Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean

Portal of Culture of Latin America and the Caribbean

Uruguay - Calera de las Huérfanas

The estate Calera de las Huérfanas was established by the Jesuits for the sustenance of the Hospicio y Colegio de Nuestra Señora de Belén (Hospice and School of Our Lady of Bethlehem), located in Buenos Aires. The estate had a considerable slave labour force. According to the documents, the landed estate had “twenty-two thatched-roof huts for the lodging of married negroes”, as well as three rooms for slaves who were single.  The population of the estate was estimated at 200 persons, including free –hired Indians and creoles– and 169 slaves.


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In 1777 the estate was placed under the management of the “Nuns of Charity” in order to guarantee the sustenance of the School of Orphan Girls of Buenos Aires. Because of this, the estate was known since then as the “Calera de las Huérfanas” (quarry of the orphans), name that it keeps today.

Objects from the daily life of the slaves who worked in this Jesuit estate, such as pipes, braziers and jars are under its protection. The objects are in good state of conservation. They are in public view at the Interpretation Centre “Misionero Rafael de Michelerena” inside the premises. There are others in the archive and Museum del Carmen.

Completed with information from the publication  “Sitios de Memoria y culturas vivas de los afrodescendientes en Argentina, Paraguay y Uruguay. Tomo I Huellas e Identidades”,  Estancia Calera de las Huérfanas, Karla Chagas, Natalia Stalla, Alex Borucki.





Accessibility: The Interpretation Centre is open from Wednesday to Sundays from 14 thru 18 hrs. From the city of Colonia taking Ruta 21 towards Carmelo, and before arriving in Carmelo (Km 241) one should take the detour to Calera de las Huérfanas, secondary road Juan de San Martín 4 km to the north.
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Other data of interest


Historical name

Estancia “Del Río de Las Vacas” or “De Nuestra Señora de Belén”

Founding Date

Decade of the 1740s


Departamento de Colonia, entre el arroyo de Las Vacas y el arroyo San Juan, a 16 km de la ciudad de Carmelo y 80 km de Colonia del Sacramento (16 km. away from the city of Carmelo and 80 Km. from Colonia del Sacramento)  

Phone numbers

099 195244 (Julio), 4542 3080 (Mariela)

Web link


Agro-industrial complex


Others National monument


Multipurpose Religious-ceremonial site Workplace Settlement

Access level


Current Use

Tourist, social

Original use

Productive, religious

Property kind


Expressions of intangible heritage associated

The Fiesta de la Calera (Celebration of La Calera) started to be organized twenty years ago so that the people in the area would get to know each other and also to know the place.

At present, around 3.000 to 4.000 people gather on the first Sunday after November the 2nd to enjoy a roast and music.

The celebration begins with a procession that departs from the Chapel of the Virgin of Colonia Arrue, with the image of the Virgin of the 33 (Patron saint of Uruguay), a parade with gaucho cavalry takes place, a mass is held and afterwards there is lunch with the selling of roast beef and finally a music show.


  • National Historic Monument 24 August 1976
  • Identified as Memory Site of Uruguay in the framework of the project “The Slave Route in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay”

Other publications

Historic-Cultural Circuit

A brochure explaining the existing circuits to tour the place and explain the virtual reconstructions made to understand the original structures and buildings

Brochures designed to promote “La Calera de las Huérfanas” for the tourists.

1) Brochure year 2010, contains information on how to get to the place and basic data of the site.

2) The brochure from year 2008 contains mainly historic and academic information on the heritage asset.