Uruguay, officially the Eastern Republic of Uruguay or the Republic East of the Uruguay (River) (Spanish: República Oriental del Uruguay; pron. IPA: [re'puβ̞lika oɾjen'tal del uɾu'ɰwaj]), is a nation located in the southeastern part of South America. It is bordered by Brazil to the north, the Uruguay River to the west, the estuary of the Río de la Plata (literally "River of the Silver", but commonly known in English as "River Plate") to the southwest, with Argentina on the other bank of both, and finally the South Atlantic Ocean to the southeast. About half of its people live in the capital and largest city, Montevideo. The nation is the second smallest independent country in South America, larger only than Suriname (it is also larger than French Guiana, which is not independent), and is the most politically and economically stable. Uruguay is ranked as the second least corrupt country in Latin America after Chile.[1]


The only inhabitants of Uruguay before European colonization of the area were the Charrua Indians, a small tribe driven south by the Guaraní Indians of Paraguay. The name "Uruguay" comes from Guaraní. It has many possible meanings since Guaraní is a highly agglutinative language. Two of them are "river of the urus" (uru is a kind of bird) and "river of colorful or 'painted' birds."

The Spanish arrived in the territory of present-day Uruguay in 1516, but the Indians' fierce resistance to conquest, combined with 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 Soriano on the Río Negro. In 1669-71, the Portuguese built a fort at Colonia del Sacramento. Spanish colonization increased as Spain sought to limit Portugal's expansion of Brazil's frontiers.

The 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 fights 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.


Uruguay's politics takes 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 pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power 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 Colorado and National parties have alternated in power. The elections of 2004, however, brought the Encuentro Progresista-Frente Amplio-Nueva Mayoría, a coalition of socialists, former Tupamaros, communists and social democrats among others to power with majorities in both houses of parliament and the election of President Tabaré Vázquez Rosas by an absolute majority.

The Reporters Without Borders worldwide press freedom index has ranked Uruguay as:

According to Freedom House, an American organisation that tracks global trends in political freedom Uruguay ranked number 27 in the world democracy ranking. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Uruguay has an index of 7.96,located in the last position between the 28 countries considered to be Full Democracies in the world, the index looks at 60 indicators across five categories: Free elections, civil liberties, functioning government, political participation and political culture. [7]

Administrative divisions

Uruguay consists of nineteen departments (departamentos, singular ''departamento):

Department Area (km²) Population* Capital
Artigas 11,928 78,019 Artigas
Canelones 4,536 485,028 Canelones
Cerro Largo 13,648 86,564 Melo
Colonia 6,106 119,266 Colonia del Sacramento  
Durazno 11,643 58,859 Durazno
Flores 5,144 25,104 Trinidad
Florida 10,417 68,181 Florida
Lavalleja 10,016 60,925 Minas
Maldonado 4,793 140,192 Maldonado
Montevideo 530 1,326,064 Montevideo
Paysandú 13,922 113,244 Paysandú
Río Negro 9,282 53,989 Fray Bentos
Rivera 9,370 104,921 Rivera
Rocha 10,551 69,937 Rocha
Salto 14,163 123,120 Salto
San José 4,992 103,104 San José de Mayo
Soriano 9,008 84,563 Mercedes
Tacuarembó 15,438 90,489 Tacuarembó
Treinta y Tres   9,676 49,318 Treinta y Tres
* 2004


At 176.220 square kilometres, Uruguay is the second smallest sovereign nation in South America (after Suriname) and the third smallest territory (French Guiana is the smallest). The landscape features mostly rolling plains and low hill ranges (cuchillas) with fertile coastal lowland, most of it grassland, ideal for cattle and sheep raising. The highest point in the country is the Cerro Catedral at 514 meters (1,686 ft). To the southwest is the Río de la Plata (River of Silver), the estuary of the Uruguay River, which forms the western border, and the Paraná River, that does not run through Uruguay itself. The only other major river is the Río Negro. Several lagoons are found along the Atlantic coast.

The climate in Uruguay is temperate, but fairly warm, as freezing temperatures are almost unknown. The predominantly flat landscape is also somewhat vulnerable to rapid changes from weather fronts, as well as to the pampero, a chilly and occasionally violent wind blowing north from the pampas plains in Argentina.

Enclaves and exclaves

There is one Argentine enclave within Uruguayan territory: the island of Martín García (coordinates 34°11′S 58°15′W). It is situated near the confluence of the Paraná and Uruguay rivers, a mere kilometre (1,100 yd) inside Uruguayan waters, about 3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi) from the Uruguayan coastline, near the small city of Martín Chico (itself about halfway between Nueva Palmira and Colonia).

An agreement reached by Argentina and Uruguay in 1973 reafirmed Argentine jurisdiction over the island, ending a century-old dispute between the two countries.[citation needed] According to the terms of the agreement, Martín García is to be devoted exclusively to a natural preserve. Its area is about 2 square kilometres (500 acres) and the population about 200 persons. The island was claimed by Argentina at the end of the 'Guerra Grande' (Big war) in 1852. Originally depended from the Spanish Navy Base of Montevideo, now capital of Uruguay. In the past, Argentina claimed the Uruguayan waters of the river, which explains the island's status.

Since 1984 Uruguay has an Antarctic base in King George Island in Antartica, part of the South Shetland Islands archipelago, at 62°11′04″S, 58°54′09″W, some 100 km from the Antarctic peninsula itself.


Uruguay's economy is mainly dominated by the services sector, an export-oriented agricultural sector and an industrial sector,with a well-educated and high levels of social spending. 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 more stable 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.[citation needed] In recent years Uruguay has shifted most of its energy into developing the commercial use of IT technologies and has become an important exporter of software in Latin America[citation needed].

While some parts of the economy appeared to be resilient, the downturn had a far more severe impact on Uruguayan citizens, as unemployment levels rose to more than twenty percent, real wages fell, the peso was devalued, and the percentage of Uruguayans in poverty reached almost 10%. These worsening economic conditions played a part in turning public opinion against the free market economic policies adopted by the previous administrations in the 1990s, leading to 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,[citation needed] has also promised to undertake a crash jobs programs to attack the widespread problems of poverty and unemployment.[citation needed]

Main production of Goods and Services of Uruguay are listed below:

Beef meat is a traditional production still important although decreasing from its historical importance. Cattle were introduced to Uruguay before its independence by Hernando Arias de Saveedra, the Spanish Governor of Buenos Aires in 1603. Meet exports in 2006 amounted around a 37% of Uruguayan exportations. ( http://www.aca.com.uy/datos_estadisticos/exportaciones_2006.htm )

Wool is a traditional production exported mainly to china, followed by UK, India and others. ( www.sul.org.uy )

Milk and dairy products Conaprole National Cooperative of Milk Producer (http://www.conaprole.com.uy) is the main exporter of dairy food of Latin America (in 2006) among others national and international companies operating in the market. The area of the country dedicated to the dairy food is located mainly in the south west of the country.

Rice, fine varieties are produced in the lowlands near the east of the country close to the Merin Lake in the Uruguay-Brazil border. The national company Saman claims to be the main exporter in Latin America ( http://www.saman.com.uy ) it is exported among other countries to Brazil, Iran, Peru, South Africa, Chile, Senegal, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, USA, Canada, China and others.

Tobacco and beverages, including some fine wines.

Mineral products, including gold, granite, quartz stones.

Chemical products.Oil Refinery ( http://www.ancap.com.uy )

Leather and derivate products.

Wood cork and derivate products.

Mill pulp, paper, cartoon and derivates.


Ceramics, glass and glass made products.

Electrical Machinery.

Transport Materials

Communication, since the

Tourism, mainly seasonal during the summer, Punta Del Este resort is very attractive to Argentineans and other nationalities, international Cruises call at Montevideo since October to March every year. Also Uruguay host many international conferences all year long. (The original GATT Uruguay Round about trade was hosted in Uruguay). Montevideo host the headquarters of the Common South Economic Market Agreement (Mercosur) formed by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Venezuela and Uruguay.

Software and consulting, Uruguayan well educated work force and lower than international wages have put Uruguay in the IT map. Both local and international companies operate in the country, some of them with offices worldwide. A product named Genexus ( http://www.genexus.com ), used worldwide is originally created in Uruguay by a company called ArTech. Other important developers and consultants are De Larrobla & Asociados ( http://www.bantotal.com ) and Grupo Quanam ( http://www.gquanam.com/home/index.php?idioma=eng ) among others.

Banking Services, despite the recent downturn the banking sector is recovering, many private banks in Uruguay operated without disruption during the crisis.


Agriculture played such an important part in Uruguayan history and national identity until the middle of the twentieth century that the entire country was then sometimes likened to a single huge estancia (agricultural estate) around Montevideo, where the wealth generated in the hinterland was spent, as its casco or administrative head. As another saying went, "Uruguay es la vaca y el puerto" ("Uruguay is the cow and the port").[citation needed]

Today, agriculture still contributes roughly 10% to the country’s GDP and is 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 labour, technology and capital in comparison with other such countries, which results in comparatively lower yields per hectare but also open the door for Uruguay to market its products as "natural" or "ecological."

Campaigns like “Uruguayan grass-fed beef” and “Uruguay Natural” aim to establish Uruguay as a premium brand in beef, wine and other food products.[citation needed]

Recently, an industry has arisen around estancia tourism that capitalizes on the traditional or folkloristic connotations associated with gaucho culture and the remaining resources of Uruguay's historic estancias.


Uruguay is heavily populated by people of European origin. 97% of the population is of white European descent almost evenly split amongst Italians, Spaniards, followed by those of English, French, German, Portuguese, Irish, Russian, Scandinavian and Yugoslav origins. Many of the European immigrants arrived to 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 very reminiscent of Western Europe. Church and state are officially separated. Most Uruguayans adhere to the Roman Catholic faith (66%), with smaller Protestant (2%) and Jewish and Orthodox Christian (1%) communities, as well as a large nonprofessing group. Afro Uruguayans are a traditional community dating back to colonial times. Also some people has traces of Indian background, reminiscent of the original population of the country aniquilated during the XIX century. (31%). [1]

Uruguay is distinguished by its high literacy rate (99%), large urban middle class, and relatively even income distribution. During the 1970s and 1980s, an estimated six-hundred thousand Uruguayans emigrated, principally to Spain, Argentina and Brazil. Other Uruguayans went to various countries in Europe and USA.

As a result of the low birth rate, high life expectancy, and relatively high rate of emigration of younger people, Uruguay's population is quite mature. In 2006, the country had a birth rate of 13.91 births per thousand population, [2] lower than neighboring countries Argentina (16.73 births/1000 population)[3] and Brazil (16.56 births/1,000 population). [4]

Health and education

Uruguay has one of the highest health and literacy rates in the Americas:

Eductional establishments


See also: Music of Uruguay and List of Uruguayans

Montevideo is the capital city of Uruguay [citation needed], 3.3 million people, mainly of European descent although also afro Indian mestizes are present. The original inhabitants were exterminated as a cultural group in the XIX century, nevertheless there is still Indian blood between the Uruguayan population.(An a minor community living on an island in the River Uruguay) Population of African background live in the territory of present Uruguay since Colonial times, and have make an important contribution to the Uruguayan music and dance. ( Montevideo Antiguo -Pablo de Maria)


As the overwhelming majority of the Uruguayan population has been of European descent since the 1800s, the culture of Uruguay parallels that of Western Europe. Uruguayans have a high standard of living. They are among the warmest and most friendly in South America and hold strong values such as the importance of family and high education. It is custom for Uruguayans to dine late at night, well after 10 o'clock and to stay out well into the early morning hours. It is very common to see in cities such as Montevideo, Colonia and Punta del Este many restaurants, cafés and pubs open until these late hours with their outdoor seating filled with the vivacious Uruguayan community.

Music is also a great part of the culture of Uruguay. The most important and well-known are the tango, milonga, murga,candombe, Cumbia.

Players and Composers:


Carlos Gardel (Allegedly born in Tacuarembo, Uruguay) Matto Rodriguez Julio Sosa

Milonga/Canto Popular:

Alfredo Zitarrosa Los Olimarenos

Other generes:

Jaime Ross Jorge Drexler

Uruguayan writers

Delmira Agustini, poet · Mario Benedetti, poet and novelist · Eduardo Galeano, writer and social commentator renowned throughout Latin America · Felisberto Hernandez, short-story writer and essayist · Juana de Ibarbourou, poet · Jacobo Langsner, playwright · Mario Levrero, short-story writer · Jorge Majfud, essayist and novelist · Horacio Quiroga, short-story writer · Juan Carlos Onetti, novelist · José Enrique Rodó, essayist and philosopher · Florencio Sánchez, playwright · María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira, poet · Idea Vilariño, poet

Montevideo has been the birthplace of three noted French poets: Isidore Lucien Ducasse, Jules Laforgue and Jules Supervielle.

Uruguayan food

The national tradition[citation needed], the term may refer to the traditional barbacue or the dish, "tira de asado";
Dulce de leche
A sweet treat made of milk and sugar.
A spinach pie
A tea of yerba mate drunk out of mate gourds and sipped from a bombilla (straw) made of metal, usually plated in silver.
A small pie, most common ones are filled with meat or ham and cheese;
Martin Fierro 
A slice of cheese and a slice of quince paste (dulce de membrillo).
Caruso sauce 
A pasta sauce made from cream, tomato paste, onions, ham and mushrooms.
A sandwich containing steak, tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise (typically)


Main article: Sports in Uruguay

The most popular sport in Uruguay is association football (fútbol), in which the country has earned many honours:

Rugby union (see Rugby union in Uruguay) is also popular with the national team having qualified for both the 1999 Rugby World Cup and the subsequent 2003 world cup. The team is currently the second highest ranked in South America.[citation needed]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Transparency.org
  2. ^ Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2002
  3. ^ Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2003
  4. ^ Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2004
  5. ^ Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2005
  6. ^ Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2006
  7. ^ [The Economist, The world in 2007, A Pause in democracy's march Page 93]

External links

Government resources
Find more information on Uruguay by searching Wikipedia's sister projects:

Dictionary definitions from Wiktionary
Textbooks from Wikibooks
Quotations from Wikiquote
Source texts from Wikisource
Images and media from Commons
News stories from Wikinews
Learning resources from Wikiversity

General information
Travel and commerce

income and population.



Commercial links