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Uruguay Old History

 

Today's Uruguay was sparsely populated before the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century. After the liberation from Spain, it was temporarily incorporated with Brazil before independence was proclaimed in 1825. The first decades were troubled, but towards the end of the 19th century stability increased. Immigration from Spain and Italy accelerated and exports of agricultural products made the economy grow.

There are very few remains of the civilizations that existed in the area before the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century. However, it is evident that there were occasional groups of people living off hunting and fishing. For several thousand years, the nomadic people of charrúa are considered to have moved between the coast and inland, and guaraní inhabited the forests to the east and north.

  • AbbreviationFinder.org: Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Uruguay, covering history, economy, and social conditions.

In 1516, a Spanish expedition arrived under the leadership of Juan Díaz de Solis. The Spaniards came primarily to search for a river link between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Most of the members of the expedition were killed by the charrúa who then lived there. As no gold and silver deposits were found, the Spaniards lost interest in the area for some time, and in the late 17th century the Portuguese made an initial attempt to capture it.

The Spaniards founded the present capital Montevideo in 1726. The city soon developed into an important commercial center. For more than 50 years, the battle between Portugal and Spain continued over the Banda Oriental (East Coast), which was called Uruguay. In 1776, Banda Oriental became part of the Spanish Viceroy Río de la Plata, which also included Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Although the area was never exploited in the same way as the rest of Latin America, colonial times have left their mark. The indigenous population was almost completely eradicated and when the colonial authorities distributed land during the 18th century laid the foundation for the power of a few large landowners over the majority of people.

Old History of Uruguay

The Viceroy of Río de la Plata fell apart after Spain was weakened by the Napoleonic Wars in Europe in the early 1800s. It became the beginning of the inhabitants' struggle for liberation from colonial power. The independence struggle was led by the country's national hero, José Gervasio Artigas, whose army captured Montevideo in 1815 and established an independent government there.

The following year, Banda Oriental was occupied by Brazilian troops and later incorporated with Brazil. Following Brazil's release from Portugal in 1822, a group of revolutionaries proclaimed Banda Oriental independence in 1825.

The Declaration of Independence prompted Brazil to attack. The British, who were interested in establishing an independent state as a buffer zone between Argentina and Brazil, managed after three years to get these countries to give up their demands on the Banda Oriental and withdraw their troops. As a result, the area became independent. In 1830 a constitution was adopted and Banda Oriental changed its name to Uruguay.

The first decades after independence came to be characterized by civil war and war with neighboring countries. The warlords in the civil war were grouped into two loose groups: the liberal, Brazil-friendly Colorados (the red) and the conservative, Argentinian-friendly Blancos (the white).

The situation became calmer since Blancos and Colorados in 1872 concluded a power sharing agreement. But the contradictions remained on the political level between the groups' respective parties. The Blanco Party had its roots in the countryside, among the conservative landowners and the church, while the Colorado Party was supported by the emerging middle class in the cities, which took the impression of liberal ideas from Europe.

Increased immigration from the 1870s also contributed to stability. Immigrants, who came mainly from Spain and Italy, were in many cases outside the traditional conflicts. At the same time, the economy gained momentum as demand for wool, meat and hides from Latin America increased in Europe.

However, in the late 1800s, armed fighting broke out again between Blancos and Colorados. In the last civil war of 1904, Colorados won.

The year before, José Batlle y Ordóñez of the Colorado Party had been elected president. He launched ideas that came to lay the foundations for a modern democracy and a social welfare state, unique in Latin America. Among other things, the education system was expanded, health care became free of charge and eight hours of working day were introduced.

Batlle y Ordóñez was president in 1903-1907 in the first round and then 1911-1915. His political, social and economic ideas influenced subsequent generations of politicians. With the exception of a short-term totalitarian regime in the 1930s, when the country was hit by the global economic depression, Uruguay emerged as a stable democracy with respect for civil rights. The country was early on, among other things, separating state and church, giving women the right to vote and introducing unemployment benefits.

 
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