1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Montevideo, San Felipe y Santiago de
MONTEVIDEO, SAN FELIPE Y SANTIAGO DE, capital and chief port of Uruguay, and capital of the department of Montevideo, on the northern shore of the Rio de la Plata estuary, 120 m. E.S.E. of Buenos Ayres, in lat. 34° 54′ 33″ S., long. 56° 12′ 18″ W. Pop. (1908, estimate), 312,946. The old city (ciudad viaja) occupies a low rocky headland that projects westward between the estuary and an almost circular bay which forms the harbour; it was once enclosed with walls and defended by small forts, all of which have been removed. The new city (ciudad nueva and ciudad novísima) extends eastward over a beautiful tract of rolling country and is extending northward around the eastern shore of the bay. The site of the old city resembles a whale's back in shape; it slopes gently to its western extremity at Punta Sarandi and to the water's edge on either side. The general plan is that of rectangular squares, except at the western extremity of the old city and its union with the newer or extra-mural city, on the line of the old ramparts, known as Calle de la Ciudadela. The streets are well paved and have sufficient slope at all points to give easy surface drainage; Montevideo has the reputation of being one of the cleanest cities of the world. The rainfall is ample (about 44 in. a year), and the prevailing winds help to clean the streets. The westerly winds, however, sometimes bring across the bay the offensive smells of the great abattoirs and meat-curing establishments (saladeros) at the foot of the Cerro. The mean annual temperature is about 62° F. An abundant water supply is brought from the Santa Lucia River, 32 m. distant, with a receiving reservoir at Piedras, 100 ft. above the level of the Plaza de la Independencia. The ciudad vieja is largely devoted to commercial, shipping and financial interests. The government edifices, large retail shops and most of the fine urban residences are in the ciudad nueva, while most of the urban industries, the railway stations and the dwellings of the poorer classes are in the ciudad novísima. Beyond these is a fringe of suburbs (La Union and Paso Molino), and on the western side of the bay is the straggling suburb of Cerro, largely industrial in character. In 1908 eight tramway lines (all electric but one) extended out to these suburbs, some of the lines extending to the bathing resorts of Ramirez and Pocitos and the Buceo cemeteries on the eastern coast.
The principal street, which is considered one of the finest boulevards in South America, is the Calle 18 de Julio, extending eastward from the Plaza de la Independencia to the suburb of Cordon; one of its features is its Sunday morning market, occupying the whole street from the Plaza de la Independencia to the Plaza Libertad, a distance of half a mile—a survival of the old market that existed here at the fortified entrance to the walled town in the earlier years of its history. There are seven plazas, or squares, within the urban limits: Zabala or Rincon, Constitución or Matriz, Independencia, Libertad or Cagancha, Treinte y Tres, Flores and Frutos; and two suburban parks or public gardens: the Paseo del Prado and Parque Urbano. The Plaza de la Independencia stands at the junction of the old and new towns and is the centre of the city's political and social life. This square is distinguished for a uniform and nearly completed line of colonnades in front of the buildings surrounding it. The Paseo del Prado, which ranks high among the public gardens of South America, is beautifully situated beyond the suburb of Paso Molino, 3 m. from the city. The Paseo was originally the quinta of a German of cultivated tastes named Joseph Buschenthal, who spent a fortune in its adornment. The Parque Urbano, at the Playa Ramirez bathing resort, is a modern creation. The buildings of Montevideo are chiefly of brick and broken stone, covered outside with plaster and stucco, of one to three storeys, with flat roofs, usually surmounted by a square tower, or mirador. The roofs, or azoteas, are largely used for domestic purposes, or roof gardens. The city contains a large number of handsome edifices, both public and private, among which are the Bolsa, Government House, municipal hall, cathedral, Cabildo, Hospital de Caridad, insane asylum, Italian hospital, Teatro Solis, Athenaeum, and the Club Uruguayo. The Bolsa (exchange), custom-house, cathedral, and Cabildo are in the old town; the Bolsa is a copy of the Bordeaux exchange. The cathedral faces on the Plaza de la Constitución. Its two square towers rise 133 ft. above the pavement, and these, with the large dome behind, rise far above the surrounding buildings and make a very conspicuous landmark. The church was consecrated in 1804, and in 1869 was raised to the dignity of a cathedral. Montevideo is now the seat of a small archiepiscopal see with only two suffragan dioceses. Directly across the plaza is the old Cabildo, a plain, heavy-looking two-storeyed edifice of the colonial period, the seat of municipal administration during Spanish rule, but now occupied by the two chambers of the Uruguayan Congress and by the higher police authorities of the city.
The people of Montevideo maintain more than forty charitable associations, including the Caridad (charity) hospital on Calle 25 de Mayo, and the insane asylum in the suburb of La Union, both built and largely supported from the proceeds of frequent lottery drawings. They also maintain a beggars' asylum and a foundlings' asylum. The national museum (founded in 1830) and public library (founded 1833) are in one wing of the Solis theatre. There are a British hospital (founded 1857, the present edifice dating from 1867) chiefly for the use of sailors, an Anglican church in Calle Santa Teresa dating from 1847, and a handsome Italian hospital of modern construction. The university, in Calle Uruguay, has faculties of law, medicine, letters, mathematics, engineering, and some minor groups of studies, including agriculture and veterinary science. The government maintains two normal schools, a school of arts and trades (artes y oficios), and a military school.
The harbour of Montevideo consists of a shallow bay, circular in shape and about 2½ m. from shore to shore, and an outer roadstead exposed to the violent winds of this latitude, where the larger ocean-going steamers were compelled to anchor before the construction of the new port works. In 1899 the Uruguayan government entered into a contract for the dredging of the bay, the construction of two long breakwaters, the dredging of a channel to deep water, and the construction of a great basin and docks in front of the city. Surtaxes were imposed on imports and exports to meet the expenditure, and work was begun in 1901. In 1908 the breakwaters and the greater part of the dredging had been completed, and the entrance channel, with a minimum depth of 24½ ft., permitted the admission of large steamers. Another important improvement, for which a concession was given to an English syndicate and work was begun in 1909, is the construction of an embankment and new shore line on the south side of the city, to be finished in five years at a cost of $7,211,116. There are three large dry docks connected with the port, known as the Mauá. (275 ft. long, inside) and the Gounouilhou (300 ft.) on the east side of the bay, and Jackson & Cibils (450 ft.) on the west side at the foot of the Cerro. Four railways terminate at Montevideo, one of them (the Central Uruguay) extending to the Brazilian frontier. In 1908 20 lines of ocean-going steamers made regular calls at the port and several lines of river steamers ran to Buenos Aires and the ports of the Paraná, Paraguay and Uruguay rivers. The exports consist chiefly of livestock, jerked beef, hides, wool, and other animal products, wheat, flour, corn, linseed, barley, hay, tobacco, sealskins, fruit, vegetables, and some minor products. Manufactures exist only to a limited extent and chiefly for domestic consumption.
The suburbs of Montevideo include the fashionable bathing resorts of Playa Ramirez and Pocitos on the coast east of the city, the inland suburbs of Paso Molino and La Union, and the industrial town of Cerro, across the bay. The Flores Island quarantine station is 12 m. east of the city. The station was formerly on Rat Island (within the bay), which is now used as a public deposit for inflammables. The chief point of interest in this suburb is the conical hill known as the Cerro, or “mount,” from which the city takes its name, on which stands an old Spanish fort, sometimes garrisoned and sometimes used for the incarceration of political prisoners. Its elevation is 486 ft. (Reclus), and a lighthouse rises from within the fort carrying a revolving light that can be seen 25 m. at sea.
Montevideo was founded in 1726 through the efforts of Don Mauricio Zabala, governor of Buenos Aires, who wished to check the advance of the Portuguese on this side of the La Plata. A small military post had existed there since 1717, but efforts to create a town had been fruitless until Zabala offered to make hidalgos of the first settlers and to give them cattle and sheep. The first families to accept this offer came from the Canary Islands in 1726 under the direction of Don Francisco Alzeibar; they were followed by others from Andalusia and some of the Spanish-American settlements. Its growth at first was slow, but on the abolition of the Cadiz monopoly in 1778 it became a free port and its trade increased so rapidly that it soon became one of the chief commercial centres of South America. The city was captured in 1807 by a British expedition under Sir Samuel Auchmuty, but was abandoned when the expedition against Buenos Aires under General Whitelocke was defeated. In 1808 the governor of Montevideo established an independent junta, but after the Buenos Aires declaration of independence in 1810 the Spanish forces were concentrated in Montevideo and held it until expelled in 1814 by the Argentine land and sea forces under General Alvear and Admiral Brown. The dissensions following the expulsion of the Spanish and the rivalries of Argentina and Brazil over the possession of Uruguay, then commonly termed the “Banda Oriental,” greatly reduced the population of the city and partially destroyed its trade. It was made the capital of the republic in 1828 and had partially recovered its population and trade when the disastrous struggle with Rosas, dictator of Buenos Aires, broke out and the city was subjected to a nine years' siege (1843–52), the investment being conducted by General Oribe, and the defence by General Paz. In 1864–1865 Brazil intervened in the affairs of the republic, blockaded the port, and reinstated ex-president Flores. The war with Paraguay that followed, which lasted until 1870, made Montevideo the base of supplies for the Brazilian army and navy and added largely to its trade and wealth. The valuation of the city and suburbs, which was $14,156,000 in 1860, was $74,000,000 in 1872. In addition to the reckless speculation of this period, there were continued political dissensions, repeated dictatorships and financial mismanagement on the part of the government. Not the least of these burdens were the personal and irregular drafts of some of the executives upon the treasury and revenue officers, particularly the custom-house of this port, upon which the republic depended for the major part of its revenue. The commercial and financial collapse that followed lasted through the greater part of the last three decades of the century; but settled government and improved finances subsequently contributed to a slow but steady recovery in the trade and industrial activities of the city.