Uruguay’s name means “river of the beautiful birds.” It has something to do with Guyana’s name: Arawak Guayana, which means “country of many waterways.”
The country is often referred to as the Switzerland of South America, not because of its physical characteristics, but because of its stable democracy and social advantages such as free education. Uruguay had one of its worst economic crises in 2002, which had a significant negative impact on safety owing to an increase in crime, and although activity levels in 2008 were back to pre-crisis levels, crime remains quite high, albeit low for the area. Uruguay, which has long been a popular destination for immigrants, has seen significant levels of emigration for almost four decades, mostly from highly skilled employees and individuals with advanced degrees (brain drain) seeking better prospects elsewhere.
Uruguay’s indigenous people have a long agricultural and civic history. In certain places, the dominating pre-20th century live stock drive methods are still used, although they are less popular tourist attractions than beautiful beaches and city centers. The country’s terrain is mostly low-lying. The country’s highest peak, Cerro Catedral, stands at 514 meters.
Uruguay’s tourist sector is a solid part of the country’s economy. Tourism is a factor they have decided to prioritize, whether it adds to the economy’s total production or offers stability in the form of employment. The tourist sector employed 10% of the country’s workforce in 2008. In 2007, approximately 1.8 million visitors visited Uruguay. The majority of visitors in Uruguay are drawn to the country’s rich culture as well as its beautiful natural features. Interacting with indigenous peoples to colonial history, as shown at Colonia del Sacrementa, are all cultural experiences available in Uruguay. Montevideo, the country’s capital, offers the widest range of cultural opportunities. Tores Garcia Museum and Estadio Sentenario, which hosted the first world cup in history, are only two examples of the cultural richness that visitors seek. However, just strolling the streets enables one to experience the city’s diverse mix of culture.
Punta del Este is a popular tourist destination in Uruguay. Punta del Este is a popular tourist resort located on a tiny peninsula along Uruguay’s southeast coast. Its beaches are classified into two categories: Mansa (meek) and Brava (brave) (ocean side). The Mansa beach is better for sunbathing, snorkeling, and other low-key recreational activities, while the Brava beach is better for daring water sport aficionados. Punta del Este is practically linked to Maldonado and stretches eastward to include La Barra and José Ignacio. It has 122 hotels, 80 restaurants, an international airport, and a 500-boat yacht harbor.
See this list compiled by Welcome Uruguay for a more in-depth look at Uruguay’s extensive tourist possibilities.
Uruguay is the second smallest sovereign country in South America (after Suriname) and the third smallest territory in the world, with 176,214 km2 (68,037 sq mi) of continental land and 142,199 km2 (54,903 sq mi) of jurisdictional water and tiny river islands (French Guiana is the smallest). With a rich coastal lowland, the scenery consists mostly of undulating plains and modest hill ranges (cuchillas). Uruguay has a coastline of 660 kilometers (410 miles).
The nation is covered by a complex fluvial network made up of four river basins or deltas: the Ro de la Plata Basin, the Uruguay River, the Laguna Mern, and the Ro Negro. The Ro Negro (‘Black River’) is the main internal river. Along the Atlantic coast, there are many lagoons.
The Cerro Catedral, in the Sierra Carapé mountain range, is the country’s highest point, reaching 514 meters (1,686 feet) above sea level. The Ro de la Plata, the estuary of the Uruguay River (which defines the country’s western boundary), is located to the southwest.
Montevideo is the southernmost capital city in the Americas and the world’s third-southest metropolis (only Canberra and Wellington are further south).
Uruguay has ten national parks: five in the east’s wetland regions, three in the central hill country, and one along the Rio Uruguay in the west.
Uruguay is the only temperate-zone nation in South America. Because there are no high mountains to serve as a shield, the terrain is flat grassland, and all places are especially susceptible to quick shifts in weather fronts and strong winds. Summer and winter are reversed in Uruguay relative to the Northern Hemisphere due to its location south of the Equator (about the same latitude as Johannesburg and Sydney). Temperatures below freezing are uncommon in the winter, though not unheard of.
Uruguayans are mostly of European heritage, with nearly 87.7% of the population reporting European ancestry according to the 2011 census. The majority of Uruguayans of European descent are descendants of 19th and 20th century immigrants from Spain and Italy (about one-quarter of the population is Italian), and to a lesser extent France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Previously, settlers had come from Argentina. African-Americans make up an even lower percentage of the population.
Between 1963 and 1985, an estimated 320,000 Uruguayans left the country. Argentina is the most common emigration destination for Uruguayans, followed by the United States, Australia, Canada, Spain, Italy, and France. In 2009, the nation experienced an overall positive inflow when comparing immigration to emigration for the first time in 44 years. In 2009, 3,825 resident permits were issued, up to 1,216 in 2005. Argentina and Brazil account for half of the new legal residents. A 2008 immigration legislation gave immigrants the same rights and privileges as citizens, with the need that they prove a monthly income of $650.
Uruguay’s population growth rate is much lower than that of other Latin American nations. Because of its low birth rate, long life expectancy, and relatively high rate of emigration among younger people, its median age is greater than the world average. A quarter of the population is under the age of 15, while approximately a sixth is beyond the age of 60.
Montevideo is the country’s sole major city, with a population of 1.9 million people, or more than half of the country’s overall population. About 30 towns house the remainder of the urban population.
Uruguay has no official religion; the state and the church are legally separated, and religious freedom is protected. According to a 2008 INE poll, Catholicism is the most popular religion in Uruguay, with 45.7 percent of the population; non-Catholic Christians account for 9.0 percent, 0.6 percent are Animists or Umbandists (an Afro-Brazilian religion), and 0.4 percent are Jewish. 30.1 percent said they believed in a deity but were not religious, while 14 percent said they were atheists or agnostics. The main religion among Montevideo’s large Armenian population is Christianity, particularly Armenian Apostolic Christianity.
Uruguay is often regarded as the most secular nation in the Americas. In comparison to other areas of the Spanish Empire, Uruguay’s secularization started with the church’s comparatively modest involvement in the colonial period. The religious authorities’ influence was limited due to the tiny number of Indians in Uruguay and their adamant opposition to proselytism.
Anti-clerical views came to Uruguay after independence, especially from France, significantly diminishing the church’s authority. Civil marriage was legalized in 1837, and public graves were taken over by the state in 1861. Divorce was legalized in 1907, and religious teaching was outlawed in public schools in 1909. With the new constitution of 1917, under the influence of Colorado reformer José Batlle y Ordóez (1903–1911), full separation of religion and state was established.
Between 1999 and 2002, Uruguay was engulfed in a severe economic and financial crisis, mostly as a result of Argentina’s economic woes. The economy shrank by 11%, while unemployment rose to 21%. Despite the severity of trade shocks, Uruguay’s financial indicators remained more stable than those of its neighbors, owing to its strong investor reputation and investment-grade government bond rating, one of only two in South America.
The Batlle government signed a three-year $1.1 billion stand-by agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2004, committing the country to a large primary fiscal surplus, low inflation, significant reductions in external debt, and a number of structural reforms aimed at improving competitiveness and attracting foreign investment. Uruguay ended the deal in 2006 after paying off its debt early, although it kept a number of the policy promises.
Vázquez, who took office in March 2005, established the “Ministry of Social Development” and set out to reduce the country’s poverty rate by implementing a $240 million National Plan to Address the Social Emergency (PANES), which provided a monthly conditional cash transfer of $75 to over 100,000 families living in extreme poverty. In return for the benefits, recipients were expected to do community service, guarantee that their children attended school every day, and have frequent health checkups.
Uruguay was the first South American software exporter in 2005. While continuing to make payments on Uruguay’s foreign debt, the Frente Amplio administration launched an emergency plan to address the country’s severe poverty and unemployment issues. Between 2004 and 2008, the economy expanded at a 6.7 percent yearly pace. Uruguay has diversified its export markets in order to decrease its reliance on Argentina and Brazil. Poverty fell from 33% in 2002 to 21.7 percent in July 2008, with severe poverty falling from 3.3 percent to 1.7 percent.
Uruguay was the only nation in the Americas that did not officially suffer a recession between 2007 and 2009. (two consecutive downward quarters). In December 2010, unemployment hit a new low of 5.4 percent, before increasing to 6.1 percent in January 2011. While unemployment remains low, the IMF has seen an increase in inflationary pressures, and Uruguay’s GDP grew by 10.4% in the first half of 2010.
According to IMF projections, Uruguay’s real GDP is expected to increase between 8% and 8.5 percent in 2010, followed by 5% growth in 2011 and 4% growth in following years. After five consecutive quarters of steady growth, gross public sector debt decreased in the second quarter of 2010, reaching $21.885 billion US dollars, or 59.5 percent of GDP.
On December 11, 2013, Uruguay became the first nation in the world to completely legalize marijuana, making it the first country in the world to do so. On the same day, the legislation was approved by the Uruguayan senate, with 16 votes in favor and 13 votes against.