 million people, of which 1.7 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area.
Montevideo was founded by the Spanish in the early 18th century as a military stronghold. Uruguay won its independence in 1828 following a three-way struggle between 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, and relies heavily on world trade. Consequently, it is affected by any change in global prices. However, Uruguay's economy is on the whole more stable than in its surrounding states, and it maintains a solid reputation with investors.
According to Transparency International, Uruguay is the second least corrupt country in Latin America (after Chile), with its political and labor conditions being among the freest on the continent.
In November 2007 it became the first Latin American country and the second in the American Continent to recognize same-sex civil unions at the national level.
.: Total 176.215 km²
68,037 sq mi
.: Water (%) 1.5%
.: Oriental Revolution 25 August 1825
.: Declared 28 August 1828
.: 2007 estimate 3,460,607 (134)
.: 2002 census 3,399,237
.: Density 19/km² (19)
Uruguay has more tourists than any other South American country because of its 500km stretch of gorgeous beaches lining the Atlantic and the Rio de la Plata.
Walking around the city is the best way to see Montevideo, the capital. The Plaza Independencia is at the centre with a statue of the country's hero atop the Mausoleo de Artigas. The government is housed at Palacio Estevez, an 18th century palace. As part of your sightseeing, don’t miss the "Door to the Citadel" that leads to the old city, Ciudad Vieja. The remnants of the old city intertwine with the new city and take you back in time.
The city also has nine white sandy bathing beaches. They are lined up in the Rio de la Plata, 12km long. Blessed with a Mediterranean climate, Montevideo beaches are very popular with both tourists and locals.
145km from Montevideo is Punta del Este with two main beaches that offer water-skiing, surfing and yachting. Golfers can tee of at the golf course there. Try the thermal baths at Termas de Guaviyu.
Take a hydrofoil to Colonia Suiza and see the old Swiss Colony. The Colonia del Sacramento has been rebuilt in its original 18th Century grandeur. If peace and quiet is what you need, stay at the seaside village of Aguas Dulces. It lays no claims to being fancy but it offers modest facilities and a local delicacy – the sweet fruit of the "butia" palm.
Ash Wednesday is Uruguay’s Carnaval. It is livelier than Argentina’s Carnaval but more sober than Brazil’s. Holy Week (Easter) is also called La Semana Criolla that is celebrated with barbecues and folk music. If you are a fun loving person, the Uruguayan festivals will have you swaying.
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
Uruguay may be a small country but it has impressive artistic and literary traditions. International acclaim has greeted artists such as Pedro Figari, a painter of bucolic scenes, and José Enrique Rodó, arguably the nation's greatest writer. Theatre is popular and playwrights such as Mauricio Rosencof - a former Tupamaros founder tortured by the military government in the 1970s - are prominent in cultural life. Most of the country's musical and dance traditions (folk songs, polkas, waltzes, tangos, etc) came from Europe but developed local hybrids. Football is a national obsession. Uruguayans who profess a religion are almost exclusively Roman Catholic, but the Church and state are officially separate. Other religions have made small inroads: There is a small Jewish community in Montevideo, several evangelical Protestant groups and traces of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.
Uruguayans are voracious meat eaters and the parrillada (beef platter) is a national standard. Another standard is chivito, a tasty and substantial steak sandwich with all the trimmings. Typical snacks include olímpicos (club sandwiches) and húngaros (spicy sausage wrapped in a hot dog roll). Tea or mate is quaffed in enormous quantities. Clericó, a mixture of white wine and fruit juice, and “medio y medio”, part sparkling wine and part white wine, are popular, and the beer is pretty good.
GEOGRAPHY AND ENVIRONMENT
Air and water pollution are environmental concerns in Uruguay. Air pollution, which is worse in the larger population centers, is caused primarily by Uruguay's own industries and by an energy plant in neighbouring Brazil. Water pollution from mining and industrial sources threatens the nation's water supply, especially pollution from the meat packing and tannery industry. Uruguay has 59 cu km of renewable water resources with 91% used for farming activity and 3% for industrial purposes. About 98% of the population has access to safe drinking water. Natural hazards to the environment include drought, flooding, and fires. Erosion of the soil affects the nation's agricultural productivity. The nation's cities produce about 0.5 million tons of solid waste per year. Government agencies with environmental responsibilities include the Division of Environmental Health, within the Ministry of Public Health; the Ministry of Agriculture; and the Interior Ministry. As of 2001, 5 of Uruguay's mammal species and 11 of its bird species were endangered. Two types of plants were threatened with extinction. Endangered species included the tundra peregrine falcon, two species of turtle (green sea and leatherback), and two species of crocodile (spectacled caiman and broad-nosed caiman). The glaucous macaw has become extinct.
WEATHER AND CLIMATE
Located entirely within the temperate zone, Uruguay has a climate that is fairly uniform nationwide. Seasonal variations are pronounced, but extremes in temperature are rare. As would be expected by its abundance of water, high humidity and fog are common. The absence of mountains, which act as weather barriers, makes all locations vulnerable to high winds and rapid changes in weather as fronts or storms sweep across the country.
Seasons are fairly well defined, and in most of Uruguay spring is usually damp, cool, and windy; summers are warm; autumns are mild; and winters are chilly and uncomfortably damp. North western Uruguay, however, is farther from large bodies of water and therefore has warmer summers and milder and drier winters than the rest of the country. Average highs and lows in summer (January) in Montevideo are 28° C and 17° C, respectively, with an absolute maximum of 43° C; comparable numbers for Artigas in the northwest are 33° C and 18° C, with the highest temperature ever recorded (42° C). Winter (July) average highs and lows in Montevideo are 14° C and 6° C, respectively, although the high humidity makes the temperatures feel colder; the lowest temperature registered in Montevideo is -4° C. Averages in July of a high of 18° C and a low of 7° C in Artigas confirm the milder winters in north western Uruguay, but even here temperatures have dropped to a subfreezing -4° C.
Rainfall is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, and annual amounts increase from southeast to northwest. Montevideo averages 950 millimetres annually, and Artigas receives 1,235 millimetres in an average year. As in most temperate climates, rainfall results from the passage of cold fronts in winter, falling in overcast drizzly spells, and summer thunderstorms are frequent.
High winds are a disagreeable characteristic of the weather, particularly during the winter and spring, and wind shifts are sudden and pronounced. A winter warm spell can be abruptly broken by a strong pampero, a chilly and occasionally violent wind blowing north from the Argentine pampas. Summer winds off the ocean, however, have the salutary effect of tempering warm daytime temperatures.
Currency: Peso Uruguayo (U$)
Top-end: US$15 and upwardsLodging
Top-end: US$20 and upwards
Annual inflation in Uruguay hovers around 15%, but steady devaluations keep prices from rising rapidly in dollar terms. Costs are slightly lower than in Argentina, especially with respect to accommodation and transportation. Budget travelers can get by on US$15 a day; those looking for a bit more comfort and nutrition should expect to spend closer to US$30 a day. Cambios in Montevideo, Colonia and Atlantic beach resorts change US dollars cash and travelers' checks (the latter at slightly lower rates or modest commissions). Banks are the rule in the interior. Better hotels, restaurants and shops accept credit cards, but Uruguayan ATMs reject North American or European credit cards. There is no black market. In restaurants, it's customary to tip about 10% of the bill. Taxi drivers do not require tips, although you may round off the fare for convenience.