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Legends of Uruguay -- Calle de los Suspiros and Montevideo

Updated on April 15, 2017

The pretty little street, Calle de los Suspiros can be found in Colonia del Sacramento. Calle de los Suspiros, the Street of Sighs, gives the impression that it is alive with magic and history, that it is breathing with the secrets that it holds that in turn have helped to create the many legends associated with it.

This narrow street with its wedged stones and steps was frequented hundreds of years ago by sailors landing after a long voyage looking for fun, and they would walk along this street in the pursuit of the fun. Entertainment could always be found here by both the Portuguese and the Spanish in Colonia. In the olden days the street used to be called Ansina.

There have been several legends created to explain its current name. One is that those condemned to die were led along the street to be drowned when the tide was up. Another legend tells how the street housed many brothels that sheltered and entertained tired sailors looking for fun, and that soldiers who walked the street would pay the prostitutes compliments and sigh for them again and again.

There is a romantic legend associated with Calle de los Suspiros and it takes us to a moonlit night when a young maid was waiting for her love. Out of nowhere a masked man suddenly stabbed the young maid in her chest with a dagger. The last thing that was heard was a sigh escaping her as she died, a farewell sigh.

Calle de los suspiros
Calle de los suspiros

The legend surrounding how Montevideo got its name has been long accepted. It goes back to when Ferdinand Magellan visited in 1520 on his way to the Spice Islands in his search of Asia. It is said that as he took in the land before him that he shouted “Monte vide eu”, a Portuguese phrase meaning “I see a mountain”. To back this up is Monte VI d E a O which is recorded in Magellan’s log book and marked on an old map, meant to have been his.

This hill, the Cerro de Montevideo, is home now to an old Spanish fortress which sits proudly on its top overlooking the bay, a good defensive point. The hill is in stark contrast to the flat plains of the pre pampa landscape to be found.

The city of Montevideo was founded in 1724 by the Spanish Crown on the west side of the bay of this beautiful peninsula, and was originally called Felipe y Santiago de Montevideo. It was built for defensive reasons and in 1830 became the capital of Uruguay, its name having been shortened along the way to just Montevideo.

Of course there are theories to explain away the legend of Montevideo’s name, including Magellan’s bad writing, yet whatever the truth iit is well founded and widely believed.

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