The best books (and one song) about Uruguay

recommended by Ailsa Roell

This is Sophie (editor of Five Books). As it turns out, I was born in Uruguay, so a list of good books on Uruguay shouldn’t be hard for me to come by. Unfortunately, I left when I was 2 weeks old, so I don’t have clear recollections of life there. HOWEVER my sister Ailsa, now an economics professor at Columbia in New York, was older. She went to high school there and has very fond memories of life in Uruguay. Here are her ‘desert island disc’ choices about Uruguay, cut and pasted from an email she sent me after Uruguay won its match. Thank you Ailsa!

  • 1


    The Purple Land
    by William Henry Hudson

    There is a classic & rather fun book by WH Hudson, the Purple Land. It's fictional and rather fanciful (he keeps nearly getting entangled with beautiful ladies at every step) but it really does give a sense of the wild west nature of the country at that time. A book much appreciated by our parents, and also by Patrick, surprisingly.

  • 2


    Jungle Tales
    by Horacio Quiroga

    Horacio Quiroga's short stories (which I had to read in high school) were vivid and scary. I remember La Gallina Desgollada (theme akin to Of Mice and Men), and a story about a man dying of snakebite, etc. Jungle Gothic!

  • 3


    Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent
    by Eduardo Galeano

    Uruguayan journalist and commentator Eduardo Galeano wrote a classic leftwing analysis of Latin American economic problems "Las Venas abiertas de America Latina" that is very widely read & available in English too.

  • 4


    The Voyage of the Beagle
    by Charles Darwin

    Part of Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle takes place in Uruguay.

  • 5


    Orientales, la Patria o la Tumba

    The sentimental anthem of Uruguayans is probably Chiquillada (Pantalon Cortito), by Jose Carbajal aka El Sabalero. But the real national anthem is something so splendid, I'm sure everyone wants to get into it. Fun fact: somewhere in the second section you're supposed to sing "Tiranos Temblad" (tyrants, tremble). At the time of the military dictatorship people used to vent their feelings by belting out those words with extraordinary vigor. The government couldn't really ban the singing of the national anthem so they were in a pickle.

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