Uruguay, officially called the Oriental Republic of Uruguay or in spanish República Oriental del Uruguay, is a country in the southeastern region of South America. It borders Argentina to its west and southwest and Brazil to its north and northeast, with the Río de la Plata to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the southeast. Uruguay is home to an estimated 3.5 million people, with around 1.8 millions living in the capital city: Montevideo. With an area of approximately 176,000 square kilometers (68,000 sq mi), Uruguay is geographically the second-smallest nation in South America after Suriname.
Uruguay: The territory and the geography
The Uruguayan landscape is largely characterized by gently rolling land, with an average elevation of about 383 feet (117 metres). Tidal lakes and sand dunes fringe the coastline. Elsewhere there are broad valleys, plains (pampas), low plateaus and hills, and ridges—notably Haedo Ridge (Cuchilla de Haedo) in the north and Grande Ridge (Cuchilla Grande) in the southeast—that are a southward extension of the Brazilian Highlands. Mount Catedral, which rises to 1,685 feet (514 metres) near the southeastern coast, is the highest point in the country. The valleys and coastal plains are covered with deposits of sand, clay, and fertile alluvium.
Uruguay has a generally pleasant, temperate climate. The average temperature for the midwinter month of July varies from 54 °F (12 °C) at Salto in the northern interior to 50 °F (10 °C) at Montevideo in the south. The midsummer month of January varies from a warm average of 79 °F (26 °C) at Salto to 72 °F (22 °C) at Montevideo. Frost is almost unknown along the coast. Both summer and winter weather may vary from day to day with the passing of storm fronts; a hot northerly wind may occasionally be followed by a cold wind (pampero) from the Argentine Pampas.
Uruguay has neither a decidedly dry nor a rainy season. The heaviest precipitation occurs during the autumn months (March and April), although more frequent rains occur in winter. The mean annual precipitation is generally greater than 40 inches (1,000 mm), decreasing with distance from the seacoast, and is relatively evenly distributed throughout the year. Thunderstorms occur frequently during the summer.
People: Ethnic groups
Uruguayans are of predominantly European origin, mostly descendants of 19th- and 20th-century immigrants from Spain and Italy and, to a much lesser degree, from France and Britain. Earlier settlers had migrated from Argentina and Paraguay. Few direct descendants of Uruguay’s indigenous peoples remain, and mestizos (of mixed European and Indian ancestry) account for less than one-tenth of the population. Blacks and persons of mixed Black and white ancestry make up an even smaller proportion of the total.
Spanish is spoken throughout Uruguay, although in Rivera and other borderland towns close to Brazil an admixture of Portuguese and Spanish can be heard, often in a slang called portuñol, from the words português and español.
Nearly half of the people are at least nominally Roman Catholic. About one-third of the population adhere to other Christian faiths or are nondenominational Christians. About one-sixth of Uruguayans are agnostics or atheists. Jews, mostly in Montevideo, make up a small minority, which is nevertheless one of the larger Jewish communities in South America.
Other interesting facts about Uruguay
1. The country’s official name is República Oriental del Uruguay (Oriental Republic of Uruguay).
2. The name Uruguay comes from the Uruguay River which means ‘river of the painted birds’ in the Guarani language. The river starts in Brazil and ends in the Rio de la Plata Basin which forms the water border between Uruguay and Argentina.
3. Uruguay is the least corrupt country in Latin America. It is ranked first in the region for democracy, peace, lack of corruption, quality of living, e-Government, freedom of press, size of the middle class, prosperity and security…
4. …which is all the more impressive considering the country was ruled by a military dictatorship until 1985. In 2009, General Gregorio Conrado Álvarez, the country’s final dictator, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for 37 counts of murder and human rights violations.
5. Over half of the country’s 3.3 million people live in the capital, Montevideo.
6. Suriname is the only country in South America that is smaller than Uruguay.
7. In Uruguay, cows outnumber people four to one. It is a nation of 12 million cattle but just three million people
8. The highest point in Uruguay is Cerro Catedral at just 514m (1,684ft) above sea level.
9. Uruguay is the only country in Latin America which is entirely outside of the tropics.
The country is located entirely within the temperate zone so extreme temperatures are rare
10. Uruguay’s national anthem, which lasts more than five minutes, is the world’s longest in performance duration.
11. With only 46% of the population Catholic, Uruguay is one of the least religious countries in Latin America.
12. The Uruguayans have won the football World Cup twice. They were the first hosts and winners of the tournament in 1930 and won it again in 1950.
13. José “Pepe” Mujica, President of Uruguay between 2010 and 2015, donates 90% of his income to charity, a habit that earned him the moniker ‘the world’s poorest president’.