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Uruguayans (Spanish: uruguayos) are people identified with the country of Uruguay, through citizenship or descent. Uruguay is home to people of different ethnic origins. As a result, many Uruguayans do not equate their nationality with ethnicity, but with citizenship and their allegiance to Uruguay. Colloquially, primarily among other Spanish-speaking Latin American nations, Uruguayans are also referred to as "orientals [as in Easterners]" (Spanish: orientales).

Flag of Uruguay.svg
Total population
c. 4 million[a]
Map of the Uruguayan Diaspora in the World.svg
Regions with significant populations
 Uruguay 3,286,314 (2011 Census)[1]
Diaspora totalc. 630,000[2]
 United States48,234[4]
 Chile5,308 (2016)[9]
Primarily Spanish
Portuguese (minority)
Predominantly Roman Catholicism[11]
Related ethnic groups
Other South Americans
(especially Argentines)

a. ^ The total figure is merely an estimation; sum of all the referenced populations.

Uruguay is, along with much 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; the most common ethnic backgrounds by far being those from Spain, Italy, Germany and France i.e. Spanish Uruguayans, Italian Uruguayans, German Uruguayans , French Uruguayans and Polish Uruguayans.

Immigration wavesEdit

Uruguayans share a Spanish linguistic and cultural background with Argentines. Also, like Argentines, most Uruguayans descend from colonial-era settlers and immigrants from Europe with almost 88% of the population being of European descent.[12]

The majority of these are Spaniards and Italians, followed by the French, Portuguese, Germans, Romanians, Greeks, British (English or Scots), Irish, Poles,[13] Swiss, Russians, Bulgarians, Arab (mainly Lebanese and Syrians), Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews and Armenians.

There are also smaller numbers of Japanese,[14] as well as Amerindians, mainly Charrúa, Minuán, Chaná, Güenoa and Guaraní.[15] Montevideo, like Buenos Aires in Argentina and Santos in Brazil,[16] was a major seaport to dock ships coming from Europe and elsewhere and European settlement greatly affected Uruguay to have a more western oriented culture.

Many colonies such as Nueva Helvecia-Colonia Suiza, a Swiss colony and Colonia Valdense, a Piedmontese waldensian colony, are located in the department of Colonia. Also, there are towns founded by British settlers, like Conchillas and Barker. Two Russian colonies called San Javier and Colonia Ofir, are found in the department of Río Negro. Also there are Mennonite colonies in the department of Río Negro like Gartental and El Ombú, in Canelones Department called Colonia Nicolich, and in San José Department called Colonia Delta. El Ombú, is famous for its well-known Dulce de Leche "Claldy" and is located near the city of Young.

Many of the European immigrants arrived in Uruguay in the late 19th century and have heavily influenced the architecture and culture of Montevideo and other major cities. For this reason, Montevideo and life within the city are very reminiscent of Europe.

Racial and ethnic groupsEdit

(are included partial whites)
Racial and Ethnic Composition in Uruguay (2011 Census)[17]

The majority of Uruguayans or their ancestors immigrated within the past five centuries, with the exception of the Native American population.

Europeans or whitesEdit

People of European ancestry comprise 87.7% of Uruguay's population according to the 2011 official Census.[17] Early Uruguayans are descendants of colonists from Spain and Portugal during the colonial period prior to 1810. Similar to the demographics of Argentina, more recent immigrants from Europe, largely from Italy, Germany and France, arrived in the great migratory wave during the late 19th century and early 20th century. Today, Uruguay's culture is influenced heavily by its European roots which is evident in its language, food and other aspects of everyday life.[18]

Mestizos & AmerindiansEdit

Up to 2.4% of the population are of Mestizo (European-Amerindian) ancestry according to the 2011 census.[17] People with Amerindian ancestry can be found in the north of Uruguay, primarily in Tacuarembó Department, where the Amerindian ancestry accounts for 20% of the population.

A 1996 census identified that 12,600 people in Uruguay were Amerindian descendants. In 2006, a census confirmed that there were 115,118 Uruguayans that descended from one Amerindian ethnic group, the Charrúas, reaching up to 4% of the country's population. In 2005, Sinthia Pagano, M.D conducted a genetic study, detecting that 38% of Uruguayans may have expressed partial genetic influence from the Amerindian population.[19][20]


Africans, Blacks and Mulattos in Uruguay are more or less 209,662 and they are mostly found in Montevideo, Rivera Department, Artigas Department, Salto Department and Cerro Largo Department.[21] A 2011 census marked that there are more than 300,000 African descendants and that 80% of Afro-Uruguayans are under the working class line.[22]


Although Spanish is dominant, being the national language spoken by virtually all Uruguayans, Italian and French are also relevant. Portuguese is spoken in the Uruguayan-Brazilian frontier, Fronterizo/Fronteiriço is the specific name for Uruguayan Portuguese. The audiovisual standard language is the Uruguayan Spanish, a variety of Rioplatense Spanish. Lunfardo is also spoken in Uruguay.


Contemporary Uruguayan culture comes from the contribution of its alternating early settlers from Spain and Portugal, and important influence of European immigrants – Italians, French, Portuguese, Romanians, and Greeks, among others- and traditions blended with Amerindian and African elements. Uruguay has Portuguese and Spanish colonial architectural heritage and many writers, artists, and musicians. Candombe is the most important example of African influence by slaves. Charrua and Guaraní traditions can be seen in mate, the national drink. Both Uruguay and Argentina share its traditional gaúcho roots (which originated in Andalusia).


Religion in Uruguay (2010)[23][24]
Religion Percent
Folk religion
Other religions
The Church of Saint Charles Borromeo in San Carlos is one of the oldest churches in Uruguay.

Uruguay has no official religion; church and state are officially separated,[25] and religious freedom is guaranteed.[26] A 2008 survey by the INE of Uruguay showed Catholicism as the main religion, with 45.7% of the population; 9.0% are non-Catholic Christians, 0.6% are Animists or Umbandists (an Afro-Brazilian religion), and 0.4% Jewish. 30.1% reported believing in a god, but not belonging to any religion, while 14% were atheist or agnostic.[27]

Political observers consider Uruguay the most secular country in the Americas.[28] Uruguay's secularization began with the relatively minor role of the church in the colonial era, compared with other parts of the Spanish Empire. The small numbers of Uruguay's indigenous peoples and their fierce resistance to proselytism reduced the influence of the ecclesiastical authorities.[29]

In 1837 civil marriage was recognized, and in 1861 the state took over the running of public cemeteries. In 1907 divorce was legalized and, in 1909 all religious instruction was banned from state schools.[29] Under the influence of the innovative Colorado reformer José Batlle y Ordóñez (1903–1911), complete separation of church and state was introduced with the new constitution of 1917.[29]

Uruguay's capital has 12 synagogues, and a community of 20,000 Jews by 2011. With a peak of 50,000 during the mid-1960s, Uruguay has the world's highest rate of aliyah as a percentage of the Jewish population.[30]

Official survey results[31] 2006 2007 2008
Christianity 56.1 55.6 54.3
Catholic 46.0 45.1 44.8
Other Christian 10.1 10.5 9.5
No religion 42.6 42.9 44.5
Unaffiliated believer 26.9 27.8 30.1
Atheist 15.7 15.1 12.3
Agnostic 2.1
Jewish 0.4 0.4 0.3
Animist and Umbanda 0.6 0.7 0.7
Other 0.3 0.4 0.2

The Baháʼí Faith[32] is also practiced, along with Afro-Brazilian religions such as Quimbanda, Candomblé, and Umbanda.


The Desfile de Llamadas carnival in Montevideo

Music of Uruguay includes a number of local musical forms. The most distinctive ones are tango, murga, a form of musical theater, and candombe, an Afro-Uruguayan type of music which occur yearly during the Carnival period. There is also milonga, a folk guitar and song form deriving from Spanish traditions and related to similar forms found in many Hispanic-American countries. The famed tango singer Carlos Gardel was born in Toulouse, France, then raised in Buenos Aires, but as an adult he obtained legal papers saying he was born in Tacuarembó, probably to avoid French military authorities.[33][34][35][36]

"La cumparsita" (little street procession, a grammatical diminutive of la comparsa) is a tango written in 1916 by the Uruguayan musician Gerardo Matos Rodríguez, It is among the most famous and recognizable tangos of all time.[37]

The popular music of Uruguay, which focuses on rock, jazz, and many other forms, frequently makes reference to the distinctly Uruguayan sounds mentioned above. The group Los Shakers, similar to the Beatles, deserve a special mention as the band that kickstarted the Uruguayan rock scene.


The earliest securely dated depiction of a Uruguayan gaucho[38] (1820)

The gaucho is a national symbol in Uruguay and Argentina but is also a strong culture in Paraguay and southern Brazil. Gauchos became greatly admired and renowned in legends, folklore and literature and became an important part of their regional cultural tradition.[39]


The rate of Uruguayan emigration to Europe is especially high in Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal. In the Americas, emigration is mostly to the United States, Canada, Argentina, and other nearby Latin American countries such as Brazil and Chile. In Oceania, emigration is mainly to Australia, and to a lesser extent, New Zealand.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Resultados del Censo de Población 2011: población, crecimiento y estructura por sexo y edad Archived 9 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine ine.gub.uy
  2. ^ a b "Uruguay - Emigrantes totales". datosmacro.com. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  3. ^ "Argentina 2001 Census" (PDF). Indec.gov.ar. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
  4. ^ "Table 5. Detailed Hispanic Origin: 2007". Pewhispanic.org. 15 August 2011. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  5. ^ "Imigrantes internacionais registrados no Brasil". www.nepo.unicamp.br. Retrieved 20 August 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "Global Migration Map: Origins and Destinations, 1990-2017".
  7. ^ "Uruguay- Emigrantes totales 2019". datosmacro.com.
  8. ^ "Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity Highlight Tables". statcan.gc.ca. 25 October 2017.
  9. ^ S.A.P, El Mercurio (30 August 2016). "Radiografía al empleo inmigrante en Chile: ¿Cuál es su impacto en el mercado laboral? | Emol.com". Emol.
  10. ^ a b c d "Uruguay - Emigrantes totales 2019". datosmacro.com.
  11. ^ The Latin American Socio-Religious Studies Program / Programa Latinoamericano de Estudios Sociorreligiosos (PROLADES) PROLADES Religion in America by country
  12. ^ "Constituciones hispanoamericanas - Constituciones - Uruguay - Datos estadísticos" [Hispano-American Constitutions - Constitutions - Uruguay - Statistical data] (in Spanish). Cervantesvirtual.com. Archived from the original on 12 February 2008. Retrieved 26 June 2010.
  13. ^ Wojciech Tyciński, Krzysztof Sawicki, Departament Współpracy z Polonią MSZ (Warsaw, 2009). "Raport o sytuacji Polonii i Polaków za granicą (The official report on the situation of Poles and Polonia abroad)" (PDF file, direct download 1.44 MB). Ministerstwo Spraw Zagranicznych (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland). pp. 1–466. Retrieved 14 June 2013 (Internet Archive).
  14. ^ Tanaka, Naoki (1990). 南米ウルグアイ東方共和国日本人移住史年表 [Nanbei Uruguay Tōhō Kyōwakoku Nihon-jin Ijūshi Nenpyō / Chronological history of Japanese Immigration in South America's Eastern Republic of Uruguay] (in Japanese). OCLC 673507909.
  15. ^ "Pijao Fabre, Alain (2005): Diccionario etnolingüístico y guía bibliográfica de los pueblos indígenas sudamericanos." (PDF). Ling.fi. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Maior porta de entrada de imigrantes do País, Santos tem diversidade de nações".
  17. ^ a b c "Atlas Sociodemografico y de la Desigualdad en Uruguay , 2011: Ancestry" (PDF) (in Spanish). National Institute of Statistics. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 September 2014.
  18. ^ "Culture of Uruguay - history, people, clothing, traditions, women, beliefs, food, customs, family". Everyculture.com. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  19. ^ Da Silva Villarrubia, Santiago Katriel (14 July 2011). "Dra. Sinthia Pagano. Un Estudio Detectó 38% de Sangre Aborigen en la Población Uruguaya - En Uruguay hay 115.118 descendientes de indígenas". Mario Delgado Gérez (in Spanish). LaRed21 Comunidad. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  20. ^ Da Silva Villarrubia, Santiago Katriel (27 August 2011). "Censo 2011. Organizaciones Sociales Llaman a Decir "Sí" Para Reconocer sus Etnias - Censo: afrodescendientes e indígenas hacen campaña". Matías Rotulo (in Spanish). LaRed21 Comunidad. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  21. ^ "Afrolatinos.tv Uruguay". Afrolatinos.tv. Archived from the original on 27 January 2010. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
  22. ^ Da Silva Villarrubia, Santiago Katriel. "Afros e indígenas procuran que el censo "haga visibles" sus realidades" (in Spanish). Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  23. ^ "Uruguay – Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project". Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  24. ^ "Religious Composition by Country, 2010–2050". 2 April 2015. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  25. ^ Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. "Background Note: Uruguay". US Department of State. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  26. ^ Uruguay's Constitution of 1966, Reinstated in 1985, with Amendments through 2004 (PDF). William S. Hein & Co., Inc. 2012. p. 5.
  27. ^ "Encuesta Continua de Hogares 2008 – Religion". Instituto Nacional de Estadística. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  28. ^ "UMM | Latin American Area Studies – Countries". Morris.umn.edu. 27 August 2009. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  29. ^ a b c "Religion – Uruguay". Library of Congress Country Studies. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  30. ^ "Touring Montevideo's Jewish Quarters". Forward.com. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  31. ^ "Encuesta Continua de Hogares (ECH) - Instituto Nacional de Estadística". ine.gub.uy. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  32. ^ "La Sociedad Civil en línea". Lasociedadcivil.org. Archived from the original on 21 March 2012. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
  33. ^ Verónica Dema (20 September 2012). "Fin del misterio: muestran la partida de nacimiento de Gardel" [End of the mystery: they show Gardel's birth certificate] (in Spanish). La Nación. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  34. ^ Collier, Simon (1986). The Life, Music, and Times of Carlos Gardel. University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 5. ISBN 0822984989.
  35. ^ Barsky, Julián; Barsky, Osvaldo (2004). Gardel: La biografía (in Spanish). Taurus. ISBN 9870400132.
  36. ^ Ruffinelli, Jorge (2004). La sonrisa de Gardel: Biografía, mito y ficción (in Spanish). Ediciones Trilce. p. 31. ISBN 9974323568.
  37. ^ "Gerardo Matos Rodriguez". Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  38. ^ From Picturesque Illustrations of Buenos Ayres and Monte Video by Emeric Essex Vidal
  39. ^ "Gaucho". Britannica. Retrieved 10 August 2020.