With the final segment of the First Round games in the World Cup, we are getting some tickets punched for the second round. Let's learn some fun facts about our first qualifier, Uruguay.
1. Uruguay is shockingly cool and progressive. They are rated as the least corrupt country in South America; their labor conditions are unmatched; they have passed a Civil Union law that recognizes homosexual unions--the first nation to do that in Latin America (and really, one of the few countries in the Western Hemisphere). They are in the top 50 nations in Quality of Life. Nice work, Your Are Gay! Oh, did I mention their literacy rate is over 97%? Or that it is considered the most secular country in South America?
2. It is tiny. You could easily miss it, tucked away in a corner between Brazil and Argentina. The only country smaller in South America is Suriname. Syria is bigger! Their name comes from a Guaraní phrase meaning, "river where the painted birds live."
3. Their history, from an outside American perspective, sounds a lot like the history of the US. There is a struggle for independence--though it is more complicated with Spain, Portugal and newly independent Brazil and Argentina. Once Uruguay won its independence, it quickly fell into Civil War. By the turn of the 20th Century, Uruguay was drawing immigrants from Europe in large numbers, and developing into an industrial and economic base. It sounds like a tiny US to me. Admittedly, I don't know much beyond what the Wikipedia tells me. But I now like Uruguay. More than I did before!