Uruguayan culture is largely European, with influences from southern Europe being especially significant. The gaucho tradition has played a significant role in both Uruguayan and Argentinan art and culture.
Abstract painter and sculptor Carlos Páez Vilaró was a well-known Uruguayan artist. He took inspiration from both Timbuktu and Mykonos to construct his most well-known work: Casapueblo, a house, hotel, and atelier in Punta del Este. Casapueblo is a “livable sculpture” that attracts tourists from all over the globe. Juan Manuel Blanes, a 19th-century painter whose paintings portray historical events, was the first Uruguayan artist to achieve global reputation. Pedro Figari, a Post-Impressionist painter, gained worldwide acclaim for his pastel studies of themes in Montevideo and the countryside. The work of landscape architect Leandro Silva Delgado (es), who combines aspects of art and nature, has also gained worldwide acclaim.
Uruguay has a modest but developing film industry, and films like Whisky (2004) by Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll, Marcelo Bertalmo’s Los das con Ana (2000; “Days with Ana”), and Ana Dez’s Paisito (2008), depicting the 1973 military coup, have received worldwide acclaim.
Uruguayan folk and popular music has not just gaucho origins with Argentina, but also tango traditions. Gerardo Matos Rodrguez, a Uruguayan composer, wrote one of the most renowned tangos, “La cumparsita” (1917). The candombe is a traditional dance performed mostly by Uruguayans of African descent during Carnival, particularly Uruguayan Carnival. The guitar is the favored musical instrument, and in a famous traditional contest known as the payada, two singers take turns improvising lines to the same song, each with a guitar.
Canto popular is a kind of folk music that includes guitarists and vocalists such as Alfredo Zitarrosa, José Carbajal “El Sabalero,” Daniel Viglietti, Los Olimareos, and Numa Moraes.
Numerous radio stations and musical events reflect the popularity of rock music and Caribbean styles, together known as msica tropical (“tropical music”). Early classical music in Uruguay was heavily influenced by Spanish and Italian music, but during the twentieth century, a number of classical composers, notably Eduardo Fabini, Vicente Ascone (es), and Héctor Tosar, have used Latin American musical idioms.
Tango has also had an impact on Uruguayan culture, notably in the twentieth century, particularly in the 1930s and 1940s, with Uruguayan performers such as Julio Sosa from Las Piedras. Carlos Gardel, the renowned tango singer, changed his nationality to Uruguayan when he was 29 years old, claiming he was born in Tacuarembó, although this deception was most likely done to prevent French authorities from arresting him for failing to enlist in the French Army during World War I. Gardel was born in France and reared in Argentina. He was never a resident of Uruguay. Nonetheless, a Carlos Gardel museum was built in Valle Edén, near Tacuarembó, in 1999.
In the early 1960s, the Beatles and other British musicians introduced rock & roll to Uruguayan audiences. In Montevideo, a wave of bands emerged, including Los Shakers, Los Mockers, Los Iracundos, Los Moonlights, and Los Malditos, who were important characters in Argentina’s so-called Uruguayan Invasion. Popular Uruguayan Invasion bands sung in English.
La Vela Puerca, No Te Va Gustar, El Cuarteto de Nos, Once Tiros, La Trampa, Chalamadre, Snake, Buitres, and Cursi are some popular Uruguayan rock bands. Jorge Drexler, a Uruguayan musician and actor, received an Academy Award in 2004 for writing the song “Al otro lado del ro” from the film The Motorcycle Diaries, which recounted Che Guevara’s life.
In 2010, Uruguay was rated 37th out of 178 nations in the Reporters Without Borders global press freedom ranking. The right to free expression and access to the media is protected by the constitution, with exceptions for instigating violence or “insulting the country.” Uruguayans have access to more than 100 private daily and weekly newspapers, more than 100 radio stations, and about 20 terrestrial television channels, as well as cable television, which is widely accessible.
During the years of military dictatorship, Uruguay’s long history of journalistic freedom was severely restricted. Sanguinetti restored full press freedom on his first day in office in March 1985. As a result, Montevideo’s newspapers, which account for all of Uruguay’s major daily publications, saw a significant increase in circulation.
The official broadcasting service SODRE operates state-run radio and television. Some publications are owned by or affiliated with major political parties. El Da, established in 1886 by Colorado party leader and (later) president José Batlle y Ordóez, was the nation’s most renowned daily until its collapse in the early 1990s. El Pas, the opposing Blanco Party’s newspaper, has the highest circulation. Bsqueda is Uruguay’s most significant weekly news magazine and a key venue for political and economic debate. Although it barely sells approximately 16,000 copies each week, it has an estimated readership of more than 50,000. MercoPress is an independent news agency headquartered in Montevideo that focuses on Mercosur-related news.
Uruguayan cuisine is based on beef, and the nation is one of the world’s largest eaters of red meat per capita. Uruguay’s national cuisine is asado, a kind of barbecued beef, and other popular dishes include beef platters, chivito (steak sandwiches), macaroni, grilled kidneys, and sausages.
Local soft beverages, beer, and wine are often offered, as is clericó, a fruit juice and wine combination. Uruguay and Argentina both have a national beverage known as mate. Grappamiel, a drink mixed with alcohol and honey, is consumed on chilly autumn and winter mornings to warm the body. Locals are often seen carrying leather bags that hold a thermos of hot water, a hollowed gourd called a mate or guampa, a metal straw called a bombilla, and dried yerba mate leaves. For desserts or afternoon snacks, sweet delicacies such as crème caramel with dulce de leche and alfajores (shortbread biscuits) are popular.
Other Uruguayan dishes include morcilla dulce (a type of blood sausage cooked with ground orange fruit, orange peel, and walnuts), chorizo, milanesa (a breaded veal cutlet similar to the Austrian Wiener Schnitzel), olmpicos (club sandwiches), hngaras (spicy sausage in a hot dog roll), “tortas fritas” (similar to elephant ears and traditionally eaten during the rainy season)