The first impression that strikes the visitor from Santiago is that Montevideo is, as it boasts, a secular city, church and state having been officially separated in 1916. In Santiago we saw evidence of its vibrant Roman Catholicism everywhere. Here you’ll see the occasional church building, but it’s more a testimony to the religious heritage than a sign of ongoing religious vitality.
It was this absence of a religious ambience that led the Globalscope leaders to plant a campus ministry (la Ruta) here. The Uruguayan young people we met are already proving the team right. These university students, most of whom have no religious background, still are curious about the same deep issues that impel people everywhere to seek answers that seem to be missing in their lives. We met with two different groups of curious students. They didn’t lob me any softballs; they asked penetrating, serious questions and wanted equally serious answers. I was impressed.
Uruguay, a small country, is overshadowed by Argentina and Brazil to the north. Because of this disparity in size and influence, several students asked us, “What are you doing here?” The truth is we wouldn’t have thought to visit Uruguay on our own. Globalscope brought us here–and has made us very glad we came. David Ossa heads this remarkable team.
We met David and his charming (a word I don’t use often but it really applies here) wife Claudia in East Tennessee. We knew then that these two had a remarkable ministry ahead of them. Thanks to David’s leadership and Clau’s partnership and the solid team they’ve assembled, this year-old-ministry is already vibrant.
Joy and I had a great time meeting with the team leaders and students with whom we lunched and played a raucous game of Trivia. That was followed by a more serious discussion (Q & A–“You can ask these visitor anything you’d like,” David told them. And they did.)
Montevideo is Uruguay’s capital and largest city. With a population of 1.4 million, about a third of the country’s total citizenry, it sits on the banks of the Rio de la Plata at the southernmost point of Uruguay, with Brazil to the north and Argentina to the south.
Montevideo is an old city. Established as a military fort in 1724, it remained a fortified area until the end of the 18th century. This area, now known as Ciudad Vieja (“Old City”) is where we made our home during our visit to Montevideo.
The city had been variously ruled by Spain, Portugal, and even briefly by the British (in 1807) before finally attaining and retaining its independence in the 20th century. What we have not found hard to believe is that Montevideo consistently earns kudos for having the highest quality of life in Latin America. That’s been true for ten years running, we were told. It’s a beautiful and good—though not inexpensive—place to live.
Though our time in Montevideo was brief, we did get to see quite a bit of the city, thanks to guides Carmie Cuda and Rachel Rubin. Independence Square, not far from our apartment, is situated on the border between Cuidad Vieja (Old City) and Cuidad Nueva (New City)–aren’t you impressed with my mastery of Spanish? There we saw the Old City gate, the iconic Palacio Salvo, and the equestrian statue honoring 19th century revolutionary leader General Jose Gervasio Artigas.
In addition, David and Claudia took Joy and me (ably directed by Emma) on a day trip to Colonia del Sacramento, famed for its Barrio Historico (“historic neighborhood”–further evidence of my growing linguistic prowess). The cobbled streets and weathered buildings date back to the Portuguese era (they founded it in 1680) and its lighthouse to the 19th century .
Buenes Aires Argentina lies just across the Rio de la Platte to the south. We couldn’t see the city from Colonia but did watch a ferry making its way between the two destinations.
Montevideo has joined the expanding list–I know this won’t surprise you–of places and people we want to visit again.
JOY’S PICKS OF THE PICS