On the afternoon of August 24, 2012, many residents of Atlantida, Uruguay went home to take a nap. No, this was not a typical South American siesta. They were preparing for an all-night party known as La Noche de la Nostalgia or Nostalgia Night.
Blasting From the Past
Uruguayans celebrate the red-letter event known as La Noche de la Nostalgia on August 24. On that evening, every restaurant, dance club and radio station plays North American and British “oldies” music. The evening brings Noche de la Nostalgia parties, which last until daylight the next morning. Depending on the location, the music might date back as far as the 1960s, so it’s not unusual to see grandma staggering in at 7:00 in the morning, begging for a dose of ibuprofen.
These lively shindigs take place all over Uruguay. They’re held at bars, restaurants, dance clubs and hotels, as well as in unusual locations such as warehouses, on farmland and in the wine vineyards. Most venues focus on a particular era in music, which in turn attracts a crowd of a particular age. Some places include a dinner and offer a full nostalgia show, followed by a night of disco dancing. Others just serve pizza and drinks, and allow guests to dance the night away to a live band.
In Punta del Este, for example, the Sheraton Hotel Punta Carretas offers a special three course menu, which includes soft-drinks, whiskey, wine and champagne throughout the whole night. The price: $125 US per person. Of course, that was in Punta del Este. Enough said.
Here in Atlantida, our local country club, a throwback to the 1950s if there ever was one, offered dinner and dancing for $UY 690, about $32 US per person, or you could just dance and pay $UY 300 or $13 US.
Terrazas de La Barca, a lovely little Atlantida restaurant that overlooks the beach, has a similar set-up, at a slightly higher rate. They even offer a package that includes a stay at a local hotel. Guests get a 1:00 PM checkout! In general, Uruguay’s Nostalgia Night celebrations are far more elaborate than those that take place on New Years Eve.
The event is of questionable origins. Rumor has it that during the 1970s, José Fernández, owner of the Disco Ton Ton Metek, contacted Pablo Lecueder, the director of a broadcast program called Old Hits, which played on CX32 Radiomundo. Fernández argued that since August 25 was Uruguayan Independence Day, a national holiday, there should be some sort of celebration the night before. Before, one that let people party all night, and one that, of course, made some kind of profit. The first Noche de la Nostalgia was apparently an enormous success, and the event became a Uruguayan tradition.
In Uruguay, the president still drives a 1981 Volkswagon Beetle, vintage cars are commonplace and oldies music streams non-stop from the speakers at supermarkets. While most Uruguayans do not speak English, they can sing every single lyric of a North American oldies tune, even when it’s played as Muzak.
The nostalgia preoccupation prevails throughout the country, particularly as it pertains to North American music of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. In a country that some people describe as “Eisenhower’s America,” it makes sense. Still, I wonder about this sentimentality for the 1970s, a period when Uruguay was under military rule. I guess it’s all part of the county’s quirkiness, and its quirkiness is part of its charm.