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The smallest independent state in South America, extending from latitude 30° to 35 degrees S. and from longitude 53° to 58° 30' W., lies south of the Province of Río Grande do Sul, Brazil, and east of the Río Uruguay, hence its local name, Banda Oriental, given in the old Spanish days. Its boundaries are; west, the Río Uruguay; south the Río Uruguay, south the Río de la Plata, which separate it from the Argentine Republic for a distance of 425 miles, south also and east, the Atlantic ocean for 200 miles, and Lago Mirim, a lagoon dividing Uruguay from the southeast of Brazil. The northern boundary, 450 miles in extent, was definitively settled by treaty with Brazil on 15 May, 1852, as the Río Quarim, the Cuchilla de Santa Ana to the Río San Luis, thence to the Río Jaguarão, and the western shore of Lago Mirim. Uruguay's greatest length is about 350 and breadth 300 miles, and its area 72,170 square miles, approximately six times the size of Belgium, or double the size of the State of Indiana, U.S.A. The capital, Montevideo (properly San Felipe y Santiago de Montevideo ) is situated in latitude 34 degrees 54' S. and longitude 58° 32' W.

Natural Features

The northern portion of the republic is hilly, the ranges being continuations of the Brazilian mountains; though the hills are termed cuchillas (knives), the summits are not sharp, but gently rounded. The chief groups are the Cuchilla de Santa Ana, 80 miles long and 1600 feet high on the border of Brazil, the Cuchilla Grande, 210 miles long and 1500 feet high, running south- east across the country, and the Cuchilla de Haedo in the northwest, 275 miles long. The culminating point is Acequa in the Cuchilla Grande near the Brazil frontier, with an elevation of 2040 feet. The country lying along the Atlantic is low, dismal, swampy, and sandy, and contains many lagoons. The west and south is composed of beautiful fertile plains, not quite level like the argentine pampas lying west of the Río Uruguay, but undulating gently. This region is intersected by numerous arroyos , or small streams, rendering it suited for agricultural and pastoral pursuits, while vegetation is very thick in the neighbourhood of the rivers. The most important rivers rise in Brazil and are the Río Uruguay, 1000 miles long, and its tributary the Río Negro, which flows south-west for 350 miles, almost bisecting the country. There are a few islands in the Río de la Plata belonging to Uruguay, one of which, Flores, serves as a quarantine station for Montevideo ; Lobos, lying to the south-east of Uruguay, in the Atlantic off Maldonado, is a centre of the sealing industry. There are no good natural harbours in Uruguay, but the port of Montevideo has been deepened so as to admit ships drawing 24 feet of water; the Government is developing the port of La Paloma. The climate is very healthy, epidemics being almost unknown; the northern regions are subject to extremes of heat and cold, but in the south the temperature is moderate, varying ordinarily between a maximum of 86 degrees and a minimum of 35° F. Very severe sudden storms known as pamperos blow frequently from the south-west. The mean annual rainfall is 43 inches.

Though the river banks are well wooded, there are no extensive forests in Uruguay. Excellent timber for cabinet work is found in the west; the most noteworthy native trees are the algarobo, the quebracho, and the nandubay, which is much used for fuel, and has a facility for petrifying. Palms are found in the valleys of the Sierra José Ignacio and in Maldonado, Minas, and Paysandu. Aromatic shrubs are plentiful and over 400 species of medicinal plants are found. Many European trees have been introduced— acacia, alder, aloe, mulberry, oak, and willow, but the eucalyptus and poplar thrive best. The chief wild animals are the deer; fox, tapir, ounce, puma, and wild cat; rattlesnakes are found occasionally especially in Minas; poisonous spiders are common. The American ostrich-rhea is still plentiful, as are parakeets, partridges, quails, and water-birds. Seals breed on the Lobos and Castillos islands in the Atlantic; the sealing industry is very strictly preserved by the Government, but during the season the killing is carried out without judgment, and the industry is in danger of perishing. The mineral wealth of Uruguay is as yet unknown; silver, copper, and iron ores have been found; gold is mined to a small extent at Cunapiru; coal has been discovered in Santa Lucia, Cerro Largo, and Montevideo but has not been worked; crystals, gems, and diamonds also occur.


By articles 130 and 132 of the Constitution religious freedom is granted to everyone, but article 5 provides that Catholicism is the state religion. There is a small government grant in favour of religion; the civil power is unsympathetic when not actively hostile to the activities of the Church. Almost the entire population is at least nominally Catholic, there being only about 6000 Protestants, chiefly Swiss German Evangelicals, Waldensians, and Anglicans. At present the entire republic forms one ecclesiastical unit—the Archdiocese of Montevideo . In 1878 Montevideo was created a diocese, Mgr. Vera being appointed bishop ; in 1897 it was made an archdiocese, and two suffragan sees Melo and Salta were erected, but owing to political troubles no appointments to them have yet been made. There are, however, two auxiliary bishops at Montevideo, Mgr. Ricardo Isasa (b. in the capital, 7 Feb., 1847; appointed 15 Feb., 1891) and Mgr. Pio Cajentano Stella (b. at Paso del Molino, 7 Aug., 1857; appointed 22 Dec., 1893). The former has been administering the diocese since 26 Sept., 1908, when the first archbishop, Mgr. Mariano Soler, died. Mgr. Soler was born at San Carlos, Maldonado, 25 March, 1846, studied at Santa Fe and Rome. On his return he established a paper "El Bueno", and a Catholic club at Montevideo. He was elected to the House of Representatives, was made bishop, 29 Jan., 1891, and archbishop, 19 April, 1897. He was six times a pilgrim to the Holy Land, where he founded a celebrated convent and sanctuary, "Hortus Conclusus", a little south of Bethlehem. He was an able writer, and published among other works in Spanish an account of his travels, the "Ruins of Palmyra ", "A Voyage in the Land of the Bible ", and social writings such as "The New Spirit", "The Social Question". He went to Rome for the jubilee of Pius X, but fell ill in Italy and died off Gibraltar on his return journey. His obsequies took place at Montevideo in presence of the president and the cabinet. The diocesan seminary at Montevideo is entrusted by the archbishop to the Jesuits ; the most noteworthy churches in the capital are the Cathedral of Saints Philip and James, with its towers 133 feet high, in the Plaza Constitucion; it is in the Renaissance style and was built in 1803-4, becoming the cathedral in 1878; it was renovated in 1905; also the churches of the Capuchins ( Renaissance ), Redemptorists (Romanesque), and Jesuits ( Renaissance ). There are many communities of nuns : Perpetual Adoration, Dominican, Good Shepherd, Mercy, and Charity, most of them with schools or charitable institutes. The Sisters of Charity have care of the great Hospital de Caridad, founded in 1788 by Francisco Antonio Maciel. It has 600 beds and is supported by a government lottery. There are a foundling hospital, a beggars asylum, and over 40 charitable associations in the metropolis. Concerning marriage it may be noted that a law of 1885 makes civil marriage obligatory ; this may account practically for the high rate of illegitimacy mentioned below; divorce ; however is not recognized for any cause. At Montevideo on 5-8 November, 1911, the Fourth National Catholic Congress was held under the presidency of Mgr. Isasa. There were present 360 delegates representing over 500 parishes, associations etc. The Unión Católica, founded in 1889, was dissolved to form three new unions-Social, Economic, and Civic—each with a directive committee of five members; a central committee consisting of the three presidents and two members elected by each of the unions was appointed. The Congress received a special blessing from Pius X.


Uruguay was discovered in 1512 by Juan Díaz de Solís, Piloto mayor of the Kingdom of Castille, who on a second visit in 1516 landing in Colonia at Martin Chico, was slain by the Charruas. It was visited by Magalhães in 1519-20, and by Sebastian Cabot in 1526-7. At the time of its discovery Uruguay was inhabited by about 4000 Indians, the Charruas who dwelt on the north shore of the Río de la Plata as far as the Río San Salvador, the Yaros, Bohanes, Arachanes, Guenoas, and Chanas. The last named were converted by the Franciscan pioneers, but the others proved more intractable. The Charruas were very dark in colour, thick-lipped, small-eyed, and very warlike, but were not cannibals as has been asserted. They made constant war on the other Indians, and were a source of terror to the Spaniards, whom they prevented for over a century from establishing colonies. Early in the seventeenth century the Jesuits began to convert and civilize the Indians (for the wonderful results of their labours see REDUCTIONS OF PARAGUAY). After the expulsion of the Jesuits (1767), the Indians, deprived of their teachers and protectors, rapidly dwindled, through the violence of the whites, and finally General Rivera, first President of Uruguay, slaughtered all the Charruas in 1832. The first permanent settlement in Uruguay was made by the Spaniards who followed the Jesuits to Santo Domingo de Soriano on the Río Negro in 1624. Colonia (del Sacramento) was founded by the Portuguese in 1680; for nearly a century Portugal, relying on the Treaty of Tordesillas (7 June, 1494), disputed with Spain for possession of Uruguay, but finally recognized the Spanish claims by the Treaty of San Ildefonso (1 Oct., 1777). Montevideo was established in 1726 by Mauricio Zabala, Governor of Buenos Aires , to thwart the efforts of the Brazilian traders. It was captured by the British on 23 Jan., 1807, but was soon evacuated, on Whitelocke's defeat before Buenos Aires. On the declaration of independence by the Argentine, 23 May, 1810, Uruguay became part of the united provinces of Río de la Plata. In 1811 the Spaniards were routed by José Gervasio de Artigas, but held Montevideo, till their fleet was destroyed by Almirante Brown, in May, 1814, while General Alvear attacked the city by land. In 1816 the Portuguese attacked Uruguay but were driven off. In 1821, however, Brazil, having become independent, annexed Uruguay as the Provincia Cisplatina. In 1825 thirty-three exiles at Buenos Aires &151; the Treinta y Tres —returned to Florida under Lavalleja, raised the standard of revolt, and with the assistance of the Argentine defeated the Brazilians, Brown destroying the latter's fleet in February, 1827, while their land forces were overthrown at Ituzaingo. Uruguay's independence was soon recognized by both the Argentine and Brazil in the Treaty of Montevideo, 27 August, 1828.

In November, 1828, José Rondeau was appointed provisional governor at San José. The Constitution was promulgated on 18 July, 1830. General Fructuoso Rivera was elected first president on 25 October, 1830, and inaugurated twelve days later. Unfortunately the rival political leaders soon plunged the country in bloodshed. The history of Uruguay for the next seventy years was a series of revolutions and civil wars, one of which lasted practically from 1835 to 1851, when Manuel Oribe, the chief of the Blancos , rebelled with the assistance of the tyrant Rosas of Buenos Aires, and subjected Montevideo to what is known as the "nine year siege". From 1864 till 1870 president Flores, aided by the Argentine and Brazil made war on Paraguay. The country was eventually brought to the verge of ruin and bankruptcy, but President Cuesta (1897-1902) succeeded in placing it on a firmer financial basis. On 1 March, 1911, José Batlle y Ordóñez, who had already been president (1903- 1907), was again placed in power. He is agitating for the adoption of a new constitution like that of Switzerland. The two chief political parties in Uruguay for years have been the Colorados (Red) and Blancos (Whites), so called form the emblems worn by the adverse parties in the struggles caused by Oribe. The former, who represent the landed proprietors more than the peasant class, have generally been in power; there is practically no difference in the policies of the two parties, the struggle being merely for the emoluments derived from being in office.

Government and Justice

The republican Constitution of Uruguay sworn to on 18 July, 1830, is still unchanged. The Legislature consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives, meeting from 15 February to 15 July yearly. In the interim two senators and five representatives act with the presidents, a permanent administrative committee. Senators must be over 32 years of age and possess property worth $10,000 or its equivalent. There are 19 in number, one for each department, and are chosen by an electoral college elected by popular vote. They hold office for six years, one-third of their number retiring every second year. The vice- president of the republic is ex-officio chairman of the Senate. The representatives, one for every 3000 adult literate males, are elected for 3 years. They now number 75. The president, who is chosen by the Senate and Representatives, receives an annual salary of $35,000 and may not be elected for successive terms. The departments are administered by governors appointed by the Executive, and by a locally elected council. Slavery was abolished in Uruguay in December, 1843. There is a Supreme Court of five judges, appointed by the chambers; its president is elected annually by its members from their own number. There are two inferior courts of appeal, with three judges each. Montevideo has eleven local courts of first instance. Each department has a departmental court, and there are smaller judicial sections (205) with justices of the peace and alcaldes. Uruguayan laws are based on the Code Napoléon . The death penalty was abolished in 1907, penal servitude for a maximum of 40 years being substituted. In 1908 an extradition treaty with the United States became law. Provision is being made of a pension system, and laws regulating child and female labour.

Population and Education

On 31 December, 1909, Uruguay had 1,094,688 inhabitants, or 15.1 persons per square mile, of whom 291,465 resided at Montevideo, the most thickly populated departments after Montevideo being Canelones, Colonia, and Maldonado. Over 25 per cent of the population is foreign, principally Italian (73,000), Spanish (58,000), and Brazilian (28,000). For the years 1906-10 the annual number of immigrants averaged 144,897, and emigrants 127,161. In 1910 there were 6818 marriages; 16,515 deaths; 35,927 living births (25.9 per cent illegitimate ), and 1317 still-birth the figures in 1900 being respectively 4549; 13,882; 31,593; and 1004. The Uruguayans from a physical point of view are the finest South American people. Among the country-folk there are some (Chinos) who give clear evidence of Indian blood. The Gauchos or farm hands seem to have some Charruan blood, which may account for their indifference to animal and even human suffering; they are restless and willingly join in any uprising, forming as a rule the main body of the revolutionary forces that have almost ruined the country. Uruguayan education is in a very backward state, though primary education is nominally obligatory. In 1907-8 there were 671 public free primary and 289 private schools, with only 78,727 children on the rolls, though there were 227,770 children of school age. In 1910 the public schools numbered 788, and the children enrolled 117,000. Teachers averaged 2 per public and 3 per private school. In 1908 the number of illiterates over 6 years of age was 350,547 (of whom 84,502 were foreigners). Montevideo has two normal schools, a state technical school with 185 free students; a university with faculties of law, medicine, mathematics, sociology, agriculture, veterinary sciences, and commerce. In 1905 the university had 112 professors; 530 undergraduates, and 661 students receiving a secondary education. The National Library contains over 47,500 volumes, and 9700 manuscripts A pedagogic museum and library with 7000 volumes was founded in 1888 at Montevideo. Religious instruction is given in the public schools.

Commerce and Finance

Uruguay has over 5500 miles of good roads; 1472 miles of railroad in 3 systems running from the capital; 170 of tramway, the system at Montevideo being electric; 319 telegraph and 1018 post offices; there are 2 telephone companies, and 2 wireless stations. The traction systems are almost entirely in British hands. The chief ports are La Paloma and Maldonado on the Atlantic; Montevideo and Colonia on the Plata; Mercedes on the Río Negro ; and Paysandú, Fray Bentos and Salto on the Uruguay. In 1910 over 16,964,000 tons of shipping entered and cleared Montevideo. Vessels of light draught can ascend the Río Negro for 55 miles, and the Río Uruguay for over 200. Imports in 1911 amounted to 9,756,000-chiefly cottons, wollens, coal, and iron; exports amounted to 9,476,000-chiefly tallow, and wool, as against 5,041,000 and 5,901,000 respectively in 1901. The public debt in 1910 was $135,805,784. The Bank of the Republic, whose directors are nominated by the Government, can alone issue notes; on 1 Jan., 1911, it had notes to the value of $18,076,842 in circulation. In 1912 the Government created a national insurance bank with a monopoly of accident, fire, labour, and life insurance; the fixing of a date for the enforcement of this monopoly is left to the Government's discretion. Only foreign gold is in circulation, the standard silver coin is the peso or dollar ($1.034 in United States currency). In 1897 the use of the metric system was made compulsory. Uruguay's well-watered alluvial soil and undulating plains made it primarily an agricultural and pastoral country. Sheep-farming is carried on especially in Durazno and Soriano, and an excellent variety of wool is exported. The centre of the cattle industry is in Salto, Paysandú, and Río Negro ; the beasts, chiefly of English stock, are destined chiefly for the saladero trade, that is sun-dried salted meat or jerked beef, which is exported to Brazil and Cuba. Fray Bentos is the headquarters of large factories for the manufacture of extract of beef. Vineyards were introduced into Salto about 1874, and have spread to Montevideo, Colonia, and Canelones; the production of wine amounting to over 4 million gallons in 1908. Wheat and other cereals, as well as tobacco, are extensively grown, but not yet in sufficient quantity to develop an export trade.

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