Uruguay can literally be translated from Guarani as, “river of the colourful birds.” This was the language spoken by the indigenous population.
Uruguayans are mainly of European descent as the majority of the local indigenous population were sadly wiped out in the 1800s. Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French are just a few of the nationalities that emigrated here in droves. Therefore it’s less about your ethnic origin and more about your citizenship that makes you Uruguayan.
Uruguay is quite an unusual South American country due to its stable democracy, advanced social benefits and low crime rate. Most of the population would consider themselves to be middle class and the extremes of wealth which inflicts most South American countries is not the case here.
The literacy rate is 96%, which is one of the highest in Latin America. There is a good and free education system and consequently the Uruguayan workforce is one of the best educated in the region.
They like to talk politics and are also like to talk about their country, of which they are very proud. Like much of South America they were subjected to military dictatorships from the early 1970s until 1985, which was a dark time in their history.
Uruguayans are a relaxed bunch though and if you get invited to a social occasion while there – don’t arrive on time, they won’t expect you for at least another hour! They certainly know how to enjoy themselves – they have one of the longest carnivals in the world, which usually lasts about a month! Throughout the year there is always some sort of festival or event to celebrate and they like to put on a good party. They are undoubtedly a friendly and open nation who make excellent hosts.
It’s mainly an agricultural economy and as there are over 10 million cattle for a population of just over 3.5 million, as you can imagine lots of meat eating takes place. A traditional get together for friends and families often involves a bbq (asado) and usually accompanied by some good local wine.
And finally there is football. Most of the immigrants coming from Europe shared a love of the beautiful game and this was a great way of bringing them together. Uruguay are extremely very proud of the fact that they won the first World Cup back in 1930.
They won it for the second time in 1950 when they beat Brazil on their own turf. Brazil took the lead but then Uruguay equalized before scoring the winning goal and creating one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history. The overwhelmingly Brazilian crowd in Rio’s Maracana stadium were left dumbfounded by the result and some were even treated for shock afterwards.
Uruguayans are very passionate about football and this passion often results in behaviour of which the English would consider as unfair play. Matches usually take place later in the evening and often with a highly charged atmosphere. Uruguayans love going to watch games and it is an important part of the culture.
May the best team win!
Uruguay is a wonderful country with a warm and welcoming population and makes an outstanding destination for tourists. Staying on a ranch (estancia) while you are there will undoubtedly be a highlight, have a look at www.historichaciendas.com (http://www.historichaciendas.com) for some inspiration.