Uruguay - national flag
The flag was officially adopted in 1830. The colors and "Corn Sun" are
derived from the Argentine flag; Uruguay was formerly part of Argentina. At the
independence in 1828, a new flag was introduced, which also contained elements
from the flag of the United States. The nine stripes represent the country's
then nine departments. The corn sun stands for independence.
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Uruguay - history
Before the European colonization, the area was inhabited by a small
population of semi-nomadic tribes, charrúa. In 1516, the
Spaniards explored the territory, the Banda Oriental, which, however,
remained uninhabited by non-Indians. Eventually it was also used by gauchos, who
here hunted stray cattle, but lived elsewhere.
During the 17th century, Franciscan and Jesuit monks settled in the Banda
Oriental and embarked on a mission. Portuguese from Brazil established in 1680
Colônia do Sacramento opposite the Spanish Buenos Aires on the other side of the
Río de La Plata.
In order not to lose control of the estuary, the Spaniards founded Montevideo
in 1726. From here, attacks were directed on the Portuguese settlement, which in
1777 was handed over to Spain; the year before, the entire Banda Oriental had
become part of the Spanish Viceroyalty of La Plata.
In 1810, the independence struggle began in La Plata. In Banda Oriental, the
battle against Spain was led by José Gervasio Artigas, who in 1815 gained
control of the area. However, it was invaded by the Portuguese in 1816, and in
1820 Artigas went into exile. The independence struggle continued with Argentine
support, and after British mediation, independent Uruguay was established in
1828 as a buffer state between Argentina and Brazil.
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The country was quickly thrown into a protracted civil war between the
Liberal and Pro-Brazilian Colorado Party ('the Red Party') and the Conservative
and Pro-Argentine Blanco Party ('the White Party') under the leadership of,
respectively. José Fructuoso Rivera (1789-1854) and Manuel Oribe (1792-1857),
Uruguay's first and second president.
The persistent conflict ruined the country and also triggered the extremely
bloody war of 1865-1870 between Paraguay and the Triple Alliance (Argentina,
Brazil and Uruguay). When the military then took power, the country achieved
some stability and an economic development, based on exports of wool, leather
and meat, was initiated.
The unpopular military government was replaced in 1890 by a civilian Colorado
government; the controversy with the Blanco Party lived on, but to a less
devastating extent. The José Batlle y Ordóñez of the Colorado Party (1856-1929)
became the dominant political figure in the first quarter of the 20th
century; his name is associated not least with the social reforms that made
Uruguay one of the world's first welfare states.
Uruguay's economy was heavily dependent on exports and therefore vulnerable
when the world crisis of the 1930's set in and ended the long period of
prosperity. In the following years, Uruguay was at times ruled
dictatorially. With World War II came demand for the country's exports, and new
growth set in; but in the 1950's, the vulnerability of the economy reappeared as
world market prices for export goods fell, resulting in a deep economic crisis.
For the first time in 93 years, the Blanco Party won government power in
1958, without the problems being resolved. The urban guerrilla Tupamaros' armed
struggle against the regime came from the 1960's to dominate political life,
under the Colorado Party's Jorge Pacheco Areco, who ruled the country with
a heavy hand from 1967-1972. In 1973, the military seized power in Uruguay,
where brutality and repression of political opponents now became the order of
Extensive protests forced the regime to embark on a process of
democratization; Julio María Sanguinetti (b. 1936) of the Colorado Party won the
1984 presidential election and took office the following year. He continued
democratization while giving the military a general amnesty. From 1990, the
Blanco Party held the presidency; the attempts to bring about an unpopular
liberalization of the economy resulted in electoral defeat for Sanguinetti in
the ensuing presidential election; since 1995, the Colorado Party has regained
In the 1999 presidential election, the Colorado Party regained the
presidency, and Jorge Batlle took power. But the left-leaning Frente Amplio (FA,
'The Broad Front') made renewed progress and became the strongest political
force in both chambers of Congress in front of the two major bourgeois parties,
Colorado and Blanco. It came to a severe economic crisis in 2002, triggered by
setbacks in Argentina and Brazil, which are Uruguay's main trading partners.
In 2004, Tabaré Vázquez of the FA won the presidential election; he was
installed the following year as Uruguay's first left-wing president. Programs
were implemented to support the country's poor, and an investigation into
murders and disappearances during the military dictatorship was launched. A
period of economic prosperity began. Vázquez was replaced in 2010 by José
Mujica, also from the FA. His government implemented several sensational
measures: abortion was legalized, gay marriage was allowed, and in 2013,
marijuana was decriminalized in an attempt to weaken the drug cartels.