Argentina Independence and Unity Part I

Stimulated by the recent Franco-Spanish alliance, the English in 1806 took Buenos Aires. The city was conquered by the troops of Santiago Liniers, but given the evident insufficiency of Spanish forces to defend it, its residents organized themselves into militias. Under the influence of the French revolution, an enlightened urban bourgeoisie overthrew Viceroy Rafael de Sobremonte, putting Liniers in his place. It was the time of the Napoleonic wars; Spain and Portugal were occupied. In Buenos Aires, the time was right for the “may revolution”: on May 25, an assembly of notables (to which Manuel Belgrano and Mariano Moreno belonged) deposed the viceroy, who at the time was Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros, and Lieutenant Colonel Cornelio Saavedra elected president.

There has not yet been a declaration of independence. The situation in Spain was expected to normalize, with the restoration of Fernando VII. Meanwhile, the country was divided. The junta defeated the insubordinates of Córdoba and Alto Perú, but encountered difficulties with Paraguay and the Banda Oriental (later Uruguay), where patriot José Gervasio Artigas was fighting bravely. The Bolivian part was taken over (1811) by the Viceroyalty of Peru.

The following years were difficult, but productive. They were at odds with federalists and unitaries, revolutionaries and moderates, republicans and realists. A Constituent Assembly (1813) recognized the freedom of the born slaves, extinguished the tributes paid by the Indians, ended the titles of nobility, liberated the export of cereals, instituted the shield and the national anthem and chose as a flag that Manuel Belgrano created a year ago. In 1814, Fernando VII restored the monarchy. After some dissensions and obstacles, the congress held in Tucumán on July 9, 1816 proclaimed the independence of the United Provinces of the River Plate.

According to, the government supported General José de San Martín’s campaign, which crossed the Andes, defeated the Spaniards in Chacabuco, and then, with Bernardo O’Higgins, liberated Chile in the fighting in Maipú. San Martín, indifferent to power, still went to Peru and took part (1824) in the battle of Ayacucho, which liquidated Spanish rule in South America. Meanwhile, the Eastern Band was taken over by the Portuguese and the federalists were rising up. The Constituent Assembly, already in Buenos Aires, reinforced the executive and enacted the Basic Law of 1816, unitary and therefore rejected by most provinces. The first president of the republic, General Bernardino Rivadavia, was elected.

From 1825 to 1828 at war with Brazil, which had annexed the Banda Oriental as a Cisplatina province, the Argentines, with English mediation and in agreement with the Brazilians, recognized Uruguay’s independence. Internally, federalists and unitaries came to the civil war: ahead of the former, Juan Manuel de Rosas took power and imposed a violent dictatorship (end of 1829).

His government was tumultuous, but militarily successful: he defeated the Indians in the south, defeated the Peru-Bolivia confederation and faced France and Great Britain, which supported the Uruguayans in constant conflicts with Argentina. However, the governor of Entre Ríos, Justo José de Urquiza, aided by Uruguayan and Brazilian troops, overthrew the dictator (1852) by destroying his forces in the battle of Caseros.

But the disunity continued. Against this, the Argentine Confederation was founded in San Nicolás and, in Santa Fe, a new centralizing letter was prepared, albeit in the absence of Buenos Aires, which ended up yielding to the pressure exerted by the militarily persuasive provinces. Urquiza promoted agriculture and education, but only after 1862, with the election of Bartolomé Miter for the presidency, a stage of more unity and prosperity began.

Then there was the war in Paraguay . In 1865, as the province of Corrientes was invaded by the Paraguayans, Argentina formed the Triple Alliance with Brazil and Uruguay. It was five years of fire and blood, with thousands of deaths, that ended in the Allied victory. With the governments of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (1868-1874), which strengthened the administration and public school, Nicolás Avellaneda and General Julio Argentino Roca (1880-1886), who just crushed the indigenous resistance, the country consolidated itself politically and Buenos Aires became the Federal District.

20th century. Around Roca and economic prosperity, social organization was essentially conservative and oligarchic, based on landowners and traders: exports increased, immigration approached its best days, the expansion of the economy intensified. rail transport and light industry were already taking their first steps, but power and wealth were rigidly concentrated. The disturbing crisis of the last decade of the nineteenth century had sparked revolts. The Unión Cívica Radical was created, the first nuclei of workers’ organization and the voices of socialism and anarcho-syndicalism were heard.

There were reports of fraud in several elections. Democratization of the process was called for and, on the initiative of President Roque Sáenz Peña, electoral reform instituted, from 1914 onwards, the secret and mandatory vote for all men. The change made possible the victory (1916) of the radical group. The first president elected in a legitimately democratic way was Hipólito Irigoyen, at the same time paternalistic and repressive towards the workers, as in the general strike in Buenos Aires (1919), in which he even used the army. In his second term, in which he succeeded Marcelo T. de Alvear, he achieved great popularity, which he lost with the 1929 crisis, which had a deep repercussion in the country.

Argentina Independence