Historic Quarter of the City of Colonia del Sacramento (1995)

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Founded by the Portuguese in 1680 on the Río de la Plata, the city was of strategic importance in resisting the Spanish. After being disputed for a century, it was finally lost by its founders. The well-preserved urban landscape illustrates the successful fusion of the Portuguese, Spanish and post-colonial styles. 

Uruguay 1980. Souvenir sheet. 300th anniversary of the Colony of Sacramento.

Between 1680 and 1683, contesting Spanish ownership of the region of Uruguay, Portuguese colonists in Brazil established several settlements, such as the Novo Colonia del Sacramento, along the Río de la Plata opposite Buenos Aires. However, the Spanish made no attempt to dislodge the Portuguese until 1723, when the latter began fortifying the heights around the Bay of Montevideo. A Spanish expedition from Buenos Aires forced the Portuguese to abandon the site, and there the Spanish founded the city of Montevideo in 1726. Spanish-Portuguese rivalry continued in the 18th century, ending in 1777 with the establishment of Spanish rule in the territory under the jurisdiction of the viceroyalty of La Plata. 

Uruguay 1991. Entrance to Sacramento Colony. 360p. Uruguay 1991. Entrance to Sacramento Colony. 600p. Uruguay 1991. Entrance to Sacramento Colony. 800p.

A crisis occurred in the colony after French emperor Napoleon imprisoned Spanish king Ferdinand VII and invaded Spain in 1808. After French troops captured the last royalist stronghold in Spain in 1810, a group of leading citizens in Buenos Aires rejected the authority of the viceroy and established a caretaker government to rule over the colony in the name of King Ferdinand. In reality, many of the leaders of the new government were determined to make the colony independent of Spanish rule. Buenos Aires was unable to establish its influence over several outlying areas, including Uruguay, where the Spanish viceroy had moved his court. In 1810 and 1811, Uruguayan revolutionaries, led by General José Gervasio Artigas, joined in the revolt against Spain. The Spanish governor was driven from Montevideo in 1814. 

Uruguay 1970. Sacramento Colony 1680. Uruguay 1997. Colony of Sacramento, World Cultural Heritage. Uruguay 1992. Ruins and the Lighthouse of Sacramento Colony.

In 1816 the Portuguese in Brazil—perceiving that the newly emancipated territory, known as the Banda Oriental del Uruguay (Eastern Shore of Uruguay), was weak after its struggle with Spain—invaded the territory, ostensibly to restore order. The Portuguese conquest was completed in 1821, when the Banda Oriental was annexed to Brazil. However, the so-called Immortal 33, a group of revolutionaries led by Juan Antonio Lavalleja, began fighting the Brazilians and driving them from the countryside. 

Uruguay 2001. Se-tenant set of typical colonial buildings in Sacramento.

In 1825 representatives from the Banda Oriental’s provincial legislature declared the territory’s independence. Argentina intervened on Uruguay's behalf, and war broke out between Brazil and Argentina. British mediation brought about a peace treaty, by which both Brazil and Argentina guaranteed Uruguay's independence. 

As a result, the República Oriental del Uruguay was established in 1828; its first constitution was adopted in 1830. 

  • Uruguay 2001. Se-tenant set of typical colonial buildings in Sacramento. 

However, Uruguay has never been entirely free of the influence of its neighbors. During much of the 19th century, the warring factional leaders (caudillos) appealed to either Argentina or Brazil for help against each other, and civil war was frequent until 1872. The followers of José Fructuoso Rivera, the country's first president (1830-1834), who were distinguishable by their red (colorado) hatbands, appealed to Brazil for support. The followers of Manuel Oribe, the country's second president (1835-1838), who were distinguishable by their white (blanco) hatbands, turned to Argentina. From these factions arose Uruguay's traditional political parties, the Blancos and the Colorados. 

Many thanks to Mr. Miomir Zivkovic (Serbia), for all help, support and encouragement. 


At present there are no further World Cultural Heritage Properties in Uruguay. Eventually consult the UNESCO-listing, Uruguay-Section, for more information about this site. 

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Revised 03 aug 2006  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus
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