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Uruguay (Summer)

URUGUAY | Saturday, 26 January 2008 | Views [2821]

Nigel and I enjoying delicious icecream on a very warm day in Colonia.

Nigel and I enjoying delicious icecream on a very warm day in Colonia.

Laura writes:

We got back to Uruguay after spending over 4 months travelling around the rest of Latin America. It was very nice to see my relatives once again waiting for us at the airport.

Our experience in Uruguay was very different this time compared to our experience in winter when we had last been there. The country really comes alive in summer. After all, Uruguay is surrounded by coast and people in Montevideo really look forward to getting away in January or February when most Montevidianos take a 1 month holiday from work to go camping or rent a house at one of the many beach towns around Uruguay. There is quite a selection of places to go, Punta Del Este being one of the most popular, not only for Uruguayans, but also for those from the Argentinean capital of Buenos Aires (after all, they own most of the luxury houses there!).

Carnival is another popular and cultural pass time in Uruguay during the summer months (from December to March). Outdoor stages (tablados) in most suburbs presenting entertainment every night with typical Murgas dressed in very colourful costumes and singing in a very unique style. "Las Llamadas" are also a part of carnival where dancers and drummers dance through the streets (a very historical event which goes back to the black slaves from Africa).

Carnival also happens around the same time in Argentina and Brazil, but each has its own style. The carnival in Rio de Janeiro being the most famous of all. People in Brazil are a very lively bunch and they go all out for carnival with incredible and expensive costumes and very intricate and stunning floats.  The carnival parade there, is one of a kind, but the carnival in Uruguay has a unique style of its own which also makes it very special.

While in Uruguay we enjoyed the warm weather, going to the beach whenever possible (my aunty and uncle live a few blocks from the beach) which was not hard to do when you have an uncle and aunty who are totally fanatical about the beach. One weekend we even went to a beach town called "La Paloma" where we rented a house for two days with all the family (aunty, uncle and cousins with their partners). After this weekend, Nigel and I decided to continue on, visiting other places by bus, while everyone else returned to Montevideo. We ended up taking buses to different places along the coast of Rocha, and even though the weather was not the best, we did enjoy being on our own and experiencing more of Uruguay.

During our stay in Uruguay, we also went to Colonia (a few days before our trip to La Paloma with my relatives). The three days we spent there were absolutely beautiful. We were very lucky, as we got the best weather too. The warm, sunny summer weather certainly added to the feel of the place. There was something special about being in such an important historical and picturesque town of Uruguay. Several people recommended we go there and we did not want to miss the opportunity to see it. The buildings there are from the 17th century and it is the only place in Uruguay where there are Portuguese constructions, as this town was settled by the Portuguese from Brazil around this time. For me this trip was a highlight, as even though I had been to Uruguay on several occasions, I had never visited this place. It was well worth it, not only for the history and beauty, but also because the place had a very special feel.

There were also many social gatherings while we were in Uruguay as my aunty and uncle are very sociable people and have many friends who not only come to dinner, but also meet them at the beach almost every day during the summer months.

One of my disappointments on this visit to Uruguay was how much things had changed in relation to my relatives. This was very disappointing to me and while I was there, I really struggled with it. I guess the last time I had been there, was 10 years ago and even though time passes so quickly, I was not quite prepared for the distance I felt this time around. The last time I had been to visit, two of my cousins were still living at my auntie’s place and we would go out together. Now, they have all moved out, they now have children and have very busy lives, so as a consequence did not have much time for us and we did not see them as often as I would have wanted. I guess we have to accept change!

One thing that took me by surprise on this visit was how much more popular Uruguay has become with tourism. I remember in the past, the only tourists found in Uruguay, were from Argentina and Brazil (close neighbours), but never from the U.S and other parts of the world. I could not believe it when on several occasions, I would hear people speaking English. I think even the locals are surprised and curious about this new phenomenon! We even had a little girl curiously ask us where we were from when she heard us speaking English together as if we were aliens! I have never found myself in this situation while I've been to Uruguay, as this was the first time that I went there with someone that only speaks English. In some way it made me feel like I wasn't a Uruguayan. I did not like how it felt, almost like I didn't belong, and this to me was very strange, as it was the first time I have felt this to that extent while in Uruguay.

In one way, the extra tourism is positive for Uruguay, as it will bring money into the country, but more tourism in the country can also be detrimental, especially in a country that has up till now not been exposed to the negative influences that Nigel and I witnessed in other countries in Latin America, where tourism has destroyed so much and caused locals to behave in less than desirable ways to exploit tourists. Uruguay has never had that, and I'm afraid that Uruguayans will also be tainted in some way, even though perhaps not to the same extend than some of the much poorer neighbours. Uruguay is also a small country and it would be a shame if foreign investors see an opportunity as they are at the moment, and end up buying more land than what this tiny country can afford to lose to foreign investment. This I feel will also be detrimental to Uruguay's citizens, with price of property increasing as well as the cost of life.

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