Montevideo (mŏntāvēħāˈō) [key], city (1996 pop. 1,330,405), S Uruguay, capital and largest city of Uruguay, on the Río de La Plata. It is one of the major ports of South America and the governmental, financial, and commercial center of Uruguay. Much of the S Atlantic fishing fleet is based in Montevideo, and Uruguay's exports—frozen and canned meats and fish, wool, and grains—pass through the port. The city has industries producing textiles, dairy items, wines, and packaged meats; there are oil refineries and railway factories. Tourism is also important. Montevideo's origins lay in the colonial rivalry of the Spanish and Portuguese. The Portuguese constructed (1717) a fort on top of the hill that overlooks the harbor. Captured by the Spanish in 1724, the fort became the nucleus of the settlement founded in 1724 by the governor of Buenos Aires. Montevideo became the capital of Uruguay in 1828. It suffered during Uruguay's 19th-century civil wars and was besieged from 1843 to 1851. Today Montevideo is spacious, modern, and attractive, with broad, tree-lined boulevards, numerous beautiful parks, and fine buildings and residences. Notable among the parks is the Prado, which, with its lovely botanical gardens containing many thousands of plant species, is a popular promenade; among the impressive buildings are the cabildo [city hall], the legislative palace, the government palace, and the cathedral. Montevideo is the seat of Uruguay's two universities. There are fine beaches and luxurious hotels along the Plata estuary east to Punta del Este on the Atlantic Ocean.
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