Uruguay Essay, Research Paper

The population of Uruguay is European in origin, mainly Spanish and Italian, but made up of many nationalities. The white race is largely predominant; the scarce black population was originally brought from Africa under Spanish rule. The native population disappeared more than a century ago, which sets Uruguay apart from other Spanish speaking countries of the Americas. The latest population census shows that there are almost 3 million inhabitants in Uruguay with 80% living in the cities with about half of those living in the capital of Montevideo. The cultural background of the country is rich and they are in general open and polite to visitors. Their tastes and habits are simple and the family as a whole participates in different activities. They enjoy life in the open air and sports; especially football is a national sport and passion. About 66% of the population are Roman Catholic. There is a small Jewish and Protestant population. It is estimated that less than one-half of the adult population attends church regularly. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the traditional pattern of patriarchy was breaking down in Uruguay. The freedom of women put Uruguay far ahead of the rest of Latin America in terms of legal rights and social customs. Civil marriage became legally required in 1885, and the influence of the church declined. Divorce on grounds of cruelty by the husband was legalized in 1907, and in 1912 women were given the right to file for divorce without a specific cause. Women also were provided with equal access to educational opportunities at all levels early in the twentieth century, and they began to enter the professions in increasing numbers. In 1938 women voted for the first time in national elections. Despite the freedom of women, attitudes toward gender roles and sexuality remained traditionally stereotypical. The pattern of being macho is less pronounced than in much of Latin America, but males were expected to show masculine traits . At social gatherings, women tend to congregate with other women, and men with men. Uruguayan children, and especially girls, have a high degree of freedom compared with their counterparts in many other Latin American countries. Chaperonage is rare. It is expected that women would have careers, and by 1970 almost half the total school population was female. During the 1960s, the generation gap began to be acutely felt in Uruguay. Young people rebelled against their parents and adopted permissive life-styles. Family ties remained strong in Uruguay despite the rebelliousness of youth. Children often lived in their parents home into their thirties and sometimes after marriage due to economic reasons and lack of affordable housing. As in other countries, the advent of the television has reduced movie and theater attendance causing more leisure hours to be spent in the home. Amateur soccer continues to thrive among the middle and lower classes, whereas the upper-middle classes prefer tennis, golf, and sailing. For the elite, membership in a country club is a focus of leisure and a symbol of social status.

The official educational system in Uruguay is compulsory and free of charge. Uruguay has the highest literacy rate in Latin America, at 96% in 1985. There is no difference in literacy rates between males and females, but there are differences between urban and rural rates with rural rates being lower. The quality of education in Uruguay is high. Teaching is a socially respected profession and one that pays relatively well. The country s showstopper event is the annual Carnival. It takes place on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Drummers and costumed revelers advance along the streets during this time. Holy Week (Easter) or La Semana Criolla has more traditional activites like asados (barbecues), horse breaking, cowboy stunt riding and folk music.

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