What a surprise to see the little airport of Montevideo with its two runways after the huge dimensions of Brazil! How wonderful to be picked up by my warm-hearted old friend Pablo at the gate! I was his guest for the one full day that we spent together, and I really felt like a guest. He and his wife Gladys made sure that I didn’t miss anything.
Uruguay is one of the outstanding countries of South America in many respects. Its population is only 4.2 million, of which 1 million lives in Montevideo, the capital. The next-biggest town has 100.000 inhabitants.
During the last 10 years, its population grew by only 8 percent, while in Brazil, it grows by about 4 percent a year. The rate of alphabetisation is almost 100 %, and the educational and health systems are oriented towards advancing the interests of the poor people as well.
As my hosts told me, the most interesting part of the country is the coast, and that was what they showed me – Montevideo and the ocean resort Punta del Este. Montevideo offers the opportunity to bathe in sweet water because it is located on the Rio de la Plata which still is clean enough to bathe in. The Rio de la Plata’s banks are covered with fine white sand. It is the widest river in the world – so wide that you cannot see the other side; it looks as if it were the ocean.
The beaches on the Atlantic have very fine sand as well. The bathing season runs from December to April – the summer is rather short. Winter is in July and August, but it never gets below zero degrees centigrade.
Although there is poverty in Uruguay, it seems to be limited. In order to tell you more about it, I would have to visit Uruguay again – Pablo promised to tell me and show me more about it then.
Uruguay is not the richest country, but its social justice and security are outstanding in South America. It reminded me a bit of Toronto because of the way the shops were designed and the goods were presented, and also because of the way people dressed. The people are predominantly white.
You cannot find skyscrapers in Montevideo – not yet, at least. One of the tallest houses is the City Hall.
There are no indigenous people living in Uruguay any more.
The food and the coffee are very good.
Montevideo, May, 1996