The first Spanish explorer Juan Diaz de Solis to visit Uruguay and most of his party were killed in 1516 by the hostile Charrua tribes that occupied the territory. The first European settlement came only in 1680 when the Portuguese founded Colonia de Sacramento across the Plata river from Buenos Aires, newly re-established by the Spanish. Spain retaliated by building a strong citadel in Montevideo in 1726. After a long struggle, Spain wrested the country from Portugal in 1778, by which time almost all of the indigenous people had been exterminated.
Uruguay revolted against Spain in 1811, only to be conquered in 1817 by the Portuguese from Brazil. Independence was reasserted with Argentine help in 1825, and the republic was set up in 1828.
A revolt in 1836 touched off nearly 50 years of factional strife, including an inconclusive civil war 18391851), a war with Paraguay (18651870), and occasional armed interventions by Argentina and Brazil.
Early in the 20th century President José Batlle y Ordóñez introduced social an economic reforms including a welfare program and government participation in the economy. Uruguay prospered on meat and wool exports but a decline began in the 1950s as successive governments struggled to maintain a large bureaucracy and costly social benefits. Corruption led to economic stagnation and left-wing terrorist activity followed.
A military coup ousted the civilian government in 1973. The military dictatorship that followed used fear and terror to demoralise the population, taking thousands of political prisoners. After ruling for 12 years, the brutal military regime permitted election of a civilian government in Nov. 1984 and relinquished rule in March 1985; full political and civil rights were then restored.
In 1990, free-market reformer Luis Alberto Lacalle took office but considerable opposition to his plans for wage restraint, spending cuts and major state sell-offs paved the way for Sanguinetti to once again take control in 1994.
|Atlapedia CIA Country Reports Lonely Planet Traveldocs|
Surrounded by palm trees in the center of the Plaza de Independencia is the black marble mausoleum of José Gervasio Artigas who declared Uruguay's independence in 1811 and defended it against its neighbours until both Argentina and Brazil abandoned their claims in 1828. The building with the funny looking tower is an unmistakable landmark of Montevideo, I'm sure there isn't another one like it anywhere else in the world!
Uruguay is distinct from Argentina but they have much in common culturally. Both have a tradition of violent politics with civil war and dictatorships alternating with intervals of democratic civilian governments. Both have almost completely eradicated the original indigenous population and have resorted to massive European immigration.
Both people speak Spanish with a particular accent and eat huge quantities of meat mostly in the form of "parilladas". Their relationship is similar to that of Canada and the United States, with the southern partner being bigger, louder and more overbearing and the northern partner sharing similar values but being somewhat more advanced socially.
Punta del Este cannot match Argentina's Mar de Plata but that's normal because the country is smaller and the people less pretentious.
I found Uruguay's beach city more pleasant than Mar de Plata because it is smaller and less crowded (at least when I was there).
This scene would not be different in Waikiki, Bocagrande, Cannes, or Surfer's Paradise...
At last, here is something original!
There are several great beaches, like this one at Atlantida, between Montevideo and Punta del Este.
Here is another view of Atlantida Beach on a Monday morning in March 1994. After a couple of days of doing nothing but enjoying the good things of life, I said goodbye to the lady and moved on to Paraguay.