Uruguay (map of South America) is home to about 3.5 million people about half of whom live in or around the capital city of Montevideo. Montevideo was founded by the Spanish in 1726 as a stronghold. Claimed by Argentina but annexed by Brazil, the country won its independence in 1828 following a 500 day conflict.
Early 20th century administrations established widespread political, social, and economic reforms; but a violent Marxist urban guerrilla movement named the Tupamaros, launched in the late 1960s, led Uruguay's president to cede control of the government to the military in 1973. Even though the rebels were crushed by the end of the year, the military remained in control until civilian rule was restored in 1985.
According to Transparency International, Uruguay and Chile are rated as the least corrupt countries in Latin America.
A Brief Introduction to the Tupamaros
In The Invisible Mountain, one of the women joins the Tupamaros, a Uruguayan urban guerilla organization created by Rául Sendic in 1963. The group was named after the Incan rebel Tupac Amaru, and was also referred to as the National Liberation Army. Women comprised nearly half of the membership, which was organized in carefully protected cells.
According to author Francesca Miller in Latin American Women and the Search for Social Justice (University Press of New England, 1991), the group's early days were marked by an absence of violence and a "Robin Hood-like image". The Tupamaros were known for activities ranging from kidnappings to acquiring weapons, though in later years they also participated in bombings and other terrorist acts.
The kidnapping of an FBI agent, Dan Mitrione, (an episode dramatized in the novel), became one of the group's more notorious acts. Sendic says Mitrione was kidnapped "because he was helping to teach riot control procedures to the Uruguayan police." The Tupamaros desired the release of 150 imprisoned guerrillas in exchange for Mitrione, but the demand was refused. Mitrione was killed in 1970 when key members of the Tupamaros were captured and the remaining members were unable to communicate with one another.
This article was originally published in September 2009, and has been updated for the
August 2010 paperback release.
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