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Uruguay may be a small country but it has impressive artistic and literary traditions. International acclaim has greeted artists such as Pedro Figari, a painter of bucolic scenes, and José Enrique Rodó, arguably the nation's greatest writer. Theater is popular and playwrights such as Mauricio Rosencof - a former Tupamaros founder tortured by the military government in the 1970s - are prominent in cultural life. Most of the country's musical and dance traditions (folk songs, polkas, waltzes, tangos, etc) came from Europe but developed local hybrids. Football is a national obsession.


Uruguayans who profess a religion are almost exclusively Roman Catholic, but the Church and state are officially separate. Other religions have made small inroads: There is a small Jewish community in Montevideo, several evangelical Protestant groups and traces of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.


Uruguayans are voracious meat eaters and the parrillada (beef platter) is a national standard. Another standard is chivito, a tasty and substantial steak sandwich with all the trimmings. Typical snacks include olímpicos (club sandwiches) and húngaros (spicy sausage wrapped in a hot dog roll). Tea or mate is quaffed in enormous quantities. Clericó, a mixture of white wine and fruit juice, and medio y medio, part sparkling wine and part white wine, are popular, and the beer is pretty good.