San Felipe y Santiago de Montevideo overlooks the north shore of the Rio de la Plata at the point where it meets the South Atlantic Ocean. It is the capital city of the country of Uruguay.
The city was originally nothing more than a small Spanish trading post and the area actually changed hands between the Spanish and the Portuguese (from Brazil) a number of times. However, in 1624 the Spanish established the first permanent settlement and held control until 1811, when Uruguay rebelled against Spanish rule. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s a large wave of Spanish and Italian immigrant came to Uruguay, seeking a better life.
In the following years there have been many instances of political unrest, civil war, military coups and juntas, all of which added up to a hardship lifestyle and not much productivity. In 1985 civilian rule was restored under a Constitutional Republic system of government and the country has been relatively peaceful ever since.
Montevideo can be divided into the “Old City” and the “New City”. A walk through the old city will take in the Plaza Constiticion, the old town Hall, and the Plaza de la Independencia. Many of the houses in the area exemplify the old colonial style and are quite grand. There is a Museo Historico Nacional and Museo del Gaucho y de la Moneda that is well worth an afternoon of your time.
The new city is exactly that – new. The buildings are more modern, there are the usual expensive shops that you can find in any city, and the downtown hustle and bustle you can experience anywhere. It’s when you get out of the new town (or old for that matter) and into the countryside that Uruguay comes into its own. The town of Colonia del Sacramento (2 & ½ hrs out of the city) is a case in point. Another place well worth a visit.