Uruguay is a country in the southeastern part of South America. It is home to 3.3 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area. An estimated 88% of the population are of European ancestry. Uruguay's only land border is with Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, to the north; to the west lies the Uruguay River
Although 90% of the population live in urban areas and agriculture employs 3% of the population, the economy depends on the exports of hides and leather goods, beef and wool. Manufacturing concentrates on food processing and packing. Uruguay depends largely on hydroelectric power for energy and exports electricity to Argentina.
Uruguay has temperate climate without a decidedly dry or a rainy season, like most south American countries. The average temperature for the midwinter month of July varies from 54 °F (12 °C) at Salto in the northern interior to 50 °F (10 °C) at Montevideo in the south. The midsummer month of January varies from a warm average of 79 °F (26 °C) at Salto to 72 °F (22 °C) at Montevideo.
The people of Uruguay are predominantly of European origin, many of them foreign-born, and come chiefly from Spain and Italy and also from Brazil, Argentina, and France. Only about 15% are persons of mixed European, African, or American Indian ancestry. None of the small original Indian population remains.
Uruguay was recognized as an independent republic by Brazil and Argentina in 1828. Social and economic developments were slow in the 19th century but, from 1903, governments made Uruguay a democratic and stable country. Since 1828 two political parties - the Colorados (Liberals) and the Blancos (Conservatives) - have dominated.
Military service age and obligations:18-30 years of age for voluntary military service; up to 40 years of age for specialists. Enlistment is voluntary in peacetime, but the government has the authority to conscript in emergencies; minimum 6-year education (2009).
Uruguay traditionally has had strong political and cultural links with its neighbors and Europe. With globalization and regional economic problems, its links to North America have strengthened. Usually considered a neutral country and blessed with a professional diplomatic corps, Uruguay is often called on to preside over international bodies.
Public education in Uruguay is free and compulsory for children aged 6 to 14. The country has traditionally boasted high levels of compliance with required education, as well as a large number of students who enroll in secondary school. As a result, Uruguay holds an impressive position in the Latin America community for its high literacy rate of approximately 96 percent.
The constitution protects religious freedom, but people are not devout and daily life is highly secular. More than one-third of the people profess no religion and approximately 60 percent of the population is nominally Catholic, but only a minority attend church regularly (mostly those in the upper classes). The Jewish community, which once constituted about 2 percent of the population, is dwindling because of emigration to Israel.
Uruguay has the smallest forested area of all the South American countries however there is great abundance of water and aquatic life. Many of Uruguay's original larger mammals, such as the jaguar, puma, collared peccary, and giant anteater, are no longer found there because of loss of habitat and over-hunting.
The national language of Uruguay is Spanish. A Spanish-Portuguese hybrid called Portunol or Brazilero is also spoken on the Brazilian frontier.