Uruguay’s oldest settlement is Colonia del Sacramento founded by the Portugese in 1680. Later Portugal and Spain would contend for the country. The Spanish arrived in 1516 but limited valuable resources such as gold and silver didn’t make it very appealing for colonialism. They also had to contest with the native indian tribe. Spain wanted control of the area though, rather then let Portugal have it, so they colonized the country with Montevideo as their military stronghold. Today it is the capital of Uruguay. The early part of the 19th century largely consisted of British, Spanish, and Portugese fighting over control of the region. Two major parties came about in 1800s called Blancos (Whites) and Colorados (Reds). Reds represented liberalism and urban business whilst Whites represented agriculture and protectionism. The Colorados favored the exiled Argentinian liberals who had fled to Montevideo at the time. The Blanco president Oribe was also a close friend of the Argentinian ruler Manuel de Rosas at the time. Later this would lead to the Colorados and Argentinian liberals seeking French help against Oribe and on June 15th in 1838 an army led by the Colorado presidant Rivera overthrew the president and fled to Argentina. At one point in 1842 an Argentinian army overan Uruguay as revenge for what happened to Oribe. Argentina attempted to take the country but couldn’t get to Montevideo. The Seige of Montevideo would drag on for nine years and became very famous. Uruguayans called on the French and Italian for help during the seige.
Much of this fighting in the late 1800s led to the War of Triple Alliance which led to Colorados overthrowing Blancos government control. Uruguayan, Brazilian and Argentina armies united togther fought Paraguay after this happened. It was one of the worst wars in South America’s history with most of Paraguay’s population being wiped out. Despite this the true origins of the war still aren’t known. Maybe it was Paraguay’s traditional views which recalled the British Empire ways. But eventually both parties tired of all the fighting and decided to divide up control. Blancos would rule agricultural lands whilst Colorados controlled main city and coastal regions. There was urban unrest over the economic instability from 1960s to 1980s but eventually a freely elected government came to office again. The two largest political parties of modern times are the Colorado and National party. And everyone 18 years or older is required to vote. Today the country is a constitutional republic.
Uruguay today is a surprisingly modern nation with liberal laws and social security programs with beautiful beaches along the southeastern coast of South America. It was the first nation in South America to establish welfare which relied upon heavy industry taxes. This produced the largest middle class of South America. Its economy is mostly tourism, agriculture, and offshore banking. Fell into economic crisis in 2002 when its big buyers- Argentina and Brazil- went into recession. Payouts from the International Monetary Fund helped rebuild a fragile economy. It has the highest Gross Domestic Product per capita in South America still. As for education, there is at least ten years of compulsory attendance which most students fulfill.
The official language is Spanish spoken with an Italian accent. And most the people of Uruguay enjoy a good standard of living with a very large middle class. The people who live in rural areas run farms with a somewhat lower standard of living than their urban dwelling Uruguayans. The rural Gauchos (cowboys) have often captured the imagination and influenced much art and drama. The original gauchos were an equestrian ethnic group similar to North American cowboys. Cattle and horses were introduced by the Spanish in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries multiplied in the grasslands and roamed freely over the land. Uruguay has a rich art history for its small size due to heavy immigration. Tango, candombe, and murga are all popular music forms in the country. Jose Enrique Rodo was an important literary figure. The country also boasts much colonial architecture.
Most the country is made of gently rolling hills and coastal rolling plains with scenic beaches along the east side of the country with a very mild climate overall. Palm tree savannahs and small tropical rainforests are sometimes found on the land. But for the most part theres almost no extremes in geography.