Top 50 interesting facts about Uruguay and Uruguayans
Uruguay is a small country on the east coast of South America that shares many common features with neighbouring countries. But at the same time, it is a unique country with its own customs, history and culture. In our article, we have collected 50 fascinating facts about this country and its people, which will help you form a first impression and plan your holiday in Uruguay.
50 most interesting facts about Uruguayans and Uruguay
So, let’s begin our journey through the history, traditions and sights of this amazing country.
1. The most ancient people appeared on these lands 12-13 thousand years ago. They were tribes of Paleo-Indians, who were engaged in gathering, hunting and fishing.
2. At the beginning of our era, three Indian tribes lived on the territory of the country – Charrua, Chana and Guaraní. Their total number was about 30 thousand people.
3. Europeans appeared in these places at the beginning of the XVI century and at first encountered the strongest resistance of the Guaraní.
4 Only in 1680 did the Portuguese succeed in establishing a permanent settlement, which later became Colonia del Sacramento. And in 1726, the Spanish founded Montevideo.
5. At the beginning of the XIX century in Uruguay began the struggle for independence, which was led by Jose Artigas, who later became a national hero.
6. At this time, an unknown craftsman created a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, at which the independence fighters, thirty-three patriots, vowed to make Uruguay free. This statue became the symbol of the country and was named Our Lady of the Thirty-Three.
7. In 1830, Uruguay gains independence and creates its first constitution.
8. The next 150 years were not easy for Uruguayans. The country experienced several civil wars, dictatorship, economic recession and depression. Things began to improve in the 1980s.
9. Modern Uruguay is a democratic republic of presidential type, a member of the UN and Mercosur, a country with an actively developing economy.
10. Now Uruguay is on the 13th place in the ranking of world democracy, occupying an honourable place between Canada and Luxembourg.
11. Uruguay was the first country in South America to legalize same-sex marriage, cannabis and prostitution.
12. The country is home to almost 3 and a half million people, most of whom happen to be urban dwellers.
13. The capital of the country is the city of Montevideo. It is the second-oldest city in the country and is home to 1.4 million people, more than a third of Uruguay’s total population.
14. According to legend, the city got its name Montevideo from Spanish navigators, participants of Magellan’s round-the-world expedition. When the caravels sailed past Uruguay, one of the sailors saw a mountain on the shore, which he reported to the captain with the words: Monte vide eu.
15. The name Uruguay itself is of Indian origin. Uru is the name of the local birds, and the word Guay means river. So Uruguay is the Bird River.
16. Almost 80% of the country’s population are Spanish and Italian migrants. A lot of people came here from Germany, France, countries of Eastern Europe. Pure-blooded Indians, the original inhabitants of the country, there are practically no Indians left.
17. There is no official language in the country, but in fact it is Spanish, or rather its Uruguayan dialect, in which there are many borrowings from Portuguese.
18. The majority of the population are Christians. Among them, almost 70% are Catholics, 22% are Protestants, the rest are representatives of other confessions.
19. The national currency of Uruguay is the local peso. It was put into circulation back in 1862. The peso consists of 100 centesimos.
20. Uruguay is in the UTC -3 time zone, i.e. 3 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time.
21. Fortaleza del Cerro is a fortress in Montevideo, also called General Artigas Fort. It is located on the highest hill in the city and offers a beautiful view of Montevideo and the bay.
22. Colonia del Sacramento is the oldest city in the country, with many historic buildings and beautiful streets. It is listed as a UNESCO historical monument.
23. Santa Teresa Fortress – located in the national park of the same name. It is a fortified fort built by the Portuguese for defence against the Spanish.
24. Fingers in Punta del Este – one of the country’s iconic landmarks. Represents five fingers sinking in the sand. Originally warned holidaymakers of the dangers of swimming.
25. Estancia la Aurora Farm is Uruguay’s most mysterious and mystical place. It is rumoured to be the site of some UFO sightings and supernatural events. Locals claim that the axis of the planet passes here.
26. Atchugarri Museum of Contemporary Art in Manantiales. An unusual collection of outlandish sculptures displayed both in the museum building and in the adjacent park.
27. Palacio Salvo is Montevideo’s tallest skyscraper, built in 1928. It has 105 metres and 26 floors. It was once the tallest building in South America.
Character and customs of Uruguayans
28. Most Uruguayans have European roots, so many of their traditions and customs will seem familiar and native to tourists.
29. The main character trait of Uruguayans is independence and the pursuit of justice. They are all ardent patriots of their homeland.
30. Another interesting feature of the character of the locals – an amazing tolerance to other people’s views. Here there is no prejudice to various sexual minorities, and the country itself is considered the most tolerant in South America.
31. And, of course, the main passion of Uruguayans is football. They are passionate fans who themselves like to play with the ball even on the streets of cities.
32. Like all Latin Americans, Uruguayans are very cheerful and cheerful people. They love noisy parties and festivals, and the traditional February carnival in Montevideo is as lavish as Rio de Janeiro.
33. Music and dance play an important role in the life of the local population. Once a week, drummers march through the streets of the cities, delighting not only tourists but also Uruguayans themselves.
34. Tango is the favourite dance of Uruguayans. Here you can often see couples dancing right on the pavements and near entertainment venues.
35. Uruguayans are very hospitable people. Any celebration is necessarily held with many guests. There is a tradition to invite even random passers-by to the wedding.
36. There are very few poor Uruguayans, which distinguishes this country from neighbouring Brazil and Argentina. The symbol of prosperity for the Uruguayan is a car of a prestigious brand, clothes of famous brands and places where they spend their holidays.
37. The national dress of Uruguayans is the costume of gauchos – local shepherds. It consists of the obligatory scarf or bandana, shirt, jacket and wide trousers tucked into boots. But in life, Uruguayans prefer ordinary European clothes.
38. Family is the main value for any Uruguayan. In the past, their families had many children, but now one or two children are the norm for city dwellers.
39. Uruguay has its own special tradition of New Year’s Eve. On the night of the first of January, they throw out of the windows torn leaves of the calendar and in the morning the streets of the cities are covered with this white «snow».
40. The main culinary passion of Uruguayans is grilled meat, which is called asado. Every evening right on the streets of the city you can see locals frying meat and eating it with pleasure.
41. The national drink of Uruguayans is mate – herbal tea from a plant whose leaves are very rich in caffeine. Every self-respecting Uruguayan always has a kalebasa with mate.
42. Uruguayans love alcoholic beverages, but the attitude towards drunk people here is negative. Grappamiel is the favourite drink of the locals. It is made with honey and contains about 25% alcohol.
43. Smokers are also treated negatively in the country. Uruguay has one of the highest fines for smoking in public places in Latin America, and an establishment that allows smoking can even be closed.
Nature of Uruguay
44. Uruguay is located in the subtropical climate zone, and the local winter is quite chilly – temperatures can drop to +14 degrees Celsius. Given that the homes of Uruguayans do not have central heating, such temperatures seem like real frost to them.
45. The country has a long coastline, washed by the Atlantic Ocean. Cyclones come partly from the ocean and bring large amounts of precipitation. Floods are the main natural disaster of Uruguay.
46. The country has no mountains, its relief is a hilly plain covered with pampa and forests, through which numerous rivers flow.
47. The largest river in the country is the Rio Negro. It divides Uruguay into two almost equal halves. There are two artificial reservoirs and hydroelectric power plants on the Rio Negro.
48. The largest lake of the country is considered to be Lagoa-Mirim, lying partly in Brazil. The area of this lake is almost 4 thousand square kilometres, and the maximum depth is only 7 metres.
49. Uruguay has a rich fauna and flora. The capybara, the largest rodent on the planet, can be considered the symbol of the country. In 2011-2019, the country even issued coins with the image of the capybara.
50. On the island of Lobos off the southern coast of Uruguay, there is the largest colony of sea lions in the region. The island has now been turned into a nature reserve.
Friends! If you know any more interesting facts about Uruguayans and the country itself, please share them in the comments. This country is full of amazing stories, culture and traditions, and many people would be glad to learn something new. We will be very grateful to you!