To find a little piece of Uruguay in London, I spoke to photographer Julio Etchart, who moved from Uruguay to London in the 1970s. Julio has worked all over the world on projects ranging from music commissions, magazines and displays for charitable organisations such as Oxfam. He is currently exhibiting at the Apples and Pears Gallery in East London.
Both Uruguay and London have an influence on Julio’s work:
“All my career has been for NGOs and charities that work in development. I’d like to think the influence is there. Uruguay is a very cultural country. It has a very high literacy rate and good state education. But being [in London] at the centre of the cultural capital of the world has broadened my horizons. I was influenced by many cultures here.”
And what is the Uruguayan community in London like?
“We are a small community of 400 or so.
“There isn’t anything that you could call Uruguayan in London – apart from the expats, of course! There used to be a fine restaurant in Camden, the well-known Camden Brasserie, set up and run by two Uruguayan brothers for almost 25 years. But though they kept the place, they are both retired back home and they just got a (non-Uruguayan) manager to run it. That’s the closest you get to it.”
But even without a physical hub in London, there is one thing that unites the Uruguayan community here: football! Uruguay reached the semi-finals in this year’s World Cup:
“The World Cup was the only opportunity for the expats to get together. It only happened once, at the semifinals: a group of us, invited by the ambassador, got together at an English pub in West London to watch it.
“I watched most of the games at the Rich Mix cultural centre in Bethnal Green, since I was invited to have a slide show of my football photo gallery on the big screen during the intervals.” [You can see the slide show at www.julioetchart.com]
Uruguay has even enjoyed Olympic football success:
“Uruguay won the football World Cup twice (in 1930 and 1950) a long time ago, though, but we also won the Olympics Football cup (before the World Cup was actually instituted) at the Paris and Amsterdam Olympics of 1924 and 1928. So there is a strong, albeit old, Olympic connection there.”
Julio’s current photography exhibition, Katha: In the Footsteps of George Orwell in Burma is showing at the Apples and Pears Gallery, documenting Orwell’s five years in Burma and locations from his novel Burmese Days:
“I read all of his novels in translation as a child. I went to the places where Burmese Days was written and followed the trail. It’s a travelogue.”
Do you know of anything Uruguayan in London? We’d love to know.