On Saturday afternoon, October 15th, the people in Uruguay’s department of Maldonado gathered to celebrate Uruguay’s bicentennial on the Punta del Este Peninsula. The celebration included a narration of the events that led to Uruguay’s national identity and independence that was broadcast over speakers along Gorlero Street, as well as a parade, and a folk dancing exhibition.
The parade commemorated the Oriental Exodus, an historic event when 16,000 people living in present day Uruguay left Montevideo to avoid an overwhelming conflict with Spanish military forces. The parade included Uruguayans of all ages wearing period costumes, with some on horseback and in horse drawn wagons.
|Children in their costumes before the start of the parade|
The event was well attended with an enthusiastic crowd of onlookers who lined both sides of Gorlero Street.
|Dancing on the parade route|
|Regional folk dancing exhibition|
It was General José Artigas who first articulated a vision of an independent Uruguay as part of a united federation of states for the region, modeled after the United States of America. On October 10th, 1811 Artigas was nominated by the people as the Chief of the Orientals. (Orientals were the people who lived in the Province East of the Uruguay River - what is now Uruguay.)
The Oriental Exodus occurred when Spanish troops from Buenos Aires came to put down the rebellion. Artigas and his 3,000 soldiers, who were greatly outnumbered, made a decision to retreat - accompanied by a proclamation to stay armed and to come back and fight when they could. They left Montevideo and followed the Uruguay River north, and then crossed it to take refuge in an area of Argentina, which is present day Concordia. In addition to his solders, Artigas led a group of 13,000 civilians with him to safety.
After years of battles from 1811 to 1828, with both Spanish controlled Buenos Aires and Portuguese controlled Brazil, the vision of an independent State of Uruguay finally became a reality.