After Uruguay’s independence in 1828 without a national anthem, the poet Francisco Esteban Acuña de Figueroa offered to write one for the government, and it was accepted as a draft anthem in 1830 and officially approved by the government three years later. However, like many anthems of the era at the time, it had violent diatribes against Spain (the colonial power over Uruguay) and Portugal and Brazil (Uruguay’s neighbour who annexed the area after a revolt against Spain). The final version debuted in 1845. Acuña de Figueroa’s text had 11 verses, but today only the first verse and the chorus is sung.

The music, typical for a Latin American epic anthem is operatic in nature, reminiscent of works by Italian composers Donizetti, Verdi, Bellini or Rossini, but the music was composed by Francisco José Debali, a Hungarian who had moved to Uruguay in 1838 after having served as a military band master in the Piedmont area of Italy. Acuña de Figueroa’s words were first set to a piece of music by a composer named de Barros, but in 1848 it was set to Debali’s work. The extended grandeur of the music makes it run very long, even though only one verse is performed today; at 105 bars and almost five minutes in length (if the musical introduction is included), Uruguay’s anthem is the longest in the world.

Special thanks to: Sandra for providing some of this information.