When Argentina’s Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio became Pope Francis, Uruguay’s then President José Mujica didn’t attend the inauguration. “Uruguay is a totally lay country,” explained Mujica at the time. “There is separation of church and state since the last century. Uruguay is different from the rest of Latin America regarding this. We have great respect, there is freedom of worship, but we are not believers.”
In Uruguay there is a strict separation of church and state, which dates from the end of the nineteenth century when young liberals were reportedly opting for the “pleasures of the countryside” rather than respecting religious holidays like Easter.
In 1886, a newspaper from Salto tutted over the hunting expeditions preferred by “young people in our society who care nothing for excommunication and other trifles”. Today Salto is a major Tourism Week destination for Uruguayans who at the first onset of autumn flock to the hotsprings there.
My grocer, a guy called Marcelo, takes one holiday a year – to go hunting during Tourism Week.
In 1909, under the influence of reformist President Jose Batlle y Ordonez, religious instruction in public schools was banned, and a complete separation of church and state was written into the 1917 Constitution, continuing to this day.
By 1919, all religious holidays were secularised.
Epiphany (January 6) became known as Childrens’ Day (it’s a day when in Catholic cultures children receive presents) and Easter as Tourism Week.
I can testify – everyone here refers to Easter as “la Semana de turismo”. It’s not a case of officious political correctness.
- The separation of Church and State in Uruguay (US State Dept website)
- Why the tourist industry in Montevideo closes down at peak visitor times (including during Tourism Week!)
Photo: The National Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Iglesia del Cerrito) in Montevideo
40% of Roman Catholics live in Latin America but as usual Uruguay does its own thing. There’s complete separation of church and state for almost 100 years.
Murga is an instantly recognisable musical style associated with carnival. It’s a uniquely Uruguayan phenomenon, with very distant roots in Cadiz, Spain.
Virtually unknown to people outside of Uruguay, carnival in the capital Montevideo is one of the most authentic in the world. Start planning now for 2021.
This year the Government of Montevideo is urging Yemanjá sea goddess worshippers to avoid congregating–and to donate to local soup kitchens instead.
My friend who’s ‘carnival royalty’ says San Baltasar is like carnival was when she was a child. Your chance to see Uruguay carnival just after new year.
One of the best things to do in Montevideo is visit the horse races. Fun for the family and for architecture buffs the art-deco stadium. Fridays & Sundays.
The host of this brand new travel show fell in love with Montevideo. The wine, soccer, carnival, food… so many things to do.
Montevideo has the world’s longest carnival starting January thru early March. We’ve got the links you need in English about where to go and what to see.
Bringing together more than 80 foodie initiatives and live music over one weekend, Degusto takes place in May and October each year in Carrasco, Montevideo.
It’s a good idea to know when public holidays in Uruguay are as most shops close. Public transport is also limited but to a lesser extent.
Traditional food, handmade goods, and South American cowboys riding wild horses. It’s the Semana Criolla – Montevideo’s Easter gaucho festival.
Carnival starts late January till early March. Yes, it’s the world’s longest carnival. The parades and shows you must not miss, where to buy tickets, etc.