The land is an area of topographical transition from the humid Argentine Pampa to the uplands of S Brazil. North of the alluvial plain, known as the Banda Oriental [Span., = east bank, i.e., of the Uruguay and the Río de la Plata], Uruguay generally has long, sweeping slopes and grasslands, wooded valleys with slow-moving rivers, and long ranges of low hills, with some huge granite blocks that stand out against the horizon. Although Uruguay is within the temperate zone, climatic variations are moderate; generally the climate is warm, with rainfall evenly distributed through the seasons, but in some years there are severe droughts.
Most of the population is concentrated in the south; over 40% live in Montevideo. Almost 90% of Uruguay's people are of European descent, Spanish and Italian predominating; there are few pure indigenous Uruguayans. The original inhabitants, the Charrúa, were absorbed into the Spanish and Portuguese populations after long resistance; today the mestizo element (less than 10% of the total population) is found principally in N Uruguay. Spanish is the official language, but a dialect containing elements of Spanish and Portuguese is spoken along the Brazilian frontier. The majority of the population is nominally Roman Catholic. The nation has long been remarkable for its contributions to literature and the arts (see Spanish American literature). The Univ. of the Republic is in Montevideo.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.