It is bordered by Brazil to the north, by Argentina across the bank of both the Uruguay River to the west and the estuary of Río de la Plata to the southwest, and the South Atlantic Ocean to the southeast. Its surface is 176.215 km² being by its territorial extension the second smallest country in South America, larger only than Suriname and the French overseas department of French Guiana.
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 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. Uruguay's economy is on the whole more stable than in its surrounding states, and it maintains a solid reputation with investors.
94.6% of the population are of European descent. 47.1% of Uruguayans are declared Roman Catholics, 11.1% Protestant and 0.3% Jewish. 40.4% do not attend church. Uruguay is South America's most secular country, where there is no official religion, and in which church and state are separate.
NB: To distinguish Uruguayan nationals from the citizens of the Argentine city of Concepción del Uruguay, they are known in Spanish as uruguayos but officially called "Orientales" (Easterners) though, since the official name of the country is: Republica ORIENTAL del URUGUAY, meaning: Uruguay's Eastern Bank Republic,and not "Oriental Republic of Uruguay" as stated , while the inhabitants of Concepción del Uruguay are known as uruguayenses.
Europeans arrived in the territory of present-day Uruguay in the year 1536, but 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 Villa Soriano on the southwestern coast of the Río Negro. In 1680 the Portuguese built a fort at Colonia del Sacramento. Spanish colonization increased as Spain sought to limit Portugal's expansion of Brazil's frontiers.
Another segment of colonial Uruguay's population consisted of people of African descent. Colonial Uruguay's African community grew in number as its members escaped harsh treatment in Buenos Aires. Many relocated to Montevideo, which had a larger black community, seemed less hostile politically than Buenos Aires, and had a more favorable climate with lower humidity.
As a province of the Viceroyalty of La Plata, colonial Uruguay was known as the Banda Oriental, or "Eastern Strip", referring to its location east of the Rio Uruguay. The inhabitants called themselves Orientales ("Easterners"), a term they still commonly use to refer to themselves.
Uruguay's capital, Montevideo, was founded by the Spanish in the early 18th century as a military stronghold; its natural harbor soon developed into a commercial center competing with Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires. Uruguay's early 19th century history was shaped by ongoing conflicts 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.
The Uruguayans' road to independence was much longer than those of other countries in the Americas. Early efforts at attaining independence focused on overthrow of Spanish rule, a process begun by Jose Gervasio Artigas in 1811 when he led his forces to victory against the Spanish in the battle of Las Piedras on May 18, 1811. In 1816, Portuguese troops invaded present-day Uruguay, which led to its eventual annexation by Brazil in 1821 under the provincial name, Provincia Cisplatina. On April 19, 1825, thirty-three Uruguayan exiles led by Juan Antonio Lavalleja returned from Buenos Aires to lead an insurrection in Uruguay. They were known as the Treinta y Tres Orientales. Their actions inspired representatives from Uruguay to meet in Florida, a town in the recently liberated area, where they declared independence from Brazil on August 25, 1825. Uruguayan independence was not recognized by its neighbors until 1828, after the Argentina-Brazil War, when Britain, in search of new commercial markets, brokered peace between Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. On August 27, 1828, Uruguay was formally proclaimed independent at the preliminary peace talks between Brazil and Argentina.
Uruguay's politics take place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Uruguay is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive branch is exercised by the government. Legislative branch is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the General Assembly of Uruguay. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
For most of Uruguay's history, the Partido Colorado has been the government. The other "traditional" party of Uruguay, Partido Blanco, having 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. The Partido Colorado built a welfare state financed by taxing the cattle revenue and giving state pickles and free services to the new urban immigrants which became dependent on the state. The elections of 2004, however, brought the Frente Amplio, a coalition of socialists, former Tupamaros, former communists and mainly social democrats among others to govern with majorities in both houses of parliament and the election of President Tabaré Vázquez by an absolute majority.
The Reporters Without Borders worldwide press freedom index has ranked Uruguay as 57th of 168 reported countries in 2006.
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 a 7.96 on the Democracy Index, located in the last position among the 28 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.
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 (See Economy: Public Sector), to defend pensioners' incomes, and to protect water resources.
|Department||Area (square kilometres)||Population*||Capital|
|Colonia||6,106||119,266||Colonia del Sacramento|
|Río Negro||9,282||53,989||Fray Bentos|
|San José||4,992||103,104||San José de Mayo|
|Treinta y Tres||9,676||49,318||Treinta y Tres|
The highest point in the country is the Sierra de las Animas at 513.66 meters (1,685 ft 3 in) in the Sierra de Carapé mountain range. To the southwest is the Río de la Plata, the estuary of the Uruguay River, which forms the western border, and the Paraná River, that does not run through Uruguay itself.
The coolest month is June, while the warmest is January. The rainfall is equally distributed throughout the year, but tends to be a bit more frequent in the autumn months. There can be frequent thunderstorms in the summer. Although snow is not very common, it snowed in 1913, 1918, 1930, 1962, 1963, 1975, 1980, 1989, 1991, 1992, and 2007. One of the coldest winter (from 1951) was 2007: Tºjuly average 7,6°C Montevideo-Carrasco airport , Tºjuly average 6,8°C 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).
Uruguay has a middle-income economy, mainly dominated by the State services sector, an export-oriented agricultural sector and an industrial sector. Uruguay relies heavily on trade, particularly in agricultural exports, leaving the country particularly vulnerable to slumps in commodity prices and global economic slowdowns. After averaging growth of 5% annually in 1996-1998, in 1999-2001 the economy suffered from lower demand in Argentina and Brazil, which together account for nearly half of Uruguay's exports. Despite the severity of the trade shocks, Uruguay's financial indicators remained stabler 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. 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.
While some parts of the economy appeared to be resilient, the downturn had severe impact on the local population. Unemployment levels rose to more than 20%, real wages fell, the peso devalued. These worsening economic conditions 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, has also promised to undertake a Emergency Plan to attack the widespread problems of poverty and unemployment. In May 2008, the unemployment rate was below 7.2 % (See section: Social issues.)
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 such countries, which results in comparatively lower yields per hectare but also opens the door for Uruguay to market its products as "natural" or "ecological."
Industry has developed recently around estancia tourism which capitalizes on the traditional or folkloric connotations associated with gaucho culture and the remaining resources of Uruguay's historic estancias.
The overwhelming majority of Uruguay's population is of predominantly European descent. People of Spanish and Italian ancestry are the most numerous, followed by those of French, German, Portuguese, British, Swiss, Russian, Polish, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Estonian Dutch, Belgian, Croatian, Austrian, Serbian, Greek, Scandinavian, Irish, Romanian and Armenian origin. According to the 2006 National Survey of Homes by the Uruguayan National Institute of Statistics: 94.6% chose European ancestry, 3.4% chose Afro/Black ancestry, and 2% chose Asian ancestry. Uruguay is the only country in the Americas without Amerindian descendance.
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 reminiscent of parts of Europe.
Some colonies such as Colonia Valdense (a Waldensian colony), Colonia Suiza (also named Nueva Helvecia, a mainly Swiss colony with some German and Austrian settlers), were founded in the department of Colonia. There are also towns founded by early British settlers such as Conchillas and Barker. A Russian colony called San Javier was founded in the department of Río Negro. Mennonite colonies can also be found in the department of Río Negro and in the department of Canelones. One of them, called El Ombú, is located near the city of Young.There are also some German colonies like Nuevo Berlin.
Uruguay has a large urban middle class and a literacy rate of 96.8% (1996 est). During the 1970s and 1980s, an estimated 600,000 Uruguayans emigrated, mainly to Spain, Italy, Argentina and Brazil. Other Uruguayans have settled in various countries in Europe, as well as in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
Church and state are officially separated since 1919. According to the 2006 National Survey of Homes by the Uruguayan National Institute of Statistics: 47.1% of Uruguayans define themselves as Roman Catholic, 23.2% as "believing in God but without religion", 17.2% as Atheist or Agnostic, 11.1% "Non-Catholic Christian" (Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran), 0.6% as followers of Umbanda or other "afro" religions, 0.3% as Jewish, and 0.4% chose "Other".
A recent report used 2 indicators to estimate the number of people living in poverty in the country.
The numbers obtained depends according with the methodology used, the inform uses 3 different methods. According to the one proposed by the Regional Workshop about poverty measurement in 1996, which produces the highest values of all, the results for the first quarter of 2006 are:
Population below Indigence line: 3.01%
Population below Poverty line: 18%
The reports shows the indicators are improving as the country is recovering from the last 2002 crisis; in 2004, poverty indicators reached an all time high.
A new ministry of Social Development was created by the Broad Front (Uruguay) (Frente Amplio) government led by Tabare Vazquez, and an Emergency plan which targets the less favoured 200.000 Uruguayans.
The average income of a woman in 2002 in Uruguay was 71.8% of the income of men for the same activity. The average income of African heritage workers is 65% of that of those of European heritage.
Although rents in neighborhoods not in high demand are not very expensive in Uruguay, another property is usually required as a warranty for the contract, or a deposit which many cannot afford. This first condition makes renting a property especially difficult for the least favored sectors of the population. According to the INE, 23.3% of the population lives in a place neither owned nor rented. Some of them are proper built houses, but others are precarious constructions built illegally in public or private empty land just outside the cities. Thus, whole new poor neighborhoods have emerged in the last decades. They are called Asentamientos or more colloquially Cantegriles in ironic allusion to the fashionable Neighborhood of Cantegril in Punta del Este. The phenomenon is similar to the Favelas in Brazil, Villas Miseria in Argentina, Barrios in Venezuela, Arrabales in Spain, Poblaciones Callampa in Chile or Jacales in Mexico.
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), followed by Defensor, Danubio (last Uruguayan champion). Uruguay has had many great known players such as Enzo Francescoli, Alvaro Recoba and Diego Forlan (2005 European Golden Shoe winner).
|Index (Year)||Author / Editor / Source|| Year of|
| World |
|Human Poverty, HPI-1 (2005)(3)||United Nations (UNDP)|| ||108||2º|| |
|Poverty below $2 a day (1990-2005)(4)||United Nations (UNDP)|| ||71||3º|| |
|Global Peace (2008)||The Economist|| ||140||21º|| |
|Corruption Perception (2008)(6)||Transparency International|| ||180||23º|
|Democracy (2006)||The Economist|| ||167||27º|| |
|Press Freedom (2007)||Reporters Without Borders|| ||169||37º|| |
|Human Development (2005)||United Nations (UNDP)|| ||177||46º|| |
|Economic Freedom (2008)||The Wall Street Journal|| ||157||46º|| |
|Quality-of-life (2005)||The Economist|| ||111||46º|| |
|Travel and Tourism Competitiveness (2008)||World Economic Forum|| ||130||61º|| |
|Global Competitiviness (2007)||World Economic Forum|| ||131||75º|| |
|Income inequality (1989-2007)(5)||United Nations (UNDP)|| ||126||88º|| |