Lesson #270: Uruguay

Such a broad topic, I know, but I can’t very well write a blog post on the awesomeness that is Diego Forlan’s hair.*

I have never been to Uruguay. And to be perfectly honest, until last summer, I had never given Uruguay more than a passing thought. But I’m a sucker for the underdog, so their surprising run at the World Cup (a fourth place finish in a very exciting — far more exciting than the final — very tight match with Germany) and the aforementioned fantastic hair drew me in and now I apparently spend my Saturday evenings watching Copa America matches with Spanish commentary. So yes…Argentina and Urugay in a match that had me doing my very best imitation of me watching playoff hockey. Good times.

It’s probably better that I live alone.

Having spent the last year being an only slightly more than casual Uruguay fan — and having threatened to one of my closest friends from the Eastern European capital I used to live in that I was going to run away to Montevideo to figure out my life, which I clearly haven’t done — I have decided I should maybe learn a bit more about it than that they were the hosts and winners of the first ever World Cup in 1930. So here we go…

Uruguay has a population of about 3.4 million, 1.3 million of whom live in the capital of Montevideo. It has a literacy rate of 98% (!) and the average life expectancy is 75 years. The Uruguayan unit of currency is the peso and the major religion (unsurprisingly, one feels) is Roman Catholic. The country “consists mostly of low, rolling grasslands” and the major agriculture is rice (huh!), wheat, corn, barley, livestock and fish (duh). The country’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture and its major exports are meat, rice (still surprising), leather products, wool and vehicles.

And that’s really all you need to know for your cursory knowledge of Uruguay. Oh, and they also won the World Cup in 1950.

Most of that information can be found at National Geographic’s website. The stuff about the World Cup, you’re going to have to look up on your own if you don’t trust me, but I promise you it’s accurate.

Oh, and if you care, Uruguay won on penalties, so the scoreline was 1-1 (4-5). And a red card apiece. The one to Uruguay was on a ridiculous dive by the Argentinian player. And they had a goal called back that shouldn’t have been. But it’s a win, so they’ll meet Peru in the semifinals on Tuesday.

*But seriously, it *is* awesome. I am inexplicably captivated by it. It’s got magic powers or something.

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Lesson #237: The Oldest Constitution

San Marino, which as far as I know is known only for being very small,* is actually the oldest constitutional republic in the world.

Founded as a republic after breaking away from the Roman Empire in 301, San Marino is the oldest surviving republic in the world. Its constitution, adopted in 1600 is the oldest constitution still in effect.

A few other facts about San Marino: the official name of San Marino is Most Serene Republic of San Marino. A native of San Marino is Sammarinese. It is the smallest of the European micronations, but it is also one of the wealthiest European nations per capita. It has the lowest unemployment rate in Europe (though in fairness, when you only have 30,000 people, it’s not like that’s really a formidable statistic.)**

*61 km2 with a population of around 30,000. They also field a football team, but not a very good one. They’re currently ranked last (202nd) in the FIFA standings. Then again, there are fewer people in the whole of Liechtenstein (ranked 141st of 202) than were at the Scotland/Liechtenstein Euro Qualifier yesterday and Scotland (ranked 41st) still needed seven minutes of added time to pull out a win, so take that as you will.

**More about San Marino here and here.

Lesson #127: The Principality of Sealand

I can’t quite wrap my head around the legality of it and under whose legal jurisdiction it falls, but the Principality of Sealand is a micronation off the southeastern coast of England. It has coins and stamps and up until 1997 had passports. The problem was, someone started forging them and about 150,000 of them appeared in China during the transition of Hong Kong, so all passports were revoked. Apparently, it also has license plates, which I find odd because Sealand is a 550 square metre former naval fort.

Since 1967, Sealand has belonged to no sovereign nation, with the UK having given up all claim to it and by virtue of it being in international waters. However, no sovereign state recognizes it as sovereign, so I have no idea what that makes it. Other than a former naval fort some people used to live on.

I don’t really know how to write about Sealand, so I’ll just quit while I’m ahead and leave you with some reading.

Sealand’s official webite is here. The wiki page is here.