Tuesday, October 9, 2007

You're in Uruguay!

Hola! And welcome to my first full fledged country post on this blog. I chose the South American country of Uruguay for my first country profile because I didn't know much about it and because it's also the country that produced this stunning woman:

Actress Barbara Mori

Surely any country where someone as beautiful as this comes from must be a cool place. Right?

Well, of course it is. Uruguay sits on the southern end of the Atlantic ocean side of South America. It borders Brazil and Argentina, it was also annexed by both countries at one time but it has since gotten it's independence. Uruguayans celebrate their Independence Day on August 25th.
Despite being annexed by both Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay owes more culturally and linguistically to Paraguay than to either of it's neighbors. The Guarani Indians lived in the lowlands of what would one day become Paraguay and Uruguay long before any Europeans set foot on the continent. And despite European eradication efforts, Guarani is still spoken in Paraguay. In fact the names of both countries are derivations of Guarani words.

Uruguay, whose official name is the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, is roughly the same size as Oklahoma. Thankfully unlike Oklahoma there has been no Broadway musical named Uruguay! and the Uruguayan country side is not infested with bingo parlors and casinos.

The Uruguayan population, which as of 2006 was estimated to be at 3.5 million, has always been a smart, hard working, diverse, and well taken care of. This country was one of the first in the world to pioneer the concept of "the welfare state." What that means is the people decided that it was better for their government to spend it resources on health, education, and the welfare of it citizens than on guns and tanks and useless wars over natural resources. And that philosophy has paid dividends time and time again. For example the literacy rate in Uruguay is 98%, male citizens can expect to live to age 76 and female citizens can expect to live to be 80, and infant mortality is low, 11.6 per thousand.
Most of Uruguay's citizens are white, usually of Spanish or Italian descent, but there are still some mestizo's, which are descendants of the Guarani, and there are also blacks in Uruguay. The most common language spoken in Uruguay is Spanish, however there is also a Portuguese/Spanish mix language spoken called Brazilero. Unfortunately the Guarani language is not spoken much in Uruguay any more, however is still is spoken widely in Paraguay.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

As one would expect in a South American country the population is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, 66% percent of the population claim to be Catholics. Jews make up 1% of Uruguay's religious folks and Protestants don't fare much better, they claim only 2% of the population. Unlike the Jews however, the Protestants have not given up on forcing the locals to turn to Jesus, so they keep sending in missionaries. Missionaries like this one:

I swear I found her picture on a Uruguayan missionary website. I am not making this up. I guess they may find a receptive audience among the 31% of Uruguayans who claim no religious affiliation, but I seriously doubt it.

What do folks in Uruguay do for a living?

I'm glad you asked. The work in wide ranging industries such as agriculture, electrical equipment manufacturing, textiles, chemical manufacturing, fishing, petroleum production (watch out Uruguay don't let a certain someone in Washington DC you have oil or he may attack you!), and transportation equipment manufacturing. The mountains to the north of Uruguay give way to the rolling low lands in the middle of the country and eventually the low lands give way to the mighty Atlantic ocean. With the run off from the mountains and what with all the rivers and lakes in the interior, most of the country side is ideal for farming. And farm Uruguayans do, in 2005 alone they grew and exported over 3.5 billion dollars worth of beef, rice, wool, dairy, fish, and leather products. Not bad for the second smallest country in South America huh.

But all work and no play would make Uruguay a dull place now wouldn't it? Of course it would. And so Uruguayans enjoy their leisure time and they love their sports too. For a small country Uruguay boasts over 20 TV stations, a slew of daily and weekly newspapers, and a sports reputation that is unmatched by any other country it's size. Uruguay stunned the world in 1930 when they won the first FIFA World Cup tournament and as if that was not enough they won it all again in 1950. When they won the futbol crown in 1950 they did it in what was then the largest futbol stadium in the world in Brazil.Uruguayans also enjoy rugby and basketball as well. And they've been known to throw down on the odd game of tiddlywinks from time to time, but when you stop and think about it, aren't all games of tiddlywinks odd?

Ah well, who knows? Since Uruguay is in the Southern hemisphere it's seasons are the opposite from ours. Summer down there is our winter and our winter is their summer. In fact the hottest month in Uruguay is January and it's coldest month is June. The country has cold winters and warm sticky summers. Snow is not unheard of in their winter but it is not a huge problem because when it does snow, it does not accumulate much, aside from on the mountains to the north that is. All in all the climate is temperate and ideal for all the farming that they do down there.

Uruguay is a democracy and while it usually elects right wing candidates, though in the last elections they finally elected leftist leaders, the people have never been afraid to speak out or to demonstrate in the streets when they felt like it. It's so free and open down there that it should be the model democracy for all nations to aspire to, unlike our twisted version of democracy where capitalism is allowed to run wild and unchecked.

I'm not sure what this gal is protesting but I like the way she does it.
Most of the population, almost half the country, lives in and around the capital Montevideo which sits on the southern coast of Uruguay.
As you can see it's a bustling city that is constantly under construction and revision. It does have it scenic delights as well though.
It is truly a modern city that is brimming with people and places to see. The lovely Ms. Mori was born in Montevideo, so that's enough for me, I'm ready to declare it a world treasure based on her birth alone. Well, to be honest, also because of these yummy looking deserts made in the capital too:
Mmmmmm, cake.
Mmmmm, dulce de leche over something sweet, mmmm.
But for me the thing that truly sets Montevideo above the pack when it comes to capital cities is the beach. I love the beach and I love a big capital city on a beach. Heck, I'm gonna admit it, I love Montevideo.
And I love Uruguay too. How could you not love a country that has this flag:

Someday I'd love to visit Uruguay even though I don't speak Spanish. Maybe if I got lucky I'd get Ms. Mori to be my guide and she and I could speak the international language of love.

Ahhh, Uruguay, how grateful I am that you're in the Americas.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Coming soon...

...more Uruguay than you can handle. And it's brought to you by Dr. Monkey. Try to stay calm and enjoy the ride. And Missy, thanks for making me your collaborator on this great blog.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I have not abandoned my quest!

I have just been busy at work and life (as I am sure have been too!)!

The world keeps turning though and I am almost done with Iceland and narrowing down the next subject.

If anyone out there would like to post about a country that would be awesome!

Let me know.