Colónia was the first Uruguayan city colonized by the Portuguese and the Spanish. Here, the past is preserved in colonial architecture dating back more than 300 years. Parts of the town are so well preserved that UNESCO designated Colónia a World Heritage Site, with its still-intact cobblestone streets, drawbridges and a cast-iron canon mounted atop an old stone wall. Colónia is popular among tourists, especially Argentines, who hop on the ferry in Buenos Aires and travel north across the Río de la Plata to stroll its streets.
But it’s the locals who bring the city to life through art, music, and food. One morning near the towering gate to the old city we heard the lively notes of a classical guitar and a harmonica as two street musicians captured the attention of strolling tourists. We filmed their performance with two DSLR cameras and audio recording equipment, then interviewed them in Spanish. It was the first time the team had worked without a translator, and it further boosted students’ self-confidence as journalists working in a foreign country. Our presence in this timeless little town enhanced our understanding of the European influence throughout Uruguay and provided a deeper sense of what makes Uruguay “Uruguay.” Next week begins the trek up the Atlantic Coast to begin our journey along The Route of the Whale, which begins in the quirky town of Piriápolis and ends at the Uruguayan border with Brazil.