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Immigration to Uruguay started with the arrival of Spanish settlers during the Colonial Period to what was then known as Banda Oriental. The immigration to Uruguay is very similar, if not the same, towards the Immigration to Argentina. Throughout history, Uruguay is known to gain massive waves of immigration all around the world, specifically European immigration, where today 90-95% of the Uruguayan population contains a European background. The climax of these immigration movements occurred during World War I and World War II, where the whole European continent was in a very unsettling position. The most highlighted group of immigrants in Uruguay are the Spaniards and Italians, both establishing the backbone of modern day Uruguayan culture and society.
Uruguay is a multiethnic nation formed by the combination of different groups over five centuries. Amerindians inhabited Uruguayan territory for several millennia before Spanish Conquest in the 16th century. Spaniards and Africans arrived in significant numbers under colonial rule. Many people of European background, African background and some Amerindians.
Beginning in the second half of the 19th century, there has been a gradual European immigration from several countries, which had its peak between 1870 and 1920; back then, Villa del Cerro neighbourhood in Montevideo was characteristically populated by immigrants.
In April 1831, government troops massacred most of the Amerindian population under the command of General Fructuoso Rivera, this is remembered as the Matanza del Salsipuedes.
Minor immigrant groups that, although are small in number, still play an important role in Uruguayan society, include:
There is a very recent inflow of Latin Americans: Peruvians, Bolivians, Paraguayans, Venezuelans. The University of the Republic is free, which means that several Chilean students come to study in Uruguay. Many people from neighboring Argentina and Brazil, who frequently travel to Uruguay to spend their holidays, have chosen it as permanent residence. In a very recent trend, North Americans and Europeans also choose Uruguay to retire. There are over 12,000 foreign workers from 81 countries registered in the Uruguayan social security.
Immigrants tend to integrate in mainstream society, as several scholars have shown.
Based on data from the 2011 census, currently there are about 77,000 immigrants in Uruguay and 27,000 returning Uruguayans.
About 1.3% of schoolchildren are foreigners, mostly from Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Venezuela, and the USA. A total of 62 countries are represented in Uruguayan schools.
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