Soccer, Gauchos and a Sea Rebel
July 16, 2014 • 811 views
When my cruise ship, the Crown Princess, landed in Montevideo, Uruguay I was excited not just because it was my 66th country, but because my grandfather Carlo Cravea had been born in Uruguay. He had been born in the city of Salto and grew up in Montevideo. My ship would be staying overnight at the port of Montevideo, so I would get two full days exploring Uruguay.
One of the things that Uruguay is famous for is its soccer. Known throughout the world as football (my friend Ricky says it should be called Feetball), soccer is by far the number one sport in Uruguay. The National Team: Los Charruas won the FIFA World Cup in 1930 and in 1950 (in 1950, they beat Brazil in Brazil to win the title). Two of its club teams, Penarol (founded in 1891) and Nacional (founded in 1899) are well known throughout the world of soccer. I once even saw Nacional play a game at the L.A. Coliseum years ago. The famous (or should I say infamous) Luis Suarez was born in Salto, the same city as my grandfather, but my grandfather never bit anyone.
My 2nd day in Uruguay consisted of a city drive of Montevideo (1.3 million people), the capital of Uruguay and a trip to a working Uruguayan ranch for Asado (a meat bar-b-q). Highlights of the Montevideo part included a visit to the beautiful Plaza Independencia and a view of the anchor of the German pocket battleship the Graf Spee at the port. The Graf Spee was scuttled off the coast of Uruguay on Dec. 17, 1939 during World War II. The best part of the day for me was the visit to Estancia La Rabida, a 176,000 square acre ranch where we met some of Uruguay’s gauchos (cowboys) and feasted on a wonderful meal at the ranch. All aspects of life on the ranch were explained to us. The people at Estancia La Rabida were friendly and gracious hosts
My 1st day in Uruguay, I had seen very little of Montevideo at all. I had chosen to head East and visit the resort city of Punta del Este. It’s about a two-hour drive each way. When I was teaching I had my students draw a map of Uruguay that included Punta del Este but I really didn’t know what was there. Punta del Este has a year-round population of about 9,280 but tourists flock there during the summer for the beaches and the weather. Many of the rich and famous go to Punta del Este. President Lyndon Johnson once met Che Guevara there (at least I was told). I didn’t get to meet anyone famous there but my wonderful guide Soledad (whose father graduated from Cal Berkley) took us to see the famous La Mano sculpture (1981) by artist Mario Irarrazabal and the Ralli Museum founded by Henry Recanati (1919-2011) which includes a huge Salvador Dali collection. Following a pleasant seaside meal at the cocina known as Lo de Tere, we returned to Montevideo.
Our next destination would be the Falklands, the land of penguins.
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