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This article is about the people from Uruguay as an ethnic group and nation. For information on the population of Uruguay, see Demographics of Uruguay.
Flag of Uruguay.svg
Total population
(c. 3.5 million[1])
Regions with significant populations
 Uruguay 3,286,314 (2011 Census)[2]
 Argentina 117,564[3]
 United States 48,234[4]
 Spain 30,000[5]
 Australia 9,376[6]
 France 5,970
 Canada 5,500[7]
 New Zealand 800–1,000[8]
Rioplatense Spanish (Uruguayan Spanish), Portuñol
Predominately Roman Catholicism[9]
Related ethnic groups
Latin Americans · Spaniards · Italians · Portuguese · French · and others.

Uruguayans or Uruguayan people (Spanish: Uruguayos) are the citizens of Uruguay. The country is home to people of different ethnic origins. As a result, Uruguayans do not equate their nationality with ethnicity, but with citizenship.

Uruguay is, along with most of the Americas, a melting pot of different peoples, with the difference that it has traditionally maintained a model that promotes cultural assimilation, hence the different cultures have been absorbed by the mainstream. Uruguay has one of the most heterogeneous populations in South America; the most common ethnic backgrounds being those from Romance-speaking Europe: the Spanish, especially Castilians, Catalans, Galicians, and Canarians, followed by Italians, Portuguese, and French.

Immigration waves[edit]

Uruguayans share a Spanish linguistic and cultural background with its neighbour country Argentina. Also, like Argentinians, most Uruguayans descend from colonial-era settlers and immigrants from Europe with almost 90% of the population being of European descent.[10]

The majority of these are Spaniards and Italians, followed by the French, Portuguese, Romanians, Greeks, Germans, British (English or Scots), Irish, Poles,[11] Swiss, Russians, Bulgarians, Arab (mainly Lebanese and Syrians), Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews, and Armenians.

There is also smaller numbers of Japanese,[12] as well as Amerindians, mainly Charrúa, Minuán, Chaná, Güenoa, and Guaraní.[13] Montevideo, like Buenos Aires in Argentina and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, was a major seaport to dock ships coming from Europe and elsewhere, and European settlement greatly affected Uruguay to have a more western oriented culture.

Many colonies such as Nueva Helvecia-Colonia Suiza a Swiss colony and Colonia Valdense a Piedmontese waldensian colony, are located in the department of Colonia. Also, there are towns founded by British settlers, like Conchillas and Barker. A Russian colony called San Javier, is found in the department of Río Negro. Also there are Mennonite colonies in the department of Río Negro like Gartental and El Ombú, in Canelones Department called Colonia Nicolich, and in San José Department called Colonia Delta. El Ombú, is famous for its well-known Dulce de Leche "Claldy", and is located near the city of Young.

Many of the European immigrants arrived in Uruguay in the late 19th century and have heavily influenced the architecture and culture of Montevideo and other major cities. For this reason, Montevideo and life within the city are very reminiscent of Europe.

Racial and ethnic groups[edit]

Racial and Ethnic Composition in Uruguay (2011 Census)[14]

The majority of Uruguayans or their ancestors immigrated within the past five centuries, with the exception of the Native American population.

Europeans or whites[edit]

People of European ancestry comprise 87.7% of Uruguay's population according to the 2011 official Census.[14] Early Uruguayans are descendants of colonists from Spain and Portugal during the colonial period prior to 1810. Similar to the demographics of Argentina, more recent immigrants from Europe, largely from Italy and France, arrived in the great migratory wave during the late 19th century and early 20th century.[15] Today, Uruguay's culture is influenced heavily by its European roots which is evident in its language, food, and other aspects of everyday life.[16]

Mestizos & Amerindians[edit]

Up to 2.4% of the population are of Mestizo (European-Amerindian) ancestry according to the 2011 census.[14] People with Amerindian ancestry can be found in the north of Uruguay, primarily in Tacuarembó Department, where the Amerindian ancestry accounts for 20% of the population.

A 1996 census identified that 12,600 people in Uruguay were Amerindian descendants. In 2006 a census confirmed that there were 115,118 Uruguayans that descended from one Amerindian ethnic group, the Charrúas, reaching up to 4% of the country's population. In 2005 Sinthia Pagano, M.D conducted a genetic study, detecting the possibility that 38% of Uruguayans may have expressed partial genetic influence from the Amerindian population.[17][18]


Main article: Afro-Uruguayan

Africans, Blacks, and Mulattos in Uruguay are more or less 209,662 and they are mostly found in Montevideo, Rivera Department, Artigas Department, Salto Department and Cerro Largo Department.[19] A 2011 census marked that there are more than 300,000 African descendants, and that 80% of Afro-Uruguayans are under the working class line.[20]


Although Spanish is dominant, being the national language spoken by virtually all Uruguayans, Italian and French are also relevant. A mix of Portuguese-Spanish is spoken in the Uruguayan-Brazilian frontier called Portuñol/Portunhol, Fronterizo/Fronteiriço is the specific name for Uruguayan Portuñol. The audiovisual standard language is the Uruguayan Spanish, a variety of Rioplatense Spanish. Lunfardo is also spoken in Uruguay.


Main article: Religion in Uruguay

Uruguay has no official religion and church and state are separate. Religious freedom is guaranteed. Most Uruguayans baptize their children and marry in Roman Catholic churches. A 2006 survey had Roman Catholicism as the main religion, with 47.1% of the population, 11.1% claim to be Non-Catholic Christian and 0.3% Jewish. Approximately 40.4% of the population professes no religion.[21]

Uruguay's oldest church is in San Carlos, Maldonado Department.

The Jewish community is concentrated in Montevideo (about 1% of the city's population), as well as the Muslim and Orthodox[22] communities. There are several Protestant and Pentecostal denominations, together they represent the 11.1% of the population, these denominations are, the Methodist Church in Uruguay,[23] the New Apostolic Church,[24] the Anglican Communion,[25] the Evangelical Baptist Convention of Uruguay, the Evangelical Church of the Río de la Plata,[26] the Waldensian Evangelical Church,[27] the United Evangelical Lutheran Church[28] and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[29] The Pentecostal denominations are, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God,[30] Dios es Amor,[31] Pentecostal Naciente[32] and Assemblies of God.[33] Among the sizeable Armenian community in Montevideo, the dominant religion is Christianity, specifically, Armenian Apostolic[34] Armenian Catholic, and Armenian Evangelical Church.[35] Political observers consider Uruguay to be the most secular country in the Americas.[36]

The Bahá'í Faith[37] is also practiced, along with Afro-Brazilian religions such as Quimbanda, Candomblé, and Umbanda.


Contemporary Uruguayan culture is diverse in its nature since the nation's population is one of multicultural origins. The country has an impressive legacy of artistic and literary traditions, especially for its small size. The contribution of its alternating conquerors, Spain and Portugal, and diverse immigrants – Italians, French, Portuguese, Romanians, and Greeks, among others- has resulted in traditions that integrate this diversity with Amerindian and African elements. Uruguay has centuries-old remains and fortresses of the colonial era. Its cities have a rich architectural heritage and an impressive number of writers, artists, and musicians. Candombe is the most important example of African influence by Slaves. Charrua and Guaraní traditions can be seen in maté, the national drink. Both Uruguay and Argentina share its traditional gaúcho roots (which originated in Andalusia).

Music and dance[edit]

The Desfile de Llamadas carnival in Montevideo.

Music of Uruguay includes a number of local musical forms. The most distinctive ones are tango, murga, a form of musical theater, and candombe, an Afro-Uruguayan type of music which occur yearly during the Carnival period. There is also milonga, a folk guitar and song form deriving from Spanish traditions and related to similar forms found in many Hispanic-American countries. The famed tango singer Carlos Gardel was born in Toulouse, France, then raised in Buenos Aires, but as an adult he obtained legal papers saying he was born in Tacuarembó, probably to avoid French military authorities.[38][39][40][41]

The popular music of Uruguay, which focuses on rock, jazz, and many other forms, frequently makes reference to the distinctly Uruguayan sounds mentioned above. The group 1960s imitators of The Beatles, deserve a special mention as the band that kickstarted the Uruguayan rock scene.


The rate of Uruguayan emigration to Europe is especially high in Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal. In the Americas, emigration is mostly to the United States, Canada, Argentina, and other nearby Latin American countries such as Brazil and Chile. In Oceania, emigration is mainly to Australia, and to a lesser extent, New Zealand.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Resultados del Censo de Población 2011: población, crecimiento y estructura por sexo y edad ine.gub.uy
  2. ^ Resultados del Censo de Población 2011: población, crecimiento y estructura por sexo y edad ine.gub.uy
  3. ^ "Argentina 2001 Census." (PDF). Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  4. ^ "pewhispanic.org" (PDF). Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  5. ^ http://www.elobservador.com.uy/de-cuatro-seis-uruguayos-son-rechazados-espana-cada-mes-n302964
  6. ^ "2006 Australian Census.". Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  7. ^ Statistics Canada. "2011 National Household Survey: Data tables". Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  8. ^ MercoPress (29 October 2008). "Uruguay's diaspora 700,000, approx. 21.1% of total population". Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  9. ^ The Latin American Socio-Religious Studies Program / Programa Latinoamericano de Estudios Sociorreligiosos (PROLADES) PROLADES Religion in America by country
  10. ^ Área de Historia de la Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes. "Constituciones Hispanoamericanas – Constituciones – Uruguay". Cervantesvirtual.com. Retrieved 26 June 2010. 
  11. ^ Wojciech Tyciński, Krzysztof Sawicki, Departament Współpracy z Polonią MSZ (Warsaw, 2009). "Raport o sytuacji Polonii i Polaków za granicą (The official report on the situation of Poles and Polonia abroad)" (PDF file, direct download 1.44 MB). Ministerstwo Spraw Zagranicznych (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland). pp. 1–466. Retrieved 14 June 2013 (Internet Archive).
  12. ^ Tanaka, Naoki (1990). 南米ウルグアイ東方共和国日本人移住史年表 [Nanbei Uruguay Tōhō Kyōwakoku Nihon-jin Ijūshi Nenpyō / Chronological history of Japanese Immigration in South America's Eastern Republic of Uruguay] (in Japanese). OCLC 673507909. 
  13. ^ "Pijao Fabre, Alain (2005): Diccionario etnolingüístico y guía bibliográfica de los pueblos indígenas sudamericanos." (PDF). 
  14. ^ a b c "Atlas Sociodemografico y de la Desigualdad en Uruguay , 2011: Ancestry" (PDF) (in Spanish). National Institute of Statistics. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 September 2014. 
  15. ^ Demographics of Uruguay
  16. ^ http://www.everyculture.com/To-Z/Uruguay.html
  17. ^ Da Silva Villarrubia, Santiago Katriel (14 July 2011). "Dra. Sinthia Pagano. Un Estudio Detectó 38% de Sangre Aborigen en la Población Uruguaya - En Uruguay hay 115.118 descendientes de indígenas". Mario Delgado Gérez (in Spanish). LaRed21 Comunidad. Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  18. ^ Da Silva Villarrubia, Santiago Katriel (27 August 2011). "Censo 2011. Organizaciones Sociales Llaman a Decir "Sí" Para Reconocer sus Etnias - Censo: afrodescendientes e indígenas hacen campaña". Matías Rotulo (in Spanish). LaRed21 Comunidad. Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  19. ^ "www.afrolatinos.tv Uruguay". Afrolatinos.tv. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  20. ^ Da Silva Villarrubia, Santiago Katriel. "Afros e indígenas procuran que el censo "haga visibles" sus realidades" (in Spanish). Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  21. ^ Uruguay statistics
  22. ^ "Arquidiócesis Ortodoxa Griega de Buenos Aires y Sudamérica". Ortodoxia.com. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  23. ^ "Iglesia Metodista en el Uruguay". Imu.org.uy. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  24. ^ "Iglesia Nueva Apostólica – Sud América". Inasud.org. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  25. ^ "Iglesia Anglicana del Uruguay". Anglicanuruguay.blogspot.com. 26 May 2009. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  26. ^ "Iglesia Evangélica del Río de la Plata". Iglesiaevangelica.org. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  27. ^ "Iglesia Evangélica Valdense – Inicio". Iglesiavaldense.org. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  28. ^ "Luterana Unida – Inicio". Ielu.org. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  29. ^ "Unión Adventista Uruguaya". Iglesiaadventista.org.uy. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  30. ^ "Hoguera Santa – Monte Sinai". Paredesufrir.com.uy. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  31. ^ La Voz de la Liberación. ":::: Iglesia Dios es Amor – Uruguay::::". Ipda.org.uy. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  32. ^ http://www.ipuruguay.org/
  33. ^ "Bienvenidos". Lasasambleasdedios.org. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  34. ^ 1/0 Technology Corp. – Paul R. Williams, John BUDDAY Running. "Armenian General Benevolent Union – Publications". Agbu.org. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  35. ^ Natalia Barrios Guida – T.: (5982) 509 1277 / 099 247423. "Bienvenidos al Portal de los Armenios en Sudamérica". Armenia.com.uy. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  36. ^ [27]
  37. ^ "La Sociedad Civil en línea". Lasociedadcivil.org. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  38. ^ Verónica Dema (20 September 2012). "Fin del misterio: muestran la partida de nacimiento de Gardel" [End of the mystery: they show Gardel's birth certificate] (in Spanish). La Nación. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  39. ^ Collier, Simon (1986). The Life, Music, and Times of Carlos Gardel. University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 5. ISBN 0822984989. 
  40. ^ Barsky, Julián; Barsky, Osvaldo (2004). Gardel: La biografía (in Spanish). Taurus. ISBN 9870400132. 
  41. ^ Ruffinelli, Jorge (2004). La sonrisa de Gardel: Biografía, mito y ficción (in Spanish). Ediciones Trilce. p. 31. ISBN 9974323568.