As well as being an important national symbol, the National Anthem of Uruguay is a good piece of music. This was confirmed in 2008 when Alex Marshall, a journalist writing for the UK Guardian, listened to the national anthems of all 205 countries that would be competing in the Beijing Olympics. He then selected the 10 national anthems with the best musical compositions and ranked them. Number one on his list was the National Anthem of Uruguay.
The lyrics to Uruguay’s National Anthem were written by Francisco Esteban Acuña de Figueroa, a Uruguayan poet. Acuña de Figueroa submitted his draft to the new Uruguayan government in 1830. It was declared by decree as the national anthem of Uruguay on July 8, 1833.
The anthem’s lyrics included bitter attacks against Uruguay’s former oppressors, Spain, Portugal, and Brazil. However, it soon became apparent that a national anthem that disparaged specific countries by name was not helpful to Uruguay’s international relations. Acuña de Figueroa revised his work in 1845 taking out the pointed references to Spain, Portugal, and Brazil, and adding the more generic “Tyrants beware!".
Acuña de Figueroa’s work had 11 versus and a chorus. In 1938 a government decree determined that just two versus of the Anthem would be sung. Today, one verse and the chorus are sung.
The lyrics were first set to the music of a composer named de Barros. However, a later composition credited to Francisco José Debali, which was first performed in 1845, was selected and decreed as the official anthem of Uruguay in 1848. Debali was born in Hungary and served as a band master in Italy before he immigrated to Uruguay in 1838.
His epic piece is 105 bars long. The music with the introduction, just one verse, and the chorus takes over four-and-a-half minutes to play, making it the longest national anthem in the world.
The National Anthem of Uruguay is played on national holidays, at national events, and at most official ceremonies. It is a deeply rooted national symbol of freedom and self governance for the people of the República Oriental del Uruguay.
The Uruguay National Anthem with a slide show of scenes from Uruguay
The popular Uruguayan band No Te Va Gustar performs their own version of Uruguay's National Anthem
Link to Alex Marshall's article about national anthems in the UK Guardian
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