Uruguay sits in the southeastern area of South America and is the second-smallest country on the continent after Suriname. Until the late 17th century, the majority of the country was uninhabited until the establishment of a Portuguese settlement.
The majority of the population -- an estimated 88% -- is of European descent. A 2008 survey requesting self-reporting of predominant ancestry found 95% chose European, 3.4% black/African, 1.1% indigenous and 0.1% Asian. A second study conducted the same year found 10% report some amount of Black or African ancestry, 5.5% are partially indigenous and 0.3% are partial Asian.
There are few direct descendants of the indigenous peoples left in the country, and most Uruguayans are of European origin descended from 19th and 20th century immigrants from Italy and Spain. Uruguay has one of the slowest growth rates in Latin America, in part due to its high median age, low birth rate and high emigration rate. Metro Montevideo is the only large city in the country with more than half the country's population, with the remaining urban people living in around 30 small towns.
Uruguay Religion, Economy and Politics
Church and state are officially separated in Uruguay, and a significant 48% of its population are irreligious. Christianity is the most widely proclaimed faith, but even those that identify as Christian often are not active practitioners. Within the Christian community, 37.4% of the overall population are Catholic and 9.9% are Protestant, and the Protestants tend to be more active participants. The remaining population has small numbers that practice Umbanda or Judaism.
The economy is heavily export-oriented, particularly with beef and wool, with beef becoming the increasingly dominant industry in recent years. Plastics are another significant export coming out of the country and have made up a significant portion of their GDP. Travel and tourism is the third-largest industry in the country, making up roughly 10% of the GDP. Uruguay experienced an economic downturn in the early 2000s stemming largely from economic problems in bordering countries of Argentina and Brazil.
Uruguay Population History
Spanish explorer Juan Diaz de Solis came to the land that is now Uruguay and was killed by indigenous people, and no other countries attempted to come back until the Spanish came back and conquered the area in 1726 nearly 200 years later. Uruguay rebelled against the Spanish in 1808 after the Spanish monarchy was overthrown by Napoleon Bonaparte, and soon after fought against Argentinians and Brazilians that invaded the area. Argentina and Brazil renounced claims over Uruguay in 1828 and they were finally able to form their constitution. Uruguay was neutral for the majority of both World Wars before joining the Allies at the end of World War II. The Uruguayan rugby team had a plane crash in 1972 which sixteen people famously survived by eating the flesh of those that died during the crash. Deteriorating economic conditions lead to fighting and government reform to the left in the latter portion of the 1900s.