(This post originally appeared on Crameye Junker’s personal blog which is published on our totally top-secret online community for kids. So, shhh… As Crameye admits, he is a talkative guy who can have conversations with anyone and anything. Here, he sits down with Uruguay to get to know this South American gem.)
How much do you really know about Uruguay? Just to help you out, I sat down and had a chat with it at a nice café in Montevideo (the southernmost capital in South America).
ME: Thanks so much for sitting down with me today!
URUGUAY: Not a problem at all!
ME: Even though most of your people speak Spanish, is it ok if we have our talk in English?
URUGUAY: Again, not a problem.
ME: First of all, may I say how nicely dressed you are! And so perfectly mannered.
URUGUAY: Well, I like to think of myself as pretty high-class and refined. I am a very well educated country.
ME: I read that you have the highest literacy rate in South America.
URUGUAY: I do, plus education is free and compulsory for all of my people.
ME: Very nice. Is that how you are different from your big neighbors, Brazil and Argentina?
URUGUAY: Sure! We like to think we take the high road, you know? Sure, we have had our political upheavals in the past, but in business and life, we take a very smart and conservative approach. In fact, I am known as the Switzerland of South America due to our economic and banking stability. Other countries just trust us a lot!
ME: Sorry to ask such a personal question, but how are you doing financially? I assumed you were poor, as your previous president José “Pepe” Mujica was called the poorest president in the world.
URUGUAY: I am doing pretty well. I make most of my money from exporting wool, beef, leather, and plastic goods. I also make a good deal from tourism, banking, and telecommunications. The president was called that only because he donated 90% of his salary to the poor.
ME: That is very cool. Tell me, what troubles have you had in the past?
URUGUAY: Well, a lot of it started when people form Europe started arriving here. The Portuguese found me first in 1512, followed by Spain in 1516. The two of them fought over me for a long time, each wanting to say I was theirs. Brazil (Portuguese) and Argentina (Spanish) kept fighting, and I changed hands a couple times. Ultimately, after a war and the subsequent treaty of Montevideo, I became an independent country in 1830. I had a rough go of it for a while, as the people kept fighting for control and even had a military dictatorship, but my people gained control in 1984 when they chose to be a democracy.
ME: Wow! I am happy everything turned out ok! Random question… While walking around the streets of this beautiful city, I asked someone for directions to Theatre Solis, but he rubbed the back of his hand under his chin. Why would he do that?
URUGUAY: Uruguayans do that to signal that they don’t know.
ME: I’ve also noticed that the people here seem very happy and content. What do you think brought that about?
URUGUAY: Well, I am ranked first in Latin America in terms of strength of democracy, peace, and lack of corruption. I am also first in South America in freedom of the press and prosperity. My people know that they live in an awesome country.
ME: Oh my gosh! I just noticed that it’s 7:00 in the evening. Will you need to leave for dinner soon?
URUGUAY: No, I like to eat around 9-10 PM, like most of the people here.
ME: Can I ask you something? Those two guys over there, are they a couple?
URUGUAY: Why would you ask me that?
ME: Well, they are standing so close to each other, and one guy is holding the other’s arm.
URUGUAY: That is very normal in Uruguay, so if you have personal space issues you will need to get over them. They may very well be a couple, though, as gay marriage is perfectly legal here.
ME: I see. Hey, could you get a waiter for me? I want to order another maté.
URUGUAY: I am happy you like our drink! Be careful, though, it can really rev you up. Just a moment: “Ch-Ch”
ME: Um, what was that sound?
URUGUAY: It is how we get someone’s attention here.
ME: I see a lot of different kinds of people here. What is your cultural makeup?
URUGUAY: Most of my people (about 87%) come from European ancestry, mostly from Spain, Portugal, Italy and France. About 5% are of African descent, and about 2.5% are Amerindians and indigenous peoples.
ME: Ready for some rapid-fire questions?
URUGUAY: Montevideo, with about 1.3 million in the city proper, and almost 2 million in the metro area.
ME: Favorite foods?
URUGUAY: So many good foods here! Two favorites are asado, which is Uruguayan barbecue, and chivito, the best steak sandwich in the world.
ME: Favorite animal?
URUGUAY: Cows! We have a lot of them here – about 3.5 per person!
ME: Least favorite animal?
URUGUAY: The Chilean recluse spider, or what we call “the corner spider”.
ME: Main religion?
URUGUAY: Only about 48% Catholic. I am the least religious country in South America, actually.
ME: Cool places to visit?
URUGUAY: My beaches are amazing, and we have a town called Cabo Polonio that has zero electricity. You can really get off the grid there!
ME: Something interesting about you?
URUGUAY: Hmmm… Well, my national anthem is the longest in the world, at over 5 minutes. I was also the first nation in the world to give a laptop to every single student. My people are also crazy for football, and have won two World Cups. I actually held the very first World Cup.
ME: How did you get your name?
URUGUAY: My name comes from the Uruguay River, which means “River of the painted birds” in my indigenous language (Guarani).
ME: Beautiful name for a beautiful country. Thanks again for talking to me. I’ll let you enjoy your evening.
URUGUAY: It has been my distinct pleasure.
Pretty interesting place, right? If you have any other questions for Uruguay, ask away in the comments. I’ll make sure to get an answer back to you.