Informations / Information / Informaciones

19-23 octobre / october / octubre 2020

Piriapolis & Montevideo, Uruguay

A brief history of Uruguay


A brief history of Uruguay

From the 16th century to the present day, a brief overview of the history of Uruguay and the presence of Emmaus in this country...

When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in the 16th century, Uruguay was populated by Amerindians (Charrúa, Guaraní, Chaná, Guenoa, etc.).

Independence was won in 1830, followed by a period of civil war and Uruguay's involvement in several regional conflicts.


The consolidation and modernisation of the State began in 1876, with numerous reforms that turned this young country into a pioneer in terms of access to rights. As such, in 1877 it established free and compulsory education in public primary schools and in 1909 it became secular. Other examples of its modernity include the right to divorce, adopted in 1913, the 8-hour work day, introduced in 1915, and women's right to vote, granted in 1927.


From 1958 onwards, the country complied with the economic demands of the United States and the International Monetary Fund, putting an end to protectionist policy which had been in place up until that point. This resulted in a serious economic crisis, mainly affecting the working and middle classes. Financial difficulties continued, including very high inflation and a banking crisis, against a backdrop of government instability and growing internal political tensions.


A military coup in 1973 plunged the country into a decade of military dictatorship which was extremely repressive (between 6,000 and 15,000 political prisoners; the systematic use of torture; collaborative operations with other dictatorships in the region, such as the sinister "Operation Condor").


The rejection of a draft constitution during a constitutional referendum in 1980 marked the start of a liberalising process, culminating in elections held in 1984 and won by the liberal party. The conservative and liberal parties then shared power up until 2004, when Uruguay elected its first left-wing president. This was followed by a more recent political changeover in November 2019.

Population: 3.3 million
Surface area: 176,220 km2
Official language: Spanish
Capital:  Montevideo

Emmaus in Uruguay
For 60 years, Emmaus Uruguay has worked with and for the most excluded people by running a variety of activities whose central component is education as a means of social transformation. As a result of the technical training workshops catering for the most vulnerable (young people excluded from school, single mothers, unemployed persons and prisoners) and the immediate intervention by Emmaus in emergency situations (profound social inequalities or natural disasters) Emmaus Uruguay is recognised by local people as being an activist for change.

Uruguay currently has three Emmaus groups: Emmaus Nuevo París, Emmaus Grupo Aportes and Emmaus Maldonado. Together, these groups make up the Emmaus Uruguay Federation. Furthermore, the Americas regional secretariat is currently based in Montevideo.

¿Por qué debe participar mi grupo? Why should my group go?