/div>Country, southeastern South America. Area: 68,679 sq mi (177,879 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 3,361,000. Capital: Montevideo
. People of European ancestry (mostly Spanish and Italian) make up about nine-tenths of the population; most of the remainder are mestizos or people of African-European descent. Few Indians remain. Language: Spanish (official). Religions: Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic; also other Christians, Protestant), Judaism. Currency: Uruguayan peso. Uruguay is the only South American country lying entirely outside the tropics. Its topography consists mainly of low plateaus and low hilly regions. The principal waterway is the Negro River
; the Uruguay River
forms the country's entire western border with Argentina. Mineral and energy resources are limited. Pastures, covering almost four-fifths of the land area, support large herds of livestock raised for meat, leather goods, and wool. Chief crops include rice, sugarcane, oranges, wheat, and corn. Other important economic activities are tourism, fishing, and the manufacture of textiles and chemicals. Uruguay is a republic with two legislative houses; its head of state and government is the president. Prior to European settlement, it was inhabited mainly by the Charrúa and Guaraní Indians. The Spanish navigator Juan Díaz de Solís sailed into the Río de la Plata
estuary in 1516. The Portuguese established Colonia in 1680. Subsequently the Spanish established Montevideo in 1726, driving the Portuguese from their settlement; 50 years later Uruguay became part of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata
. It gained independence from Spain in 1811. The Portuguese regained it in 1821, incorporating it into Brazil as a province. A revolt against Brazil in 1825 led to its being recognized as an independent country in 1828. It sided with Brazil and Argentina against Paraguay in the War of the Triple Alliance
(1864/65–70). The economy benefited from a demand for raw material during World War II (1939–45) and the Korean War (1950–53). The office of the president was abolished in 1951 and replaced with a nine-member council. The country adopted a new constitution and restored the presidential system in 1966. A military coup occurred in 1973, but the country returned to civilian rule in 1985. The 1990s brought a general upturn in the economy, largely the result of reform measures and membership in Mercosur, the Southern Common Market (1991).