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Uruguay Celebrates its Bicentennial

Uruguay declared 2011 the year it would commemorate the bicentennial of its “emancipation process” which began in 1811, although independence was not declared until August 25, 1825. Through an official website and accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr, organizers have been spreading the word about the numerous events scheduled to take place throughout the year.

The bicentennial celebrations officially kicked off in February, but on Monday October 10 Uruguayans commemorated the appointment of José Artigas —Uruguay's national hero—as “Chief of the Orientales“, with a massive celebration featuring simultaneous artistic performances on four different stages in downtown Montevideo. According to El Observador [es], more than 300,000 people attended the events.

Guitar quartet Rica Cosa performing on February 27, 2011. Image by Pablo Castro (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The hashtag #bi100uy was widely used by Uruguayans to react with both praise [es] and criticism [es] to the live performances, the organization of the event and other matters that arose as the day went by. Meanwhile, bloggers reflected on various aspects of the events and on the Bicentennial celebration in general.

Mauricio Milano from Montevideo Blogger [es] confessed that he hoped to feel more excited about the bicentennial, and added:

Y honestamente no creo que el increible esfuerzo no solo económico sino humano que se está realizando para el Bicentenario (hay que reconocerlo, no sería posible sin el talento de muchas personas) se vea reflejado en más nacionalismo o una “reflexión histórica” más profunda en la gente. Al menos en mi caso, un gol de Forlán me hace sentir más uruguayo que el carnaval que se está preparando para esta noche, y lo que pienso sobre la historia de mi país no va a cambiar por ir a un concierto.

Honestly I don't think that the huge effort, not only economic but also human, that is being undertaken for the Bicentennial (you have to admit, this would not be possible without the talents of many) is resulting in more nationalism or a deeper “historical reflection”. At least in my case, a goal by [football player] Forlán makes me feel more Uruguayan than the carnival that is being prepared for tonight, and what I think about my country's history is not going to change as a result of going to a concert.

Chrisitan Libonatti [es] created a slideshow comprising the October 11 front pages of major Uruguayan newspapers. He noted that all of them included a spot with news about Monday's celebrations, but only two dedicated the entire front page to the previous day's events.

Esto es apenas un análisis para demostrar que habiendo miles de uruguayos caminando por las calles apenas dos medios le dedicaron su título principal. Un conflicto gremial, la inseguridad o cualquier otra cosa son más importantes que una fiesta popular.

Ni critico ni alabo ésto, sólo está bueno observarlo.

This is just an analysis to show that with thousands of Uruguayans walking the streets only two newspapers dedicated their main headline to [the event]. A union conflict, lack of security or anything else were more important than a national festival.

I neither praise nor criticize this, it's just interesting to watch.

Finally, considering what Uruguay and other countries in the region commemorate during these Bicentennial celebrations, blogger Anna Donner Rybak [es] goes back to the indigenous peoples who inhabited the continent before the arrival of European colonizers. She points out that most Uruguayans are of European descent, but she asks:

¿Y quién es entonces “bien” uruguayo? me pregunto. Y me respondo que los más cercanos son los descendientes de nuestros indios.

[…] me pregunto porqué se honra la memoria de quienes han venido a exterminar a los verdaderos argentinos, uruguayos, peruanos, bolivianos.

Who are “really” Uruguayan? I wonder. And I answer that those closest to that are the descendants of our indigenous peoples

[…] I wonder, why do we honor the memory of those who came to exterminate the real Argentinians, Uruguayans, Peruvians, Bolivians?

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