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Uruguay

Geography & Topography

Capital: Montevideo

Population: 3,318,535

Area: 176,215 square kilometers (68,037 square miles)

Language: Spanish, Portunol, Brazilero

Religion: Roman Catholic

Currency: Uruguayan peso

History

Situated in southeastern South America, Uruguay consists mostly of low, rolling grasslands. Ranchers raise cattle and sheep on the well-watered pastures. It has one of the highest urbanization and literacy rates in South America. The first permanent settlement of the Spanish in the Uruguay we know today goes back to 1624. Over the years, many wars have been fought between the Portuguese, Spanish and the Indians in order to dominate the territory. The colonization of these territories formerly known as the “Banda Oriental”  was quite similar to any other colonization of south America since the Spanish eradicated most of the indigenous people known as the “Charruas”.

Uruguayans – most of Spanish and Italian descent live in cities with Montevideo home to one-third. Magnificent old buildings and well-preserved structures from the city’s colourful history are complemented by pleasing natural surroundings. Uruguay has an impressive legacy of artistic and literary traditions. The contribution of its alternating colonizers and diverse immigrants have resulted in native traditions that integrate with this diversity.

 

Performing Arts

Music

The music of Uruguay includes a number of local musical forms. The most distinctive ones are tango, murga, a form of musical theatre, and candombe, an afro-Uruguayan type of music which occur yearly during the Carnival period. There is also milonga, a folk guitar and song form deriving from Spanish traditions and related to similar forms found in many Hispanic-American countries. The famed tango singer Carlos Gardel is rumoured to have been from the Uruguayan town of Tacuarembó.

The most recognizable instruments in traditional Uruguayan music are:

Candombe Drums

 

Candombe Drums: Candombe is performed by a group of drummers called a cuerda. The barrel-shaped drums, or tamboriles, have specific names according to their size and function – chico (small, high timbre, marks the tempo), repique (medium, syncopation and improvisation), piano (large, low timbre, melody). Candombe drums are made of wood with animal skins that are rope-tuned or fire-tuned minutes before the performance. They are worn at the waist with the aid of a shoulder strap called a talig or talí and played with one stick and one hand.

Oopoochawa

Oopoochawa: A musical instrument consisting of a set of tuned metal or bamboo tongues (lamellae) of varying length attached at one end to a soundboard that often has a box or calabash resonator. Board-mounted oopoochawas are often played inside gourds or bowls for increased resonance, and the timbre may be modified by attaching rattling devices to the board or resonator or by attaching metal cuffs at the base of the tongues.

 

Dance

Uruguayan Tango

Uruguayan Tango: Unlike the classic ballroom tango, Uruguayan tango use very different techniques. In Uruguayan tango, the body’s center moves first, then the feet reach to support it. This differs from ballroom tango, where the body is initially set in motion across the floor through the flexing of the lower joints (hip, knee, ankle) while the feet are delayed and is hen moved quickly to catch the body, resulting in snatching or striking action thareflects the staccato nature of this style’s preferred music.

 

 

Some interesting facts:

  • Uruguay’s full country name is República Oriental del Urugua, which means Oriental Republic of Uruguay. “Uruguay” is a Guaraní word which can be translated as “river of painted birds”. This country was named after this term since it is located to the west of the Uruguay River.
  • Uruguay’s exports consist of agricultural products as well as 70% of its current exports.
  • The majority of people in Uruguay share a common Spanish ancestry yet about one-third of the population has Italian origins.

 

Uruguayan Community in Australia:

More information on the Uruguayan community: