The Brazilians had much influence in the region prior to
this as numerous Portuguese had called the region home,
especially near the Brazilian border. This invasion and take over (although brief)
led to greater Brazilian and Portuguese influence in Uruguay.
However the political state only lasted briefly as in 1825 the Uruguayans, with
help from the Argentines began to re-claim Uruguay. This war, the Cisplatine War,
ended in 1828 with an Uruguayan victory and complete independence.
With independence came a number of issues, the most noticeable and emotional of
which was the large cultural divide between the rural and urban life. The rural
ranchers and farmers had dominated the culture for some time, but with the growth
of Montevideo beginning in the early 1700s and expanding in the early 1800s, the
country had a huge urban population by 1830. The wealthy city-dwellers tended to
make a living off of trade and other business. Although both sides needed each other,
their differences in culture divided the people in the political realm.
These tensions eventually led to a civil war, known as the "Great War"
in 1839 between two political parties that roughly represented these two groups.
Both groups turned to foreign help as the urban party gained the favor of
France and Argentine exiles, while the rural party
gained the support of the ruling Argentine government. As the war escalated and
Montevideo was under siege, more international involvement arrived as the
British, French, and Brazilians
all got further involved in the battle to protect their trade interests. Eventually
these foreign powers forced the rural party and their allied Argentine government
to surrender in 1852.
This led to many changes in the country and in the laws of Uruguay.
The rural people lost many things they favored, first among them being slavery.
The ranchers and farmers depended on this labor, but with it being outlawed they
lost much of their income and the country' economy as a whole suffered. This
change also gave these former slaves freedom, allowing them to move throughout the
country and hence altering the landscape.
The freeing of slaves in Uruguay didn't have as much
of an impact as it did in many other South American
countries since the number of slaves in Uruguay was relatively small. Despite this,
the people brought Uruguay new influences from Africa, such
as arts, foods, dance, often called tambo or tango, and music, which is
commonly known as candombe.
Although much of the African influence has lasted, many of
the people have not. Conflicts continued between the political parties in
Uruguay into the 1860s and often times the soldiers in these battles were
ethnic Africans. Between these wars and a yellow fever outbreak in the 1800s, few
ethnic Africans survived and today Uruguay has relatively few ethnic Africans.
In 1864 the government was overthrown, again with foreign assistance. This led to
a war between Paraguay on one side and
Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina
on the other. Although the Uruguayan side won, most of the people were not happy
with the war and the head of both parties were murdered at war's end; in 1870
both sides agreed to peace, although numerous uprisings and attempted revolutions
In the late 1800s Uruguay also became an immigrant destination
as a huge number of people arrived from Spain and
Italy, along with other countries. During this time over half of the country's
population consisted of first generation immigrants. These immigrants changed the
country in many ways as they brought new technology and knowledge with them. These
immigrants built up the economy in both the business arena through cooperation and
technology, as well as in the rural lands as new healthcare and education gave the
herders and farmers greater success rates in animal husbandry.
These immigrants didn't just improve the economy though; they also introduced
new cultural aspects to the country, especially Montevideo, which is where most
of these people settled. The language, dress, and food were all altered and even
today Italian influences and foods can easily be found in
As these immigrants changed the landscape, so too did the technology they brought
with them, most of which arose from the Industrial Revolution. The urban centers
began growing in Uruguay as machines took the place of most
people. This led to worsening working conditions and as the cities grew so too did
the number of diseases (although on relative terms, Uruguay was in very good shape).
This led to massive social changes in the country in the early 1900s; laws were
created to protect workers, while healthcare and infrastructure were also improved.
The early 1900s were also a time when the people's focus began to slowly shift
from work to more leisurely activities. The economic state guaranteed the people
had enough money to survive so they began to spend money on "wants" instead
of just on "needs." Sports, entertainment, and other forms of enjoyment
became more common and in 1930 Uruguay actually hosted and
won the first World Cup.
Despite the improving state of living, this was also a time of war and uncertainty
on the world stage and this chaos made its way to Uruguay
in many ways. Although not directly involved in World War II, Uruguay had many German
immigrants on its soil so they resisted choosing sides until 1942 when they broke
diplomatic relations with Germany.
After the war, as much of the world was improving economically,
Uruguay was struggling. Their agricultural-based economy was outpaced by
other countries and civil unrest arose in the country. Violence escalated throughout
the region and soon the government seemed to have lost control over the state of
affairs. This led to a military junta in 1973, which led to a dictatorship that
lasted until 1985.
The dictatorship further hurt the economy, so when an elected government was installed
in 1985, the first order of business was to help the economy recover, which has
come with mixed results. Many people also wanted trials for the past military rulers,
who were viewed as having done numerous wrongs, but it seems few want the potential
struggles and battles that may arise from those trials, beginning with the government.
Despite the struggles economically and politically, Uruguay
seems to be moving forward in all spheres, although slower than many citizens would