Learning Uruguay

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Much ado about nothing

Posted by urufish on January 3, 2008


For the first time in my life, someone gave me a planner.   Maybe it’s a hint 🙂   I’ve never used one before but I understand the principle behind them.  Nowadays, many schools sell these types of books to students (fundraising) and lots of my friends have used them for years.  My daughter was addicted to hers while in highschool in Toronto.  So today I opened mine up and after making a couple of entries for tomorrow, I decided to thumb through the beginning of the book.  There’s a ton of information there about Uruguay.  I decided to share some of it here.  If you’re into trivia, you may find this interesting. 

There’s a cryptic entry on the very first page…  ‘Remember Luxux Hard’   I wonder if that has a hidden meaning? 

The first few pages have entries for all sorts of good things… specifically Uruguayan I believe.. like both numbers for your hospital insurer and your emergency response insurer and places for your account number.  They’ve got a whole section for professionales.  Your lawyer, doctor, accountant, architect, dentist, escribano and very Pocitish… your veterinarian and chiropractor. 

For home maintenance, (a large % of Uruguayans own their own homes/apartments), at the top of the list is of course the albanil (the guy who works with blocks, plaster, cement, etc.. you get the idea), followed by carpenter, lock guy, electrician, iron guy (lots of iron bars here), gardener, painter, plumber and of of course, the TV technician. 

Under recreational, they of course have your local barkeep’s number, gym club, auto mechanic, hairdresser, both your preferred taxi AND limo driver and for those of us who remember what it ‘was’ like to have teeth, our acompanante. 

There’s a half page devoted to calendars with all the holidays for Uruguay, Venezuela, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile.  The Uruguayan exodus of the 60’s although worldwide in scope, had a lot of people stay on the continent.  In addition, there are the US holidays and believe it or not, Israeli holidays. 

 I found the population figures very interesting.  I knew the country was around 3mil (about half of the metro city area I come from) and I knew Montevideo was about 40% of that (at 1.3mil).  I didn’t know the number of homes–1.3mil countrywide.  456K in Montevideo.  The book’s census figures drilled into that even deeper. 

I found out that where I live, (Pocitos), is the biggest neighbourhood in Montevideo with 70K people and 30K homes.  Carrasco, the upscale, closest to American suburbia neighbourhood in Montevideo ranks as smallest with 16K people and 4.6k homes.  

Some other interesting numbers.   Some expats live in Colonia Valdense.  No wonder you dont lock your doors.  You’ve got 3000 neighbours living in 1000 homes.  If there was a bad egg, I guess everyone would know who he was 🙂    The number 2 province/state in Uruguay is Canelones.  It’s got nearly a half million people.  Many of them commute to Montevideo to work.  We have a house there but I cant find our town of Salinas on the census.  I guess we’re too small. 

Punta del Este checks in with 7300 full timers in 2943 homes, just a hair behind Piriapolis at 7900 and 2800 homes.  We have more people but they have more money 🙂   The town of Maldonado makes a strong showing with 54K people and 18K houses.  Someone has to cut the grass and service all those vacant houses during the off season plus be ready to cater to the hordes of tourists in the summer.  Sorry to my other friends.  You’re in my Salinas boat.  Punta del Diablo didn’t score but La Paloma did sneak in there with 3200 people living in 1100 homes.  My wife’s birthplace (Castillos) came in with 7600 people and almost 3000 houses… I guess those folks like their space. 

 Under banks, the international community is well represented.  Foreign banks total 12.  Big names like ABN Amro, BBVA, Itau, Citibank, Discount, HSBC, Lloyds and Leumi are all here servicing both Uruguayans and itinerant Argentinos. 

The section on government offices is of course, very large.  Uruguayans love working for the government.  Most of the world’s countries are represented in Montvideo with official diplomatic missions.  Some of the more obscure are Albania, Angola, Libya, etc.  Heck, even Malta has a mission here.. Go Mary go.  They also list all the Urugayan embassies abroad.  My favourite is of course, Canada’s.  But they dont show the consulates so I dont get to see my most favourite, Toronto’s. 

There’s an outstanding graph that follows the peso vs. the USD.  We’ll know when the USD has really tanked when they change this graph to the peso vs. the Euro. But for now, it’s still the USD.  I like the graph a lot because it start in 1977… just a few years before I started coming here.  So it’s my history I’m seeing.  One day I’ll study it to see how much I really remember and how much I made up.   🙂

 There’s anothe graph on what they call the Unidad Readjustable.  I think its supposed to represent an inflation index.  But the way governments manipulate this data, not sure how accurate it will be.  For instance, the adjusted rate of inflation for 06/07 was 8.25–which strangley enough, does sound right.  One day, I’ll get this out with one of my accountants here and he’ll explain it to me. 

The graph tracking the national interest rate in pesos is scary.  It’s been pretty good for the past 3 years but before that, during the crisis of early 2000’s, comercial paper ran from 40% to 120% at the peak. 

Foreign income is mostly associated with animal and plant exports with cattle leading the way.   If anything were to happen to the beef industry, like a boycot due to something like Mad Cow syndrome, the shock to the country would be unimagineable.  Uruguay, like many countries in the world, has been running a balance of trade deficit for many years. 

Unlike the USA and very much like Canada, Uruguay looks outward – on a global scale.  You can see it in the agenda as well as on the street.  Holidays, distances, populations, economic data from all over the world is represented in a personal agenda. 

Posted in Daily life, Information | 5 Comments »

El Gallito

Posted by urufish on May 21, 2007


Yesterday was Sunday.  Sunday is a special day in Uruguay for many reasons.  Pocitos is quiet in the morning.  If you go outside around 8:30am and stand still, you’ll hear the sounds of cortinas opening.  You wont hear much else.  Even the dogs seem to be asleep until at least 9am.  For us, the big thing about Sunday is that’s the day we go out and buy the Sunday El Pais, because it contains the Gallito.  The Gallito (thanks Brazzie) is the collective name given to all the classified sections.. El Oferton, Inmuebles, Automotores/Diversos y Trabajo.  It’s the only paper this family buys.  We know it’s popular because friends ask us for it for the rest of the week.  It isn’t uncommon to be lending sections to different people on Monday/Tuesday. 

It occurred to me today that this was a major part of living here.  We’ve never given it much thought.  It’s totally ubiquitous.  But the reason it came to mind today was a real estate issue.  Our daughter wants to move to an apartment.  Where would a local look for an apartment?  The Gallito (Inmuebles), of course.  Either that or you put on some nice clothes and take a pad and pencil with you and walk the streets, (done that before). 

Personally, I’ve been reading the Gallito since my first Sunday in Uruguay-20 or so years ago.  Cant quite explain what it does for me but it seems like it’s the main way to get to know a lot about the country in a very small space.  Even when my Spanish was worse than it is now, I would read the entire paper – at least all the headlines – and most of the picture subtitles.  I probably had the wrong idea of what the article was about most of the time, but I really enjoyed it.  I like to see all the cars for sale, the job postings, the classifieds that show what everyone wants to sell and buy and for how much.  In the past 2 years, I’ve read the real estate section back and forth, skipping some specific sections… like the entire section on Carrasco.  You make some interesting observations.  Pocitos has the most apartments for sale and for rent.  Carrasco, the most houses.  In the car section, Mercedes have the most space.  A lot of stores claim they can unblock any phone on the planet.  You can buy a lot of guns here (I’m a Canadian so to me, this is unbelievable). 

El Pais’s Gallito, like most papers in the 21st century, sees its future as a digital source of information.  Go to www.gallito.com.uy and you can see pretty much everything there is to see, on line. 

Of particular interest to people interested in Uruguay is the section on real estate–inmuebles.  The Gallito has finally figured out there’s money in posting for sales and for rents WITH COLOUR PICTURES.  They are pushing hard to get most ads in the real estate section with several photos of the property.  If they’re successful in this respect, you will literally have MLS on line.  It’s a small country and most serious sellers put their property in this paper, on this day.  Once they all get the idea to go digital, someone surfing from San Francisco will be able to see as much as a local.  Rather than jumping all over the net trying to find visuals on properties for sale, they’ll be in one place.  The other advantage to the Gallito is that (at least up til now), there are no trolls.  They’re all legitimate.  Check it out.  IMHO, it’s the best source of info there is on Uruguay.  

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