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Uruguay: Contemporary Ethnic Composition
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Population > Contemporary Ethnic Composition

CONTEMPORARY ETHNIC COMPOSITION


In 1990 about 88 percent of Uruguay's population was white and descended from Europeans, and the nation has always looked to Europe for its cultural cues. Eight percent of the population was mestizo, and 4 percent was black. Although in 1990 Uruguay had anaging population, it was once a young nation of immigrants. According to the 1908 census, over two-fifths of the population was foreign born. While the descendants of the original Spanish colonists (known as criollos) predominated in the interior, the origins of the population were varied in the densely populated areas of Montevideo and the coast. In these areas, citizens of Italian descent were particularly numerous, constituting as much as one-third of the population.

In 1990 estimates of the number of Uruguayans of African descent ranged from as low as 40,000 to as high as 130,000 (about 4 percent). In Montevideo, many of them traditionally made a living as musicians or entertainers. Few had been allowed to achieve high social status. As many as three-quarters of black women aged eighteen to forty were employed in domestic service. In the interior, citizens of African or mixed descent were concentrated along the Brazilian border. Early in the twentieth century, the traditional folkways of Afro-Uruguayans were captured in the impressionist paintings of Pedro Figari. Although vestiges of African culture survived in the annual carnivalcelebrations known as the Llamadas, Uruguay's black population was relatively assimilated in 1990.

Uruguay's Indian population had virtually disappeared and was no longer in evidence in 1990. Even the mestizo, or mixed-race, population was small -- 8 percent -- by Latin American standards. In 1990 signs of intermarriage between whites and Indians were common only in the interior. The slightly derogatory term chino was still applied by the inhabitants of Montevideo to the somewhat darker-skinned migrants from the interior.

Montevideo also had a highly assimilated Jewish population of some importance. Estimated at 40,000 in 1970, the Jewish community had fallen to about 25,000 by the late 1980s as a result of emigration, particularly to Israel. Anti-Semitism was not uncommon, but it was less virulent than, for example, in Argentina.

Data as of December 1990




Last Updated: December 1990


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Uruguay was first published in 1990. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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Section 52 of 167






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