Uruguay celebrates Birth of Artigas Day on 19 June to remember the birthday of their national hero, Jose Gervasio Artigas.
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Artigas was born in Montevideo in 1764. He joined the army and helped guard the border with Portuguese Brazil, helped fend off attempts by the British to invade Uruguay, and then took part in the war for independence from Spain. He fought the Spanish in Buenos Aires and in Montevideo.
In 1811, he set siege to Montevideo; and in 1814, he formed a “League of the Free Peoples” and, in 1815, took Montevideo from those who were trying to keep Uruguay united with Argentina. Despite the fact that Artigas’ efforts eventually paid off, he himself died in exile in Uruguay.
The people of Uruguay remember the “father of their country” every 19 June. Birth of Artigas sees a parade in the town of Sauce, with cowboys, army personnel, and students all marching in honour of their national hero. And Birth of Artigas is an ideal time to visit the Artigas Mausoleum in Independence Plaza in Montevideo.
The struggle for independence in Uruguay was more complex, prolonged, and difficult than in most other South American countries. And one of the main reasons that Uruguay ultimately prevailed is the bravery and determination of Jose Gervasio Artigas.