Nueva Helvecia is a Uruguayan city located in Colonia. Nueva Helvecia (formerly known as Colonia Suiza) is 120 kilometres west of Montevideo, the capital and largest city of Uruguay. It's a few miles from the coast were the Atlantic Ocean meets the Río de la Plata and East of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is known nationwide for its Swiss heritage.
The first wave of immigrants arrive at the end of 1861. However the day of its foundation is considered to be 24 April 1862. This year marks the time when a large number of immigrants, mostly from Switzerland, but with a significant number from Austria, Germany, Italy and France, settled in the area. Colonia Suiza, Colonia Valdense, Colonia Miguelete, Rosario and other towns are the consequence of this European immigration. The name "Nueva Helvecia" was given to "Colonia Suiza" some decades later. The first Swiss settler was David Salomon Bratschi from Bern, Switzerland. He arrived in 1858, three years earlier than the first large group of settlers who arrived in 1861.
Europe was undergoing severe economical hardships during the second part of the 19th century. The Industrial Revolution affected many small artisans and family businesses. By law the Swiss mercenary soldiers no longer could fight for other countries and were coming back home to find their families in precarious conditions that could not support any more members.
Like many others in Europe, America was a chance for progress and prosperity. Many came to North America during the Gold Rush, but once the Civil War started in the United States the Swiss emigrants started looking further south in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay for a better future. In Brazil there was a law that foreigners could not own land. In Argentina the colony settle in Indian territory and were not welcome. But Uruguay welcomed immigrants with open arms. They were desperate to populate the country that had a few inhabitants at the time. The Swiss Colony was given autonomy and the first democratic secret vote in Uruguay happened en "Colonia Suiza". The Swiss immigrants helped shape many Uruguayan laws, giving Uruguay the name of "the Swiss of America" among many other things, like the classical production of Swiss cheese, also known as "Queso Colonia"
The people of Nueva Helvecia have maintained to this day the customs and traditions inherited. There are several groups who are still practicing songs and dances of their ancestors, like "Los Alegres Alpinos" or the "Alpenveilchen Grupo de Danzas". Currently you can see that despite the passage of time, New Helvetia is still related to the customs of their ancestors and still maintains a strong social and cultural bond. They are proud to have descended from hard working people that had the necessity lo leave their countries and learn a new language in the new world. Today, very few "New Helvetians" speak the language of their ancestors, maybe because they married with people of other countries. Even among Swiss the different dialects prevented them from communicating with each other, unless they used the Country's official language, which is Spanish.
The arrival of Swiss, Austrians, Italian, French and Germans, were of significant importance in the subsequent political organization of a country that was receptive to foreign influences. Uruguay offered a range of alternatives to immigrants, like fertile lands for agriculture and grassing for livestock productivity.
The holidays and festivities include: 1. The 25 of April, corresponding to the foundation of Nueva Helvacia 2. The "first of August", anniversary of the formation of the Swiss Confederation, is even more notorious and extravagant in New Helvetia. 3. The "Bearfest" in December attracts visitors from other provinces and countries.
Switzerland–Uruguay relations. There was always a bond between the people from Nueva Helvecia and the people of Switzerland.
The city, though located in Uruguay, shares a number of features and similarities with Europe, mainly Switzerland, Germany and France, as a result of its close link with the cultural and social monopoly of those countries. Unlike what happens in other cities in Uruguay, every building bears a symbolic shield representing the different Swiss cantons where the family living in the house came from. Something that has become more evident in recent years.
La plaza de los fundadores, El tiro Suizo, El hotel Suizo, El tanque de agua de OSE, El molino quemado, La iglesia Evangélica, La iglesia Católica, El cine Helvética, etc.
Dairy products, like milk, Swiss cheese, cream cheese, "dulce de Leche", Yogourt and many other milk products. They also produce a variety of sausages and animal products. Fruits and vegetables, as well as cereals. Wine
It is located in the southeastern part of the Colonia Department, Uruguay. Its population, as of 2004, was 12,000.
Nowadays, Nueva Helvecia is famous for its milk production.