Uruguay: Natural beauty, music, and high-tech farming

Uruguay, one of the smallest nations in South America, has a population of about 3.4 million people, and more than half of them live in the metro area of the capital city, Montevideo. The country is situated on the northern shore of the Río de la Plata, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Uruguay River — from which the nation gets its name — to the west. As a result, the country boasts hundreds of miles of sandy beaches and waterfront resort areas, from laidback and remote to world-class destinations, which provide the basis for a thriving tourism industry.

Criss-crossed by low hills and rivers, the interior of the country consists mostly of rolling grasslands well-suited for raising livestock. In addition to the cattle industry, on which the country was founded, agriculture is a major contributor to the economy and also allows the population to enjoy a wide variety of fresh foods. Uruguay’s gastronomy has its roots in European cuisine, mostly Spanish and Italian. Pastas, stews, dairy products, and delicious pastries are very prevalent in the daily diet. Of course, Uruguayans are avid beef consumers, with ‘parrillada’, a variety of beef cuts and sausages prepared on a grill, being the country’s most popular meal. In fact, Uruguay is one of the top per-capita beef consumers in the world.

Uruguay ranks first in Latin America in democracy, peace, lack of corruption, quality of living, and e-Government, and it is also at the top in South America as far as freedom of the press, size of the middle class, prosperity, and security. Education is free at all levels, from elementary to college, and Uruguay has one of the lowest rates of illiteracy in Latin America.

People enjoy participating in activities ranging from travel and music to politics and sports. Uruguay — a country where soccer is an obsession and a match can bring the country to a halt — was the site of the first-ever World Cup in 1930. In spite of its small size, Uruguay has one of the most-titled national soccer teams in the world, including two World Cups, Olympic titles, and the most America Cup wins of any country.  When it comes to music, Uruguayan expression spans a broad range of styles, marked by European and African influences dating back to colonial times. Both music genres most closely associated with Uruguay, tango and candombe, have been recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Did you know…? In Uruguay, cows outnumber people by a ratio of four to one, and the country has the world’s first fully computerized traceability system, through which each cow is equipped with an electronic chip that allows every cut of beef to be traced to its source. In this high-tech farming environment, to the Uruguayan “gauchos” (or cowboys), laptops are as important as horses!

This is the twenty-first in a series of articles spotlighting different countries in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. To see a complete list of previous entries, click here.