Describing Uruguay

The Oriental Republic of Uruguay, sometimes called the Eastern Republic of Uruguay, is usually simply referred to as Uruguay. The name is a Guarani word meaning river of the colorful birds. The Spanish first came to Uruguay in the early sixteenth century but their interest was limited owing to the absence of gold and silver deposits. There was determined indigenous resistance to European invasion but the Spanish did establish the first permanent settlement and also introduced cattle to the region at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Montevideo was founded by the Spanish at the start of the eighteenth century. With British mediation the country of Uruguay was created in 1828 by the Treaty of Montevideo and its first constitution was adopted in 1830.

After much external and civil unrest a period of stability ensued from 1903 to 1915 during which time many of the features of a modern state were introduced. A new constitution was introduced in 1934 following a coup d’etat. Free elections and freedom of the press were allowed in 1938 after a general election and Uruguay declared its neutrality at the start of the Second World War. The Battle of the River Plate culminating in the sinking of the German pocket battleship the Admiral Graff Spee is a well known event of this war which saw the neutrality of Uruguay tested. Civilian rule was restored after elections in 1984. Reforms ensued which began the establishment of a modern democracy. This has continued to this day with further enhancements to the constitution.

Uruguay is a representative democracy with a presidential system. The president exercises executive power with a 13 member cabinet. The government is elected by universal suffrage for a five year term. The General Assembly consists of two houses of parliament, the chambers of deputies and of senators numbering 99 and 30 elected members respectively. The Vice-President is appointed to preside over the chamber of senators. Both chambers are elected by proportional representation. There is an independent judicial system.

Argentina and Brazil are the major trading partners with the former accounting for 20% of foreign trade. It is for this reason that Uruguay denies service to British naval vessels bound for the Falkland Islands. Uruguay remains fiercely independent in spite of these good relations with the U.S.A. having secured an agreement with Venezuela for the supply of oil and recognized the Palestinian state.

Uruguay lies between latitudes 30º and 35º south and longitudes 53º and 59º west. Uruguay is about the same area as Cambodia and half that of Germany. In general the country is a transition stage between the rolling featureless pampas of Argentina and the hilly uplands of southern Brazil. There are three river systems. Flowing westwards are tributaries of the Rio Uruguay which forms the border with Argentina. Of this set of rivers is the Rio Negro which is the longest in the country. Other rivers flow east to the Atlantic and coastal lagoons. The third group of waterways drain south into the Rio de la Plata.

There are four well defined seasons in this sub-tropical country which is totally in the southern hemisphere temperate zone. For most people the climate is never uncomfortable because there are no hot or cold extremes.

Service industries, particularly banking and I.T. and tourism, make up about 70% of the economy. The industrial sector ranks second contributing 25% of G.D.P. and agriculture follows with about 10% of the total.

Tourism is an important sector in the economy of Uruguay and there is a wide variety of places to go and things to do for visitors to the country. Photographs of various towns and features of the country give a good guide to the possibilities here. A glimpse of the early European history of the country and of the life and character of the Uruguayan “Gaucho” can be had by visiting one of the estancias. These are ranches or landed estates which are well known features of the development of many Latin American countries. Uruguay does not have physical features that could be referred to in world terms as “the highest”, “the longest”, “the deepest”, “the hottest”, “the coldest” or any other superlative except, perhaps, “the most comfortable”. It is a country of low hills, rolling plains and a fertile coastal strip with an “all over” equitable climate without extremes.

The comment has been made that it will be expensive to attempt to re-create a U.S. lifestyle. This applies to the lifestyles of many other countries. This poses the question “why go to Uruguay (or anywhere else) to copy the life just left?”. This is a very valid point and one that all retirees considering a life abroad must ask themselves.

The most popular sports in Uruguay are, in order, football (soccer), basketball, rugby union and tennis. Uruguay’s greatest achievements internationally came with the F.I.F.A. World Cup victories in 1930, the inaugural competition, against Argentina and in 1950 in Brazil against the host nation. In addition to all forms of water sport, including fishing and kayaking, there are also many other recreational pursuits available in the country such as golf, cycling, hiking and rock climbing.

Fuller details on Uruguay can be gleaned from the links at the "Resources" tab on this site and from the book "How to Retire in Uruguay" by Les Johns. This book can be obtained directly from this site.

Other Considerations

If you like what you have read and seen so far then Uruguay could be a good choice. Retirement visa options are different from the those available in many countries. The kinds of life styles available in Uruguay are many but as in many countries facilities diminish as the distance from main centres increases. Uruguay has unique features with respect to international relations and independent internal policies which are often at odds with conventional overseas ideas. It must be stated immediately that the easy visiting rules that apply to tourists make the application of the “Golden Rule" - visit before settling - very easy.

The links at the "Resources" tab of this site and the book "How to Retire in Uruguay" by Les Johns, which can be bought directly from this site will provide further insights into this interesting country.