May 18 – Battle of Las Piedras in Uruguay

Posted May 18, 2015

In the early 1800s Spain had lost control of some of its New World colonies – and was in the process of losing even more. On this date in 1811, the Spanish forces lost a big battle.

The army loyal to Spain had been forced to abandon Buenos Aires (in what is now Argentina) the year before, and the soldiers had retrenched in what they called the Banda Oriental (the eastern bank of the River Uruguay). 

The head of the Spanish forces, Jose Posadas, had about 1,230 men.

The revolutionary forces, under Jose Artigas, were outnumbered with only about 1,000 men.

But during the day's battle, about 200 changed sides and helped the revolutionaries win!

Not only did Artigas win, he won decisively. And he won with honor. At the time it was unusual to say what he said: “Clemencia para los vencidos, curad a los heridos, respetad a los prisioneros.” That means “Mercy to the vanquished; cure the injured; respect the prisoners.”

Because the Battle of Las Piedras is considered crucial for the survival of the revolution in Uruguay and Argentina, today is an official holiday in Uruguay.

Here are some cool things about Uruguay:

  • Uruguay is ranked #1 in all of Latin America in democracy, lack of corruption, peace, and quality of living. It is also ranked #1 in South America in press freedom, size of the middle class, and prosperity.
  • Uruguay is also considered one of the most liberal nations in the world, at the top of the entire world (with a few other nations) in marriage equality, personal rights, and issues of tolerance and inclusion.
  • Uruguay is also near the top of the world in e-Government and e-Participation.
  • The Hand” is a sculpture on the beach of five human fingers partially emerging from the sand. It was created by Chilean artist Mario Irarrazabal during an open-air sculpture-off, a meeting of nine sculptors during the summer of 1982. It is variously called “Man Emerging into Life,” “Monument of the Fingers,” and “Monument to the Drowned.”
  • Like other nations, Uruguay has some beautiful natural spots: beaches, caves, waterfalls.

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