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the basic population of Uruguay. Uruguayans number more than 3 million (1974, estimate). Their language is Spanish, and the principal religion is Roman Catholicism.
Anthropologically, Uruguayans are distinguished from the other peoples of South America by the sharp predominance of the European type, as they are descended primarily from Spanish colonists who arrived between the 16th and 18th centuries. In subsequent years the settlement of Uruguay proceeded slowly; however, in the mid-19th century a great number of immigrants arrived from Europe, primarily from Spain, Italy, and France. The indigenous population, which included Charruas Indians, was not numerous even before colonization and was largely exterminated by the early 19th century. In the northern part of the country, in the regions bordering on Argentina and Brazil, there are a small number of mestizos, including the descendants of gauchos. Certain departments of the country are inhabited by Negroes and mulattoes, the descendants of slaves who were brought into the country during the 1830’s and runaway slaves from Brazil.