The Rio de la Plata, which means `River of Silver’ is really more of an estuary than a river. This wide body of water, which fans out at its mouth to a width of 220 kilometres, divides the countries of Argentina and Uruguay in South America and has two major cities, Buenos Aries and Montevideo perched on its shores.
Montevideo is the capital of Uruguay. Although the country is north of Argentina, Montevideo is actually just a little south of Buenos Aries. This modern, bustling metropolis is the largest city in Uruguay.
The favourite place for Uruguayans and visitors to congregate is along The Rambla. This is a 22 kilometre-long road and boulevard which follows the banks of the river, but which has a vibrancy that has to be experienced.
It is the perfect place for a stroll, or a run, and it is lined with cafes and restaurants, but for the Uruguayanos, the traditional thing to do is to walk along The Rambla, sipping a mate whilst they converse. Mate is a popular caffeine-based drink that is made by infusing herbs and leaves of the yerba mate shrub in hot water. It is traditionally served in a gourd, rather than a cup, and is sipped through a metal straw; hence it is a drink that can be easily enjoyed whilst walking.
In the central area of the city is Plaza Independencia which neatly divides the old and new cities. The Plaza is surrounded by interesting historic buildings, and contains a mausoleum and a statue of General Artigas, who is considered to be the Father of Uruguay. You can also see the old town gate there, which does look old on one side, but when viewed from the opposite direction looks quite modern.
One of the most interesting buildings in Montevideo is the Teatro Solis which was a major performance venue from the 1850s right up until the 1930s. Although the interior has been recently modernised in order to cope with modern performances, the building has not been ruined at all, and its integrity remains intact. The main hall is multi-tiered and decorated primarily in maroon and gold. Part of the building was destroyed by fire, but it is now fully functional again.
One of the monuments in Montevideo that is uncommon elsewhere in South America where `machismo’ is a way of life, is a monument to sexual diversity which celebrates the freedom of citizens to live their lives their own way, and acknowledges that humans have very different ways of expressing their sexuality.