Visiting El Prado, Montevideo, Uruguay: a residential area, herbaceous parkland and prize livestock
Plus a homeless shelter associated with prominent, former residents
For citizens of Uruguay's capital, Montevideo, El Prado means at least two things: an expanse of gardens and parkland, and the exhibition home of the Rural Association (Spanish: Asociación Rural ). The park area of El Prado includes a botanical garden, complemented by some quite ornate architecture.
A rose garden was greatly enhanced by the import of many thousands of roses from France, in 1912. It is easy to see how a mature horticultural tradition has existed here for many years. The botanical garden itself was founded in 1902. The parkland contains many species of tree, some of which are very mature and tall.
The Juan Manuel Blanes museum, commemorating the celebrated Uruguayan painter for whom the museum is named, is located in El Prado, at Avenida Millán 4015. The museum complex includes a Japanese Garden.
The Rural Association constitutes the auspices under which cattle owners of this strongly agricultural country exhibit their prize livestock and El Prado has been the venue for this for many decades. Uruguay has a strong horse-riding tradition; indeed, the original liberators of the country were horsemen known as the Thirty-Three Easterners (Spanish: Treinta y Tres Orientales ). Here at El Prado, experienced horse-riders break in horses to the delight of audiences.
El Prado is also a desirable residential area. I recall regularly travelling in vehicles past a building overlooking the parkland and the driver was expected to slow down for security reasons. This practice has probably been discontinued, however. The building in question is a hostel for the homeless. Built in 1907 and 1908 and designed by architects Juan María Aubriot (1) and Juan Antonio Scasso, it was at first a private residence and subsequently the official residence of the President of Uruguay (known in Spanish as: Residencia Presidencial de Suárez y Reyes ). With several exceptions, from Luis Batlle Berres onwards (President from 1947 until 1955) and until the term of office of President Jorge Batlle Ibáñez ended in 2005, the President and First Lady have made this building their home. However, the two, most recent, Presidents have not lived here. One of these Presidents, José Mujica (inaugurated in 2010), true to his socialist outlook, decided that not moving into the building would be in keeping with his wish to stay close to the proletariat and he arranged for homeless people move in instead.
One of the former Presidents of Uruguay (2) depicted (right) had more than one link with El Prado; not only did Juan María Bordaberry live at the now former Presidential residence, he was also a prominent rancher who exhibited livestock at the Rural Association facilities.
Although President José Mujica has not resided here, El Prado was the scene of an incident in 2011 when the President, visiting the Rural Society, was aggressively berated — for supposedly serving foreign economic interests — by a former fellow radical with whom he had shared jail time. Mr Mujica himself was unavailable for comment following the incident.
The Museum of Memory (Spanish: Museo de la Memoria ) is also located close to El Prado, commemorating the victims of repression; although there have been various periods of Uruguayan history when its leaders ruled by decree, the curators of this museum concentrate on the period 1973 - 1985.
A river, the Miguelete, passes through El Prado. The area is sometimes referred to in full as El Prado - Nueva Savona district (Spanish: barrio ).
September 26, 2012
(1) Architect Aubriot was also one of those responsible for the main building of the University of the Republic (Spanish: Universidad de la República ).
(2) The constitutionality of part of Mr Bordaberry's Presidency is in question, as is the whole of Mr Méndez's. The set of photos given of former Presidential residents in El Prado is not exhaustive.)
Also worth seeing
Montevideo 's numerous visitor attractions include: the Salvo Palace; the Independence Building facing Plaza Independencia; the Legislative Palace; the main building of the University of the Republic (UdelaR); the Obelisk; the Cerro Fortresss; and many others.
How to get there: LanChile flies to Montevideo , Uruguay from North American destinations including New York and Toronto . The Uruguayan airline PLUNA, which codeshares with VARIG, flies to a number of Latin American regional destinations. Car rental is available at Montevideo Carrasco International airport. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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