Uruguayan, Oriental, what nationality?


The Uruguayans were called ‘Oriental’ long before you even think about starting to country, when its territory belonged to the Eastern Province of Argentina; oriental ‘because it is east of the River Uruguay. After independence in 1828, after the first constitution in 1830, the new nation was called State of Uruguay and, later, Eastern Republic of Uruguay, whose only adjective was ‘oriental’. Nobody had ever used the word Uruguay, it appears, probably for the first time in 1858 in a publication called The Oriental Lira, reports historian Guillermo Franco Vázquez, but was not successful, the inhabitants of the new country was still called eastern and the new name was relegated to oblivion for a long time.

It was only after 1880 that promoted the use of the adjective ‘Uruguay’, during the dictatorship of General Maximo Santos, when he built the main myths aimed at forging national identity in a country still felt largely a province of Argentina.

With the strength of the state apparatus, the new name went forward, but on par with ‘oriental’, which always were still considered more authentic, more profound appeal to the roots of historical tradition.

During the military dictatorship that the country experienced between 1973 and 1985, the ruling elite in its propaganda abused the word ‘oriental’, perhaps considered more patriotic, more linked to the ‘heroes’ officers. In 1975, a sesquicentennial reannexation Argentina to local historiography called ‘independence’, the dictatorship proclaimed the “Year of the Oriental”, during which he extolled the alleged exploits of “oriental soldiers.”

It was only after democratization in 1985, the Uruguayan-marked adjective for some decades to deaf palatal fricative (uruguasho) – finally prevailed. Probably many felt that the term ‘Oriental’ had been contaminated by the misuse by government de facto and perhaps without speakers perceive it, its use declined in our own times.

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