Uruguay: Random Facts and Trivia

Some random facts and trivia for the country of the world Uruguay, origins of the name, immigrants, dueling, classes and the military.



The name "Uruguay" derives from an Indian word meaning "River of Painted Birds."

A nation of immigrants, Uruguay's population is one of the most racially, ethnically, and culturally homogeneous on the continent. Most Uruguayans are of Spanish or Italian descent, speaking Spanish with an Italian lilt, and maintaining Hispanic and southern European values.

Dueling is still legal in Uruguay under certain circumstances. In 1972, 2 generals, both defeated presidential candidates, acquitted themselves with honor in a duel on an airfield near Montevideo.

The Tupamaros, Uruguay's urban guerrilla group, have apparently been crushed for the time being. President Bordaberry, who campaigned on a strong antiterrorist platform, finally had to call in the armed forces to deal with the Tupamaros. Among Latin American guerrilla groups, they were the best organized and equipped, and captured the imagination of many with a spectacular series of kidnappings, bank robberies, and prison breaks. In 1972, 14 Tupas escaped from prison through a 200' tunnel between the prison hospital and a sewer outside. The year before, a group had escaped from the same prison in a tunnel 120' long.

Many members of the Tupamaros were middle- or upper-middle-class students and professionals: teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers. They had dozens of underground hideouts, and safe-houses in the suburbs and the countryside, including medical and dental facilities, emergency hospitals with all the latest equipment, and a complete laboratory for counterfeiting every conceivable kind of document. Taking their name from the great Inca leader Tupac Amaru, who made a last stand against the Spaniards in 1780, they made efficient, highly-organized raids on banks, and kidnapped foreign and national officials with seeming impunity.

The military, using highly repressive tactics including torture of captured Tupamaros, was able to bring guerrilla activity to a stop, and for this claimed a place in the Government. However, in mid-1974 the guerrilla group was once again operating, although on a smaller scale than before. With most of their top leaders captured and awaiting death or imprisonment in 1975, it is unclear when or whether the Tupamaros will again be a force in the country.

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