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Visiting Punta Colorada, Uruguay: People, Whales, Fish, and Sea Currents Constantly Ebbing and Flowing

Updated on December 20, 2019
Flag of Uruguay
Flag of Uruguay | Source
Beach at Punta Colorada
Beach at Punta Colorada | Source
East beach, Punta Colorada
East beach, Punta Colorada | Source
Punta Colorada seen from the southeast slope of the hill San Antonio, of Piriápolis.
Punta Colorada seen from the southeast slope of the hill San Antonio, of Piriápolis. | Source

Psychological fluidity?

Having visited and read about the Maldonado department's resort of Punta Colorada, it seems that movement is a key to this locality.

The seasons of the year bring a great deal of movement of population: of people and whales! While the permanent population of Punta Colorada was officially reckoned in 2011 at only 92, yet there were 483 dwellings, which shows how greatly the number of people is swelled in the summer months (of course, December to March in the Southern Hemisphere). Regarding whales, almost like clockwork they can be regularly spotted offshore between July and October (1).

Fish also come and go at regular times: at different seasons, species such as mackerel — in winter — and croaker — in summer — arrive offshore, while southern kingfish are present throughout the year.

Even the toponymic terminology locally is fluid. One of the beaches at Punta Colorada is called Playa San Francisco but also sometimes called La Mansa (i.e., the mild one); another of the beaches is called Playa Punta Colorada but also sometimes called La Brava (i.e., the bracing one). This difference in the condition of the waters is partly because on both the Uruguayan and Argentinian sides of the River Plate estuary the fluvial and ocean movements are interesting and significant (bringing about also their own maritime psychologies). In the winter what is known as the Malvinas current (2) can bring particularly cold waters, while northern winds and currents from Brazil bring warmer waters, especially in the summer. The rainwater is another varying factor to water conditions. Thus, like Punta del Este, another much larger peninsular Uruguayan resort, Punta Colorada can experience distinct mild and bracing beach conditions simultaneously. Degrees of salinity can also vary.

So, do the waters off the coastline in the Punta Colorada / Piriápolis / Punta Ballena area really seem like sea or river? Well, this is not only a moot point, but in some ways goes to the heart of the geographical, historical and even diplomatic situation of Uruguay. Indeed, former President of Uruguay José Mujica would sometimes, in reference to diplomatic relations with neighbouring Argentina, speak of 'the river..which unites us' (3). From as far back as the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1497 the fluid dividing line between Portuguese and Spanish (and later Brazilian and United Provincial — afterwards, Argentinian) spheres of interest has been rooted in strong fluvial and maritime implications. In Uruguay's nearly 200 years of independence, therefore, it has occupied both geographically and psychologically a unique position.

Punta Colorada is situated in the south of Uruguay's Maldonado department, along with a number of other, larger resorts. Some similar comments to those made above could also be made about other Uruguayan resorts on the Maldonado department coastline, although, with Punta Colorada being in the shape of a peninsula, the disparity in water conditions is especially marked.

October 2, 2015


(1) Another nearby resort is called Punta Ballena (i.e., Whale Point).

(2) The Malvinas current takes its name from the Falkland Islands, known in Spanish as the Malvinas. So in theory one might also refer to the current in English as the Falklands current. In practice, while it might be in a sense natural for British Admiralty charts of the South Atlantic to refer to the current by its English name, the current in Uruguay is known by its Spanish name (although writing in English about aspects of the Southern Cone countries can thus raise interesting issues of reciprocal referents, intertextuality, etc.) It might be added that, like, Argentina, Uruguay does have a fairly large English-speaking community which was already well established several generations ago. (Interestingly, students from the Falkland Islands have from time to time received secondary school education in Uruguay.) Uruguayans themselves are no strangers to the far South, with the Uruguayan military regularly servicing Uruguay's base in the Antarctic, named for the country's Independence era leader General Artigas.

(3) Spanish: "El río que ... nos une"; see also (in Spanish):

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Map location of Maldonado department, Uruguay
Map location of Maldonado department, Uruguay | Source

Also worth seeing

Piriápolis (distance: 2.5 kilometres) is a resort on the River Plate (Spanish: Río de la Plata ) Estuary, founded by Francisco Piria, which over the years has been particularly popular with Argentinians. In fact, the name of its largest hotel is Argentino Hotel , beside which a bust of don Francisco Piria stands; the Castle (Spanish: Castillo) is also named for him; the Hotel Colón dates from 1910 and is executed in Renaissance style.


How to get there: LanChile flies to Montevideo , Uruguay from North American destinations including New York and Toronto . Car rental is available at Montevideo Carrasco International airport. Mainly seasonal flights from Buenos Aires also operate to Laguna del Sauce International Airport, which principally serves the nearby Uruguayan resort of Punta del Este . Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

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

Map of the River Plate
Map of the River Plate | Source

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