Seriously, where are they all? Uruguay takes a little getting used to. There is only one speed here and it doesn’t involve the use of any muscle. The streets are invariably empty. I am told that people tend to stay at home unless they have something to do, and seeing as there is not a great amount to do, they tend to stay at home quite a lot. There are a few exceptions though:
– Uruguayans love their football. Prices for a football game range from 30 to 200 pesos (which converts to between 1 and 6 pounds), with those cheaper tickets normally going to the social club members. To put this in perspective, yesterday I bought a block of cheese for 60 pesos and some milk for 25 pesos. It’s definately a game for the people. The stadium capacities are not huge here, with the exception of Estadio Centenario, most stadiums can hold up to 15,000 or so people. But they are always almost full. For any big games in Montevideo (where the majority of the top teams play) the game is relocated to Estadio Centenario, capable of holding over 75,000 spectators.
– Cuerda! Every Sunday is an explosion as cuerda lines the streets. Led by a series of drummers, playing the candombe, an african rhythm, dozens of people will march, sometimes dance, through the streets for hours on end (the whole procession can lost for 3 to 4 hours). Only ever stopping to build a fire so they can warm their drum skins and re-tune. The most expressive cuerdas can be found in Isla de Flores in Montevideo where the energy of the drummers and dancers really spark off each other. A beautiful unison of its african roots and Uruguayan present. [Although cuerdas have been going for years in Montevideo and some of the other port cities, it’s only in the last few years that they have started to occur in the inner country, where people are slightly confused by the 3 hour break to their usual tranquility each week.]
– Matte. One thing that always seems to get Uruguayans out of their house is matte. Every day, around early evening, everyone fills their matte with yerba and thermos with hot water, and sets out to find a nice spot to spend the twilight hours. Head down to any park or beach at this time and you will find the population, drinking and chatting. It’s the Uruguayan version of going for a coffee.
– Shopping. During the period I stayed in Montevideo there was always one place that was guaranteed to be full. The shopping center. It seems that wherever you go in the world the allure of the golden arches, over-sized fountains and never-ending shoes shops cannot be resisted. They even have coffee shops in these places!
So, in reflection, the people of Uruguay are out there. You just need to know where to find them.