1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Uruguay

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URUGUAY (officially the Oriental Republic of the Uruguay, and long locally called the Banda Oriental, meaning the land on the eastern side of the river Uruguay, from which the country takes its name), the smallest independent state in South America. It runs conterminous with the southern border of Brazil, and lies between 30° and 35° S. and between 53° 25′ and 57° 42′ W. (for map, see Argentina). It has a seaboard on the Atlantic Ocean of 120 m., a shore-line to the south on the Rio de la Plata of 235 m., and one of 270 In. along the Uruguay on the west. The boundaries separating it from Rio Grande do Sul, a province of Brazil, are Lake Mirim, the rivers Chuy, Jaguarão and Quarahy, and a cuchilla or low range of hills called Santa Ana. The extent of the northern frontier is 450 m. The southern half of the country is mostly undulating grass land, well watered by streams and springs. The northern section is more broken and rugged; barren ridges and low rocky mountain-ranges, interspersed with fertile valleys, being its characteristic features. There is no forest, timber of any size being found only in the valleys near running water. Uruguay is intersected nearly from west to north-east by the river Negro and its affluent the Yi. The Uruguay is navigable all the year by steamers from the island of Martin Garcia at the mouth to Saito (200 m.). Above this place the navigation is interrupted by rapids. The ordinary volume of water in the Uruguay averages II millions of cub. ft. per minute. Excluding the Uruguay, the Negro, of which the principal port is Mercedes, is the principal navigable river. Others are navigable only for short distances by Steamers of light draught. Besides the rivers mentioned, the chief streams are the Santa Lucia, which falls into the Plata a little west of Montevideo; the Queguay, in Paysandu; and the Cebollati, rising in the sierras in Minas and flowing into Lake Mirim. These rivers as well as the Uruguay are fed by innumerable smaller streams or arroyos, such as the Arapey in Salto, the Dayman in Paysandu, the Iaguary (an affluent of the Negro) in Tacuarembo, the Arroyo Grande between the departments of Soriano and San José, and the San José (an affluent of the Santa Lucia). None of the sierras or mountains in Uruguay exceeds (or perhaps even attains) a height of 2000 ft.; but, contrasting in their tawny colour with the grassy undulating plains, they loom high and are often picturesque. They are ramifications of the highlands of Brazil. The main chains are the Cuchilla de Haedo on the north and west and the Cuchilla Grande on the south and east.

Geology.—Little is known of the geology of Uruguay. There is a foundation of schists and crystalline rocks upon which rests a series of sandstones. The latter is, no doubt, identical with the similar sandstone series which is found in the neighbouring Brazilian province of Rio Grande do Sul, and which has there yielded plants which prove it to belong to the Permian or the upper part of the Carboniferous. The plains are covered by a formation similar to that of the Argentine pampas and by the alluvial deposits of the present rivers.

Climate.—Uruguay enjoys the reputation of possessing one of the most healthy climates in the world The geographical position ensures uniformity of temperature throughout the year, the summer heat being tempered by the Atlantic breezes, and severe cold in the winter season being unknown. Endemic diseases are unknown and epidemics are rare. In the interior, away from the sea and the shores of the great rivers, the temperature frequently rises in summer to 86° F. and in winter falls to 35°·6. In the districts bordering on the coast the thermometer seldom falls below 37°; and only for a few moments and at long intervals has it been known to rise as hi h as 105°. The annual rainfall is about 43 in.

Flora.—The pastoral wealth of Uruguay, as of the neighbouring Argentine Republic, is due to the fertilizing constituents of “pampa mud,” geologically associated with gigantic antediluvian animals, whose fossil remains are abundant. The country is rich in hard woods, suitable for cabinet work and certain building purposes. The principal trees are the alder, aloe, palm, poplar, acacia, willow and eucalyptus. The monies, by which are understood plantations as well as native thickets, produce among other woods the algarrobo, a poor imitation of oak; the guayabo, a substitute for boxwood; the quebracho, of which the red kind is compared to sandalwood; and the urunday, black and white, not unlike rosewood. Indigenous palms grow in the valleys of the Sierra José Ignacio, also to some extent in the departments of Minas, Maldonado and Paysandú. The myrtle, rosemary, mimosa and the scarlet-flowered ceibo are common. The valleys within the hill ranges are fragrant with aromatic shrubs. In the plains below, the swards are gay with the scarlet and white verbena and other brilliant wild flowers. The country abounds in medicinal plants. The sarsaparilla even colours the water of the Rio Negro and gives it its name—the “black river.”

Fauna.—Among wild animals the tiger or ounce—called in the Guarani language the ja-guá or “big dog"—and the puma are found on the frontier of Brazil and on time wooded islets and banks of the larger rivers. The tapir, fox, deer, wild cat, wild dog, carpincho or water hog and a few small rodents nearly complete the list of quadrupeds. A little armadillo, the mulita, is the living representative of the antediluvian giants Mylodon, Megalherium, &c. The ostrich—Rhea Americana—roams everywhere in the plains; and there are a few specimens of the vulture tribe, a native crow (lean, tall and ruffed), partridges and quails. Parakeets are plentiful in the monies, and the lagoons swarm with waterfowl. The most esteemed is the pato real, a large duck. Of the birds of bright plumage the humming-bird and the cardinal—the scarlet, the yellow and the white—are the most attractive. The fish of the lagoons and streams are coarse, and some of them primitive in type; but two or three kinds, found generally in the large rivers, are much prized. The varieties of fish on the sea coast are many and excellent. More than 2000 species of insects have been classified. The scorpion is rare, but large and venomous spiders are common. The principal reptiles are a lizard, a tortoise, the vivora de la cruz (a dangerous viper, so called from marks like a cross on its head) and the rattlesnake in Maldonado and the stony lands of Minas.

Area and Population.—The area of the republic is estimated at 72,210 sq. m., and has a population of 1,042,668 according to the census of 1908 (in 1900 it was 915,647). The country is divided into 19 departments, the area and the population of which, according to the census of 1908, are given in the subjoined table:—

Departments. Area Sq. Miles. Population, 1908.
Artigas 4,392 26,298
Canelones 1,833 87,931
Cerro Largo 5,753 44,806
Colonia 2,192 54,679
Durazno 5,525 42,313
Flores 1,744 16,1 58
Florida 41763 45,393
Maldonado 1,584 28,804
Minas 4,844 51,170
Montevideo 256 309,231
Paysandu 5,115 38,528
Rio Negro 3,269 19,909
Rivera 3,790 35,653
Rocha 4,280 34,110
Salto 4,863 46,304
San José 2,687 46,267
Soriano 3,560 39,431
Tacuarembo 8,074 46,927
Treinta-y-Tres 3,686 28,756
Total 72,210 1,042,668

The average density of population on the above figures 12·9 per sq. m., ranging (exclusive of Montevideo) from 47·9 in Canelones to 5·8 in Tacuarembo and 6 in Artigas. The great majority of the foreign population are Italians or Spaniards, with lesser numbers, in descending scale, of Brazilian, Argentine and French birth. British, Swiss and Germans are comparatively few. In 1907, 26,105 Italian immigrants arrived, 21,927 Spanish, 2355 British, 2315 French and 1823 German. The natives of Uruguay, though living in conditions similar to those of the Argentine population, are in general more reserved, showing more of the Indian type and less of the Spaniard. In the north there is a strong Brazilian element and the people are intensely conservative. The average annual birth-rate is about 35 per 1000, and the death-rate about 15·5. About 26% of the births are illegitimate. The principal towns are Montevideo, Salto, Paysandú and San José.

Agriculture.-The condition of agriculture is fairly satisfactory. In 1885 Uruguay imported most of her breadstuffs; now not only is wheat grown in sufficient quantities to meet the local demand, but a surplus (about 20,000 metric tons in 1908-9) is annually available for export. Land for farming purposes is expensive, and wages are high, leaving small profit, unless it happens that a man, with his family to assist him, works his own land. The farmers are chiefly Italians, Canary Islanders and Frenchmen. The principal crops in addition to wheat are oats, barley, maize, linseed and bird seed. Since 1890 the cultivation of the grape and the manufacture of wine have considerably extended, especially in the department of Salto, Montevideo, Canelones and Colonia. Red wine, a smaller quantity of white, grape alcohol and wine alcohol are produced. The olive-planting industry is becoming important; the trees thrive well, and the area devoted to their cultivation is annually increasing. Tobacco is also cultivated.

Cattle-breeding and sheep-farming, however, are the principal industries. The lands are admirably adapted for cattle-breeding purposes, although not capable of fattening animals. The cattle are destined chiefly for the saladero establishments for the preparation of tasajo, or jerked beef, for the Brazilian and Cuban markets, and for the Liebig factory, where large quantities of extract of meat are prepared for the European trade. Cattle-breeding is carried on in all parts of the republic, but chiefly in the departments of Salto, Paysandú and Rio Negro. In the southern districts, where the farmers are Europeans, the breed of cattle is being steadily improved by the introduction of Durham and Hereford bulls. Dairy-farming is making some progress, especially in the Swiss colony near San José.

Sheep-farming flourishes chiefly in Durazno and Soriano. Uruguayan wool is favourably regarded in foreign markets, on account of the clean state in which it is shipped, this being largely due to the natural conditions of the land and climate. The business of shipping live sheep and frozen mutton has not been attempted on a large scale, owing principally to the lack of facilities for loading at the port of Montevideo or elsewhere.

Mining.—Minerals are known to exist in the northern section of the republic, and gold-mining is carried on to a small extent. Expert opinions have been advanced stating that gold-mining in Uruguay is capable of development into an important industry. The other minerals found are silver, lead, copper, magnesium and lignite coal.

Commerce.—The economic development of Uruguay was retarded by the corruption of successive governments, by revolutionary outbreaks, by the seizure of farm stock, without adequate compensation, for the support of military forces, by the consequences of reckless borrowing and over-trading in 1889 and 1890, and also by the transference of commercial undertakings from Montevideo to Buenos Aires between 1890 and 1897, on the opening of the harbour and docks at that port. The annual value of the imports (4·7 dollars taken at £1) was £5,101,740 in 1900 and £7,365,703 in 1908; that of exports was £6,257,600 in 1900 and £7,932,026 in 1908.

The principal imports consist of machinery, textiles and clothing, food substances and beverages, and live stock. The chief exports are animal products and agricultural products. Of the imports about 27% in value are from Great Britain, 14% from Germany, and smaller proportions from France, Argentina, Italy, Spain, the United States and Belgium. Of the exports, France, Argentina, Belgium and Germany take the bulk. Trade is controlled by foreigners, the British being prominent in banking, finance, railway work and the higher branches of commerce; Spaniards, Italians and French in the wholesale and retail trade. Uruguayans find an insignificant place in commerce. The foreign trade passes mainly through Montevideo, where the port has been greatly improved. In addition to the natural lines of communication provided by the rivers bordering on or belonging to the republic, there are about 2240 m. of national road, besides more than 3000 m. of departmental roads. The railways had a length of 1380 m. open for trafhc, and the system is steadily extending. There are over 170 m. of tramway in operation.

Government.—The legislative power of the state rests with the general assembly, consisting of two chambers, one of senators (19 in number) and one of representatives (75). The deputies of the lower house are elected for three years directly by the people, one deputy for every 3000 male adults who can read and write. One senator is named for each department by an electoral college, whose members are elected directly by the people. The senators are elected for six years, and one-third of their number retire every two years. The executive power is exercised by the president of the republic, who is elected by the general assembly for a four years’ term. He is assisted by a council of ministers representing the departments of the interior, foreign affairs, finance, war and marine, industry, labour and instruction and public works. Each department or province of the republic has a governor appointed by the executive, and an administrative council, whose members are chosen by popular vote. The judicial power is vested in a high court and many subordinate courts. The general assembly elects the five judges who compose the high court. There are civil, commercial and criminal courts in Montevideo, a departmental court in each departmental capital, and a justice of the peace in each of 205 judicial districts into which the republic is divided, with sub-district courts under deputy judges in addition. The administration of justice in Uruguay has long been of bad repute. It was reformed on the above lines in 1907.

Education is much neglected, and the public-school system is inefficient. The attendance of children at the schools is small, and the instruction they receive is inferior. Primary instruction is nominally obligatory; nevertheless at the beginning of the 20th century nearly half the population over six years of age was illiterate. Montevideo possesses a university and a number of preparatory schools, a state-supported technical school and a military college. The state religion is Roman Catholic, and there is an archbishop of Montevideo with two suffragan bishops. A number of seminaries are maintained throughout the republic. Other religions are tolerated.

Army.—There is a standing army with a peace strength of about 7000 officers and men. Service is nominally voluntary, though it appears that a certain amount of compulsion is exercised. In addition to this there is compulsory service in the National Guard (a) in the first class, consisting of men between seventeen and thirty years of age, liable for service with the standing army, and numbering some 15,000; (b) in the second class, for departmental service only, except in so far as it may be drawn upon to make up losses in the more active units in time of war, consisting of men from thirty to forty-tive years of age, and (c) in the third class, for local garrison duty, consisting of men between forty-five and sixty years old. The army and guard are well equipped with modern arms. Finance.-Of the national revenue nearly half is derived from customs duties, taxes being levied also on real estate, licences, tobacco, stamped paper and in other ways. Nearly half the expenditure goes to meet debt charges, while government, internal development and defence absorb most of the remainder. The receipts for the years specified were as follows, Uruguayan dollars being converted into sterling at the par value, 4·7 = £1:—

Years.   Revenue. Expenditure.

. .
. .


In 1891, when the debt of the republic amounted to $87,789,973, or about £18,678,710, the government suspended payment of interest, and an arrangement was made with the bondholders. A new consolidated debt of £20,500,000 was issued at 31/2% interest, and, as security for payment of interest, 45% of the customs receipts at Montevideo was assigned. At the same time the interest guaranteed to the railway companies was reduced from 7 to 31/2%. In 1896 a 5% loan of £I,667,000 was issued, and the debt was subsequently increased, until on January 1, 1909, it was £27,692,795, and in the same year the annual debt charge amounted to £2,185,347. The Bank of the Republic was established in 1896 with a nominal capital of $12,000,000, and in 1899 it received the right to issue further shares amounting to $5,000,000. Its note issue (for which it has an exclusive right) may not exceed the value of half the subscribed capital. Besides a number of local banks, branches of German, Spanish, French and several British banks are established in Montevideo.

There is no Uruguayan gold coin in circulation, but the theoretical monetary unit is the gold peso nacional, weighing 1·697 grammes, ·917 fine. The silver peso weighs 25 grammes, ·900 fine. A half, fifth and tenth of a peso are coined in silver, in addition to bronze coins.

The metric system of weights and measures has been officially adopted, but the old Spanish system is still in general use.

History.—In 1 SI 2 Juan Diaz de Solis entered the Paranaguazu or “sealike” estuary of the Plata and landed about 70 miles east of the present city of Montevideo. Uruguay at that time was inhabited by Indians, of whom the dominant tribe was called Charrua, a people described as physically strong and well-formed, and endowed with a natural nobility of character. Their habits were simple, and they were disfigured neither by the worst crimes nor by the primitive superstitition of savages. They are said to have revealed no vestige of religion. The Charruas are generally classified as a yellow-skinned race, of the same family as the Pampa Indians; but they are also represented as tanned almost black by the sun and air, without any admixture of red or yellow in their complexions. Almost beardless, and with thin eyebrows, they had on their heads thick, black, lustrous hair, which neither fell off nor turned grey until extreme old age. They lived principally upon fish, venison and honey. In the Guarani language “Charrua” means turbulent, and by their enemies the Charruas were accounted as such, and even ferocious, although admitted to be generous to their captives. They were a curiously taciturn and reticent race. Their weapons were the bow and arrow and stones.

Solis, on his second visit, 151 5-1516, was slain by the Charruas in Colonia. Eleven years later Ramon, the lieutenant of Sebastian Cabot, was defeated by the same tribe. In 1603 they destroyed in a pitched battle a veteran force of Spaniards under Saavedra. During the next fifty years three unsuccessful attempts were made by the Spaniards to subdue this courageous people. The real conquest of Uruguay was begun under Philip III. by the Jesuit missions. It was gradually consummated by the military and commercial settlements of the Portuguese, and subsequently by the Spaniards, who established themselves formally in Montevideo under Governor Zavala of Buenos Aires in 1726, and demolished the rival Portuguese settlement in Colonia in 1777. From 1750 Montevideo enjoyed a provincial government independent of that of Buenos Aires. The American rebellion, the French Revolution and the British invasions of Montevideo and Buenos Aires (1806-7), under Generals Auchmuty (1756-1822) and John Whitelocke (1757-1833), all contributed to the extinction of the Spanish power on the Rio de la Plata. During the War of Independence, Montevideo was taken in 1814 by the Buenos-Airean general Alvear (see further Montevideo). A long struggle for dominion in Uruguay between Brazil and the revolutionary government of Buenos Aires was concluded in 1828, through the mediation of Great Britain, Uruguay being declared a free and independent state. The republic was formally constituted in 1830. Subsequently Juan Manuel Rosas, dictator of Buenos Aires, interfered in the intestine quarrels of Uruguay; and Montevideo was besieged by his forces, allied with the native partisans of General Oribe, for nine years (1843–52).

After the declaration of independence the history of Uruguay becomes a record of intrigues, financial ruin, and political folly and crime. The two great political factors for generations have been the Colorados and the Blancos. So far as political principles are concerned, there is small difference between them. Men are Colorados or Blancos largely by tradition and not from political conviction. The Colorados have held the government for many years, and the attempts of the Blancos to oust them have caused a series of revolutions. The military element, moreover, has frequently conspired to elect a president amenable to its demands. In 1875 General Latorre headed a conspiracy against President Ellauri and at first placed Dr Varela in power as dictator, but in 1876 proclaimed himself. In the following year Latorre caused himself to be elected president, but political unrest caused him to resign in March 1880. The president of the senate, Dr Vidal, nominally administered the government for two years, when General Santos, who had held the real power, became president. His administration was so vicious and tyrannical that the opposition organized a revolution. Their forces, however, were surprised by the government troops at Quebracho, on the Rio Negro, and defeated. Ultimately the Colorados themselves exiled Santos. He had plundered the national revenues and scorned constitutional government. The Colorados now made General Tajes president, the practical direction of the administration being in the hands of Julio Herrera y Obes. In March 1890 General Tajes handed over the presidency to Herrera y Obes, a clever but unscrupulous man, who filled every official post with his own friends and ensured the return of his supporters to the chamber. In 1891 he was obliged to suspend the service of the public debt and make arrangements by which the bondholders accepted a reduced rate of interest. The country was at this period conducted practically as if it were the private estate of the president, and no accounts of revenue or expenditure were vouchsafed to the public. In 1894 the Colorados nominated Senor Idiarte Borda for the presidency. He seemed at first inclined to govern honestly, but corruption soon became as marked as under the preceding régime. The Blancos, using the fraudulent elections in 1896 as a pretext, now broke out in armed revolt under the leadership of Aparicio Saraiva. The president made no attempt to conciliate them, and in March 1897 a body of government troops suffered a reverse. On the 25th of August 1897 Borda, after attending a Te Deum at the cathedral in Montevideo, was shot dead by a man named Arredondo, who was sentenced in 1899 to two years’ imprisonment. The defence was that the murder was a political offence, and therefore not punishable as an ordinary case of assassination for personal motives.

The president of the senate, Juan Cuestas, in accordance with the constitution, assumed the duties of president of the republic. He arranged that hostilities should cease on the conditions that representation of the Blancos was allowed in Congress for certain districts where their votes were known to predominate; that a certain number of the jefes politicos should be nominated from the Blancos; that free pardon be extended to all who had taken part in the revolt; that a sufficient sum in money be advanced to allow the settlement of the expenses contracted by the insurgents; and that the electoral law be reformed on a basis allowing the people to take part freely in elections. Cuestas. on attempting to reform corrupt practices, was soon threatened with another revolution, and on the 10th of February 1898 he assumed dictatorial powers, dissolved the Chambers and suspended all constitutional guarantees. In the following year he resigned and was re-elected to the presidency on the 1st of March 1899. His second term was marked by premonitions of further disorder. In July 1902 a plot for his assassination was frustrated, and in 1903, on the election of Iosé Battle to the presidency, civil war broke out. On September 3, 1904, the revolutionary general Saraiva died of wounds received in battle; and later in the year peace was declared. Claudio Williman became president in 1907. The Colorados favoured Battle as his successor, and before the elections to the chamber in November 1910 the Blancos were again in arms.

See F. Bauza, La Dominacion Española en el Uruguay (Montevideo, 1880); F. A. Berro, A. de Vedia and M. de Pena, Album de la Republica Oriental del Uruguay (Montevideo, 1882); R. L. Lomba, La Republica Oriental del Uruguay (Montevideo, 1884); The Uruguay Republic, Territory and Conditions, reprinted by order of the Consul-General of Uruguay (London, 1888); V. Arreguine, Historia del Uruguay (Montevideo, 1892); M. G. and E. T. Mulhall, Handbook of the River Plata (London, 1892); H. Roustan and C. M. de Pena, Uruguay en la Exposicion . . . de Chicago (Montevideo, 1893); O. Aranjo, Compendio de la Geografia Nacional (Montevideo, 1894); Uruguay, its Geography, History, &c. (Liverpool, 1897); P. F. Martin, Through Five Republics (London, 1905); Anuario Estadistico and Anuario Demografico (official, Montevideo); British and American Consular Reports; Publications, Bureau of American Republics.

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