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An Expat Talks about Living in Punta del Diablo, Uruguay

Jun 14, 2016
Submitted by CabraVieja


Punta del Diablo, Uruguay

Punta del Diablo is a picturesque fishing village about 2.5 hours up the coast of Uruguay from Punta del Este with a growing expat population. The local people are focused on family, most depend on the tourism industry and everyone loves of soccer. An expat offers an in-depth look at expat life in Punta del Diablo.

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Punta del Diablo

How long have you lived there?

5 years

What activities, clubs and organizations would you recommend to newcomers to help them meet others?

Hah! That's what we DON'T have here... Here is just a magic vibe, granite boulders covered with mussels & snails, the mighty Atlantic on your doorstep, with 4 beaches.

As for activities, just daily life is enough for us... Gardening, cooking out, building on our house.

The whole area is filled with national parks and some old Spanish/Portuguese forts, etc. Great for hiking through the ghost gums (eucalyptus trees), checking out the capybara & fantastic birds from a comfy blind, and perving on all that luscious plants in the shade gardens, etc...

Laguna Negra is nearby, a great lake for fishing & camping. Don't expect your catfish to look like the ones you've caught. These have a fin all the way around the back to the belly side of the tail, but they taste the same...

If you or your kids are into soccer (futbol here) then you're home free as far as a social life. Life revolves around the kids.

Get to know your lavadera (laundry lady). Ana is great, cheap, and knows how to get whites white. The "other guy," however, who has stickers on all the fridges in the rental places, will hang your clothes on the line & spray with fragrance. :-/ They will come home with all of the dirt still in them, but smelling fresh, thank you...

Our town dentist, Mario Garcia, is a godsend! The ONLY completely pain-free dentist I have ever known.

We're getting ready to move back North for a spell to take care of elderly parents, but we are having hub's teeth fixed first. He needs a partial for the uppers, as he lost his back teeth long ago. He does NOT like going to the dentist, but he & Mario are friends & fishing buddies now. The partial & an implant in front are going to cost us about 1/20th of what we'd pay in the US and First Class work it is... Never any mercury fillings down here. In fact, Mario specializes in removing mercury fillings and replacing with ceramic.

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In terms of religious, racial, economic and cultural diversity, are the people of this city or town diverse? Are they accepting of differences? Describe.

It is so refreshing to live in an area without lots of churches & heavy religious presence. We do have the Mormon Church - the most prevalent - but thankfully, they are in the towns, not in our town. We have 1 Catholic church, and the priest comes 1 Saturday a month to hold mass. I know of 2 old ladies that attend occasionally.

But no - nobody will show up with tract papers & try to argue you into their version of heaven here.

Discrimination? When people call you "Negro" or "Negra" here, it is because they love you. "Negro" is a pet name. Uruguayos come in all colors, even blonde & blue-eyed. There is ZERO discrimination as far as: racial, sexual preference, religion, body habitus.

There IS discrimination regarding your habits - if you're a thief, everyone will soon know it.

The majority of the locals here are very accepting of foreigners. Some are not overly friendly, but are only hurting themselves because our town is rapidly becoming an international community. We have folks from Russia, France, Germany, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, the US, England, Ireland, etc.

More and more English words are making it into the daily UYo vocabulary. You will find Oreos and Lays Potato Chips here, although peanut butter is a challenge. You can get it through an expat family near Montevideo who make it.

Economically, life is hard for the locals at this time. Last year, tourism from Argentina was down, while Brazil was up. This year, the reverse, as Argentina has dumped Christina and there's hope for the future again... Meaning, more $$$ for vacations in Uruguay, which has the beaches they lack.

We do quite comfortably on about $1,200 per month here. We have a quematuti (wood stove) for home heat. The house is paid for as we build each month, so the value increases with each new feature completed.

What a shame to be preparing to leave for the US again, but we need to take care of some family business up there. And just when the house is livable & the "fun" part begins... choosing sinks, paneling, fixtures, etc,... we're preparing to sell & move.

What a great deal for someone independent & determined... 510 square meters in the eucalyptus forest (away from town's summer dust & tourist insanity), with a 36 sq. meter house built for off-grid living.

We have a great raintrap for delicious drinking water (the govt's water system, OSE, is facing scandal in Maldonado re charging people for their household water when it comes out brown & sometimes with worms in it. Nope, not for me. We have no chemtrails here & this water is the best I've had in years.

We have our little Comet generator, which powers our tools but is also nice for charging computers, phones, music boxes, LED lights, etc. We're one of about 3 to 5 houses in all of Diablo that will have... a BATHTUB and hot water in the kitchen! Everyone else has showers and cold water only in the kitchen. All of that stuff will stay with the house when we go... right down to the percale sheets, library, tools, etc. It'd be really sad if I didn't miss Mexican food so much. But we both believe firmly in "paying it forward," so we're happy to help some youngsters if this is something they want to do.

We have made many close friends here who are upset that we are leaving, but it is the right choice for us at this time. We will not be making the US a permanent home, but just tying up some business, and then will be relocating to Mexico.

Why Mexico? Because, me being a desert rat, a more tropical zone would be kinder to my old arthritic joints (yeah, and the 9 spinal fractures) that ache in the cold humidity of winter. I'm just a warm-weather creature, I guess. That, and another group of friends who are already there and waiting for us.

What are the main industries in this city? What types of career opportunities commonly exist? How do most people find new jobs?

Well, more a fishing village than a city. As above, heavy tourism. When we moved here, there were 1,100 year-round residents. Now, we have over 3,000 - in only 5 years!

We have the govt-supported artesanal fishing fleet. The rest of the "industry" here is fitted around the tourist industry - lodging, food, drink, entertainment. VERY quiet place in winter; you can be the only person on the beach. VERY busy place in summer - 40,000 tourists & a main beach clogged with 20,000 people at a time...

TONS of career opportunities exist here! CAVEAT - you must invent them yourself. Nobody here is going to 'give you a job." At the moment, our cybercafe has closed... Get some PCs and open a new one!!! Save ONE computer for the adults to use, please... ;p

If you are a cook, you can put your special cinnamon buns & other goodies in the local grocery shops, no permit required.

If you are an artist, you put up a little stand in front of your house or get a letter of permission from the owner of a piece of land with nice traffic... Build a stand & sell your paintings, sculptures, etc. No permit; no problem.

I sold small paintings the first year we were here through a local restaurant. No, I didn't get rich, but we could afford that Spanish black pork more often...

In 2012, I started making my own soap again because we have a rather harsh climate here & my skin was dry. Shared a few bars with friends & POW! Instant demand! They were hooked because there IS no natural soap down here, just the syndet bars from J&J or P&G.

Next step? I chatted up Marta, owner of our pharmacy, and she became a fan. I began selling my soaps & beauty creams through her pharmacy, giving 20% commission to her. Almost no effort, yet a good $100USD per month coming in... And because it is ARTESANAL, no permits, no bribes, no FDA, etc.

If you are a forward-thinker and motivated, you can find a skill you already have and make a business of it. For instance, we desperately need someone competent for computer repairs, copying movies from CD to pen drive, etc.

Diablo currently needs a hairdresser & barber, too. Many people take advantage of the tourism & do massage, etc., then take the rest of year off.

In general, what are peoples' priorities in this city? For example, do lives revolve around work, family, socializing, sports, etc.?

Family, family, family. Getting ready for tourist season. Working like demons to keep their renters happy & greet guests, etc. during the season. Rest like crazy the first 2 months after high season & plan for next year.

Many things have changed since we arrived in 2011. For one thing, instead of having little wooden "corrals" for the garbage (which dogs would get into & spread trash everywhere), we now have the standard type dumpsters and DAILY garbage service. There is another truck that follows the first once a week and it is equipped to wash the dumpster once it is emptied... Very cool.

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If a friend of yours was thinking of moving to this city or town from far away, what other advice would you give them.

Learn Spanish before you come! Yes, they say everyone speaks English, but that's not true of the interior (or anyplace away from Montevideo). Learn Spanish!

Learn to ride a small motor bike or 4-wheeler. You do not want to own a car here; the streets will eat it. Also, the salt air from the Atlantic. We use the bus to go out of town for major purchases, and use a small scooter & a 4-wheeler for getting around town.

DRESS DOWN! Wearing your old sweats & flip-flops works to your advantage here. Especially if you're thinking of living here, you want to dress down. Flashy clothes gets you robbed. Dress down comfy - jeans, t-shirt, camos, work clothes.... Leave the suit in the suitcase.

Learn to use a fireplace and/or wood stove competently without smoking up the house. Learn what to look for before you rent a house with a fireplace or wood stove. I.e., don't rent a small house with a huge fireplace! The big fireplace will actually suck more heat out of the house than it leaves in it - where YOU are! Find a house with a fireplace sized appropriately. It will make the difference between an economical, comfy winter and a chilly, expensive one.

If renting, you will never find a Uruguayo house that has hot water in the kitchen, so just get over it. They have a tap in the shower and a bucket. Fill bucket with hot from the shower & tote it to the kitchen. Ta.

Learn small motor repair - esp. chainsaws, motorbikes, and 4-wheelers. We have 2 mechanics in town and they will both skin you alive. One will fix the vehicle just enough to keep it running a week, then you'll be back for more repairs. The other will siphon the gas from your tank & tell you it was empty when you brought it to him.

GAS is expensive. At present, we pay 70 pesos per liter here in Diablo for gas brought in from Brazil. If you buy from the gas station in Coronilla, it sells for 42 pesos/liter and Uruguayo gas, better quality.

Learn to work with propane. Cooking revolves around the 13kg propane cylinder here. BUY MORE THAN ONE so you have time to wait for refills to be delivered. "Manana" (minus tilde) does not always mean "tomorrow" - it could be next week. Learn how to connect & disconnect your gas tanks yourself.

Learn how to cook over wood on the grill. Charcoal in the bag exists here, but nothing like Kingsford. It's expensive when you can find it and it throws sparks. Learn to cook in the fireplace - you might enjoy it.

Make yourself speak Spanish, even if you're shy or feel embarrassed. Check out DuoLingo.com. Even if you're tripping over your words, the people will appreciate you more for making the effort.

Shop around for your internet. Antel (govt phone company) currently offers LTE superfast modem with 30GB downloads for 1,200 pesos (about $60USD) per month. BUT... when you get there to buy one, they're always out of them.

We just got a new one after our old contract expired... We pay 750 pesos/mo for 12gb, about $25USD/month.

DON'T be afraid to shop on the Brazil side of Chuy, the international free zone town. We bought our wood stove there at factory prices because Brazil's cast iron is better made than UY's. UY produces very little in the way of picante sauces, etc., so we get most of our groceries there as well. Clothes, groceries, shoes, tools, etc., we buy in Brazil for better selection, better prices, better quality.

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Comments about this Report

guest
Feb 7, 2017 10:43

Have been there in 2010. Was already becoming nothing like the isolated little spot portrayed in 'Lonely Planet' travel literature. Beach area already overdeveloped. Took bus from Montivideo, so probably missed a lot of surrounding area not having a car, so will defer to author of piece. This sounds a bit pumped up and something a real estate agent might write. Hope I am wrong. Imagine all this became too much work. House sounds great, wish I could afford anywhere.

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Uruguay may not be the most popular expat destination, but expats there are probably hoping that the truth about Uruguay's healthy lifestyle, family-oriented culture and beautiful beaches doesn't get out.

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