Uruguay and the U.S.

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You may have never considered the connection between Uruguay and the U.S. before or maybe I’m wrong and it’s all you think about.  The smartypants would say, “I know, both countries start with a U.” True, and a good connection, I’ll give you that.  Anything else?  Another wiseguy might say, “they speak Spanish and so do people in the U.S.”  And that would be true, although the brand of Spanish you hear in the States is nothing at all like what you hear on the streets of Montevideo.  As to other connections, if you’ve been following the news a little bit, you’d know that President Obama negotiated a deal with President Mujica of Uruguay to resettle 6 prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay.  And do you know why the Uruguayans agreed to resettle them?  One of the reasons is that President Mujica was once a political prisoner and felt an obligation to provide humanitarian assistance to the men.  Granting the prisoners refugee status, they are free in Uruguay to do what they please, even leave the country if they so wish. And though they seem grateful to be there, there are very few immigrants from Arabic speaking countries living in Uruguay – one estimate put the number at 300 –  and the country has no mosques.  The cultural transition may be difficult for the men, but the people of Uruguay on the balance seem to welcome their presence.

Now we don’t know the terms of the deal.  It is not known if the Uruguayans received anything in return for accepting the detainees or whether they would agree to resettle some of the other prisoners still left at Guantanamo Bay in the future. But if I were on the negotiating team for Uruguay, I would ask for two things, no three in exchange for cooperation.  1) Clean buses.  Buses spewing dirty diesel are everywhere.  The boulevards of the downtown area are caked in soot and the air is anything but bueno despite the fact that Buenos Aires is a short distance from Montevideo.  2) Better Internet for the people.  Did you know that Uruguayans have free Internet?  Sounds good, right? But there’s a catch.  It’s just 2GB of data a month.  That’s like a few google searches, browsing a couple of websites, 2 YouTube videos, 1 minute on Facebook, 10 photos uploaded and 5 minutes of a Netflix movie.  I know, I’ve been there.  3) Most Favored Wine Nation status.  Did you know that Uruguay produces some of the most interesting wines in the world grown from the tannant grape, indigenous to the country? The stuff is absolutely sublimely delicious and not easily found in the States.  Do try a bottle if you have the chance.

DSC_0369One last connection.  I didn’t know this until recently, but one of America’s greatest composers, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, who I would venture that most Americans have never heard of, grew up in New Orleans, moved to Paris, came back to the U.S., traveled extensively abroad, relocated to South America under very strange circumstances, and died in Rio. His Symphony #2 is dedicated to the great city of Montevideo.

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