The population in Uruguay is predominantly European. The indigenous population died out in the 17th and 18th centuries. After independence, the Spanish settlers were joined by immigrants, mostly from Italy, France and Great Britain. During the first half of the 20th century, immigrants came from Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East. Uruguay also has a small Black population, most of whom live in the north of the country. They are the descendants of Africans brought by the Spanish and Portuguese to work as slaves in the 18th century.

 Most Uruguayans live in cities; less than 15% of the population is rural. About half the population lives in Montevideo. The second largest city, Salto, has only about 100,000 inhabitants.

In the cities, most people live in modern apartment buildings or small houses. The very poor live in shantytowns called cantegriles on the outskirts of the cities. In the countryside, houses are usually only one storey and made of red brick, often with red tile roofs and open verandas. In the past, cattle ranchers lived on the plains in large estancias (estates), but today many ranch owners have large houses in the city and leave the running of the estancia to a manager.
  Did you know?
Uruguayan women obtained the right to open separate bank accounts in 1918, before Canadian women.
Most families are small, with only one or two children. Sometimes a grandparent or other elderly relative shares the house with a couple and their children. Adult children often continue to live with their parents until they can afford a home of their own.

 Many Uruguayan women work outside the home and women have equal rights with men under the law. However, housework still tends to fall more heavily on women than on men. Mothers and daughters are responsible for cooking, mending and cleaning, and are the primary caregivers for children.

Cattle ranches on the plains are still staffed by gauchos, the cowboys of South America. Most wear the traditional clothing of baggy trousers, black boots, long-sleeved cotton shirt and wide-brimmed black hat. In bad weather, they wear a poncho. Gauchos spend most of their time on horseback, rounding up herds of cattle or sheep, branding them, and mending fences. They live on an estancia in a building like a dormitory, which they share with other gauchos.