Uruguay was zone of contention between Spain and Portugal. Spain asserted their dominance by founding the capital of Montevideo, which became a military stronghold and a port town to compete with Brazil’s Buenos Aires. Spain officially took control from Portugal in 1778. The Spanish crown’s reign in the South American country was short-lived, as Uruguay revolted from its colonizer in 1811. The following years were characterized by power struggles and contention: Brazil conquered Uruguay in 1817, independence regained in 1825, civil war from 1839-51, and war with neighboring Paraguay in 1865 with armed intervention from Argentina and Brazil.
In 1903, President José Batlle y Ordóñez set up a stable state prosperous from meat exports, which he ran for over 20 years. Economic decline and political infighting ensued, and a military coup instated a violent military dictatorship in 1973.