This laidback country can certainly stand up to its bigger, brasher neighbours.Read more...
Uruguay - Calendar
Mercedes Jazz Festival
Mercedes, the capital of the Soriano department, hosts one of Uruguay’s best jazz festivals, Jazz a la Calle, in the second week of January, with free gigs on street corners and in the historic area known as Manzana Veinte (Block Twenty).
Uruguay takes great pride in having the longest carnival season of any country, over 80 days long, although it has to be said that between the opening and closing parades the activities are largely confined to various open-air theatres and stages across Montevideo.
Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha, Tacuarembó
The Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha (Festival of the Gaucho Country), held at the Laguna de las Lavanderas in the first or second week of March, is one of the biggest of its kind in South America, with thousands of country folk coming from far and wide (including Brazil and Argentina), all in gaucho garb and many with their horses. There are parades, riding competitions, lasso, boladera and other contests, and huge parrillas producing a steady supply of grilled meats. In the evenings there’s music and dancing, and traditional gaucho poetry recitals.
Semana Criolla (Countryside Week, more or less) is hosted by the Sociedad Rural in the Parque del Prado in Montevideo. There are rodeos and asados, arts and crafts for sale and live music, and hordes of people, more from the countryside than the city, with special trains and buses coming in from all around. There’s also a rodeo in Parque Roosevelt the same week, but the Rural show in the Prado is the main event, with quite staggering levels of horsemanship on display.
Celebrate the wine harvest with a tipple
In addition to the Día de la Vendimia (celebrating the wine harvest, probably on the first Saturday of March), the wine industry has created the Festival de la Poda y la Cocina Criolla (Festival of Vine-Pruning and Native Cooking, on a Saturday in mid-August) as an opportunity to visit wineries and enjoy traditional rural food, mot obviously an asado (barbecue).
Spot a gaucho at an agricultural show
Taking place across the country, these can be quite fun, with people strutting around in gaucho costume, horseriding events, food, drink and music and fairground action.
Dia de la Raza
The Día de la Raza (known as Columbus Day in North America), on 12 October, celebrates (somewhat controversially) the union of the Spanish colonisers with the indigenous population, and the continuing links between Spain and Latin America.
Just as Argentines flock to Uruguay’s beaches in summer (because there are no decent beaches near Buenos Aires), so too do their surfers. Although there’s no truly demanding surf here, there’s plenty of it and you’ll usually manage to have fun. The best month to go is in November, when the weather is kind and the beaches are not too busy.
New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve are times for partying, with large amounts of fizzy cider and medio y medio (‘half & half’ – mixed dry white wine and sparkling wine) sprayed around at places like Montevideo’s Mercado del Puerto. Fireworks are sold on the street, and let off at midnight; in addition water (to cool people down) and torn-up old calendars may be thrown from upper windows on New Year’s Eve.