Uruguay is the second smallest country in South America with only three million people. Today it makes its living from agriculture, namely cattle with four cows for every person. Although there were certain periods in its history when it was embroiled in wars, coups, and native uprisings, compared to its much larger neighbors, it has a relatively peaceful history. It even remained neutral in World War II. The banking industry is important here. Many wealthy people from Brazil and Argentina bank here where there are less taxes, less questions, and more stability. It is ranked first in the region for democracy, peace, lack of corruption, quality of life, freedom of press, size of the middle class, prosperity and security, ease of investment Kind of the Switzerland of South America, overall the best country to live in in South America. It has four seasons, but the climate is mild with temperatures ranging from the 50º’s to the 80º’s.
We feel fortunate to be here. After worrying about the weather in Antartica, we should have worried about the weather here. Montevideo and Buenos Aries share a 200 mile wide river estuary that is very shallow and constantly has to be dredged so big ships can come in. There was a big tropical storm here yesterday so all incoming ships were diverted. Our captain fooled around getting here and by the time we arrived it was all over. If we weren’t so well connected via wifi, we wouldn’t have known what to worry about! Many of our fellow cruisers grabbed their passports and ran to the airport. We felt fortunate to have a more leisurely departure with an opportunity to spend the night and see what Montevideo was all about.
We took a city tour until early afternoon when the rooms in our hotel were available. The last time we were here we were on a cruise and it was Christmas Day, so all I remember was imposing buildings and everything being shuttered for the holiday. Today’s tour gave us a more complete impression of the city, but it would take a longer stay to have more valid opinions. Although they are in two separate countries, Montevideo has a strong relationship with Buenos Aries, just a two hour ferry ride away across the Rio Plata. BA is the much bigger city where more things are happening, some of which you would just as soon not be a part of. Montevideo is a pleasant place to live, but not what we would call a world class tourist city. Nevertheless, it sounds like it has a lot of tourism, but most of it is from nearby South American countries rather than overseas; those people come here for its cleanliness, order, and quality of life. The football stadium is appreciated as much as any of the other imposing buildings. The first World Cup was played here; Uruguay won of course, and has won again playing teams from much larger and better financed countries.
The thirteen mile coast of the Rio Plata as it flows out to the sea is all beach and open to everyone. It would be more beautiful if the river was blue instead of brown, but it is full of the soil that it washes to the sea from the interior. A big tourist spot is Punta del Este, where the river joins the sea. It is known as the Riviera of South America and it would have been nice to see it if we had more time.
Uruguay is a small country with a lot more space than people. I would like to encourage all those Central Americans who are headed north to a future of having their children put in cages and sleeping under mylar blankets, to turn around and head south. Immigrants are wanted and appreciated here. Agriculture is big business and once they crossed the bridge over the Panama Canal, they could come here to a country that speaks their language and would welcome their labor. Someone needs to get the word out.