In the Oriental Republic, it’s difficult to disentangle public and national, because so much of what it means to be Uruguayan in the social imaginary revolves around ministries and the state-run entes autonomous and organismos decentralizados which provide monopolies or near monopolies on services such as water (OSE), and telecommunications (Antel).
When I first came to Tupambaé, Miriam and her friends with TupambaéPlan explained to me about the biggest triumph of their non-profit to date, the construction of a new Centro de Atención Ciudadana or CAC (Center of Citizen Attention). According to their website, the role of a CAC is “facilitating the access of citizens to information and services of the state”, which in Tupambaé, means things like paying water and energy bills. For a town not large enough to have its own government or Antel storefront, the bricks and mortar presence of the state is a point of pride. The brand-new sign outside the CAC features the shiny logos of the President’s office, the Intendencia of Cerro Largo, Antel, Correo Uruguayo, UTE, and OSE. I found it fascinating that in this case, the objective of the non-profit was not providing services in lieu of the state, but rather, increasing citizens’ accessibility to state services.