Urugauy Now Enjoying 21 Years of Democracy

Trip Start Aug 20, 2005
Trip End May 26, 2006

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Friday, December 2, 2005

Uruguay now enjoying 21 years of democracy, so come visit Uruguay Folks it's great :-). Uruguay like most South American countries has had a colourful political past, as typical the Spanish and the Jesuits settled here in 1624.The Spanish were kicked out in 1800s after independence there was the usual military coups, invasions by neighbours (Brazil beaten by Uruguayans with help from Argentina) democracy with conservatives and socialist. Both sides banning each other and trying to eliminate the opposition. In 1967 the President died his running mate took office banned leftist papers and political parties. This caused insurrections, so he invited the military to assist. Then in 1971 he "invited" the military to formally run the Government. Needless to say people disappeared and they controlled everything from jobs in the civil service to granting approval for large family gatherings! Giving some of the weddings, I have been to; I wish there had been a military approval and their presences as well :-) Anyway in 1984 democracy was restored and all has been peaceful since.

All that aside, the capital Montevideo is a lovely city. I noticed less of a police / army presence on the streets than in other South American cities. I must admit the wooden batons they were carrying could have double as a leg of chair! :-) Sure they had pistols, pepper spray and handcuffs but unlike say Lima or La Paz there were no water cannons or police in riot gear. Indeed this gave the city a relaxed feel :-) Funny how perceptions change. The city has an old and new section. The old section is down by the port and is full of old colonial style house built by Uruguay's Beef Barons. Sadly now they are in a state of decline but you can still see in some of wrought iron work and carvings a hint of the former glory. The new city is clean, some old buildings but have been restored, beautiful plazas and plenty of shops. Over all Montevideo has a nice ambience, so I would definitely recommend as a trip for a couple of days from Buenos Aires.

Uruguay borders Argentina, therefore it has the same grassland and great beef that the Argentineans have. The parrilas, which are like huge barbecues are great. They cook halves or quarters of chickens, steaks, chorizo sausages, blood sausage (almost like black puddings),white puddings, pork and beef ribs, obviously not full beef ribs but cut down to a manageable size and "Chuiclin" (forgive my mis-spelling) which is a cow's lower intestine. Yep it's like chewing a very fatty bicycle tube, not particularly tasty or flavoursome but something everyone should taste once, so I do not have to suffer alone :-) In case you are wondering my digestive system was fine after eating chuiclin! Needless to say the portions are huge. A dish for one features a steak, quarter of chicken, one white and black pudding, pork chop, and half dozen beef ribs, with some cows intestines, yum! Wash it all down with plenty of Uruguayan red wine and you should not need to eat for a day or two. Needless to say Uruguay is not the place to eat salad. If they saw you eating a salad I'm sure you end up on the "business side" of grill :-)

Beef is big business in Uruguay and they waste nothing. So you can have full size rugs of cow skins, funny Friesians, that's black and white moo-moos Audrey and Phyllis :-) look well as rugs. They turn the cow's hooves into mate drinking vessels, all sorts of leather wear and they even use their "Wampas", horns in English. Yep they make ornaments and drinking cups out of their horns. Truly unusual and surprisingly beautiful.

So folks that is all for now, I will just finish by saying Uruguay was a surprise! I actually met a happy and helpful postal staff there, the first time in six months! It's definitely a country I would consider re-visiting and if ye are in this neck of the woods pop in.
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