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La República Oriental del Uruguay


  • Independence: 25 August 1828

  • Area: 176,220 square kilometers (67,983 square miles)

  • Population: 3,300,000

  • Capital and Largest City: Montevideo, population 1,500,000

  • Highest Elevation: Cerro Catedral, 514 meters (1686 feet)

  • Lowest Elevation: Sea level

  • Time Zones: Central South American (Greenwich Mean Time - 3 hours)

  • Official Language: Spanish

  • Currency: 1 peso uruguayo (UY$) = 100 centesimos; UY$30 = US$1.00

  • National Anthem: Himno Nacional del Uruguay

  • President: Julio María Sanguinetti


The 19 Departamentos and their Capitals(alphabetical order):

  • Artigas: Artigas

  • Canelones: Canelones

  • Cerro Largo: Melo

  • Colonia: Colonia del Sacramento

  • Durazno: Durazno

  • Flores: Trinidad

  • Florida: Florida

  • Lavalleja: Minas

  • Maldonado: Maldonado

  • Montevideo: Montevideo

  • Paysandú: Paysandú

  • Río Negro: Fray Bentos

  • Rivera: Rivera

  • Rocha: Rocha

  • Salto: Salto

  • San José: San José de Mayo

  • Soriano: Mercedes

  • Tacuarembó: Tacuarembó

  • Treinta y Tres: Treinta y Tres

Uruguay is generally overshadowed by its giant and much more spectacular neighbors Brazil and Argentina, and arose as essentially a political buffer state between these 2 large countries. Although Uruguay is relatively small and its attractions are relatively modest, the country more than compensates with its exceptional warmth and charm. Montevideo is one of the most interesting capitals in South America. Uruguay also has enchanting colonial towns and some world-renowned beach resorts on the Uruguayan Riviera which extends along el Río de la Plata and the Atlantic Ocean.

La República Oriental del Uruguay (The Eastern Republic of Uruguay) is the 2nd smallest country in South America after Suriname, but still large by European standards. It has an area of 176,220 square kilometers (67,983 square miles) and a population of 3,200,000. Montevideo is the capital and largest city, with 40% of the people. Other cities are Colonia del Sacramento, Punta del Este and Maldonado. The name Uruguay is an indigenous Charrua term for "River of Birds".

The economy is based primarily livestock such as sheep and cattle, crops such as grains, and fishing. Manufacturing includes the processing of animal and agricultural products. Exports include meat, wool, hides and skins. The leather industry includes footwear, handbags and leather apparel.

Uruguay is in southeast South America; Brazil is to the north and Argentina to the west. El Río de la Plata lies to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Fertile lowlands line the coast, and a rich plain called la Banda Oriental lies along the south. The northern interior has rolling hills and grasslands crossed by 2 low ranges, Cuchilla de Haedo and Cuchilla Grande (Big Knife), named for knifelike granite formations which jut through the surface. Five rivers flow west into el Río Uruguay which flows into el Río de la Plata. El Río Uruguay itself begins in Brazil and then forms the border between Uruguay and Argentina, and is navigable for most of its 1600-kilometer (1000-mile) length.

The population are primarily of Spanish and Italian descent, and 10% are mestizo (mixed Spanish and indigenous ancestry). Spanish is the official language, and Roman Catholicism is the chief religion although Uruguay has no official religion. Wealth and poverty are much less extreme than in the rest of South America, and most Uruguayans are middle class. Uruguay has a high standard of living and literacy. During the 1980s and 1990s, an estimated 500,000 Uruguayans have emigrated, primarily for career opportunities in Argentina and Brazil.

Uruguay lies in the Southern Hemisphere between 30°S and 35°S latitude and between 53°W and 58°W longitude, and its seasons are the opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere. The climate is temperate and mostly uniform, with mild rainy winters. The absence of mountains exposes the country to occasional cold humid southeasterly winds. Uruguay lies in the Southern Hemisphere and thus its seasons are the opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere. Uruguay is one of only 4 nations which lie completely south of the Tropic of Capricorn; the others are New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean, and Lesotho and Swaziland in southern Africa.

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