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October 2008

The History of Uruguay
A brief history of Uruguay and its People.

Historic monument of Artigas in Plaza Independencia

Uruguay's history throughout the 19th century was largely dominated by a struggle to retain its independence from both Brazil and Argentina after gaining its freedom from the Spanish colonial rule in 1828.

The original Uruguayan flag was a white field with nine horizontal azure blue stripes, El sol de Mayo (The Sun Of May) in a white canton. The present flag was adopted on July 11, 1830. On that date, the number of stripes was reduced by law to five white and four blue - one for each of the nine political divisions originally forming the republic. Today, there are nineteen states. These states are called departamentos.

El Sol De Mayo has sixteen rays, alternating from straight to wavy (this symbolizes Uruguay's independence), while the white and blue stripes indicate her former association with Argentina. Uruguay's original emblem was the flag of Jose Artigas, the national hero who first tried in the early 19th century to to free the country from the Spanish rule. This flag was a blue, white and blue triband with a red diagonal running from the top hoist to foot of fly.

Political History

Over the years, Uruguay has provided significant social benefits to its people. It was the first nation in the world to have minimum wage scale for its agricultural workers. Uruguay is proud of many things. Among them is the fact that it never permitted slavery, was the first country in Latin America to have woman suffrage, and that more than 70 years ago, established an eight-hour work day.

Uruguay has the most advanced social security system in the Americas (including the USA) and has the best public health record on the continent.

Education in this proud nation is free, not only for the citizen of Uruguay, but to foreign students as well! To make sure that the country would be ruled by its people, this democratic republic made voting obligatory - the first country in South America to do so.Citizens of eighteen years of age and older must vote. Because of the rapid inflation rate in recent years - and the desire to give its citizens a good life - Uruguay now faces grave economic, political and social problems. Solving these problems will require strong, intelligent leadership, and perhaps sacrificing some of the social benefits. Located on the southeastern corner of South America, Uruguay is one of the smallest countries on the continent, but it has more people per square mile than any of the others.


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