South America Living

Montevideo: Muy Tranquilo

Looking back over Montevideo

Looking back over Montevideo

When asked what one word they would use to describe their city, to a man — every taxi driver, waiter, hostess, concierge, and passerby — all used the same word: Tranquilo. Meaning tranquil, peaceful, calm.
Plaza Independencia

Plaza Independencia

And it’s true. There wasn’t a lot of hubbub anywhere. The pace of the city seemed fairly consistent from morning til night. It’s a late night town to be sure, but that doesn’t translate into hard-partying all night long.


It seems that Uruguayans do not equate their nationality with ethnicity, but with citizenship. Uruguay is, along with most of The Americas, a melting pot of different peoples, with the difference that it has traditionally maintained a model that promotes cultural assimilation, hence the different cultures have been absorbed by the mainstream. Uruguay has one of the most homogeneous populations in South America with the most common ethnic backgrounds are Spanish, especially Basques, Catalans, Castilians, Galicians, and Canarians, followed by Italians, Portuguese, and French. In fact, one of the biggest surprises for me in Uruguay was that Uruguyans are very European looking peoples. It seems that everyone is Caucasian. I really don’t recall seeing any indigenous people whatsoever. Which further indicates to me that my previous world view of South America had been formed entirely from travel to Bolivia and Peru. Both of which are predominantly indigenous countries. So, Uruguay really represented a departure.

Looking over Montevideo

Looking over Montevideo

Another thing about Montevideo — it’s very flat. Where’s the Monte anyway?

I decided to hightail it over to the Radisson Hotel, the tallest building on the Plaza Independencia. I went up to the rooftop bar and had a Bloody Mary (editor’s note: you cannot find a decent Bloody in all of South America). I used this time to run around the entire 360* degree terrace to take some amazing aerial shots of Montevideo.

By the way, I’m incorporating some facts about Montevideo into this photo montage:


Montevideo is the capital and largest city of Uruguay. According to the 2011 census, the city proper has a population of 1.3 M (about one-third of the country’s total population) in an area of about 75 square miles. The southernmost capital city in the Americas, Montevideo is situated in the southern coast of the country, on the northeastern bank of the Río de la Plata. The city was established in 1724 by a Spanish soldier, as a strategic move amidst the Spanish-Portuguese dispute over the platine region; and it was also under brief British rule in 1807.

Montevideo from the Radisson's rooftop bar

Montevideo from the Radisson’s rooftop bar

Montevideo hosted all the matches during the first FIFA World Cup. Montevideo is the seat of the administrative headquarters of Mercosur and ALADI, South America’s and Latin America’s leading trading blocs.

The port of Montevideo supports a large portion of the countries GDP

The port of Montevideo supports a large portion of the countries GDP

Mercer has ranked Montevideo the top Latin American city since 2006 onwards on its quality of life rankings. As of 2010, it had a GDP of $33 billion, with a per capita of $21,000; making Montevideo the 19th most economically powerful city on the continent and 9th highest income earner among major cities.


Montevideo is classified as a Beta World City (link), ranking seventh in Latin America and 73rd in the world. Described as a “vibrant, eclectic place with a rich cultural life”, and “a thriving tech center and entrepreneurial culture”, Montevideo ranks 8th in Latin America on the 2013 MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index.


By 2014, is also regarded as the fifth most gay-friendly major city in the world, first in Latin America. It is the hub of commerce and higher education in Uruguay as well as its chief port. The city is also the financial and cultural hub of a larger metropolitan area, with a population of around 2 million.

Stitched Panorama

Bottom line about Montevideo: A dear friend of mine said that he and his wife found Montevideo to be very “white bread”. I would have to agree with that statement to the extent that there is not as much local ‘color’ as there is in many of the Andean nations; in addition there is not a lot of ‘La Vida Loca’ here either. But that’s not a bad thing. It’s an excellent place to relocate or retire to. Uruguay is a very stable country, with a strong and even booming economy. It welcomes ex-pats from all over the world and makes it easy if you wish to move here from both a Visa and work permit perspective. Uruguay is a very modern country, especially considering its counterparts in the southern hemisphere. It offers a very healthy lifestyle, and has both legalized Gay marriage as well as legalized marijuana, abortion and euthanasia. And best part — Montevideo is only 2 hours away from Buenos Aires by ferry.

And as always….Buen Viaje!

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