Volume 19 • Issue 15 | August 25 - 31, 2006

Downtown Express photos by Jefferson Siegel

Above from left: Agustin Nantes, Susana Forcella, Consul Adriana Lissidini and Maria Nantes. At right: Maria Nantes gazes at the statue of Jose Artigas.

Yes way, Jose; Uruguayans honor father of country

By Anindita Dasgupta

Roughly 30 Uruguayans gathered solemnly around the statue of Jose Artigas in Soho Square on Sixth Ave. on Aug. 25 to celebrate Uruguay’s 181st Independence Day.

Many representatives from New York’s Uruguayan community attended the ceremony organized by the Uruguayan Consulate, including the consul, Adriana Lissidini, officers from Uruguay’s Army, Navy and Marine Corps and Uruguayans from New Jersey, Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn.

Considered the father of Uruguayan independence, Artigas was known for his efforts from 1811 to 1816 to free Uruguay from the Spanish and Portuguese. After his exile in 1816 to Paraguay, on Aug. 25, 1825, a group of Artigas’s former lieutenants led a revolt that ultimately won Uruguay’s independence.

As children from local schools dressed in traditional Uruguayan uniforms of blue and white held flags of the South American nation, Lissidini read a speech in Spanish from Uruguay’s president, Tabare Vazquez.

“No matter where you are or for whatever reason you are there, I want you to know that you are not far away nor alone,” said Vazquez, according to a translator. “You are more than a passport or a statistic. You are not an absence but rather a presence in a country that is trying to be better.”

The ceremony was followed by a private cocktail party at Opia, a restaurant on E. 57th St. The consulate took part in other celebratory activities in Elizabeth, N.J., where there is a large Uruguayan population.

This time of year leaves many Uruguayans living far from home especially nostalgic, said Nicholas Varella and Paula Guzman, who work at the consulate.

“Today, we feel a little closer to home,” Guzman said, as Varella agreed. Among other things, they particularly miss their families, culture and food of Uruguay.

In addition, Hogar Casa Uruguay USA, a group that raises money for children’s orphanages in Uruguay, hosted a picnic in West Hempstead, L.I., on Aug. 27 to celebrate their day of independence.

Under Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, Sixth Ave. was renamed Avenue of the Americas in recognition of Latin American companies’ presence in Midtown. The statue of Artigas is one of a half-dozen of important Latin American figures that were added along the boulevard between Canal St. and Bryant Park at 42nd St. after the renaming.

With reporting by Yesenia Nunez


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