Uruguay from Colombia

· Latin America
The Americas From Colombia No. 1:
This is the first article of this serie the countries of the Americas sight from Colombia.
Our first guest: Uruguay

How Far is Uruguay from Colombia

J. Irazábal in his interview to professor Oscar A. Bottinelli after his travel to Colombia in a commission to give advance in the peace dialogue, said that Colombia is usually seen by Uruguayans as a distant country difficult to understand. If you have to ask the Uruguayans to describe Colombia in a single word, said the journalist, surely you have to try many answers that have to see with the Colombian culture, coffee, violence, guerrilla and many other facts. In conclusion, Colombia is a very and strain country for Uruguayans. Is that true? Let us try to see.

By Albeiro Rodas
Included an article by César Augusto Salazar, our new correspondant from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Sihanoukville. Surely professor Bottinelli is right about his statements on Colombia and the Andean region that seems to be a very far region to what we call the Cono Sur (South Cone of South America). Of course, it is not new that peoples who live in a region know little about their neighbors. The new Zogby Interactive poll showed that the majority of American adults know very little about Latin America. If Zogby or other statistic center of researches like DANE of Colombia would do the same in all the Latin American countries about what you know about Latin America itself, results would be something similar to the ignorance of the American adults about all that extension of land at the south of Rio Grande. It is likely sure than Uruguayans and Colombians know more about US and Europe than Uruguay and Colombia, countries of their same region.

Uruguay, the Republic of the East

It is natural that we know more about Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, Brazil and Peru, the countries just around us as it is natural that Uruguayans know very much about Argentina and Brazil, the countries around them. At least we can say that we found something very in common among Colombia and Uruguay: Brazil. This element is most important than we think, since Brazil is in the Latin American context a kind of equilibrium force that is different to all the Hispanic countries and, at the same time, is the same. Uruguay has to see very much with Brazil and Argentina, as we have to see with Venezuela and Ecuador.

Talking about Uruguay, we have to talk about a subtle kind of division that could be hidden to those US citizens mentioned by Zogby and also to many Europeans that imagine South America as a big rain forest. Uruguay belongs to what we call the South Cone, an evident region that takes its name from the evident form of the South American map that includes countries like Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and the southern states of Brazil. The other big regions of South America are the Amazon forest and the Andes. The difference among these three regions is very well done due to the natural features: the Andes join all the continent from Fireland to Venezuela and the great ranges give their characteristic to the peoples of those places. The South Cone, in stead, stayed as a whole in the Austral area of the continent giving a weather something like the opposite part of the Americas, the northern USA and Canada, but also opposite in turn: when in Uruguay is winter, in Canada is summer. To this Colombia is very different with its whole body in the Tropic land. Although the mountains give a cool variety of weathers, our country has only two very well distinguish seasons: raining and dry season, with slightly falls and springs.

Abreu and Vargas, Uruguayan players in a Colombia-Uruguay match. Picture by lizardking.

History did take other characteristics for our both countries. The territory of Uruguay was an objective for the Portuguese advance in what was given to the Spaniard influence. The defense of the territories was leaded from Buenos Aires and the territory was included in the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata which capital was Buenos Aires. With the creation of Uruguay as a province of the Viceroyalty, both cities did face the British intentions to conquer the Spanish territories. While the United Province of La Plata declared its independence from Spain in 1810, Montevideo remained loyal to Madrid until 1828. The ambitions of the then Empire of Brazil for the Uruguayan territory – and surely for the Argentinean territory – caused the Argentinean-Brazil War (1820-1828). Until that time it was known as the Eastern Province.

The Republican time as an independent state created an era of progress and Uruguay became a model of organization and economy. It was called during the 19th Century as the “Switzerland of the Americas”. In 1955 Uruguay suffered an economic crisis that leaded to political instability. On June 27, 1973 president Juan M. Bordaberry closed the Parliament with the support of the army. His intention was to create a new constitutional reform “to ensure the republican principles of the democracy“, an idea that only conducted to limit the freedom of press and the imprisonment of several political and civic leaders with many desaparecidos (disappeared persons). In 1980 it is opened the way to democracy and there was established a legal frame called “ley de caducidad” to extinguish crimes committed since January 1, 1962 by guerrillas but excluding crimes commited by security forces and armies against them.

The economy

The numbers in economy for Uruguay, are interesting being a country of “firsts”. Its GDP by 2005 was of US$16.800 in a country with a population of 3.415.920 persons, it is to say, inferior to the population of Bogotá and little more than the population of the Medellín Metropolitan Area. Its main sector is the one of services and construction that takes the 75.6%. The rest is agriculture, forest exploitation, fish and industry. Unemployment by 2006 was 12.4%, informal economies was 13.8% and poverty was 29.8%. The main clients of Uruguay are by order Brazil, Argentina and United States. The economic relations between Colombia and Uruguay are done mainly by regional agreements like those of CAN (Andean Community) and Mercosur.

There is a good frequency of flights from ElDorado International Airport of Bogotá to Carrasco Airport in Montevideo, many of them through Buenos Aires. A flight to Montevideo from Bogotá could take above 6 hours and it could be more than US$300.

How far is Colombia from Uruguay

Taking a little distant from the considerations of the well-respected professor Bottinelli, Colombia and Uruguay are near, they have been near and they must be near. Ignorance about the countries of our own continent could not be tolerated if there is an intention of a regional development of economies. Unfortunately, Latin Americans know more about US and Europe than the other Latin American countries. That is a limit to grow as a region when we must be united in front to the challenges of the world. The crisis and conflicts of a single country in South America causes harms to the region that would be manifest in many ways. The same Colombian conflict involves the Latin American countries and it has been an obstacle for the global development of all Latin America in many ways. We are talking about more than 40 million of Latin Americans, it is to say, the 40 million of Colombians means a big nation which peace and development is a key for the continent. Even if Colombia is at the other site of the continent, at the north, in a very different region of South America, it is a big elephant that is difficult to omit.

The relations of Colombia and Uruguay have a long history. Firsts to say, both countries belong to the same family: the Hispanic culture with all the characteristics that it has. Secondly, both belong to the Latin American context although Uruguay, as many times Argentina and Chile, looks to Europe as its model and even origins. We are not talking about Spain, but other European countries that seem to be of the proud of the South Cone more than their belonging to Latin America. Non-Hispanic family names are not a good reason to say that we do not belong to the region we belong. For example, in November 1922 both countries signed an agreement to interchange professors and students showing how much importance our people gave to the links of the two South American Hispanic nations. Sport has been also a great room of contact between Uruguayans and Colombians. Here it is what Colombia things of Uruguay: a brother country, nearest to the Colombians.


* IRAZÁBAL, José. Colombia: un país conflictivo, lejano para los uruguayos. Análisis político del profesor Oscar A. Bottinelli. Espectador.com, Montevideo, April 2, 2007.
* Acceso al mercado de Uruguay. Proexport Colombia. Bogotá, Agust 17, 2007.
* Uruguayos Viega y Techeras, nuevos refuerzos del deportes Tolima. Colombia Notimail.com
* Convención sobre intercambio de alumnos y profesores y sobre equivalencia de títulos y certificados entre la República de Colombia y la República Oriental de Uruguay. Bogotá, 14 de noviembre de 1922. (pdf)
* Miles marchan por la verdad. Desde abajo. Tebeo comunicaciones S.A. Montevideo.

The view as a frontier between world and spirit

By César Augusto Salazar H. (*)
Translation by Al Rodas

Montevideo. Visiting the other side of Rio de la Plata in the Uruguayan side is amazing if before you had the opportunity to visit the other side, the Argentinean one. Surprising because the river and its inhabitants keep an almost metaphysic contact although the modifications produced to the environment by the man. It allows that with the passing of the time the waves of this river continue letting their prints, reminding to the man that although their artificial world, nature is first and it grows with him.

At the other side, the riverside is the evidence of forgiveness, what is depreciated, the breaking among man and nature and the breaking among the man himself. The place where it is thrown the garbage of the absurd mega-consume of a life that holds the illusions of the stage, of utopias, it is to say, images with not place and real times.

For this reason, it is not surprising that when you walk by the Montevideo riverside, you find a monument erected to one of the cruelest pages of the “civilization”. It is the edge between the dominion of nature and the world built by the man, where the visitor sees the infinite but also his own mirror. It is the place where, by moments, the horror seems to show itself before his eyes, but crossing it, hope is hold so it can take the path to reconciliation with others and with the world that is and holds it.

The Wall. Picture by Liberinus

The Memorial to the Jew Holocaust in the cost of Montevideo is only a warming to those who walk it and take a pause in the path and look at the mirror and observe the falsity that stays willing to see the collapse of the world. Those who observe that view see how what is sublime appears causing stupor. It is the place where the contrast of feeling yourself small gives back the lost hope.

Before the hate and the man’s barbarity, there is also the view that tries to reconcile the external world where your illusions are projected without forgetting the sense of interiority in your own soul.

(*) César Augusto Salazar is a Colombian student in Buenos Aires and he is becoming the C.P. correspondent in the South Cone.

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