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Public Health in Uruguay, 1830–1940s  

Anne-Emanuelle Birn and Raquel Pollero

Little examined, Uruguay’s public health trajectory offers an important window on the country’s larger societal dynamics and the possibilities and limits of public health across Latin America. On one hand, Uruguay lagged behind public health efforts and overall institutionalization compared to other countries in the region, through much of the 19th century. On the other hand, tiny Uruguay became highly engaged with international health, medical, and social policy developments, and it modernized, urbanized, and secularized early, with important implications for health and welfare state-building, epitomized in early 20th-century Batllismo. Still, the country’s economic, epidemic, demographic, social, and political vicissitudes meant that public health efforts, too, oscillated between fulfilling aspirations for an up-to-date and far-reaching hygienic apparatus and seeing these expectations dashed during economic downturns, periods of political repression, and when health successes seemingly turned into failures, as with its prolonged infant mortality stagnation. Uruguay also moved from being an importer of public health models and practices, especially from Europe, to exporting its own innovative approaches, as per its internationally renowned rights-based approach to improving child health, embodied in its 1934 Children’s Code and diffused via the pathbreaking Montevideo-based children’s protection institute. Also sui generis were the multiplicity of roles played by the country’s minuscule pool of public health experts, who served at one and the same time as epidemiological observers, institutional leaders, clinicians, and policy elites, making their impact and interactions both fruitful and fraught. The article traces Uruguay’s public health history across three eras, revealing the untold stories and ups and downs of a small but significant public health actor.


Honor Ideology, Dueling Culture, and Judicial Lies in 1920s Uruguay  

David S. Parker

In Montevideo in 1923, streetcar company executive Juan Cat shot at journalist and Communist parliamentarian Celestino Mibelli in the atrium of the Uruguayan Congress. Despite this premeditated assassination attempt in front of numerous witnesses, Cat was released, the judge accepting the possibility that his actions were in legitimate self-defense. The logic that led police, prosecutor, and judge to arrive at conclusions that seemed to contradict both the evidence and the law hinged upon, and in the process reveals, deeply conflicting ideas of honor, family, the public versus the private sphere, and the unwritten laws that governed journalism in 1920s Uruguay. Mibelli had published a series of scandalous newspaper stories, one involving Cat’s young daughter, and many Uruguayans identified with the aggrieved father, arguing that an attack on family honor was no different from a physical assault. The only legally and socially acceptable remedy for Cat was to challenge his slanderer to a duel, but Mibelli refused to accept challenges because he considered dueling elitist. In the end, the police report, the prosecutor’s brief, and the judge’s ruling each subtly distorted the details of the encounter to construct Cat’s attack as a quasi-duel, a frustrated attempt to “demand explanations” from Mibelli, following a ritualized script set down in the dueling codes of the era. Factually, Cat’s actions were no such thing, but by crafting the narrative of an “affair of honor” gone wrong, official lies reflected deeper cultural truths.


The Independence of Uruguay and the Atlantic World  

Nicolás Duffau

The process that led to the independence of the Oriental State of Uruguay (now the Oriental Republic of Uruguay) began with the 1810 revolution and lasted until the 1828 Preliminary Peace Convention and the enactment of the first constitution in July 1830. In these twenty years, the territory of the River Plate was marked by war and various experiments of social and political organization. In the 1810s, some of the elites of the territory located on the eastern bank of the Uruguay River joined the uprising that had begun in Buenos Aires. This support for the Buenos Aires junta—the outcome of demands for the expansion of jurisdiction and greater autonomy—divided the territory between the administration of Montevideo (until 1814 in the hands of Españolistas) and a revolutionary group. In this context, a radical popular revolutionary project was produced under the leadership of José Artigas (1764–1850). This sought a federal union with other provinces along the Uruguay River and became known as the System of Free Peoples. It encountered fierce resistance from the authorities in Buenos Aires. The radicalization of certain postures among the “Orientales” (as the people in what is now Uruguay were called) was rejected by the Creole elites, who abandoned the Artiguista group and imposed restraints on the social revolution. Added to this were the occupation of the territory by Luso-Brazilian forces (who had strong local support) and the transformation of the Oriental Province into the Cisplatin Province, since 1821 part of the Portuguese Empire. In 1825, a second stage began in the fight for independence from the king of Portugal and the emperor of Brazil, and the union with the United Provinces based in Buenos Aires. Support from the latter was due to a war with Brazil, which ended with the Preliminary Convention of Peace. Signed and ratified in 1828, this allowed the creation of an independent state—with not very precise boundaries—whose first constitution was enacted in 1830. From the second half of the 19th century to the present, the independence of Uruguay has been a permanent theme of historiographic and political debate, fundamental for the definition of national identity. This discussion became intertwined with the foundation of a national account of the country and the formation of a pantheon of patriotic heroes (headed by Artigas). Views of the past, which merged with the ideological debate of each present, traveled along distant paths, ranging from the initial desire of the Orientales to construct an independent state at the beginning of the revolution, to interpretations that resignified political projects as possible alternatives as events unfolded.


The Cuban Embassy in Uruguay, 1959–1964  

Roberto García

The 1959 Cuban Revolution, the revolution’s subsequent strengthening, and the radical change that the process underwent beginning in 1961 marked a turning point in the history of Latin America. It implied the largest and most consistent regional challenge faced by the United States in an area where its influence had often been decisive. From then on, the Latin American Cold War intensified at every level. It was no longer about the “reactive” actions that took place among the conservative Latin American elite via the communism inspired by distant Moscow. In Cuba, the culture of the “revolution” was established, and the consequences were far from mere symbolism: Cubans also launched actions of “alternative diplomacy” to lend institutional support to the Latin American guerrilla movements. However, there is no documented study on Cuba’s role in Latin America. This is explicable in large part by the secrecy with which the Caribbean isle has made archival research in the country impossible. Although this secrecy is understandable in view of its nature as a heavily beleaguered revolution from abroad, this culture of secrecy contributed to expanding a production of journalistic and essay-based denunciation that habitually lacked rigor and interpretive frameworks. Since 2010, a certain spirit of openness has existed in the matter, an example of which is purported to be linked to the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose historical repository has slowly begun to receive researchers, principally from abroad. Drawing upon the anxiety and curiosity of the international historiographic community about the images originating from Havana, an initial approach and investigation was carried out in the aforementioned tradition, with the aim of shedding light on several of the actions deployed by the Cuban Embassy in Uruguay during the initial and intense years of the Caribbean revolution.


Child Labor in Brazil and Uruguay  

Marcia Guedes Vieira

The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 12.5 million children and adolescents under the age of fifteen currently working in Latin America and the Caribbean. Of these, 9.6 million (77%) perform tasks that pose a risk to their physical and psychological health. This article presents a brief comparative analysis of child labor in Brazil and Uruguay in order to discuss the challenges of confronting this phenomenon in two very different countries that have embraced divergent strategies to deal with similar problems. To do this, the article presents an overview of the incidence of child labor in Brazil and Uruguay and seeks to demonstrate how far the category of labor is from a universal definition in the academic world, which is also repeated in the debate on the definition of child labor. It is possible to identify different moments of the debate in Latin America regarding the concept of child labor. Some approaches have been more contextualized than others, but all remain controversial and are sometimes considered incomplete. It will also consider the changes in the world of labor and how they interfere in this phenomenon. Despite advances in the fight against child labor overall, Brazil is starting to stagnate in its efforts to reduce the number of child and adolescent workers, and its challenge is to find new political solutions to address this problem. Uruguay still needs to place the issue more centrally on the nation’s political and social agenda in order to guarantee consistent research on the problem that can guide its policy responses.


The Creole Circus and Popular Entertainment in 19th Century Argentina and Uruguay  

William G. Acree Jr.

Theater in Argentina and Uruguay, which together compose the Plata river region of Latin America, has been a predominant form of entertainment since the 19th century. Theaters abound in Montevideo, while its sister city. Buenos Aires, has its own Broadway in the famed Corrientes Street. In the age of digital culture, the theater remains a mainstay of cultural life for Argentines and Uruguayans. The success of theater and the making of a theatergoing public in the region have their roots first in the variety of entertainment offered by hemispheric travelers to the region from the 1820s through the 1880s and then, most significantly, in shows put on by itinerant circus troupes in the countryside that only later filled urban theaters. From the mid-1880s through 1900 these circus troupes performed plays known as dramas criollos that dealt with rural traditions and explored issues of migration, social stratification, and tensions of economic modernization. These Creole dramas, like the narrative and poetic tales of gaucho heroes that informed them, became wildly successful, attracting spectators in the countryside and city alike, in venues ranging from makeshift tents to the most opulent theaters. They also became the namesake of the circo criollo, which referred as much to types of performers staging the tales as to the circus event where people flocked to see the new main attraction—the dramas. In effect, the Creole drama phenomenon expanded the presence of popular entertainment across the region and consolidated a theatergoing public. It also gave way to a new strand of modern popular culture in which storylines and characters reappeared in other media, and the impact of the Creole drama experience long outlived the spectacle itself.


Uruguay and UN Peacekeeping  

Julian Gonzalez-Guyer

During the last quarter of a century, Uruguay has contributed more to UN peacekeeping operations than any other South American nation and was one of the top twenty countries in the ranking of the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) between 2001 and 2016. This is striking when one bears in mind that Uruguay’s population is less than 3.5 million and that the size of its armed forces has been steadily reduced since 1985. With these credentials, Uruguay secured a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council between 2016 and 2017, a position it had only previously held between 1965 and 1966. Contributing to peace operations has been a novelty in Uruguay’s foreign policy in the post-dictatorship era, though without breaking with the traditional principles of its foreign policy and strategic identity. Indeed, multilateralism and an adherence to the principles of non-intervention and negotiated conflict resolution have been consistent elements of Uruguayan foreign policy since the beginning of the 20th century. In fact, the motivations for Uruguay’s striking level of commitment to the UN peace operations are mainly linked to the evolution of civil–military relations after the dictatorship of 1973–1985.


Uruguayan Theater in Exile  

Luciana Scaraffuni

Between 1968 and 1985, Uruguay experienced the twelve most tragic years of its history, due to the establishment of a civic–military dictatorship (1973–1985); such dictatorships came to power in various Southern Cone countries at that time: Brazil (1964), Bolivia (1971), Uruguay (1973), Chile (1973), and Argentina (1976). In Uruguay, the roots of political violence were present before the dictatorial period, though such violence was consolidated during this time (1973 to 1985). In 1968 a state of exception was established in the country through the implementation of what were called the Medidas Prontas de Seguridad and the pro-military actions of the Jorge Pacheco Areco administration (1967–1972). Subsequent years were characterized by the consolidation of the regime under the democratically elected president Juan María Bordaberry, who commanded the dissolution of the legislature on June 27, 1973. Due to the persecution, kidnapping, imprisonment, and disappearance of a large proportion of the population resulting from this, many Uruguayans went into exile. The experiences of a group of teatreros and teatreras, or theater workers, belonging to the El Galpón theater company, who went into exile in Mexico in 1976, are of particular interest. Exile interpellated this group of teatreros and teatreras in various ways, by examining the cultural context, the political context, and the material conditions in which the Galponeros lived in Mexico. It also takes into account that the experience of exile led to different forms of theater work for the group. Throughout, it is necessary to understand the relationship between “the national” and “the Latin American,” to distinguish them in some way, in reference to aspects that influenced the group’s theatrical production and construction both in Mexico and on its return to Uruguay. Similarly, members’ private lives are of interest, since the experience of exile, in addition to resignifying the theatrical work of the group, meant that the teatreros and teatreras experienced the rupturing of their daily lives and their “life world,” including the disintegration of families and their reconstruction in the countries of exile, in which the exiles formed new ties and family groups.


The Evolution of Transitional Justice in Uruguay  

Debbie Sharnak

Uruguay passed the Ley de Caducidad de la Pretensión Punitiva del Estado (Law on the Expiration of the Punitive Claims of the States or Law of Expiry) in December 1986, which provided amnesty for all members of the military and security personnel involved in crimes during the nation’s military rule (1973–1985). A referendum in 1989 democratically affirmed the law, producing a silencing about accountability efforts in Uruguay in subsequent years. As such, much of the literature that emerged in the 1990s about the field of transitional justice excluded Uruguay, considering it a failure to engage with justice initiatives. Since 2000, however, Uruguay has followed a winding path toward employing accountability measures. This has included a difficult process of overturning its amnesty law, some selected domestic court cases, as well as some truth-telling initiatives, reparations, and memorialization. Overall, Uruguay’s experience and evolution toward engaging transitional justice initiatives represent a nonlinear progress of accountability that depended on a combination of domestic political will, friendly courts or judges, international legal and norm shifts, and sustained civil society activism.1 Both Uruguay’s eventual engagement with justice initiatives and expanding ideas about what constitutes transitional justice have driven the country’s re-emergence in scholarship within the field of transitional justice. Uruguay’s thirty-five-year battle Offers an example of a non-teleological path of transitional justice. Additionally, the case of Uruguay urges consideration of understanding the longer timeframes that justice might take to achieve, even in stable democracies.


Hugo Fernández Artucio and the Language of Democracy in Uruguay During World War II  

Pedro Cameselle-Pesce

During the World War II era, Uruguayan politicians, student groups, and ethnic associations, among others, engaged daily in various circulating dialogues that extended beyond their nation-state. The war mobilized and empowered several actors who were devoted to shaping Uruguayan politics and society, but who were also actively committed to a broader cause. Though often overlooked, transnational nonstate actors helped to mold the era’s social and political movements by seizing on universal pro-Allied and anti-fascist language. Several events in Uruguay, interpreted through the language of democracy by local activists, helped not just to inch along public sentiment concerning the threat of fascism but also to thrust government officials into direct action. Emblematic of these actors was Uruguayan university professor and editor for the New York–based Free World magazine, Hugo Fernández Artucio, who, with various degrees of success, sought to shape public opinion and policy via his internationally broadcasted concerns about the Nazi menace. Though his anti-fascist crusading was often welcomed, as it helped to facilitate certain Uruguayan and US government policies, at times it was deemed as “impracticable” or “dangerous” in the view of government officials.


Women, Politics, and Media in Uruguay, 1900–1950  

Christine Ehrick

In the first half of the 20th century, Uruguay was a relatively educated, democratic, and politically progressive South American country, and women there used old and new media for professional and political ends. Radical, Catholic, and liberal feminist women all utilized print media to promote their views and build support for their respective causes in publications aimed at both female and general audiences. Anarchist feminist María Collazo, for example, edited an important publication, La Batalla, from 1915 to approximately 1927. By the late 1920s, radio was an emerging mass medium, and women activists, journalists, and others sought to make their voices heard, literally and figuratively, on its airwaves. Starting in 1935, those airwaves included Radio Femenina, the first all-woman format radio station in the Western Hemisphere. One of the voices heard on Radio Femenina was Dra. Paulina Luisi, Uruguay’s leading feminist activist, who became a powerful voice of both the Socialist Party and the politics of the Popular Front in the late 1930s and early 1940s.


Uruguayan Cinema in the 20th Century  

Daniel Alex Richter

Cinema began in Uruguay with the exhibition of foreign films by visiting representatives of the Lumière brothers in 1896 before the first Uruguayan film was produced and shown in 1898. From the early period of Uruguayan cinema to the end of the 20th century, Uruguayan national cinema struggled to exist in the estimation of critical observers. Considering these periods of growth and stagnation, this history of Uruguayan cinema seeks to shed light on the industry’s evolution by focusing on exhibition, production, and spectatorship. This essay explores Uruguay’s national film productions, transnational businesses in shaping local film exhibition, the growth of mass publics and critical spectatorship, and the significance of political filmmaking in understanding the evolution of Latin American cinema during the 1960s. The history of Uruguayan cinema during the 20th century also provides a lens for understanding the political, social, and cultural histories of a country that has struggled to live up to its reputation as South America’s “most democratic” nation.


Social and Solidarity Economy in Uruguay  

Anabel Rieiro

The social and solidarity economy is a widely used concept to indicate economic logics based on solidarity and the centrality of sustainability in life, differentiating them from the hegemonic economy unilaterally based on rational individualism, the maximization of profits, and the free market. It involves dynamic and specific sociohistoric constructions. In Uruguay, cooperative organizations, which have been in existence for more than a century, are traditionally identified with these types of practices. Cooperativism developed in dialogue with the distinct stages of Uruguayan history and over the last fifteen years, these experiences have tripled, based on the strengthening of public policies for the promotion and support of the sector. Institutional consolidation and the long trajectory of distinct sectors of cooperativism, mutualism, and rural development societies tend to be identified with the social economy. On the other hand, around the dawn of the new century, there emerged a diversity of forms of organization and networks which emphasized the need for social transformation, appealing to practices based on solidarity and reciprocity, both between people and between them and the environment. In general, these are decentralized structures which, in a regional context marked by the socioeconomic crisis and the slogan of the World Social Forum of “another world is possible,” organize economic activities according to the principles of democratic management, cooperation, autonomy, and transformation.


The Social Construction of the Photographic Portrait in 19th-Century Rio de la Plata  

Andrea Cuarterolo

With the arrival of the daguerreotype in Río de la Plata, in 1840, the photography industry was immediately monopolized by portrait photographers. By 1850 there were already more than ten daguerreotype photographers in both Buenos Aires and Montevideo, the two main cities on either side of the river. The majority were traveling foreigners, who frequently moved their studios between the two banks. Local society welcomed this new technology with enthusiasm and praised its representational perfection and its powerful verisimilitude. However, the high cost of the first daguerreotypes made portraiture an item of prestige and social differentiation, reserved only for those who were well-to-do. Far from the instantaneous photography of the early 21st century, daguerreotype portraits involved lengthy exposure times. This meant that they were highly staged, according to the attitudes, expectations, and motivations (conscious or unconscious), of the photographer, the subject, and the society in which these works were created. Through expertly arranged costumes, scenery, and poses, the bourgeoisie of Río de la Plata communicated and immortalized the prejudices, behaviors, and opinions specific to their class. With the emergence of paper photography and the growth of standardized formats, such as the carte de visite, c. 1855, photography transcended class boundaries for the first time. In this period the portrait acquired a commemorative function associated with the consolidation of new genres, such as post-mortem portraits, wedding portraits, and First Communion portraits, pictures meant to immortalize important family events. During this time large photography studios appeared, with new and luxurious facilities, in which the photographic compositions would become much more sophisticated and theatrical. For the local elite the decision to have their portraits taken was an act of expressing their identity; for certain social subjects, however, being photographed, invariably through the imposition of the operator, and with no agency in the representation of their own image, photography functioned as an instrument of privilege used to construct otherness. During this period the development of disciplines such as anthropology, criminology, and psychiatry, which sought to record and classify everything that did not conform with the normalized homogeneity of the time, made photography the ideal tool to identify those “others” for whom there was no space in respectable society or who fulfilled a negative role in it.


Paraguayan War and Brazil: Conflicts and Interest  

Francisco Doratioto

In 1863 and 1864, historical and political contradictions in the River Plate region led to civil war in Uruguay, creating tensions with neighboring nations in the region. The Brazilian government intervened both politically and militarily in Uruguay to address the interests of ranchers in its province of Rio Grande do Sul, to distract the attention of the Brazilian citizens from domestic problems, and to preserve the political influence of the Empire of Brazil on Uruguay. This action by the Empire clashed with the new Paraguayan policy of political interference in the River Plate region and resulted in the declaration of war against Brazil by Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano López. This conflict broadened into the Paraguayan War.


The Paraguayan War and Brazilian National Identity  

Wilma Peres Costa

The effort of searching the effects of the War of the Triple Alliance against Paraguay on the building up of Brazilian national identity challenges the historian with a paradox: why the military victory promotes the fall of the political regime instead of strengthening it. The article tries to deal with some dimensions of this paradox underlining the distinctive characteristics of this war in the ongoing warmongering in the Platine region—the huge numbers of conscripted soldiers (“the Total War”), the hybrid political character of the alliance (Brazilian monarchy and Argentinian Republic), the opposition of most of the conservative classes, and the unveiling of slavery as a strategic weakness for the country—are some of the themes treated in order to explain how the empire lost both the battle of worldwide moral support and the battle of legitimacy inside the country. The massive recruitment coming from all parts of the country could bring the empowerment of ordinary people in the postwar decades, but the monarchical elites took careful steps to ensure that these sectors were quickly demobilized and also not to receive medals and other military honors. The postwar era was one of unfolding of an endemic crisis leading to contest of monarchical institutions. They came from military sectors, but also from regional elites, besides bitter criticism from middle-class intellectuals. Racial arguments filled an outstanding part in this period, leading to the giving prestige of “scientific” racism and the negative diagnosis for the future of a modern nation founded in a racially mixed society.


Latin America and Antarctica  

Adrian Howkins

Since the early 19th century, a number of Latin American countries have had active interests in the Antarctic continent. These interests began to accelerate in the early 20th century, and during the 1930s and 1940s, Argentina and Chile formalized sovereignty claims to the Antarctic Peninsula region. These claims overlapped not only with each other, but also with Great Britain’s claim to the “Falkland Islands Dependencies.” The two Latin American claims tended to be framed in the language of anti-imperialism, and for a while at least the idea of a “South American Antarctica” emerged to suggest a common front against the British Empire. Rivalry between Argentina and Chile, however, remained strong, and the alliance against imperialism never developed into a lasting agreement. In 1959, Argentina and Chile joined with ten other nations—including Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union—in signing the Antarctic Treaty. This Treaty suspended sovereignty claims and created a “continent dedicated to peace and science.” Following the ratification of the Treaty in 1961, Argentina and Chile lessened their hostility to the imperial strategy of using scientific research as a justification for political claims, and came to be enthusiastic members of what some outsiders labeled an “exclusive club.” During the 1980s and early 1990s, four other Latin American nations—Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, and Ecuador—became full members of the Antarctic Treaty, attracted, in part, by the prospect of sharing in a potential minerals bonanza in the southern continent. This expected economic boom never came, however, and instead the Antarctic continent became one of the most protected environments anywhere on the planet by the terms of the 1991 Madrid Environmental Protocol.


Border Wars in South America during the 19th Century  

Peter V. N. Henderson

While Europeans basked in the glory of their so-called century of peace between the end of the Napoleonic wars (1815) and the onset of World War I (1914), Latin Americans knew no such luxury. Conflict became a way of life for Latin Americans attempting to construct nation-states. Liberals and Conservatives dueled with one another for political power, while caudillos (military strongmen) added their unique twisted logic to the political process. Historians have spilled considerable ink detailing these internal conflicts that complicated Latin America’s struggle for effective state formation in the early national period but have paid much less attention to the external wars over disputed boundaries that involved every South American nation during the 19th century. As historian Robert Burr described it: boundary conflicts were the “congenital international disease of Spain’s former colonies.”


Photography in Uruguay (1840–1985)  

Magdalena Broquetas

Photography arrived in Uruguay in February 1840, a few months after the invention of the daguerreotype was publicly announced in Paris. Throughout the 19th century it was used for multiple purposes, in various historical contexts, and in different activities. In its initial stage, until the 1920s, photography was used for commercial portraits and was used by the state to create a national identity, reinforce patriotic sentiment, and monitor and control the population. In the 20th century, the artistic movements that brought together amateurs in photography clubs became better known. At the same time, the expansion of at-home photography brought with it an increase in the number of camera users and significant changes in compositional styles, as well as in social perceptions of photography as a means for memory and identity construction. Concurrently, photography found its way onto the pages of the leading newspapers, supplements, and illustrated magazines that from 1930 until the late 1970s were the main source of information and entertainment for most Uruguayans. Throughout this period, photojournalism influenced the formation of public opinion and the preservation of the political and social order.