10 facts you might not know about Uruguay
Socially progressive, peaceful and replete with beaches and open countryside, Uruguay holds a unique place within South America that is little known outside the continent.
Uruguay tends to fly under the radar. As a politically stable country of just 3.5 million people nothing much happens that grabs international headlines, or steals the spotlight from its larger and more famous neighbors, Argentina and Brazil. While it’s true that “no news is good news,” not many people know who we are! Here are some fun facts to help make the picture clear.
1. Uruguay was founded to keep colonial powers from going to war
During colonial times, our strategic position created a tug-of-war between the British, Portuguese and Spanish, and the city of Montevideo experienced several rounds of sieges. A treaty was signed in 1828 to make Uruguay its own country and act as a buffer zone between colonial interests.
2. We’re not Paraguay
Ok this is an obvious point, but it’s a common mix-up nonetheless. Paraguay is a landlocked country to the northwest, closer to the heart of the continent, while we are located on the Atlantic ocean.
3. There’s lots of rain, but no rainforest
The climate is humid subtropical—think North Carolina for a comparison. In Montevideo it averages in the 80s during the summer and in the winter it stays above freezing. The summer brings many intense lighting storms.
The interior of the country consists of rolling green hills and pasturelands, with sparse woodlands.
4. Cows outnumber people 4-1, the highest per capita in the world
Outside the capital city of Montevideo, important industries are tourism and, as evidenced by our abundant bovine population, agriculture.
Ranches, interestingly, are primarily small scale and run in the old-fashioned way. Gaucho (cowboy) culture is still very much alive and dear in the heart of Uruguayans. Agro-tourism is popular, drawing those who want to observe traditional farm life and explore the countryside on horseback.
Uruguay’s beef industry has a sophisticated supply chain tracking system and its products are certified as natural and grass fed, highly prized in the world market.
5. Marijuana is legal
Pharmacies can sell cannabis to registered Uruguayan residents and there are cannabis clubs for those who want to home grow. Many companies are forming to enter the medical cannabis market, which could be Uruguay’s next big industry.
6. Beaches and safety are Uruguay’s claim to fame in Latin America
Uruguay has two coastlines, one that is Atlantic facing, and another that is along the entry to the Rio de la Plata. The famous resort Punta del Este is located where these two coasts meet. This town is taken over by wealthy tourists, mostly from Argentina, during the high season (Dec-Feb).
The windswept beaches of the east are considered to be the most scenic and best for surfing and communing with nature. Those on the river outside of Montevideo are favored by families looking for an easy escape from the capital. Many people own vacation homes that have been handed down for generations.
It’s also common in summer to hear Portuguese spoken when you’re at the beach, as Uruguay has become a popular destination for Brazilians (even though Brazil has incredible beaches!) This phenomenon is attributed to the clean, open spaces and tranquility that Uruguay offers.
7. Uruguay is rated 15th on The Economist’s 2018 Democracy Index
It’s the only Latin American country on the list and it ranks just after the UK and over the US, which is in 25th place.
8. Uruguay has the largest middle class in the Americas
The middle class, in relative terms, represents 60% of its population according to the World Bank. From 2006 to 2016, moderate poverty went from 32.5% to 9.4%. Extreme poverty went from 2.5% to 0.2% in the same time period.
9. Every child in public school receives a laptop
Plan Ceibal is a government initiative designed to expand the equality of its educational system, ensuring that children in rural and underprivileged areas are not left behind. In addition to laptops, the program provides online English classes to rural students with teachers based in the capital.
10. Uruguay is the largest per capita exporter of software in Latin America
The government has focused on growing its technology sector as well as improving its technological infrastructure. Internet connectivity is excellent, and wifi is even offered free in many public plazas and parks.
Importantly, the tech industry has been given a key benefit: technology exports are tax exempt.
Uruguay is a special place and we are proud to be a part of its rapidly growing technology industry.