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Visiting Montevideo, Uruguay and its Cagancha Square: historic Kilometre Zero, recalling a 19th century battle

Updated on September 12, 2011
Flag of Uruguay
Flag of Uruguay | Source
Peace statue in Cagancha Square, Montevideo
Peace statue in Cagancha Square, Montevideo | Source
Map location of Montevideo, Uruguay
Map location of Montevideo, Uruguay | Source

Calculating the very centre of the city

This public square in Downtown Montevideo, Uruguay marks Kilometre Zero in distances calculated from Montevideo.

Its name and features

The square is named for the Battle of Cagancha, of 1839, when troops led by General Fructuoso Rivera defeated Argentinian forces.

The statue and column, known as the Column of Peace (Spanish: Columna de la Paz) date from 1867. The female figure, executed in bronze, was the work of sculptor José Levi.

Expansion of the city

At the time of its inception, the Square was situated on what was then the very outskirts of the city. Today, the local environment is thoroughly urbanized; indeed, from a certain perspective it is the very centre of the Montevideo, vying with Independence Square (Spanish: Plaza Independencia) for that role. Previously, in Colonial times, Matriz Square (Spanish: Plaza Matriz) in the Old City (Spanish: Ciudad Vieja) was regarded as the central square of Montevideo.

After the end of the Colonial period, when Montevideo was a much smaller, walled city, it began to spread eastwards beyond the former limits of the Colonial walls. This process of expansion began in 1829. This new area, in which what is now Cagancha Square is located, was known as the New City (Spanish: Ciudad Nueva ). At a more metaphorical level, with the centre of gravity having shifted eastwards from the Colonial Old City, Cagancha Square thus also represents somewhat of a breaking free from the constraints of the old urban pattern. Thus also, together with the name of the Square referring to a battle won in the early years of Uruguay's independence, there is a sense in which the Square may be said to recall both a new city and a new country.

For many travellers, Cagancha Square has be the first area of Montevideo which they will have seen at close quarters, given that long-distance bus services have used the Square as a terminus. It is in any case one of the landmarks of Avenida 18 de Julio (18 July Avenue), the central road artery leading eastwards in the city, from Independence Square (Spanish: Plaza Independencia ).

Also worth seeing

In Montevideo itself, visitor attractions include: the Cerro Fortress; Independence Square, with its Salvo and Estévez Palaces; the Legislative Palace; the Cathedral on Matriz Square in the Old City.

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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. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. You are advised to consult with appropriate consular sources for advice regarding border crossings.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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