Little Town with a Big History

Trip Start Oct 22, 2009
Trip End Apr 04, 2010

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Flag of Uruguay  ,
Tuesday, February 2, 2010

     Everyone said we'd love Colonia. Everyone. Our slow, meandering bus ride from Frey Bentos took FOREVER, but we finally arrived and walked, dragging suitcases up beautiful bumpy broken tree lined streets, to our hotel.
     We loved the city immediately. But of course, everywhere we've been we've thought--how clean! how quiet! how lovely! Sounds like we didn't like Montevideo much, doesn't it? 
     We were hot and sweaty by the time we'd had lunch and walked around the historic area, so we spent a good 2 hours in the pool, then back in the pool, then back in the pool again. Even Bob went swimming, so you KNOW it was hot.
     Our hotel is old, but cool. Kari, the hallways remind me of Chico 'cause they squeak when you walk on them, and they're wavy, like old hallways should be. You walk to your room and all the doors on both sides are open to the breeze off the river. It feels so fresh and wonderful.
     The next morning we had a private tour of the historic area, what Colonia is famous for--beautiful old Spanish and Portuguese buildings and streets--many that have been restored to their original condition.  
     Our guide spoke English, sort of. I'm always amazed at what passes for "knowing English" in foreign countries. But if we understood her correctly, this is the story:   
     In 1494 the pope was in the enviable position of divine leader of much of the western world, so what did he do with squabbling Spain and Portugal? He whacked the Americas in half from pole to pole along the 55th longitude and handed us over. 
     East of that line belonged to Portugal, the west he gave to Spain. In other words, lands to the east of the tip of Maine including Novia Scotia, Brazil and Uruguay were Portugal's; everything to the west, including most of South America and 99% of the United States would be speaking Spanish. 
     But before we go on we have to discover the most important river in the area, which Juan Diaz Solis did in 1516. He called the Rio de la Plata the Fresh Sea both because of it's width and because it's a mixture of ocean and river
     Uruguayans love their river. The Amazon River has the most water and most rapids, the Nile the greatest length, but they will all tell you with pride that the Rio de la Plata is the widest river in the world. It's 200 km wide at Montevideo narrowing to 55 km here at Colonia. 
     Everywhere you go here in the historic district you see evidence of the conflict between Spain and Portugal. Because as anyone with squabbling children knows, it can go on and on. This battle lasted about a hundred years and each country, as it conquered this little spot of land, tore down everything the guy before had made. Then the loosers were the winners and they tore down everything the former conquerers had built. They did this back and forth and back and forth, tearing down and rebuilding. The destruction sickens.
     I don't get it. 
     Why do victors have to destroy everything from before? Why can't they just move in and appreciate the art and expertise of the people they've beaten the crap out of?  
     The Portuguese built this huge stone wall surrounding the city. In 1859 President Rivera of Uruguay ordered it destroyed (the same Rivera who ordered the annialation of the remaining indigenous in Uruguay). This thing is 20' high and stretched maybe 3 km across the peninsula--with only one entrance. It's amazing, but apparently amazing was not good enough for saving.   
     They didn't have the use of a Cat, Shawn, but a lot like India, they had a never ending supply of slaves--or penny laborers. After UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site Uruguay rebuilt parts of it on it's original foundation stones so you can see just where it was.     

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Jeff on

ok, how can you call something 200km wide a river?!?!

jeff on

destroying stuff is cool. it is so much easier than building stuff. plus, you don't want reminders that you just killed a bunch of people so you could live on their land. helps with forgetfulness... people are funny. If I can forget it, it didnt happen, no wonder it didn't last. over and over again...

bobnkaren on

After a month of people reminding me this is a river, I still don't get it. Looks like an ocean to me...

Kari on

Arrrrghh! Your pictures are killing me! I am so envious of your new camera ;) Love the street shots--especially the rocky streets. We're in Laos now, luang prabang is a beautiful little city, lots of French architecture everywhere & fun to walk, but I've been down with a nasty case of dysentery for the past few days. Can't seem to catch a break this trip. It's a lovely place to be sick, anyway. Fun to hear about all your adventures, I hope to be as brave as you when I grow up!

bobnkaren on

I'm so tickled you love the pictures. So many of them have been discarded because I can't keep them all, but I hate it. I hate deleting good ones just because I can't think of how I'd use them! We're off to El Bolson now, it's supposed to be a hippie town--we'll see.

Jerry on

I hope the haircut was as good as the one Carlene gave you.

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