History of Uruguay
The only documented inhabitants of Uruguay prior to colonization were the Charrua, who were driven south by the Guaraní culture of Paraguay. The Portuguese were the first to explore the region in the early 16th century followed by the Spanish. The Spanish founded the port city of Montevideo in the 17th century and attempted to curb the Portuguese expansion of Brazil.
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Napoleonic wars and independence
At the beginning of the 19th century, the British tried to take over the Rio de la Plata region but were defeated by Criollo forces. These victories, combined with the influence of the Napoleonic wars, fueled the struggle for independence against Spain and Portugal, and finally in 1828, Uruguay won!
After independence, civil war tore the country apart for 13 long years, finally ending in 1852 – the same year slavery was abolished. Immediately afterwards, there was a strong rise in European immigration, particularly from Italy and Spain. Aided by an increase in exports, the economy grew steadily. The late 19th century ushered in an age of modernization, with railroads, banks, telephones, canals and a sophisticated port at Montevideo being built.
After World War II, consumption of agricultural products declined and Uruguay’s export-based economy faced hard times with inflation, unemployment, lower standards of living, and resulting civil unrest. The 1970s to 1980s were marked by harsh military dictatorship and the Dirty War. In the decades that followed, the country experimented with free trade and foreign investment until Argentina’s financial collapse of 2000, which devastated Uruguay as well.
Modern history of Uruguay
Uruguay’s president José Mujica, who was elected in 2009, has been given the title of the world’s most humble president as he donates 90% of his salary to charities and small businesses. Mujica is championed for living simply, avoiding corruption, and for implementing several bold pragmatic strategies that have put Uruguay on the path of growth and stability and done much to encourage Uruguay tours.
Top Uruguay Travel Tip – History:
In the 16th century, Uruguay was a region of contention between Spain and Portugal. You can see influences of mid-17th-century Portuguese colonialism on your private Uruguay tour, especially in Colonia del Sacramento.
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