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Uruguay History

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  • Punta del Este
  • Santa Teresa Fort
  • Pittamiglio Castle

The earliest known and documented inhabitants of Uruguay were the Charrúa who had come south from Paraguay. The Charrúa were nomadic people who lived in tents rather than establishing permanent structures. Unfortunately not much is known about these early people as many perished at the hands of the Spanish who first arrived in present-day Uruguay in 1516.  Spanish settlement in the area was initially limited as the Europeans met with resistance from the local populations and the gold and silver found in other parts of the continent were not found in Uruguay.

Spanish settlers began to introduce cattle to Uruguay which provided considerable wealth. Due to Uruguay’s strategic geographical position near the mouth of the Rio de la Plata, the territory was often contested. As a result, Spanish colonization slowly continued as a way to prevent Portugal’s expansion. The future capital Montevideo was established in 1724. Originally a garrison town, the city began to expand towards the end of the colonial period due to growing trade.

Early in the 19th century, Uruguayan nationalism, partly ignited by the Age of Enlightenment, began to increase and in 1811, Montevideo-born José Gervasio Artigas started a revolt against Spanish forces. Three years later, Artigas formed the Federal League with other provinces, proclaiming independence from Spain in 1815. Portugal, wary of the effects the Federal League could have on their territory in Brazil, sent forces to occupy Montevideo in 1817. After four years of struggle, Portugal finally annexed the area known as Banda Oriental (present-day Uruguay) to Brazil. However, in 1828, a group of patriots led by General Juan Lavalleja initiated a rebellion against the Empire of Brazil, declaring independence. The Treaty of Montevideo solidified Uruguay’s position as an independent state.

After independence, the political scene in Uruguay was divided between two main parties, the Blancos (“Whites”) and the Colorados (“Reds”). The conservative Blancos were led by Manuel Oribe who focussed on agricultural interests while the liberal Colorados were led by Fructuoso Rivera who represented business. The two sides had very different beliefs and ideas on how to organize Uruguay, culminating in two wars, the Great War of 1843-52 and the Triple Alliance of 1864-70. Argentina and Brazil were constantly forced to intervene until the Blancos and the Colorados were finally able to reach an agreement in 1872.

After the Great War, Uruguay attracted many immigrants, the majority of which came from Italy and Spain. With the help of these new arrivals, agriculture grew in the country and Montevideo became an important economic centre. Early in the 20th century, José Batlle y Ordóñez became president and helped establish the model for Uruguay’s modern political scene. Uruguay established Latin America’s first welfare state, gave women the right to vote and many other social, economic and political reforms were put in place.

Beginning in the 1950s, Uruguay began to experience economic problems that greatly affected the standard of living in the country. This instability was followed by the suspension of civil liberties and military rule during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1984, protests erupted in the country and civilian rule was returned in 1985. Today, Uruguay has one of the strongest economies in South America and the population enjoys a high quality of life. A charming population, incredible beauty and a year-round temperate climate have made Uruguay a popular destination for tourists from around the world. 



Uruguay Travel Information

At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy-to-navigate travel information section dedicated to Uruguay.

Learn about the history and culture of Uruguay, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about Uruguay's nature and wildlife, weather and geography, along with 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information, will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering Uruguay for yourself. Start exploring… book one of our Uruguay vacations today!


Extend Your Trip

After your Uruguay tours  why not consider another of Goway's Latin America tours. These include a large selection of other exciting countries in Central and South America. We offer Chile vacation packages and Easter Island tours, Ecuador vacation packages which include Galapagos cruises, Peru vacation packages which include Machu Picchu tours and Brazil tours including Iguassu Falls tours among many others.



Book your Uruguay tour with Goway! 

LATIN AMERICA by Goway is an exclusive division that specializes in planning and organizing Uruguay vacations and experiences. Choose from a simple city stopover, an independent travel module, a Holiday of a Lifetime and much more. We want to be your first choice when next you go globetrotting to Uruguay.

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