Montevideo is the capital and largest city of Uruguay. It lies on the north shore of the Río de la Plata estuary. According to the 2011 census, the city proper has a population of 1,319,108 in an area of 201 square kilometres . The southernmost capital city in the Americas, Montevideo is situated on the southern coast of the country, on the northeastern bank of the Río de la Plata.
The city was established in 1724 by a Spanish soldier, Bruno Mauricio de Zabala, as a strategic move amidst the Spanish-Portuguese dispute over the platine region. Montevideo is the seat of the administrative headquarters of Mercosur and ALADI, Latin America's leading trade blocs, a position that entailed comparisons to the role of Brussels in Europe.
The 2019 Mercer's report on quality of life, rated Montevideo first in Latin America, a rank the city has consistently held since 2005. As of 2010, Montevideo was the 19th largest city economy in the continent and 9th highest income earner among major cities. In 2020, it has a projected GDP of $49.7 billion, with a per capita of $28,385.
Described as a «vibrant, eclectic place with a rich cultural life», and «a thriving tech center and entrepreneurial culture», Montevideo ranked eighth in Latin America on the 2013 MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index.
In 2014, it was also regarded as the fifth most gay-friendly metropolis in the world and the first in Latin America. It is the hub of commerce and higher education in Uruguay as well as its chief port.
Data and Facts
- Montevideo was established in 1724 by a Spanish soldier, Bruno Mauricio de Zabala
- As of August 2019, the population of Montevideo is about 1.8 million people
- The city has an average elevation of 43 meters (141 feet) above sea level. Its highest elevation is the peak of Cerro de Montevideo at a height of 134 meters (440 feet)
- Rivalries between local inhabitants, Argentines, and Brazilians led to a nine-year siege of Montevideo by a combined Argentine-Uruguayan army from 1843 to 1851
- Montevideo is the southernmost capital city in the Americas
- Montevideo hosted every match during the first FIFA World Cup, in 1930
As of 2010, the city of Montevideo has been divided into 8 political municipalities , referred to with the letters from A to G, including CH, each presided over by a mayor elected by the citizens registered in the constituency. This division, according to the Municipality of Montevideo, «aims to advance political and administrative decentralization in the department of Montevideo, with the aim of deepening the democratic participation of citizens in governance.» The head of each Municipio is called an alcalde or alcaldesa.Of much greater importance is the division of the city into 62 barrios: neighbourhoods or wards. Many of the city's barrios—such as Sayago, Ituzaingó and Pocitos—were previously geographically separate settlements, later absorbed by the growth of the city. Others grew up around certain industrial sites, including the salt-curing works of Villa del Cerro and the tanneries in Nuevo París. The Municipality of Montevideo was first created by a legal act of 18 December 1908.
The municipality's first mayor was Daniel Muñoz. Municipalities were abolished by the Uruguayan Constitution of 1918, effectively restored during the 1933 military coup of Gabriel Terra, and formally restored by the 1934 Constitution. The 1952 Constitution again decided to abolish the municipalities; it came into effect in February 1955. Municipalities were replaced by departmental councils, which consisted of a collegiate executive board with 7 members from Montevideo and 5 from the interior region. However, municipalities were revived under the 1967 Constitution and have operated continuously since that time.
Since 1990, Montevideo has been partially decentralized into 18 areas; administration and services for each area is provided by its Zonal Community Center , which is subordinate to the Municipality of Montevideo. The boundaries of the municipal districts of Montevideo were created on 12 July 1993, and successively amended on 19 October 1993, 6 June 1994 and 10 November 1994.
The city government of Montevideo performs several functions, including maintaining communications with the public, promoting culture, organizing society, caring for the environment and regulating traffic. Its headquarters is the Palacio Municipal on 18 de Julio Avenue in the Centro area of Montevideo.
nother body, the Junta Departamental, or the Congress of Montevideo, governs the Department of Montevideo. The Junta, composed of 31 unsalaried elected members, is responsible for such things as the freedom of the citizens, the regulation of cultural activities, the naming of streets and public places, and the placement of monuments; it also responds to proposals of the Intendant in various circumstances.
Its seat is the architecturally remarkable Casa de Francisco Gómez in Ciudad Vieja.
As the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo is the economic and political centre of the country. Most of the largest and wealthiest businesses in Uruguay have their headquarters in the city. Since the 1990s the city has undergone rapid economic development and modernization, including two of Uruguay's most important buildings—the World Trade Center Montevideo and Telecommunications Tower , the headquarters of Uruguay's government-owned telecommunications company ANTEL, increasing the city's integration into the global marketplace.The Port of Montevideo, in the northern part of Ciudad Vieja, is one of the major ports of South America and plays a very important role in the city's economy. The port has been growing rapidly and consistently at an average annual rate of 14 percent due to an increase in foreign trade. The city has received a US$20 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank to modernize the port, increase its size and efficiency, and enable lower maritime and river transportation costs.
The port of Montevideo handles most of Uruguay’s foreign trade. The chief exports are wool, meat, and hides. Numerous establishments in the capital process wool, and refrigerated packing plants are equipped to prepare meats. Textile, shoe, soap, match, and clothing factories are located throughout the city. Wines and dairy products also are produced. Banking has traditionally been one of the strongest service export sectors in Uruguay: the country was once dubbed «the Switzerland of America», mainly for its banking sector and stability, although that stability has been threatened in the 21st century by the recent global economic climate. The largest bank in Uruguay is Banco Republica , based in Montevideo. Almost 20 private banks, most of them branches of international banks, operate in the country . There are also a myriad of brokers and financial-services bureaus, among them Ficus Capital, Galfin Sociedad de Bolsa, Europa Sociedad de Bolsa, Darío Cukier, GBU, Hordeñana & Asociados Sociedad de Bolsa, etc.
Tourism accounts for much of Uruguay's economy. Tourism in Montevideo is centered in the Ciudad Vieja area, which includes the city's oldest buildings, several museums, art galleries, and nightclubs, with Sarandí Street and the Mercado del Puerto being the most frequented venues of the old city.On the edge of Ciudad Vieja, Plaza Independencia is surrounded by many sights, including the Solís Theatre and the Palacio Salvo; the plaza also constitutes one end of 18 de Julio Avenue, the city's most important tourist destination outside of Ciudad Vieja. Apart from being a shopping street, the avenue is noted for its Art Deco buildings, three important public squares, the Gaucho Museum, the Palacio Municipal and many other sights. The avenue leads to the Obelisk of Montevideo; beyond that is Parque Batlle, which along with the Parque Prado is another important tourist destination. Along the coast, the Fortaleza del Cerro, the Rambla , 13 kilometres of sandy beaches,and Punta Gorda attract many tourists, as do the Barrio Sur and Palermo barrios.The Ministry of Tourism offers a two-and-a-half-hour city tour. The city has become the principal centre of business and real estate, including many expensive buildings and modern towers for residences and offices, surrounded by extensive green spaces. In 1985, the first shopping centre in Rio de la Plata, Montevideo Shopping was built. In 1994, with building of three more shopping complexes such as the Shopping Tres Cruces, Portones Shopping, and Punta Carretas Shopping, the business map of the city changed dramatically. The creation of shopping complexes brought a major change in the habits of the people of Montevideo. Global firms such as McDonald's and Burger King etc. are firmly established in Montevideo.
The port on Montevideo Bay is one of the reasons the city was founded. It gives natural protection to ships, although two jetties now further protect the harbour entrance from waves. This natural port is competitive with the other great port of Río de la Plata, Buenos Aires. The main engineering work on the port occurred between the years 1870 and 1930. These six decades saw the construction of the port's first wooden pier, several warehouses in La Aguada, the north and south Rambla, a river port, a new pier, the dredged river basin and the La Teja refinery. A major storm in 1923 necessitated repairs to many of the city's engineering works. Since the second half of the 20th century, until the 21st century, physical changes had ceased, and since that time the area had degraded due to national economic stagnation.
With its fairly untapped market of 3.4 million residents, Uruguay is a gold mine for foreign investors. Though the market is on the smaller side, the business incubator scene is thriving, and the economy has been steadily growing by 5-6% over the past decade.Uruguay has earned the nickname the «Switzerland of the Americas,» and rightfully so with its low crime rate and extremely high literacy rate. The country has even received praise from the UN for its «exemplary» media freedom.With the influx of startups and the steady economy, Uruguay has recently started attracting big names like Microsoft. For software companies, Uruguay provides the perfect opportunity, giving tax exemptions to those that export their services. Not to mention, its Free Trade agreements allow access to other major tech hubs in South America, including Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina.It’s an especially attractive market for new companies with the increase in startup activity, accelerators, and coworking organizations. ANII, a state-run organization, for example, has committed to increasing growth by providing scholarships, funding research, and hosting events that encourage entrepreneurship.ANII is just one of the many organizations that have popped up over the last few years on a mission to spark Uruguay’s new business and startup scene. It is perfectly situated between its larger neighbors, Brazil and Argentina, where enterprise owners can take advantage of free trade, open media, and a variety of other programs that encourage business growth.
NXTP Labs is one of the key players of the LATAM startup ecosystem. They helped financially incubate iBillionaire, KidBox and Wideo, among other 150 companies. The company recently announced that their goal is to have 300 startups funded by end of 2015, and Uruguay is playing a big part. The startup screening event happened at the multiplex movie theater Life Cinemas AlfaBeta. A move screen projected the pitching team’s presentation slides, as presenters pitched their companies.
In total, eleven startups in their seed funding stages were screened during the event. Arturo Torres, NXTP Labs Program Director, and Pablo Garfinkel, NXTP Labs Venture Partner were the lead panelists, and along with the other panelists, spent the evening socializing and networking with all the participants and the media over coffee.
That is what most of the fledgling companies were looking for: exposure. Former local startups incubated by NXTP Labs after participating in this kind of event demonstrate that the exposure provided is the big prize. KidBox, Populy Games, Kool and MiTurno are examples.
Gonzalo Barco from SQ AdMobile agrees with Siniscalco: «It’s not the money you could get in this stage—I understand that none of the startups which asked for $300,000 , $500,000 or $750,000 would consider the $25,000 they could get in this stage significant for making a leap forward, but the promise of outreach,» is the objective of the participants.
The Dirección Nacional de Transporte , part of the national Ministry of Transport and Public Works, is responsible for the organization and development of Montevideo's transport infrastructure. A bus service network covers the entire city. An international bus station, the Tres Cruces Bus Station, is located on the lower level of the Tres Cruces Shopping Center, on the side of Artigas Boulevard. This terminal, along with the Baltazar Brum Bus Terminal by the Port of Montevideo, handles the long distance and intercity bus routes connecting to destinations within Uruguay.The State Railways Administration of Uruguay operates three commuter rail lines, namely the Empalme Olmos, San Jose and Florida. These lines operate to major suburban areas of Canelones, San José and Florida. Within the Montevideo city limits, local trains stop at Lorenzo Carnelli, Yatai , Sayago, Columbus , Peñarol and Manga stations. The historic 19th century General Artigas Central Station located in the neighbourhood of Aguada, six blocks from the central business district, was abandoned 1 March 2003 and remains closed. A new station, 500 metres north of the old one and part of the Tower of Communications modern complex, has taken over the rail traffic.Carrasco International Airport , which serves Montevideo, is located 19 km from the city centre. Several international airlines operate there. The airport serves over 1,500,000 passengers annually. Ángel S. Adami Airport is a private airport operated by minor charter companies.
The average amount of time people spend commuting with public transit in Montevideo, for example to and from work, on a weekday is 65 min. 14.% of public transit riders, ride for more than 2 hours every day. The average amount of time people wait at a stop or station for public transit is 14 min, while 18% of riders wait for over 20 minutes on average every day. The average distance people usually ride in a single trip with public transit is 5.2 km, while 6% travel for over 12 km in a single direction.The port on Montevideo Bay is one of the reasons the city was founded. It gives natural protection to ships, although two jetties now further protect the harbour entrance from waves. This natural port is competitive with the other great port of Río de la Plata, Buenos Aires.The main engineering work on the port occurred between the years 1870 and 1930. These six decades saw the construction of the port's first wooden pier, several warehouses in La Aguada, the north and south Rambla, a river port, a new pier, the dredged river basin and the La Teja refinery. A major storm in 1923 necessitated repairs to many of the city's engineering works. Since the second half of the 20th century, until the 21st century, physical changes had ceased, and since that time the area had degraded due to national economic stagnation.The port's proximity has contributed to the installation of various industries in the area surrounding the bay, particularly import/export businesses and other business related to port and naval activity. The density of industrial development in the area surrounding the port has kept its popularity as a residential area relatively low despite its centrality. The main environmental problems are subaquatic sedimentation and air and water contamination.Every year more than one hundred cruises arrive, bringing tourists to Montevideo by public or private tours.
In Montevideo, as elsewhere in the country, there are both public and private health services. In both sectors, medical services are provided by polyclinics and hospitals or sanatorios. The term hospital is used here for both outpatient and inpatient facilities, while sanatorio is used for private short- and long-term facilities for the treatment of illnesses.
Hospital de Clínicas «Dr. Manuel Quintela» is a University Hospital attached to the University of the Republic, and is located on Avenida Italia. It functions as an adult general polyclinic and hospital. The building was designed by architect Carlos Surraco in 1928–1929 and has a surface area of 110,000 square metres on 23 floors. The hospital was inaugurated 21 September 1953. For many years it was led by Dr. Hugo Villar, who was a considerable influence on the institution.
With a growing $1.2 billion+ IT industry and more than 700 tech companies exporting software across 52 different markets, Uruguay is the leading software exporter per capita in South America. It’s the third worldwide.Harvard University identified Uruguay as «one of the most advanced software development centers in the region», primarily focused on the country’s capital city, Montevideo.The same way the Valley’s success story is not simply a matter of chance, Uruguay’s success in the IT industry is the result of a sophisticated government master plan, combined with a series of opportune circumstances.
After WWII through the end of the 70s, the San Francisco Bay Area received massive support from the US government. This set the economic stage for private sector technological innovation, creating a thriving industry hub in Silicon Valley.
Similarly, Uruguay has implemented dramatic tax benefits and government incentives over the course of the past decade. The most relevant benefit for global IT firms is a 100% exemption of income tax for the payment obtained through the exports of software and its related services . Keeping this in mind, it’s little wonder why Uruguay is such a major software exporter despite its size.
Today, nearly all of the 300,000 children in Uruguay’s public schools have their own computers, and many high school graduates enroll in computer science, engineering and IT programs.
Uruguay’s public education system is among the continent’s finest, and the country boasts a 96% literacy rate. Stanford has been keeping an eye on Uruguay as well, working together with ANII for some time now.
Frederick Terman, a Stanford professor and one of the founding fathers of Silicon Valley, introduced the idea of incentivizing students to start their own business by allowing them to use the university’s land and facilities. Terman’s program helped people like William Hewlett and David Packard, among others, to take off.
These were the first co-working spaces long before the term was coined.
Free zones are exempted from ALL taxes . Dividends paid to shareholders are never taxed or retained. VAT and customs taxes are waived for construction or equipment needed for operation.
Besides being a regional logistic hub thanks to its natural port, Uruguay is the leader in communications in Latin America according to the International Telecommunication Union’s 2014–2015 Information Technology and Communication’s Development Index , which measures Internet penetration, mobile phone usage, and other related indicators.The excellent telecommunications infrastructure combined with a cultural affinity with Europe and North America, widespread English proficiency, and similar time zone make the country an ideal location for nearshore development.
From the first pacemaker to the creation of the mammography examination, Uruguay had achieved technological feats that seem statistically impossible for a country of its size.
Social Wellness and Human Resources
In 1860, Montevideo had 57,913 inhabitants including a number of people of African origin who had been brought as slaves and had gained their freedom around the middle of the century. By 1880, the population has quadrupled, mainly because of the great European immigration. In 1908, its population had grown massively to 309,331 inhabitants. In the course of the 20th century the city continued to receive large numbers of European immigrants, especially Spanish and Italian, followed by French, Germans or Dutch, English or Irish, Polish, Greek, Hungarians, Russians, Croats, Lebanese, Armenians, and Jews of various origins. The last wave of immigrants occurred between 1945 and 1955.According to the census survey carried out between 15 June and 31 July 2004, Montevideo had a population of 1,325,968 persons, compared to Uruguay's total population of 3,241,003. The female population was 707,697 while the male population accounted for 618,271 . The population had declined since the previous census carried out in 1996, with an average annual growth rate of −1.5 per thousand. Continual decline has been documented since the census period of 1975–1985, which showed a rate of −5.6 per thousand. The decrease is due in large part to lowered fertility, partly offset by mortality, and to a smaller degree in migration. The birth rate declined by 19% from 1996 to 2004 . Similarly, the total fertility rate declined from 2.24 in 1996 to 1.79 in 2004. However, mortality continued to fall with life expectancy at birth for both sexes increasing by 1.73 years. In the census of 2011, Montevideo had a population of 1,319,108.
In recent years Montevideo nightlife has moved to Parque Rodó, where a large concentration of buildings cater for the recreational interests of young people during the night time. The Solís Theatre is the most prominent theatre in Uruguay and the oldest in South America. There are several notable theatrical companies and thousands of professional actors and amateurs. Montevideo playwrights produce dozens of works each year; of major note are Mauricio Rosencof, Ana Magnabosco and Ricardo Prieto.
The first public library in Montevideo was formed by the initial donation of the private library of Father José Manuel Pérez Castellano, who died in 1815. Its promoter, director and organizer was Father Dámaso Antonio Larrañaga, who also made a considerable donation along with donations from José Raimundo Guerra, as well as others from the Convent of San Francisco in Salta.In 1816 its stock was 5,000 volumes. The current building of the National Library of Uruguay was designed by Luis Crespi in the Neoclassical style and occupies an area of 4,000 square metres . Construction began in 1926 and it was finally inaugurated in 1964. Its current collection amounts to roughly 900,000 volumes.
The University of the Republic is the country's largest and most important university, with a student body of 81,774, according to the census of 2007. It was founded on 18 July 1849 in Montevideo, where most of its buildings and facilities are still located. Its current Rector is Dr. Rodrigo Arocena. The university houses 14 faculties and various institutes and schools. Many eminent Uruguayans have graduated from this university, including Carlos Vaz Ferreira, José Luis Massera, Gabriel Paternain, Mario Wschebor, Roman Fresnedo Siri, Carlos Ott and Eladio Dieste
The process of founding the country's public university began on 11 June 1833 with the passage of a law proposed by Senator Dámaso Antonio Larrañaga. It called for the creation of nine academic departments; the President of the Republic would pass a decree formally creating the departments once the majority of them were in operation. The university has about 8,000 students, distributed among 5 faculties and institutes, mainly geared towards the sciences and technology/engineering. Its current rector as of 2010 is Dr. Jorge A. Grünberg.
The Montevideo Crandon Institute is an American School of missionary origin and the main Methodist educational institution in Uruguay. Founded in 1879 and supported by the Women's Society of the Methodist Church of the United States, it is one of the most traditional and emblematic institutions in the city inculcating John Wesley's values. Its alumni include presidents, senators, ambassadors and Nobel Prize winners, along with musicians, scientists, and others. The Montevideo Crandon Institute boasts of being the first academic institution in South America where a home economics course was taught.
The Christian Brothers of Ireland Stella Maris College is a private, co-educational, not-for-profit Catholic school located in the wealthy residential southeastern neighbourhood of Carrasco. Established in 1955, it is regarded as one of the best high schools in the country, blending a rigorous curriculum with strong extracurricular activities. The school's headmaster, history professor Juan Pedro Toni, is a member of the Stella Maris Board of Governors and the school is a member of the International Baccalaureate Organization . Its long list of distinguished former pupils includes economists, engineers, architects, lawyers, politicians and even F1 champions. The school has also played an important part in the development of rugby union in Uruguay, with the creation of Old Christians Club, the school's alumni club.
Also in Carrasco is The British Schools of Montevideo, one of the oldest educational institutions in the country, founded in 1908 with «the object of giving children a complete education, both intellectual and moral, based upon the ideas and principles of the best schools in The British Isles». The School is governed by the Board of Governors, elected by the British Schools Society in Uruguay, whose honorary president is the British Ambassador to Uruguay.