(Oriental Republic of Uruguay, República Oriental del Uruguay)
- Location: Southeastern South America
- Capital: Montevideo
- Language: Spanish
- Population: 3,494,382
- Total Area: 176,215 sq km
- Currency: Uruguayan Peso (UYU)
- Curious Alcohol Fact: A drink made of honey and alcohol called Grappamiel is often consumed on cold autumn or winter mornings.
- Annual Average Liquor Consumption per Capita: 8.14
- Most Popular Drink: Clerico is a drink of mixed fruit juice and wine that is very popular.
The Oriental Republic of Uruguay was established as a military stronghold by the Spanish in the 18th century. Uruguay won its independence after a three way battle with Spain, Argentina, and Brazil. This country is considered one of South America’s most developed countries and was even the first South American countries to legalize same-sex and opposite-sex civil unions. The name “Uruguay” comes from the Guarani “river of painted birds”. Uruguay is divided into nineteen departments. Water –rivers, lagoons, water basins and deltas –decorates the landscape of the country.
A vast majority of the population (about 88 percent) is of European descent. These Uruguayans are descendants of the Spanish and Italian immigrants who came to the country in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Interestingly, about a quarter of the population is of Italian ethnicity. There are very few descendants of the native population. The capital city, Montevideo, is the only large city with significant inhabitants. Cocoliche is a mixture of Spanish and Italian that is spoken among the immigrant population and even colloquially among the rest of the populace.
Uruguayan culture is very European, particularly Southern European. There is very little influence from native populations which sets this country apart from its South American neighbors. However, gauchos, basically cowboys who live in the Uruguayan plains, have a strong influence on the folklore and art. Folk and popular music also draw upon gaucho traditions. The tango is native to Uruguay (it’s not just from Argentina!) and, in fact, one of the most well known tangos was written by Uruguayan composer Gerardo Matos Rodriguez. Football (American soccer) is the most popular sport, and the first international game (outside of the British Isles) was played between Uruguay and Argentina in Montevideo in July 1902.
Beef is a staple of Uruguayan diets. Chivito (steak sandwiches), beef platters, barbequed kidneys with sausages are some of the more popular red meat dishes. Morcilla dulce, a type of blood sausage prepared with ground orange and walnuts, hungaras, spicy sausage in a hotdog roll, and masas surtidas, tiny pastries, are some other common foods.
The national drink of Uruguay is mate, dried leaves infused in hot water. Beer and wine are typically served along with drinks such as cleric which is a drink of mixed fruit juice and wine. On cold mornings in autumn or winter, Uruguayans often drink honey and alcohol called Grappamiel. People also traditionally carry a thermos of hot water along with a hollowed gourd called a mate, a metal straw called a bombilla, and dried yerba mate leaves so they can prepare mate.
Story By World By Shotglass
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Special thanks to our contributors:
Rebecca Dimyan, Danbury, CT, USA.