We started our sightseeing in Montevideo at the Plaza Independencia and were immediately stunned by a huge display of 2-metre high decorated bears. The whole plaza seemed filled with bears from every country imaginable. They were in rows, curved around the edge of the square and close to the huge statue of Artigas. We had no idea what was going on so we made a point of finding out.
It turns out that this was part of a global tour of the UNITED BUDDY BEARS promoting a peaceful coexistence which is already in its seventh year travelling around the world. During their previous 17 exhibitions they visited five continents. After they stopped in 2008 in Warsaw, Stuttgart and Pyongyang (North Korea), they were now in Uruguay. In March / April 2009 140 bears had visited Buenos Aires, Argentina. After Buenos Aires they continued their journey to Montevideo, and in May and June they stood "hand in hand" on the Plaza Independencia helping to promote tolerance and international understanding.
The display was opened on May 11 by Uruguay’s president, Dr. Tabaré Vázquez, the Mayor of Montevideo, Dr Ricardo Ehrlich and the German Ambassador, Graf von Waldersee. The initiators of the exhibition, Eva and Klaus Herlitz, had travelled to Montevideo to attend the inauguration. We learned that since the first exhibition in Berlin in 2002, more than 20 million visitors world-wide have been able to admire the United Buddy Bears. The bears stayed in Montevideo for five weeks. While we were there, they certainly generated much interest with visits by school children and other groups as well as locals and visitors.
Naturally, we had interest in some particular bears. We found the Australian bear then tracked down the Thailand bear for my wife. Probably the one that appealed the most was the Cuban bear with its large cigar. We found it difficult to quite understand the connection between the decoration and the country in a few cases but most were obvious. The whole exhibition was fun and quite educational.
The message portrayed by the bears is the Buddy Bears stand together hand in hand in a peaceful circle, promoting tolerance and under-standing among different nations, cultures and religions. Each Buddy Bear has been designed by an artist on behalf of his or her native country. The international artists’ different styles are joined together in one work of art, spreading zest for life. The diverse design of the Buddy Bears – always typical for the respective countries – enables the visitors to experience a journey around the globe. To date, over 1.600.000 € has been raised through donations and auctions in aid of UNICEF and local child relief organizations.