German Uruguayans




German Uruguayans

Ricardo Hein and Rosina T. Schmidt


Uruguay is the smallest South-American country, with its South Atlantic Ocean beach-lined coast, with Brazil as neighbour to the north and Argentina to the west. There are about 3,386,575 officially Spanish-speaking Uruguayans (2002 estimate), as majority of settlers came from Spain and Italy, with the indigenous population being absorbed by the newcomers.

Montevideo is the capital, once home to a Spanish citadel with the Old City around it, full of art deco buildings, colonial homes and old port market with many steakhouses. It has a lovely waterfront promenade with fish stalls, piers and parks.

Already back in 1857 a German school was established by the Evangelische Gemeinde (Protestant community) in Montevideo for the children of German traders, artists, engineers and diplomats who were living there. Today there are about 15,000 German expatriates in Uruguay and some 200,000 people of German descent. That school is still going strong with today about 1,600 pupils being enrolled.

And of course we find some Danube Swabians in their midst too.


From Velika Mlinska in Croatia and Arad on the river Marosch to Montevideo

Back in 1930 Ricardo Hein’s grandparents, Heberling-Kah of Velika Mlinska together with their two children, and the other set of grandparents, Hein-Gerhard of Arad with a son in tow (who later became Ricardo’s father) arrived in Montevideo. The children were immediately enrolled in the Deutsche Schule (German school) where they were thought not only German, but Spanish, the national language, as well as English. Today, their great-grandchildren are also attending the Deutsche Schule Montevideo (DSM), the 4th generation.

As a youngster, Ricardo was quite confused when his Kah Oma explained that they were Germans, even though the Heberling-Kah grandparents came from The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (between1945-1992 Yugoslavia), and the Hein-Gerhard grandparents’ former home was in Romania. On top of that Opa Jakob Heberling arrived already in Uruguay in 1928 with a Hungarian passport. It just did not make sense. It all became clear when his cousin Rainer Kah of Hermannstein-Wetzlar an der Lahn in Hesse came for a visit in mid 1990’s and told him the story of Donauschwaben, the tribe that they both belonged to.

Ricardo and Family celebrating a birthday, in 2022.

While Opa Heberling was trying to put roots in Uruguay, Oma Kah also left Mlinska with both children and joined her brother Jakob Kah in Slavonski Brod in Croatia for a few years. Later she relocated to the Croatian capital of Zagreb (Agram) where she worked in the Protestant church and school. But her stories and memories were always about the Dorf Mlinska. (Dorf = village).

The Hein-Gerhardt grandparents where catholic and for many generations lived in the County of Arad region, north of the Marosch river that is now part of Romania but prior to 1923 was part of the Kingdom of Austro-Hungary. When they described their hometowns they used both the German and Hungarian names, e.g. Baumgarten=Fakert and Neupanat=Uj-Panát.

Ricardo Hein’s Family and Friends, December 2022 

Ricardo is quite active in the German community, representing mainly the Deutscher Ruderverein Montevideo (DRVM) (German roving club of Montevideo).

These days they are planning the OKTOBERFEST 2023, together with Deutscher Klub, Alpenländer Verein, Deutscher Männerchor, and most often Deutsche Handelskammer participates also, as well as the German embassy, DSM and the Protestant church

The latest important German immigration was by the Mennonites of east Prussia who arrived after WWII, with the last ship in 1952. The Mennonites established three very active colonies: Gartental, El Ombú and Delta In the past decades they too integrated into the Uruguayan society.

Another well-known ethnic German town is Nueva Helvetia, originally settled by the Swiss immigrants. Ricardo’s mother and Grandmother Anna moved to there, where later they both died and are buried.

His sister married a Nueva Helvetia Native and still lives there, as well as his nephew.


Montevideo, 28th of April 2023 

Nanaimo, 29th of April 2023