Spanish explorer Juan Díaz de Solís was the first European to set foot on what is now Uruguay in 1516. Later that same year Solís and his landing party were killed by the indigenous Charrúas. No serious attempt was made to colonize the region until 1624, when Spanish Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries established missions in the area. For the next 100 years the region was the subject of a series of disputes between Spain and Portugal, with the result finally being resolved in favor of Spain in 1726.
Montevideo was founded by the Spanish as a military stronghold in the early eighteenth century. Uruguay’s struggle for independence began in 1810, under José Gervasio Artigas. But it was 14 more years before Uruguayans, under the leadership of Juan Antonio
Lavalleja, led an insurrection that liberated the country and declared independence on August 25, 1825.
Uruguay is widely considered the most secular nation in South America. Although almost half its population identifies itself as Roman Catholic (47%), almost one fourth (23%) describes itself as “believing in God but without religion.” And nearly one fifth (17%) of the population identifies itself as atheist or agnostic. The majority of Uruguayans do not actively practice religion.
Adventists in Uruguay
According to some accounts, the first Seventh-day Adventist in Uruguay was Mrs. Juan Rivoir, who, four years before immigrating to the country in 1890, heard Ellen White preach in Piedmont, Italy. In 1891 the first Adventist colporteurs, A. B. Stauffer, E. W. Snyder, and C. A. Nowlen, came to Montevideo briefly before going on to Buenos Aires. In 1893 Stauffer and Snyder returned with a young Englishman named Lionel Brooking. Stauffer began working among the German-speaking population, Snyder with English-speaking immigrants, and Brooking with French-speaking colonists.
One of the first individuals in Uruguay to respond to the Adventist message was John McCarthy, superintendent of the “Seamen’s Mission” in Montevideo.
Other early Adventist missionaries to the area included Lucy Post, Jean Vuilleumier, and F. H. Westphal. In 1906 the South American Mission recommended that Uruguay be organized as a mission. At the time the church in Uruguay had 48 members. John McCarthy was appointed superintendent of the new mission.
The first Adventist school was organized in 1908 in the home of Julio Ernst, with Otto Heydeker as teacher. Uruguay Adventist Academy was founded in 1944.
In 1909 two nurses, Meda Kerr and Francisca Brockman, came to Uruguay from the United States. They were joined by two nurses from Argentina, Armando Hammerly and his wife. Together the four worked to break down prejudice among the population by providing medical service to the community.
The first Adventist radio programs were broadcast by A. R. Sherman in 1925. Today La Voz de la Esperanza Uruguay (Voice of Hope Uruguay) is broadcast from Montevideo. Today the nearly 7,000 Adventists in Uruguay worship in 49 churches around the country.
To learn more about frontline mission work around the world, visitwww.AdventistMission.org.