A Week and a Day in Uruguay

13 April 2013

Saturday


Even in the metropolis of Montevideo there are scenes like this that might appear on an abandoned stretch of coastline.

Even in the metropolis of Montevideo there are scenes like this that might appear on an abandoned stretch of coastline.

Memorable Impressions

Now that I am home, and seated at my familiar desk, I would like to be able to make some broad and striking generalizations about Uruguay, having spent a week and day there, and visited some four locations. I would like to, but I feel so tired from the series of flights — notwithstanding that I slept on the plane, since it was “airplane seat sleep” and not the real thing — that it would be incautious and inadvisable for me to attempt such generalizations with a fatigued mind (especially in view of the role played by the embodiment of mind).

Take what follows, then, not as hasty and unsupportable generalizations about a country I hardly know, but as spontaneous comments regarding memorable impressions I have retained.

The red earth of Uruguay stirred up by the wind and the water.

The red earth of Uruguay stirred up by the wind and the water.

The Red Earth of Uruguay

Upon flying in to Montevideo, I immediately noticed that the unpaved roads were red. Much of the earth of Uruguay is red, as I saw later in the unpaved country lanes of the rural interior.

The red earth of Uruguay shows itself, too, in the Rio de la Plata, which is a coffee-colored sea stirred by the perpetual winds (see below), which presumably dredge up this red earth from the bottom of the river mouth.

The continual wind whips up the surf...

The continual wind whips up the surf…

The Wind

The only thing that I can think to say against Uruguay is that the wind seems to blow often, and at times quite harshly. Our hosts at the Estancia Tierra Santa mentioned the wind, and it woke me up once in the night while I was there. Later, on the Montevideo waterfront, the wind whipped up the ocean into a brown, muddy color topped by whitecaps.

...and the people seem to take it all in stride.

…and the people seem to take it all in stride.

The People

The people of Uruguay appear to be modestly healthy, wealthy, and happy. But it is more than that. No where else I have encountered a people who so exude a sense of well being and of living a life mostly free of stress.

At a time in history when we hear so much about “failed states” it is a pleasant surprise to see a nation-state that really works, and this is the overwhelming impression that I take away from Uruguay: this is a country that functions well.

The skeptical, or statisticians, could no doubt cite many findings to the contrary. Certainly in the US and Western Europe, people are wealthier; in some lands overall health may be better, while in other lands, happiness may be greater. Bhutan, famously, tries to measure its own gross national happiness. The amazing correspondence of Uruguay is to bring together all three of these in a modest and — I suspect precisely due to this modesty — in a sustainable way of life. I salute the Uruguayans for their admirably sane society.

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Montevideo 17

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Grand Strategy Annex

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