From the early decades of the twentieth century onward, the level of equity achieved in Uruguay, and the sophistication of its social welfare institutions, set the country apart from the rest of Latin America. In the second half of the century, this heritage of democracy and equity survived the severe tests to which it was subjected without fracturing too badly. The strength of the country's sociocultural foundations was convincingly demonstrated after the restoration of democracy in 1985, when Uruguay succeeded in maintaining the position it had traditionally held as the regional leader in social development, this leadership being manifested at this time in the country's indices of poverty and inequality as measured by income distribution, which were low by the standards of other Latin American nations. The authors contend that in the last fifteen years of the twentieth century, Uruguay succeeded in coping with these challenges by maintaining a good balance between the political, social and economic aspects of development. They analyse the subject by placing the position of Uruguay in a Latin American context. Using the same type of indicators, they then describe how the country evolved in the closing fifteen years of the twentieth century, after which they discuss some of the most important processes underlying these trends in the market, in households and in the State. Lastly, they offer some reflections on the main challenges that the country will have to address if it is to retain or improve the level of national integration already achieved, on a basis of equity.