The name Uruguay comes from the Guaraní language.
The Guaraní language is originary of one of the native tribes populating what is today know as the south of brazil, paraguay, part of argentina and uruguay. It is in fact, paraguay's second official language.
Uruguay is guaraní for "river of the birds", or "river of the painted birds", or "river of the snails" depending on the interpretation. The most accepted is river of the birds. And the whole name of the country is República Oriental del Uruguay, meaning republic at the west of this river. Before the creation of the republic this chunk of land in the world was known as "Banda Oriental" (oriental band? oriental stripe? i dunno), so it was already named in reference to the river. This is why sometimes uruguayans are referred to as "orientales", which can be sometimes confusingly funny, because it's the same term used for talking about asiatic people, orientals. ...
Saturday, November 26, 2005
My grandma used to tell me the tale of Dionisio Díaz when I was a kid.
Once upon a time, one night, somewhere in the region of Treinta y Tres, within uruguay’s countryside, one old drunk man returned home to beat his daughter, and grandson, with whom he lived. Being a not very populated area, the noises disturbed no one. That particular night the drunk man snapped, went crazy, and attacked his daughter, who was holding his little baby girl in her arms. Dionisio, the nine year old grandson, woke up with the fighting noises, and the drowned shout of his mother, killed by his grandfather. He lit his candle, grabbed his bible, and went for his little sister. The madman caught him in the run and slashed him with a knife in his belly. He freed himself from his granddad grip, caught the baby from the floor, by his dead mother's side, and escaped mortally wounded in search for assistance.
The ranch was close to a creek, and the story goes that nine year old Dionisio walked eleven kilometers by the creek’s shore with his baby sister in one arm, and the other one getting a hold on his wounded belly. He survived only enough to deliver his sister to the local police office, where he arrived carrying only his sister and his bible, where he passed away.
When I first heard it from my grandma it really disturbed me the idea of a dear one going nuts, and attacking everyone, being the elder an all, I pictured myself trying to save my own little brother. Doing some research I found that this actually happened the 9th of May,1929. The creek is called “Arroyo de oro”(golden creek, or creek of gold), and since then the story is known as the story of “the little hero of golden creek”. I’ve heard that there are still descendants of the surviving sister living in the region of Treinta y tres.
(the picture was taken from here) ...
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
University studies in uruguay are free, there's no entrance or monthly fee. If you have your high school studies finished it's ok to register, attend courses and take exams. A long time ago in galaxy far away this made uruguay stand out from other south american countries and people would come to get their medicine degree from places like colombia, bolivia and paraguay, mostly paraguay. There is no career quota and the trendy careers get crowded, actually today all careers get crowded :( There are also private universities, which are about ten or fifteen years old, but they do not cover all careers, and still the public degrees remain the most valued at least in the national job market (IMHO this is wearing off).
Being a poor country and all, infrastructure it's not what it used to be, worst of all it's not what it ought to be. I've heard that a couple years ago psychology classes where given on a church (the irony is great :), and the place used as classroom would leak on rainy days. Today classes get crowed, it's rather normal to see people arrive early to classes and make "reservations" for friends, by leaving notebooks on the classroom seats, or using clothes or whatever.
The notion of university campus does not exist, the university of the republic has specialized schools for the different careers distributed in the capital city montevideo. This forces people living outside the capital travel frequently or move into the capital. About half of the university students are'nt from the capital, and are informally called "canarios" by the inhabitants of montevideo (i remember one graffiti on a classroom desk saying "canarios go home" ;)
One cool thing about university in uruguay is that it's a self managed, state independent entity, with it's own government formed by one third of representatives of the students, one thirds of the teachers, and one thirds of professionals, former students.
Due to the economic situation in uruguay the usual thing is for students to study and work part or full time, which leads to an average of more than eight years for people to get their diplomas.
Whenever someone gets a college degree tradition in uruguay says he or she must be exposed to humiliations of sorts. If you are male, forced head shaving it's mandatory, and no matter your sex you get the usual flour bath, with eggs (preferably rotten) crashed in your head, along with yerba (the stuff for mate, remember?), and pretty much whatever the imagination of you college mates dictates. Some schools have more specialized traditions, like in architecture they new architect must be thrown to the pond of the mutant fishes (that eat cigarettes), in the chemics school they throw to the victim radioactive components with smells and colors that won't go away for days. In engineering the brand new engineer must sit on a stone seat, mortally cursed for any nonengineer.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Two weeks have passed and at least two marchs protesting, demanding the release of the prisoners, have been made. One last friday, and the other one today. The prisoners may spend from 3 months to 3 years on prision, if the release demand is not granted.
I would like to point out that demonstrations in uruguay are usual, but demonstrations resorting to violence as a means of protest are definitely not, and this is what makes this one so particular.
Last march a leftish government took office for the first time in uruguay's history. This is a good opportunity for the new government to prove it's worth managing this situation. The dilema faced is that if actions are not taken, this could be interpreted as legitimization of the use of violence in public demonstrations, on the other hand if punishment is severe support from the hardcore leftish wing will be lost. ...
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Uruguay Australia, second leg game, in australia. The whole country woke up early, the match started 7:00 am local time, public schools granted permission for children to arrive late, this was announced on the news yesterday. Companies let their employees arrive late as well. That’s how much it meant for us.
The first half was even, Australia managed to score though. I felt that from the beginning the socceroos where cutting the game’s rhythm with faults. Kewel entrance made a big difference. The second half Australia played better, there were some goal opportunities for both sides, but they were in control most of the game. The referee didn’t do a good job, he let the game get too physical, I feel he should have taken measures before.
Penalties mean nothing, it’s like coin tossing.
We only needed one goal to make it, and we didn’t score it. Shame on us! The best team is going to the world cup. It’s a pity to have made it this far only to stop here. As we say, it’s like swimming a lot only to die on the shore.
Now it’s national day of mourning
I advice ozzies staying in Uruguay at the moment, no to go out. (much stronger adjectives come to my mind right now towards ozzies, but I'll just keep them to myself) ...
Sunday, November 13, 2005
It's the land of the collectionist and the pick-pocketer, a place where you can find the neighbor buying the week's stock of groceries, the ocassional madman shouting, the street beggar begging, and the reseller looking for some undervalued item. A human zoo of sorts, a uruguayan gallery of sights, sounds and scents. It's in some way the negative of a shopping center.
The market is placed all along the tristan narvaja street, which is about one kilometer, and extends to every crossing and paralell street. While the backbone of the market takes place in tristan narvaja st, it is in the periphery where it is more likely to find hidden "treasures", laid on blankets on the street. It is also in the periphery where is less secure, and is a more fertile ground for street scams.
There is even one uruguayan urban myth that talks about one "torres garcia", a painting from one of the most famous uruguayan paintors was actually found and bought here for nothing. There is also another myth about an stradivarius being found here, but the latter I find harder to believe.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
"Garat: Don't be kangaroo, and change the exam's time.
Today, uruguay plays against australia for the world cup classification finals. When the national football team plays for the world cup the country freezes, everybody watches. It's kinda an unwritten law. Seems that some bitter college teacher, named garat, is taking exams at the same time as the match, and students don't take it at all well. They are right to complain! ...
Posted by gabouy at 10:05 AM
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
The most emblematically uruguayan card game is called "truco", or "uruguayan truco" to be accurate. Truco means something like trick, as in: to trick someone in doing something. It's played by four or six players, in two teams of 2, or three players, with a spanish deck without the 8's, the 9's and the wildcards.
Three cards are handed to each player, and one card is left upside down under the deck, this card is called "la muestra", which would be something like "the shown" (don't worry; it makes as much sense in english as it does in spanish ;). Every player plays one card at a time in three "rounds". The game is based on betting points on each hand, and the team who wins two rounds out of three wins the hand and the pot of points of that hand (well, sort of, it's a bit more complex than that). The team to reach 40 points first is declared the happy winner.
Every card in the game has a value assigned to it, and one of the cool things about truco, is that most of the cards in the deck have one or another value depending on the "shown". All cards are given a value, some cards don't depend on "the shown", but the most valuables are the ones which do depend. This set of most valuable cards is called "las piezas" (the pieces). Remember I said it was played in teams, well, one of the funniest things about truco is that there is a language of facial signs meant to communicate what cards you have to your team mates. And part of the game skill is to communicate the cards you have without being watched by your opponents, you will try to cover your face with your arms, or wait till no one’s watching to make the signs.
Good players, and good teams are those who make the most out of the cards they have, and when they don’t really have valuable cards, they act, and trick the other team into believing that they do, and when they do have good cards they act as if they didn't laying out a trap for the other team to fall into. So there's a lot of acting involved, I guess while in poker is more natural to stay calm, and not to show emotions whatever is your hand, in truco there's a lot of team acting and outspoken speculation of the cards the other team might have. Add a bit of alcohol to the situation and you will get Shakespeare like interpretations.
The betting mechanism is based on a set of reserved words: "truco", "retruco", "vale cuatro" to raise the bet one point, and "envido" to make a special bet, or "flor" if you have a certain combination of cards. All these reserved words you just can't use them in your conversation, which sometimes does happen, being the name of the game one of the reserved words, if you do say any of them your opponents may hold the bet as made, and you will have to prove the worth of your hand of cards. One very common act is to say one reserved word and pretend it to have been a mistake, good acting is required. Another thing that is cool is to say some kind of poetic verse ending with the reserved word, to anger the opponents, typically used with the "flor" (flower), which informs the opponent team that you have a certain combination of cards that entitle you to 3 points per se.
There are a lot of subtleties to the game, like the fact that you can say any of the reserved words if you place your hand or one finger on top of the deck (for the deck not to listen), or traditions like carrying the score on a napking using squares, where each line is a point, or carrying the score with beans, and using beans to represent the amount of points in the pot of the current hand, or like licking your fingers, and wetting your forehead to place one card on it when you won the hand with the most valuable card, and fooled the other team into believing you were out of good cards, like some kind of "in your face" sort of thing.
The game is played also in argentina, the uruguyan version of the game is called uruguayan truco, or truco oriental, while the argentinian version is called "truco ciego" or blind truco, since they dont play with "la muestra", much simpler, all cards have the same value always, also much boring if you ask me. ...
Thursday, November 03, 2005
This is a very common sight in Uruguay, that I did not see elsewhere. Horse carts marching with the most modern cars in the city side by side. In Uruguay horse carts like the one in the picture are used as a means of making a living, by the lower classes in Uruguay. They are used to carry out activities like: garbage digging, or cardboard recolection, or wood transporting. It usual to see them followed by one or two dogs. ...
Posted by gabouy at 8:11 PM
Finnished in the year 1928, this building is one of the most emblematic ones in Montevideo. It's set by the "plaza independencia" square, at the heart of Montevideo's downtown. With it's 120 meters it was the highest building in South America when inaugurated. The thing has a personality of it's own, I like it, but im not sure the reason is esthetics or the unavoidable association with home it represents to me. There are those who say it's a midget with a hat.
I learnt here that it was built on the same spot that used to be the very same cafe were "la cumparsita" (the first tango ever) was composed. ...
Posted by gabouy at 7:35 PM
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Last saturday took place one of the national megapartys, called "La Fiesta X" (the X party), which summoned around 80.000 persons, or so they say. When you live in a country of 3 millions people, believe me, that's a lot! You had in one spot in the city every uruguayan music band of every genre and style possible playing on several stages along with some really big tents for electronic music. It must have been a human zoo of sorts. Check out the complete list bands that were there.
I wasnt there but the word is that the organization turned out to be kinda crappy, food stands ran out of food around 11pm (here in uruguay, partying is something that goes on until 5-6am). And they were very short on chemical toilets, bad for the women, huge queues. ...
Among the downsides of living in uruguay there definitely is urban transport. In Uruguay the time spent waiting for buses it's like some patience endurance test run by the goverment in cooperation with the transport companies. Seems to be part of long term goverment policy for raising buddas among the population. There is no such a thing as bus schedules on the bus stops, and if you by some mysterious means come to the possesion of one, any coincidence with reality is an event comparable to planets aligning, or eclipses. You see, here in uruguay, if the thing's supposed to pass by 5:00 chances are that it may pass 4:50 or 5:10, if not worse. But I guess the whole uruguayan punctuality culture could be a post on itself.
Finally when the bus does arrive, you are so happy that you dont mind sharing a box intended for 32 seated passangers with 60 persons more, like some weird solidarity movement with canned sardins. What's the choice?, keep on waiting? ...