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Montevideo(mŏntāvēthā`ō), 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.
the capital of Uruguay and the administrative center of the department of Montevideo. Located on the left bank of the La Plata estuary on the Atlantic Ocean. The climate is subtropical. The average January temperature is 23°C, and the average July temperature, 10°C. The annual precipitation is about 1,000 mm. Montevideo’s area is 540 sq km. In 1972 its population was 1.5 million (923,000 in 1957).
Founded by the Spaniards on Dec. 24, 1726, Montevideo soon became an important trading center. In 1777 the city was occupied briefly by Portugal, and from February to July 1807, by Great Britain. Captured by Portuguese-Brazilian interventionists in 1816, the city remained part of Brazil until 1828. Since August 1828, Montevideo has been the capital of Uruguay. From 1843 to 1851 it was besieged by troops of the Argentine dictator Rosas. G. Garibaldi, the national hero of Italy, participated in the city’s defense until 1848.
Industry began to develop in Montevideo in the early 20th century, and the city became the center of the Uruguayan labor movement. In 1918 mass demonstrations took place there in support of the October 1917 Revolution in Russia. A movement for the creation of a national front developed in the city in 1936, and in 1938 there were demonstrations by the working people in favor of the democratization of political power. After World War II, Montevideo became an arena for major class conflicts and antiimperialist outbreaks.
Montevideo is Uruguay’s chief port, through which almost all the country’s foreign trade passes. It is the starting point for navigation up the estuary of the La Plata and up the Uruguay and Parana rivers, as well as a hub of railroads and highways. There is an international airport at Carrasco. Montevideo is Uruguay’s commercial, industrial, financial, and cultural center. It produces about three-fourths of the country’s industrial output and is the site of the major enterprises of the slaughtering, meat-packing, meat-canning, vegetable-oil extraction, flour-milling, textile, leather footwear, metallurgical, metalworking, electrical engineering, oil refining, cement, chemical, and paper industries. Montevideo consumes 70 percent of all the country’s output of electric power, which it obtains from the Rincon del Bonete and Rincon del Baygorria hydroelectric power plants. The city is known as a climatic sea resort. Located in Montevideo are branches of American, British, West German, and French monopolies and banks. Bases of the Norwegian, British, and Japanese whaling and fishing fleets, which sail in antarctic waters, are located in the city.
Adjacent to the port is the Old City, which was built according to a regular plan during the 18th century and the early 19th. Among its most outstanding sights are the Plaza de la Constitucion, with a cathedral in the baroque and classical styles (1790–1804) and the old city hall, which is in the classical style (1804–08, architect T. Toribio). Colonial homes with interior courtyards are also found in the old city. West of the port is the Villa del Cerro, the industrial and working-class district, which has a rectangular grid of streets and is bounded on the La Plata side by a hill surmounted by a fortress (1801–09). Along the northeastern shore of the La Plata there is a resort area with fashionable home and hotels.
The central regions of New Montevideo, which surround the old city on the north, northeast, and east, developed during the 19th and 20th centuries and have a freer plan. Among the most important 19th-century buildings are the classical-style Solis Theater (1841–74, architects C. Zucchi and J. V. Rabu) and the eclectic parliament building (Palacio Legislative, 1908–20). The finest examples of 20th-century architecture in the city are the new city hall (1930, architect M. Cravotto), the engineering and geodesic building of the University of the Republic (1938, architect J. Vilamayo), and the multistoried Panamerican Building (1957, architect R. A. Sichero Bouret). Contemporary residential neighborhoods include Casavalle (1960, architect A. R. Stratta). Among the city’s monuments to the colonial settlers are two bronze statues by J. Belloni: The Van (1929–34) and The Covered Wagon (1953).
Uruguay’s largest higher educational institution, the University of the Republic (founded in 1849), is located in Montevideo, as is the Technical University, which controls a number of specialized educational institutions in Montevideo and the provinces. Affiliated with the Technical University are two industrial education institutions in Montevideo, which offer training in electrical engineering and construction. A school of home economics (for women), a graphic arts school, an applied arts school, a shipbuilding school, and a business school are also affiliated with the Technical University. Scholarly and scientific institutions include the National Academy of Literature, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Commission on Atomic Energy, the Institute of History and Geography, and the Astronomical Observatory. There are ten libraries, the largest of which are the National Library (500,000 volumes), the libraries of the various faculties of the University of the Republic, the Municipal Library (20,000 volumes), the National Library of Congress (more than 180,000 volumes), and the Pedagogical Library (more than 115,000 volumes). Among the museums in the city are the National Historical Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Pedagogical Museum, the National Museum of Fine Arts, and the Municipal Museum of Fine Arts. There are also two zoos and a planetarium. The city has many theaters and theater halls, including the Mercedes, Tinglado, Teatro del Centro, Circular, El Galpon, Club de Teatro, Nuevo Stella, Odeon, Solis, and Verdi. Theater troupes include the Comedia Nacional, Grupo 68, Teatro Uno, and Teatro del Sur. The National Conservatory is located in Montevideo.