Uruguay is well known for being the most liberal country in Latin America.
It’s had a strict separation of state and church since the early 1900s, it’s a global leader of gay rights, has very lax marijuana laws, it was the 2nd country in Latin America (after Cuba) to legalise abortions in 2012 and the first in the continent to establish a welfare state in 1903.
It’s also a completely underrated tourist destination, which every traveller to Latin America needs to check out. Here are our five interesting facts about this super gay friendly country:
01. Global Leader of Gay Rights
Uruguay is an extremely gay friendly country, not just across Latin America, but the rest of the world too. Gay rights in Uruguay have long been secured and respected: Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1934, anti-discrimination laws have been firmly in place since 2003, alongside adoption laws from 2009 and same-sex marriage was implemented in early 2013.
There’s even a number of government supported events, such as the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Uruguay‘s annual National Conference, which focuses on gay travel.
The capital city, Montevideo, is frequently rated as one of the most gay friendly cities in the world, particularly by the likes of Lonely Planet and Skyscanner. You can find our more about the gay bars and clubs of the capital city in our gay guide to Montevideo.
02. Queer Tango
When you think of the tango, Argentina is most likely the first country that comes to mind. This sultry dance was in fact invented by the urban lower classes in both Buenos Aires and Montevideo in the Rio de la Plata basin, which forms the natural border between the two countries. As such, both countries lay rightful claim to the tango.
It was also initially a dance between two men – Since the beginning of tango in the 1880s, male-only tango dancers used to practice among themselves for up to three years prior to their debut with a woman. We met the very handsome local guy Rodrigo, who gave us some queer tango classes and also told us more about what it’s like growing up gay in Uruguay.
03. Pot heaven!
In Europe the coffee shops of Amsterdam are infamous and the cannabis laws of the Netherlands are well known for being one of the most relaxed. Uruguay has the same reputation among its Latino neighbours.
In December 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalise cannabis for recreational use. People can now grow their own marijuana at home, buy up to 6 plants and harvest up to 480 grams a year. Or, Uruguayans can buy up to 40 grams of marijuana per month at pharmacies, in batches not to exceed 10 grams.
But remember, you have to be Uruguayan, or a resident to buy cannabis here. Or you can just share a joint with one of the many friendly locals.
04. The State v Religion
One of the reasons Uruguay is so gay friendly and liberal minded is because since 1916 there has been a strict separation between state and religion written into the constitution. It’s so prominent that religious instruction is banned in public schools and all religious holidays have since been secularised. For example, Easter is referred to as La Semana de Turismo (Tourism Week), while Christmas Day is called Día de la Familia (Day of the Family).
Uruguay is regarded as the most secularised nation in Latin America, with only 42% of the population identifying as Catholic and 37% as religiously unaffiliated. Yet at the same time it’s regarded as the least corrupt, most democratic country in Latin America.
05. Uruguayan Wine: the Tannat grape
Uruguayan wine. Bet you didn’t even know it even existed? We sure didn’t! There’s a massive wine industry in the country with over 20,000 acres devoted to it.
Uruguay is one of the top five wine producers in South America (along with Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Peru). WhileArgentina has the Malbec, Uruguay’s most famous grape is the Tannat.
The Canelones region around Montevideo has the most concentrated wine production and you can visit wineries there like Bodega Bouza as part of a day trip from the capital city.