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Fray Bentos

Epicenter of the Uruguayan industrial revolution (Dec 2012)

How the lack of intestinal flora of a beautiful, young German lady led to the industrial revolution in Uruguay. 

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Fray Bentos

Epicenter of the Uruguayan industrial revolution

When we first approached this project I understood little of its long history, and even less did I grasp that, beyond the renowned Frigorífico Anglo, its tradition and industrial importance started brewing long before the birth of this institution in 1924. In fact, since as early as 1820, in the same location existed saladeros (salting rooms) that exported charque[1](jerky) for the slaves in Brazil, Cuba and the Southern United States. In order to appreciate the magnitude and importance of the meat industry based in Fray Bentos, it is enough to mention a phrase often heard at that time: “In Fray Bentos they get the grande (the big prize of the national lottery) twice a month”, referring to the biweekly payroll payments used at the time. For many years it was the most important industry of the country in terms of production and employment. In its heyday, the budget for the wages (more than 4500 workers) was greater than the combined national budget.


That is why I stopped thinking about this project as focused on the Anglo and the British, and I expanded my look to Fray Bentos as the epicenter of the industrial revolution in Uruguay. Even today, decades later, it is striking to wander the over six hectares of buildings of the Frigoríficoand learn about the complexity and sophistication of this industry, about the degree of innovation and evolution, and about its impact and transcendental role in the national and world history, placing the name Fray Bentos in a special place in the collective memory of the Europeans during the war. 


While the better known portion of the story focuses on the British, the origins of the industrialization in the Frigoríficoare different and are intrinsically linked to the lack of intestinal flora of a beautiful German young lady. It was in 1850 that the German chemist Liebig devised a process through which he could replicate the biological transformation the human body uses to extract the nutrients of the meat as part of the digestion. Thanks to this unique invention not only was he able to save his niece’s life, he also completely transformed the food industry and the future of warfare. 

[1] Charque or charqui (in quechua chárki, “cecina”) as the Inca culture called it, refers to dehydrated meat covered with salt and exposed to the sun.   

Produce by: Dokumental in December 2012. Credits: Dievo Vidart, Daniel Milnor, Larry Hayden and Martin Herrera. Photographs in the site by Martin Herrera. 


Architect Mauro Delgrosso | President Anglo Management Commission.  

Rene Boretto | Historian & Founder of the Museum of Industrial Revolution.  

To the whole team at the museum and to all the people tat lives in the Anglo neighborhood.  

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