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Snapshot of Uruguay – Spanish is the official language of Uruguay, though Portuguese and Portuñol are also spoken in the northern area close to Brazil. About 45% of Uruguay’s population belongs to the Roman Catholic church, while another 40% are irreligious; another 10% belong to various Protestant churches. Gaucho culture (somewhat similar to the American cowboy) is quite dominant in Uruguay, as seen in the wide consumption of yerba mate and a regional pride in rural traditions. Tango and candombe are popular folk music styles, with candombe being particularly dominant during Carnival, though Uruguayan rock is also quite popular. Soccer is Uruguay’s most popular sport, though rugby and basketball are also widely enjoyed in the country. Beef is extremely popular in Uruguay and is often barbecued in the Asado style. Other popular dishes include Chivito (steak, cheese, tomato, and lettuce sandwich), Choripán (a fast food sandwich with grilled pork sausage, lettuce, and tomato), and empanadas. Pasta and Uruguayan pizza (similar to an Italian calzone) are also quite popular. A variety of pastries and desserts, including dulce de leche, are also common.
The LDS church has been growing rapidly in Uruguay, especially in the past two decades. The Church was first introduced just in 1944 (for North Americans in the country) and by 1948 there were already fifteen congregations! In 1997 the Uruguay Montevideo West Mission was created, making it the second of two missions in that country. There is one temple, located in the capital city of Montevideo. Nearly everyone in the country is Christian with roots in the Roman Catholic Church, so conversations about the Savior and religion are familiar to the people and easy for missionaries to engage in. To date, the total Church membership is 99,758 with two missions; the country also has nearly 160 congregations as well as over twenty Family History centers.
The church is pretty well known by people outside of Montevideo and about 1/4th the people have had visits from missionaries a couple times. The church is large in numbers but in need of strong families with priesthood and temple focus. There are usually 2 missionaries assigned to each ward. Each ward usually has between 30-120 active members, and 400-1000 on the roster. Churches are almost always within walking distance of members/investigators homes.
Beef is extremely popular in Uruguay and is often barbecued in the Asado style. Other popular dishes include Chivito (steak, cheese, tomato, and lettuce sandwich), Choripán (a fast food sandwich with grilled pork sausage, lettuce, and tomato), and empanadas. Pasta and Uruguayan pizza (similar to an Italian calzone) are also quite popular. A variety of pastries and desserts, including dulce de leche, are also common.
The food varies by region. In the south, pasta dishes are popular, due to the heavy Italian influence (much like people eat in Buenos Aires, Argentina). In the north the food more closely resembles that of Brazil, with a lot of black rice and beans (Feijoada).
The rolling plains of Uruguay are excellent cattle country, so beef plays a major part in many dishes. Chicken is also common. Some rare/exotic foods eaten here are carpincho—the world’s largest rodent, better known by the Brazilian name capybara—and armadillo.
Most Uruguayans travel by bus, motorcycle, or by foot. People do have cars, but they are not overly common. Missionaries travel mostly by walking or taking the bus for longer trips. The bus system is very advanced; the bus depot in Montevideo is as impressive as many airports. Most of the cities have taxis as well.
Cities are small. You could walk all the way across them each P-day. You will take taxis a couple times a week. If you are in Montevideo or Salto, you will take buses often. Walking mission means lots of walking. Your areas will be between 10-40 blocks wide.
Petty robbery is experienced by some missionaries so they tend to carry little in the way of cash/valuables.
“It was a mission rule that your bookbag could only be slung from one shoulder, and that backpacks could not be worn over both shoulders; supposedly, this was to make the robberies safer, as the thief could easily take the bag and be on his way. A bag that was more difficult to remove could lead to a more serious altercation.”
Women almost always greet by kissing each other on the cheeks; men sometimes do.
On the 29th of every month, Ñoquis (Gnochi in Italian) are traditionally eaten.
Mate is a very common drink and drinking it is a very prominent custom in Uruguay. Missionaries however, aren’t allowed to drink it.
Che (kind of like “dude”)
Vos (very familiar form of “you”)
Resilient pants and shirts that won’t tear easily. Reusable water bottles come in handy for hot days.
A good umbrella is a necessity because it rains a lot. A good rain coat.
Dalmiro Costa 4635 Bis
Current mission blog: http://missionuruguaymontevideo.blogspot.com/
For alumni: http://www.montevideouruguaymission.com/
Straight from the Uruguay Montevideo Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
“Peanut butter, ranch dressing, root beer.”
“Most things were available, just at a higher cost.”
*What did you eat the most of?
“Pasta and milanesas (thin breaded steak)”
“Meat and pasta.”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
“I’ve tried most of it before.”
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“I was surprised by how little physical possessions people could have, and how impoverished they could be and still be happy.”
“How devoted they were to their religion/traditions. Mostly Catholic. Many found it hard to change or want to start anew (esp. with baptism). They were also very humble and welcoming… whether they accepted what you taught or not.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Uruguay Montevideo Mission?
“Bring mosquito netting and work hard.”
“Love the people… whether you serve them or serve with them.”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“I wish I had known how deeply the things I did and people I served would touch my heart. Also, that there was enough room in my heart to love so many people”
“More about the country and its history.”
“Take it one day at a time. Don’t sweat the little stuff. Numbers are important, but people matter more. Communicate with your companion (and the Lord) often. Remember what (who) you’re there for. Let the Spirit guide. Use music (hymns) to help bring spirit in and aide in sharing testimony. Enjoy your service.”
**Did you serve in the Uruguay Montevideo Mission? If so, we would love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.**