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Juan Manuel de Rosas

Juan Manuel de Rosas
Half-length painted portrait of a man with curly hair, long sideburns and blue eyes who wears a heavily embroidered military tunic with high collar, gold braid epaulettes and a red sash of office
Posthumous portrait of Juan Manuel de Rosas wearing the full dress of a brigadier general.
17th Governor of Buenos Aires Province
In office
7 March 1835 – 3 February 1852
Preceded by Manuel Vicente Maza
Succeeded by Vicente López y Planes
13th Governor of Buenos Aires Province
In office
6 December 1829 – 5 December 1832
Preceded by Juan José Viamonte
Succeeded by Juan Ramón Balcarce
Personal details
Born Juan Manuel José Domingo Ortiz de Rosas
30 March 1793
Buenos Aires, Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata
Died 14 March 1877(1877-03-14) (aged 83)
Southampton, United Kingdom
Resting place La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires
Nationality Argentine
Political party
Spouse(s) Encarnación Ezcurra
Religion Catholicism
Signature Cursive signature in ink

Juan Manuel de Rosas (30 March 1793 – 14 March 1877), nicknamed "Restorer of the Laws",[upper-alpha 1] was a politician and army officer who ruled Buenos Aires Province and briefly the Argentine Confederation. Although born into a wealthy family, Rosas independently amassed a personal fortune, acquiring large grants of land in the process. Rosas enlisted his workers in a private militia, as was common for rural proprietors, and took part in the factious disputes that had led to numerous civil wars in his country. Victorious in warfare, personally influential, and with vast landholdings and a loyal private army, Rosas became the quintessential caudillo, as provincial warlords in the region were known. He eventually reached the rank of brigadier general, the highest in the Argentine army, and became the undisputed leader of the Federalist Party.

In December 1829, Rosas became governor of the province of Buenos Aires and established a dictatorship backed by state terrorism. In 1831, he signed the Federal Pact, recognizing provincial autonomy and creating the Argentine Confederation. When his term of office ended in 1832, Rosas departed to the frontier to wage war on the indigenous peoples. After his supporters launched a coup in Buenos Aires, Rosas was asked to return and he once again took office as governor. Rosas reestablished his dictatorship and formed the repressive Mazorca, an armed parapolice that killed thousands of citizens. Elections became a farce, and the legislature and judiciary became docile instruments of his will. Rosas created a cult of personality and his regime became totalitarian in nature, with all aspects of society rigidly controlled.

Rosas faced many threats to his power during the late 1830s and early 1840s. He fought a war against the Peru–Bolivian Confederation, endured a blockade by France, faced a revolt in his own province and battled a major rebellion that lasted years and spread to several Argentine provinces. Rosas persevered and extended his influence in the provinces, exercising effective control over them through direct and indirect means. By 1848, he had extended his power beyond the borders of Buenos Aires and was ruler of all of Argentina. Rosas also attempted to annex the neighboring nations of Uruguay and Paraguay. France and Great Britain jointly retaliated against Argentine expansionism, blockading Buenos Aires for most of the late 1840s, but were unable to halt Rosas, whose prestige was greatly enhanced by his string of successes.

When the 1970s military dictatorship. Rosas remains a controversial figure in Argentina in the 21st century.


  • Early life 1
    • Birth 1.1
    • Estanciero 1.2
  • Rise to power 2
    • Caudillo 2.1
    • Governor of Buenos Aires 2.2
    • Desert Campaign 2.3
  • Second governorship 3
    • Absolute power 3.1
    • Totalitarian regime 3.2
    • State terrorism 3.3
  • Struggle for dominance 4
    • Rebellions and foreign threat 4.1
    • Ruler of Argentina 4.2
  • Apogee and downfall 5
    • Anglo-French blockade 5.1
    • Platine War 5.2
  • Later years 6
    • Exile and death 6.1
    • Legacy 6.2
  • Endnotes 7
  • Footnotes 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early life


Half-length portrait of a boy with light hair and wearing a jacket over a shirt with an enormous, embroidered collar.
Rosas around age 10, c.1803

Juan Manuel José Domingo Ortiz de Rosas[upper-alpha 2] was born on 30 March 1793 at his family's town house in Buenos Aires, the capital of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata.[5] He was the first child of León Ortiz de Rosas and Agustina López de Osornio.[6] León Ortiz was the son of an immigrant from the Spanish Province of Burgos. A military officer with an undistinguished career, León Ortiz had married into a wealthy Criollo family. The young Juan Manuel de Rosas's character was heavily influenced by his mother Agustina, a strong-willed and domineering woman who derived these character traits from her father Clemente López de Osornio, "a tough warrior of the Indian frontier who had died weapons in hand defending his southern estate in 1783."[6]

As was common practice at the time, Rosas was schooled at home until the age of 8, and then enrolled in what was regarded the best private school in Buenos Aires. Though befitting the son of a wealthy landowner, his education was unremarkable. According to historian John Lynch, Rosas' education "was supplemented by his own efforts in the years that followed. Rosas was not entirely unread, though the time, the place, and his own bias limited the choice of authors. He appears to have had a sympathetic, if superficial, acquaintance with minor political thinkers of French absolutism."[5]

In 1806, a Santiago Liniers to counter the invasion. The British were defeated in August 1806, but returned a year later. Rosas was then assigned to the Caballería de los Migueletes (a militia cavalry), although it is thought that he was barred from active duty during this time due to illness.[7]


Painting of a group of colorfully dressed men and women sitting in front of an covered wagon and listening to music with horses and cattle in the open plain in the background
Gauchos resting in the pampas. Oil painting by Johann Moritz Rugendas

After the British invasions had been repelled, Rosas and his family moved from Buenos Aires to their estancia (ranch). His work there further shaped his character and outlook as part of the Platine region's social establishment. In the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, owners of large landholdings (including the Rosas family) provided food, equipment and protection both for themselves and for families living in areas under their control. Their private defense forces consisted primarily of laborers who were drafted as soldiers. Most of these peons, as such workers were called, were gauchos.[upper-alpha 3]

The landed aristocracy of Spanish descent considered the illiterate, mixed-race gauchos, who comprised the majority of the population, to be ungovernable and untrustworthy. The gauchos were tolerated because there was no other

Political offices
Preceded by
Juan José Viamonte
Governor of Buenos Aires Province (Head of State of Argentina)
Succeeded by
Juan Ramón Balcarce
Preceded by
Manuel Vicente Maza
Governor of Buenos Aires Province (Head of State of Argentina)
Succeeded by
Justo José de Urquiza

External links

  • Bassi, Angel C. (1942). El Tirano Rosas (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: Editorial Claridad. 
  • Bilbao, Manuel (1919). Historia de Rosas (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: Casa Vaccaro. 
  • Calabrese, Humberto (1975). Juan Manuel de Rosas (in Spanish). La Plata: Instituto Cardenal Cisneros. 
  • Castro, Donald S. (2001). The Afro-Argentine in Argentine Culture: El Negro Del Acordeón. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press.  
  • Cevasco, Aníbal César (2006). Argentina violenta (in Spanish). Los Angeles: Dunken.  
  • Chamosa, Oscar (2010). The Argentine Folklore Movement: Sugar Elites, Criollo Workers, and the Politics of Cultural Nationalism, 1900–1955. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.  
  • Clayton, Lawrence A.; Conniff, Michael L. (2005). A History of Modern Latin America (2 ed.). Belmont, California: Thomson Learning Academic Resource Center.  
  • Crow, John Armstrong (1980). The Epic of Latin America (3 ed.). Los Angeles: University of California Press.  
  • Deutsch, Sandra McGee; Dolkart, Ronald H. (1993). The Argentine Right: Its History and Intellectual Origins, 1910 to the Present. Wilmington, Delaware: Scholarly Resources.  
  • Dusenberry, William (November 1961). "Juan Manuel de Rosas as Viewed by Contemporary American Diplomats". Hispanic American Historical Review (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press) 41 (4). 
  • Edwards, Todd L. (2008). Argentina: A Global Studies Handbook. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO.  
  • Fernandez, Fernando (1983). El Dictador (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: Corregidor. 
  • Geisler, Michael E. (2005). National Symbols, Fractured Identities: Contesting The National Narrative. Lebanon, New Hampshire: University Press of New England.  
  • Goebel, Michael (2011). Argentina's Partisan Past: Nationalism and the Politics of History. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.  
  • Hanway, Nancy . (2003). Embodying Argentina: Body, Space and Nation in 19th Century Narrative. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company.  
  • Hooker, Terry D. (2008). The Paraguayan War. Nottingham: Foundry Books.  
  • Johnson, Lyman L. (2004). Death, Dismemberment, And Memory: Body Politics In Latin America. Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press.  
  • Kraay, Hendrik; Whigham, Thomas (2004). I die with my country: perspectives on the Paraguayan War, 1864–1870. Dexter, Michigan: Thomson-Shore.  
  • Lanctot, Brendan (2014). Beyond Civilization and Barbarism: Culture and Politics in Postrevolutionary Argentina. Lanham, Maryland: Bucknell University Press/Rowman & Littlefield.  
  • Leuchars, Chris (2002). To the bitter end: Paraguay and the War of the Triple Alliance. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.  
  • Lewis, Daniel K. (2003). The History of Argentina. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.  
  • Lewis, Paul H. (2006). Authoritarian Regimes in Latin America: Dictators, Despots, And Tyrants. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.  
  • Loveman, Brian (1999). For la Patria: Politics and the Armed Forces in Latin America. Wilmington, Delaware: Scholarly Resources.  
  • Meade, Teresa A. (2010). In the Shadow of the State: Intellectuals and the Quest for National Identity in Twentieth-century Spanish America. Oxford: Blackwell.  
  • Miller, Nicola (1999). In the Shadow of the State: Intellectuals and the Quest for National Identity in Twentieth-century Spanish America. London: Verso.  
  • Nállim, Jorge (2012). Transformations and Crisis of Liberalism in Argentina, 1930–1955. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: University of Pittsburgh Press.  
  • Pradère, Juan A. (1970). Juan Manuel de Rosas, su iconografía (in Spanish) 1. Buenos Aires: Editorial Oriente. 
  • Quesada, María Sáenz (2001). La Argentina: Historia del país y de su gente (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana.  
  • Rein, Mónica Esti (1998). Politics and Education in Argentina: 1946–1962. New York: M. E. Sharpe.  
  • Robertson, William Spence (May 1930). Foreign Estimates of the Argentine Dictator, Juan Manuel de Rosas. The Hispanic American Historical Review 10 (2) (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press). 
  • Rock, David (1987). Argentina, 1516–1987: From Spanish Colonization to Alfonsín. Los Angeles: University of California Press.  
  • Rock, David (1995). Authoritarian Argentina: The Nationalist Movement, Its History and Its Impact. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.  
  • Rotker, Susana (2002). Captive Women: Oblivion and Memory in Argentina. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.  
  • Sagastizábal, Leandro de, ed. (2000). La Configuración de la República Independiente, 1810–1914. Nueva Historia de la Nación Argentina (in Spanish) V. Buenos Aires: Editorial Planeta Argentina/Academia Nacional de la Historia.  
  • Sala de Representantes de la Provincia de Buenos Aires (1842). Rasgos de la vida publica de S. E. el sr. brigadier general d. Juan Manuel de Rosas (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: Imprenta del Estado. 
  • Shumway, Jeffrey (30 September 2013). "Juan Manuel de Rosas". Oxford Bibliographies. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  • Shumway, Nicolas (1993). The Invention of Argentina. Los Angeles: University of California Press.  
  • Szuchman, Mark D.; Brown, Jonathan Charles (1994). Revolution and Restoration: The Rearrangement of Power in Argentina, 1776–1860. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.  
  • Trias, Vivian (1970). Juan Manuel de Rosas (in Spanish). Montevideo: Ediciones de la Banda Oriental. 
  • Whigham, Thomas L. (2002). The Paraguayan War: Causes and early conduct 1. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.  


  1. ^ a b Sala de Representantes de la Provincia de Buenos Aires 1842, p. 3.
  2. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 19.
  3. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 9.
  4. ^ Pradère 1970, pp. 17–19.
  5. ^ a b Lynch 2001, p. 2.
  6. ^ a b Lynch 2001, p. 1.
  7. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 2; Bassi 1942, pp. 38–39.
  8. ^ Graham 1933, pp. 121–122.
  9. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 45–46; Bassi 1942, pp. 39–41.
  10. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 40.
  11. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 38–39.
  12. ^ a b Lynch 1981, p. 14.
  13. ^ Bassi 1942, pp. 39–40; Lynch 2001, pp. 2, 8, 26; Shumway 2013, pp. 16, 106.
  14. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 28.
  15. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 3; Shumway 1993, pp. 119.
  16. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 3.
  17. ^ Bethell 1993, p. 18; Lynch 2001, p. 9; Rock 1987, p. 93.
  18. ^ Bassi 1942, pp. 43–45; Lynch 2001, p. 9; Rock 1987, pp. 93–94, 104; Szuchman & Brown 1994, p. 214.
  19. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 9; Szuchman & Brown 1994, pp. 214–215.
  20. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 26–27; Bethell 1993, p. 24.
  21. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 1, 8, 13, 43–44.
  22. ^ Bethell 1993, pp. 19–20; Lynch 2001, p. 10.
  23. ^ Bethell 1993, pp. 20, 22; Lynch 2001, p. 10.
  24. ^ a b c Lynch 2001, p. 10.
  25. ^ Bethell 1993, p. 20; Lynch 2001, p. 11; Rock 1987, p. 103.
  26. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 12; Rock 1987, p. 103.
  27. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 12.
  28. ^ Geisler 2005, p. 155; Shumway 1993, p. 117.
  29. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 125.
  30. ^ Castro 2001, p. 69; Crow 1980, p. 580; Geisler 2005, p. 155; Lynch 1981, p. 121; Mejía 2001, p. 62; Shumway 1993, p. 117.
  31. ^ Darwin 2008, p. 79.
  32. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 86.
  33. ^ Bassi 1942, pp. 158, 184, 247; Bethell 1993, p. 20; Lynch 2001, p. 12; Rock 1987, p. 104; Shumway 1993, p. 117.
  34. ^ See:
    • Bethell 1993, p. 20,
    • Bilbao 1919, p. 14,
    • Calabrese 1975, p. 21,
    • Cevasco 2006, p. 29,
    • Clayton & Conniff 2005, p. 72,
    • Edwards 2008, p. 28,
    • Fernandez 1983, pp. 51, 59,
    • Goebel 2011, p. 24,
    • Hanway 2003, p. 4,
    • Hooker 2008, p. 15,
    • Kraay & Whigham 2004, p. 188,
    • Leuchars 2002, p. 16,
    • Lewis 2003, p. 47,
    • Lewis 2006, p. 84,
    • Lynch 2001, p. 164,
    • Meade 2010, p. 140,
    • Moreno 1999, p. 17,
    • Quesada 2001, p. 319,
    • Rein 1998, p. 73,
    • Rock 1987, p. 106,
    • Rotker 2002, p. 57,
    • Sagastizábal 2000, p. 99,
    • Shumway 1993, p. 113,
    • Whigham 2002, p. 53.
  35. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 75, 163; Shumway 1993, p. 119.
  36. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 16; Rock 1987, p. 105; Shumway 1993, p. 117.
  37. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 164.
  38. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 22.
  39. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 15.
  40. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 16; Rock 1987, p. 105.
  41. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 16, 22.
  42. ^ a b Lynch 2001, p. 16.
  43. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 42–43.
  44. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 49, 159–160, 300.
  45. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 17.
  46. ^ a b Lynch 2001, p. 18.
  47. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 6, 18–20.
  48. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 20.
  49. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 160–162.
  50. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 162; Rock 1987, p. 106.
  51. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 51.
  52. ^ Bethell 1993, p. 26; Lynch 2001, pp. 49–50.
  53. ^ Bethell 1993, p. 26; Lynch 2001, p. 81.
  54. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 90.
  55. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 50.
  56. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 38–40, 78; Shumway 1993, p. 118.
  57. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 38.
  58. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 175.
  59. ^ Bethell 1993, p. 27; Lynch 2001, p. 82.
  60. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 180, 184.
  61. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 77; Shumway 1993, pp. 118–120.
  62. ^ Bethell 1993, p. 27; Lynch 1981, pp. 165, 183; Shumway 1993, p. 120.
  63. ^ Bassi 1942, p. 150; Lynch 2001, p. 15.
  64. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 77.
  65. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 83.
  66. ^ Bethell 1993, p. 27; Lynch 1981, p. 178; Rock 1987, p. 106.
  67. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 179; Bassi 1942, p. 168.
  68. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 179.
  69. ^ Bassi 1942, p. 166; Bethell 1993, p. 27; Lynch 1981, p. 180; Rock 1987, p. 106.
  70. ^ Bassi 1942, p. 167; Bethell 1993, p. 27; Lynch 2001, p. 84; Rock 1987, p. 106; Shumway 1993, p. 119.
  71. ^ Bethell 1993, p. 27; Lynch 2001, p. 85.
  72. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 22, 91.
  73. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 49.
  74. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 53–54.
  75. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 76–77.
  76. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 55–56.
  77. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 45–46.
  78. ^ Bassi 1942, p. 248; Bethell 1993, p. 29; Hooker 2008, p. 15; Lewis 2003, p. 57; Loveman 1999, p. 289; Lynch 2001, pp. 96, 108, 164; Quesada 2001, p. 316; Rock 1987, p. 106; Shumway 1993, p. 120.
  79. ^ Bethell 1993, p. 29; Lynch 2001, p. 96.
  80. ^ a b Lynch 2001, p. 97.
  81. ^ Bassi 1942, p. 261; Bethell 1993, p. 29; Lynch 2001, p. 102.
  82. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 101.
  83. ^ Bassi 1942, pp. 265–266; Lynch 2001, p. 99.
  84. ^ Bassi 1942, pp. 265–266; Lynch 1981, p. 214.
  85. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 118.
  86. ^ Bethell 1993, pp. 26–27; Lynch 2001, pp. 81, 97.
  87. ^ Bethell 1993, p. 30; Lynch 2001, p. 96.
  88. ^ a b Lynch 2001, p. 96.
  89. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 201–202.
  90. ^ a b Bethell 1993, p. 31; Lynch 1981, p. 202.
  91. ^ Bethell 1993, p. 31; Lynch 1981, p. 202; Quesada 2001, pp. 314–315.
  92. ^ Bassi 1942, p. 293; Lynch 1981, pp. 203–204; Quesada 2001, p. 314.
  93. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 206; Quesada 2001, p. 314.
  94. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 205–207.
  95. ^ Bassi 1942, pp. 293–297; Lynch 1981, p. 207; Quesada 2001, p. 315; Sagastizábal 2000, p. 245.
  96. ^ Bethell 1993, pp. 31–33; Lynch 1981, pp. 267–268.
  97. ^ Bassi 1942, pp. 300–301; Lynch 1981, pp. 207–208; Sagastizábal 2000, p. 245.
  98. ^ Sala de Representantes de la Provincia de Buenos Aires 1842, pp. 169, 179–180.
  99. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 87–88.
  100. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 123.
  101. ^ a b Lynch 2001, pp. 123–124.
  102. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 82, 130.
  103. ^ Trias 1970, p. 120.
  104. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 83; Quesada 2001, p. 319.
  105. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 131; Sagastizábal 2000, p. 100.
  106. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 373.
  107. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 339.
  108. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 169.
  109. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 262.
  110. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 164.
  111. ^ Lynch 2001, p. 140; Quesada 2001, p. 334.
  112. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 273–275.
  113. ^ a b Lynch 1981, p. 288.
  114. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 270, 273.
  115. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 280.
  116. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 284–288.
  117. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 294–295.
  118. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 128, 130; Quesada 2001, p. 318–319.
  119. ^ Lynch 2001, pp. 115–116, 124; Quesada 2001, p. 328.
  120. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 177, 209.
  121. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 297.
  122. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 177; Quesada 2001, p. 327.
  123. ^ Bethell 1993, p. 34; Calabrese 1975, p. 182; Lynch 2001, p. 144.
  124. ^ Bassi 1942, pp. 343, 351; Lynch 1981, pp. 319–321; Quesada 2001, pp. 335–336.
  125. ^ Bassi 1942, pp. 350–351; Lynch 1981, pp. 318–327.
  126. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 330.
  127. ^ Bethell 1993, p. 34; Fernandez 1983, p. 362; Lynch 2001, pp. 319–331; Quesada 2001, p. 336.
  128. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 333.
  129. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 336.
  130. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 337.
  131. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 337–338.
  132. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 339–340.
  133. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 340–341.
  134. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 341.
  135. ^ a b Lynch 1981, p. 342.
  136. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 344–345.
  137. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 344.
  138. ^ Lynch 1981, pp. 343–344, 346–347.
  139. ^ a b Lynch 1981, p. 358.
  140. ^ Lynch 1981, p. 357.
  141. ^ Rock 1995, p. 102; Goebel 2011, pp. 43–44; Chamosa 2010, pp. 40, 118; Nállim 2012, p. 38.
  142. ^ Rock 1995, pp. 104–105, 119; Goebel 2011, p. 43; Chamosa 2010, pp. 40, 118.
  143. ^ Rock 1995, pp. 103, 106.
  144. ^ Rock 1995, p. 103.
  145. ^ Rock 1995, p. 120; Goebel 2011, pp. 7, 48; Chamosa 2010, p. 44; Nállim 2012, p. 39.
  146. ^ Rock 1995, pp. 108, 119; Nállim 2012, p. 39; Deutsch & Dolkart 1993, p. 15.
  147. ^ Chamosa 2010, p. 44; Johnson 2004, p. 114; Goebel 2011, p. 50; Miller 1999, p. 224; Nállim 2012, p. 39.
  148. ^ Goebel 2011, pp. 56, 115–116.
  149. ^ Robertson 1930, p. 125.
  150. ^ Dusenberry 1961, p. 514.
  151. ^ Johnson 2004, pp. 118–125.
  152. ^ Johnson 2004, pp. 125–128.
  153. ^ Chamosa 2010, p. 107; Goebel 2011, pp. 217–218, 220; Johnson 2004, pp. 108, 133; Lanctot 2014, pp. 1, 4.
  154. ^ Chamosa 2010, p. 107; Johnson 2004, p. 108; Lewis 2003, p. 207; Lynch 2001, p. ix.


  1. ^ The full title was "Restorer of the Laws and Institutions of the Province of Buenos Aires". It was given to Rosas by the House of Representatives of Buenos Aires on 18 December 1829.[1] After the Desert Campaign (1833–34) he was called the "Conqueror of the desert" (Conquistador del desierto).[2] As his dictatorship became more repressive, Rosas became known as the "Tiger of Palermo", after his main residence in Palermo, then located outside the town of Buenos Aires.[3]
  2. ^ According to his birth certificate, his given name was "Juan Manuel José Domingo". His surname, as seen on his marriage certificate, was "Ortiz de Rosas".[4]
  3. ^ Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham described them as "herdsmen, who lived on horseback ... In their great plains, roamed over by enormous herds of cattle, and countless horses in semi-feral state, each Gaucho lived in his own reed-built rancho [ranch] daubed with mud to make its weathertight often without another neighbor nearer than a league away. His wife and children and possibly two or three other herdsmen, usually unmarried, to help him in the management of the cattle, made up his society. Generally he had some cattle of his own, and possibly a flock of sheep; but the great herds belonged to some proprietor who perhaps lived two or three leagues away."[8]
  4. ^ An anecdote circulated in which Rosas supposedly related how he left his childhood home with no belongings, determined to start a new life, never to return. The story says that he went so far as to change the spelling of his surname at that point. Rosas denied the version of events contained in this tale.[12] Although he was left a portion of his father's estate, he assigned this to his mother. He did not reclaim the inheritance upon his mother's death, and instead split it between her maid, his siblings and charities.[12]
  5. ^ Charles Darwin wrote in his journal in 1833: "He is a man of extraordinary character, and has a most predominant influence in the country, which it seems that he will use to its prosperity and advancement." Later, in 1845, he greatly revised his assertion, saying "This prophecy has turned out entirely and miserably wrong."[31]
  6. ^ This comment was a racial nod to the presence of soldiers of African ancestry within Brazilian ranks.[128]


In the 1980s, Argentina was a fractured, deeply divided nation, having faced La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires.[152] Closely allied with neorevisionists, Menem (and his fellow Peronist presidential successors Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner) have honored Rosas on banknotes, postage stamps and monuments, causing mixed reactions among the public.[153] Rosas remains a controversial figure among Argentines, who "have long been fascinated and outraged" by him.[154]

Despite a decades-long struggle, Revisionismo failed to be taken seriously. According to Michael Goebel, the revisionists had a "lack of interest in scholarly standards" and were known for "their institutional marginality in the intellectual field".[148] They also never succeeded in changing mainstream views regarding Rosas. William Spence Robertson said in 1930: "Among the enigmatical personages of the 'Age of Dictators' in [150]

Serious attempts to reassess Rosas's reputation began in the 1880s with the publication of scholarly works by Adolfo Saldías and Ernesto Quesada. Later, a more blatant "Revisionist" movement would flourish under Nacionalismo (Nationalism). Nacionalismo was a political movement that appeared in Argentina in the 1920s and reached its apex in the 1930s. It was the Argentine equivalent of the authoritarian ideologies that arose during the same period, such as Nazism, Fascism and Integralism. Argentine Nationalism was an authoritarian,[141] anti-Semitic,[142] racist[143] and misogynistic political movement with support for racially based pseudo-scientific theories such as eugenics.[144] Revisionismo (Revisionism) was the historiographical wing of Argentine Nacionalismo.[145] The main goal of Argentine Nacionalismo was to establish a national dictatorship. For the Nacionalismo movement, Rosas and his regime were idealized and portrayed as paragons of governmental virtue.[146] Revisionismo served as a useful tool, as the main purpose of the revisionists within the Nacionalismo agenda was to rehabilitate Rosas's image.[147]

Photograph showing a mausoleum building of gray ashlar construction with metal wreaths and plaques attached to the outside walls, a metal barred gate at the entrance and surmounted by a square cupola
Rosas' family vault at La Recoleta Cemetery


In exile Rosas was not destitute, but he lived modestly amid financial constraints during the remainder of his life.[136] A very few loyal friends sent him money, but it was never enough.[137] He sold one of his estancias before the confiscation and became a tenant farmer in Swaythling, near Southampton. He employed a housekeeper and two to four laborers, to whom he paid above-average wages.[138] Despite constant concern over his shortage of funds, Rosas found joy in farm life, once remarking: "I now consider myself happy on this farm, living in modest circumstances as you see, earning a living the hard way by the sweat of my brow".[139] A contemporary described him in final years: "He was then eighty, a man still handsome and imposing; his manners were most refined, and the modest environment did nothing to lessen his air of a great lord, inherited from his family."[140] After a walk on a cold day, Rosas caught pneumonia and died at 07:00 on the morning of 14 March 1877. Following a private mass attended by his family and a few friends, he was buried in the town cemetery of Southampton.[139]

The new Argentine government confiscated all of Rosas properties and tried him as a criminal, later sentencing him to death.[132] Rosas was appalled that most of his friends, supporters and allies abandoned him and became either silent or openly critical of him.[133] Rosismo vanished overnight. "The landed class, supporters and beneficiaries of Rosas, now had to make their peace—and their profits—with his successors. Survival, not allegiance, was their politics", argued Lynch.[134] Urquiza, a onetime ally and later an enemy, reconciled with Rosas and sent him financial assistance, hoping for political support in return—although Rosas had scant remaining political capital.[135] Rosas followed Argentina's developments while in exile, always hoping for an opportunity to return, but he never again insinuated himself into Argentine affairs.[135]

[131] Rosas arrived in

Painted half-length portrait depicting a gray-haired man with a thin face dressed in a plain black coat over a red vest and high-collared white shirt and sitting in front of a half-opened drape revealing an avenue with a building in the distance
An elderly Rosas during his exile

Exile and death

Later years

Uncharacteristically, Rosas remained passive throughout the conflict. The Argentine ruler lost heart once he realized that he had fallen into a trap. Even if he defeated Urquiza, his forces would probably be weakened enough to prevent him from challenging the Brazilian army that was ready to invade Argentina.[125] With no other alternative, Rosas remarked: "There is no other way; we have to play for the high stakes and go for everything. Here we are, and from here there is no retreat."[126] After an unsuccessful battle against Urquiza on 3 February 1852, Rosas fled to Buenos Aires. Once there, he disguised himself and boarded a ship that took him to Britain to live in exile.[127] Embittered, he remarked: "It is not the people who have overthrown me. It is the monkeys, the Brazilians."[upper-alpha 6]

Meanwhile, Brazil, now ascendant under Emperor Dom Pedro II, gave aid to the Uruguayan government that still held out in Montevideo, as well as to the ambitious Justo José de Urquiza, a caudillo in Entre Ríos who rebelled against Rosas. Once one of Rosas' most trusted lieutenants, Urquiza now claimed to fight for a constitutional regime, but could hardly disguise his ambition to place himself at the head of the national government. In retaliation, Rosas declared war on Brazil on 18 August 1851, beginning the Platine War.[123] The army under Oribe in Uruguay surrendered to Urquiza in October. With arms and financial aid given by Brazil, Urquiza then marched through Argentine territory heading to Buenos Aires.[124]

Rosas failed to realize that discontent was steadily growing throughout the country. Throughout the 1840s he became increasingly secluded in his country house in Palermo, some miles away from Buenos Aires. There he ruled and lived under heavy protection provided by guards and patrols.[120] He declined to meet with his ministers and relied solely on secretaries who matched his own heavy workload.[121] His daughter Manuela replaced his wife at his right hand and became the link between Rosas and the outside world.[122] The reason for Rosas's increasing isolation was given by a member of his secretariat: "The dictator is not stupid: he knows the people hate him; he goes in constant fear and always has one eye on the chance to rob and abuse them and the other on making a getaway. He has a horse ready saddled at the door of his office day and night".[88]

Painting depicting carriages approaching a grand white house with a rowboat plying a canal in the foreground
Rosas' residence in Palermo

Platine War

Although his prestige was on the rise, Rosas made no serious attempts to further liberalize his regime. Every year he presented his resignation and the pliant House of Representatives predictably declined, claiming that maintaining him in office was vital for the nation's welfare.[118] Rosas also allowed exiled Argentines to return to their homeland, but only because he was so confident of his control and that no one was willing to risk defying him.[101] The execution in August 1848 of the pregnant young Camila O'Gorman, charged with a forbidden romance with a priest, caused a backlash throughout the continent. Nonetheless, it served as a clear warning that Rosas had no intention of loosening his grip.[119]

The loss of trade was unacceptable to Britan and France. On 17 September 1845 both nations established the Anglo-French blockade of the Río de la Plata and enforced the free navigation in the Río de la Plata Basin (or Platine region).[115] Argentina resisted the pressure and fought back to a standstill. The undeclared war caused more economic harm to France and Britain than to Argentina. The British faced increasing pressure at home once they realized that the loss of trade with Buenos Aires did not compensate free navigation with other ports in the Platine region.[116] Britain ended all hostilities and lifted the blockade on 15 July 1847, followed by France on 12 June 1848.[113] Rosas had successfully resisted the two most powerful nations on Earth; his standing, and Argentina's, increased among Hispanic American nations. The Venezuelan humanist Andrés Bello, summarizing the prevailing opinion, regarded Rosas among "the leading ranks of the great men of America".[117]

When the old Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata crumbled in the 1810s, some of its territories were separated and became the independent nations of Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay, while the rest evolved into the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata. Rosas planned to restore, if not all, at least a considerable part of the former borders of the old Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata. He never recognized the independence of Paraguay and regarded it a rebel Argentine province bound to be reconquered.[111] He sent an army under Manuel Oribe who invaded Uruguay and conquered most of the country, except for its capital Montevideo that endured a long siege starting in 1843.[112] When pressed by the British, Rosas declined to guarantee Uruguayan independence.[113] In South America, all potential foreign threats to Rosas's plans of conquest had either collapsed and disappeared, like Gran Colombia and Peru–Bolivian Confederation, or were troubled by internal turmoil, like the Empire of Brazil. To reinforce his claims over Uruguay and Paraguay, and maintain his dominance over the Argentine provinces, Rosas blockaded the port of Montevideo and closed the interior rivers to foreign trade.[114]

Painting depicting a heavy-set man in profile who wears an elaborately embroidered military uniform with sash and large epaulets
Rosas at age 52, 1845

Anglo-French blockade

Apogee and downfall

As Rosas aged and his health declined, the question of who would succeed him became a growing concern among his supporters. His wife Encarnación had died in October 1838 after a long illness. Although devastated by his loss, Rosas exploited her death to raise support for his regime.[106] Not long after, at age 47, he began an affair with his fifteen-year-old maid, María Eugenia Castro, with whom he had five children.[107] From his marriage to Encarnación, Rosas had two children: Juan Bautista Pedro and Manuela Robustiana. Rosas established a hereditary dictatorship, naming the children of his marriage as his successors, claiming that "[t]hey are both worthy children of my beloved Encarnación, and if, God willing, I die, then you will find that they are capable of succeeding me."[108] It is unknown whether Rosas was a closeted monarchist, as had been many of his fellow countrymen. Later during his exile, Rosas would declare that Princess Alice of the United Kingdom would be the ideal ruler for his country.[109] Nonetheless, in public he claimed that his regime was republican in nature.[110]

When Rosas was elected governor for the first time in 1829, he had held no power outside the province of Buenos Aires. There was no national government or national parliament.[102] The former Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata had been succeeded by the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata, which by 1831, following the Federal Pact (and officially from 22 May 1835), had increasingly been known as the Argentine Confederation, or simply, Argentina.[103] The victory of Rosas over the other Argentine provinces in the early 1840s turned them into satellites of Buenos Aires. He gradually put in place provincial governors who were either his allies or too weak to have real independence, which allowed him to exercise dominance over all the provinces.[104] By 1848, Rosas began calling his government the "government of the confederacy" and the "general government", which would have been inconceivable a few years before. The next year, with acquiescence of the provinces, he named himself "Supreme Head of the Confederacy" and became the indisputable ruler of Argentina.[105]

Around 1845, Rosas managed to establish absolute dominance over the region, with no challenges to his authority remaining. He exercised complete control over all aspects of society with the solid backing of the army. Rosas had risen from colonel, on 18 December 1829, to brigadier general, the highest army rank.[1] Many years later, he declined to accept the newly created and higher rank of grand marshal (gran mariscal), which had been bestowed on him by the House of Representatives on 12 November 1840.[98] The army was led by officers who shared similar backgrounds and values to Rosas.[99] Confident of his power, Rosas made some concessions by returning confiscated properties to their owners, disbanding the Mazorca and ending torture and political assassinations.[100] The inhabitants of Buenos Aires still dressed and behaved according to the set of rules Rosas had imposed, but the climate of constant and widespread fear greatly diminished.[101]

Painting depicting a man in an elaborate military uniform seated before a group of dancers, drummers and other musicians
Rosas (seated, left) watching a Candomble celebration, 1845

Ruler of Argentina

In September 1839, Juan Lavalle returned after ten years in exile. He allied with the governor of Corrientes, which revolted once again, and invaded Buenos Aires province at the head of Unitarian troops armed and supplied by the French. Emboldened by Lavalle's actions, the provinces of Tucumán, Salta, La Rioja, Catamarca and Jujuy formed the Coalition of the North and also rebelled against Buenos Aires.[95] Great Britain intervened on behalf of Rosas, and France lifted the blockade on 29 October 1840.[96] The struggle with his internal enemies was hard-fought. By December 1842, Lavalle had been killed and the rebellious provinces subdued, except for Corrientes, which was only defeated in 1847.[97] Terrorism was also employed on the battlefield, as the Rosistas refused to take prisoners. Men who tried to escape were pursued, had their throats cut, and their heads put on display.[80]

The blockade caused severe damage to the economy across all the provinces, as they exported their goods through the port of Buenos Aires. Despite the 1831 Federal Pact, all provinces had long been discontented with the de facto primacy Buenos Aires province held over them.[90] On 28 February 1839, the province of Corrientes revolted and attacked both Buenos Aires and Entre Ríos provinces. Rosas counterattacked and defeated the rebels, killing their leader, the governor of Corrientes.[91] In June, Rosas uncovered a plot by dissident Rosistas to oust him from power in what became known as the Maza conspiracy. Rosas either imprisoned or executed the plotters. Manuel Vicente Maza, president of both the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court, was murdered by Rosas's Mazorca agents within the halls of the parliament on the pretext that his son was involved in the conspiracy.[92] In the countryside, estancieros (including a younger brother of Rosas) revolted, beginning the Rebellion of the South.[93] The rebels attempted to ally with France, but were easily crushed, many losing their lives and properties in the process.[94]

Throughout the late 1830s and early 1840s, Rosas faced a series of major threats to his power. The Unitarians found an ally in Andrés de Santa Cruz, the ruler of the Peru–Bolivian Confederation. Rosas declared war against the Peru–Bolivian Confederation on 19 March 1837, joining the War of the Confederation between Chile and Peru–Bolivia. The Rosista army played a minor role in the conflict, which resulted in the overthrow of Santa Cruz and the dissolution of the Peru–Bolivian Confederation.[89] On 28 March 1838, France declared a blockade of the port of the city of Buenos Aires, eager to extend its influence over the region. Unable to confront the French, Rosas increased internal repression to forestall potential uprisings against his regime.[90]

Rosas in gaucho attire, 1842. Oil painting by Raymond Monvoisin

Rebellions and foreign threat

Struggle for dominance

Although a judicial branch still existed in Buenos Aires, Rosas removed any independence the courts might have exercised, either by controlling appointments to judgeships, or by circumventing their authority entirely. He would sit in judgement over cases, issuing sentences which included fines, service in the army, imprisonment, or execution.[86] The exercise of state terror as a tool of intimidation was restricted to Rosas himself; his subordinates had no control over it. It was used against specific targets, rather than indiscriminately. Terrorism was orchestrated rather than a product of popular zeal, was targeted for effect rather than indiscriminate. Anarchic demonstrations, vigilantism and disorderliness were antithetical to a regime touting a law and order agenda.[87] Foreigners were exempted from abuses, as were people too poor or inconsequential to serve as effective examples. Victims were selected for their usefulness as tools of intimidation.[88]

[85] Modern estimates report around 2,000 people were killed from 1829 until 1852.[84] Castration, scalping of beards and cutting out tongues was also common.[83] Killings were generally by shooting, lance-thrusting or throat-slitting.[82] included neighborhood sweeps in which houses would be searched and occupants intimidated. Others who fell into their power were arrested, tortured and killed.mazorqueros The tactics of the [81], an armed Mazorca State terrorism was carried out by the

In addition to purges, banishments and censorship, Rosas took measures against the opposition and anyone else he deemed a threat that historians have considered state terrorism.[78] Terror was a tool used to intimidate dissident voices, to shore up support among his own partisans and to exterminate his foes.[79] His targets were denounced as having ties (real or invented) to Unitarians. Those victimized included members of his government and party who were suspected of being insufficiently loyal. If actual opponents were not at hand, the regime found other targets that were punished to make an example. A climate of fear was used to create unquestioning conformity to Rosas' dictates.[80]

Engraving depicting a man wearing an ornate military uniform waist-deep in a pile of human skulls and bones with a disembodied hand holding snakes above his head
An anti-Rosas drawing published in a newspaper in 1841 or 1842

State terrorism

Catholic clergy in Buenos Aires willingly backed Rosas' regime.[70] The Jesuits, the only ones who refused to do so, were expelled from the country.[71] The lower social strata in Buenos Aires, which formed the vast majority of its populace, experienced no improvement in the conditions under which they lived. When Rosas slashed expenditures, he cut resources from education, social services, general welfare and public works.[72] None of the lands confiscated from Indians and Unitarians were turned over to rural workers (including gauchos).[73] Black people did not experience any improvement in their conditions either. Rosas was himself a slave-owner, and helped revive slave trade.[74] Despite doing little to promote their interests, he remained popular among blacks and gauchos.[75] Rosas was not racially prejudiced. He employed blacks, patronized their festivities and attended their candombles.[76] The gauchos admired his leadership and willingness to fraternize with them to some extent.[77]

Rosas established a totalitarian regime, in which the government sought to dictate every aspect of public and private life. It was mandated that the slogan "Death to the Savage Unitarians" be inscribed at the head of all official documents.[65] Anyone on the state payroll—from military officers, priests, to civil servants and teachers—was obliged to wear a red badge with the inscription "Federation or Death".[66] Every male was required to have a "federal look," i.e., to sport a large mustache and sideburns, leading many to wear false mustaches.[67] The red color—symbol of both the Federalist Party and of Rosismo—became omnipresent in the province of Buenos Aires. Soldiers wore red chiripás (blankets worn as trousers), caps and jackets, and their horses sported red accouterments.[68] Civilians were also required to wear the color. A red waistcoat, red badge and red hat band were required for men, while women wore ribbons in that color and children donned school uniforms based upon Rosismo paradigms. Building exteriors and interiors were also decorated in red.[69]

Rosas's authority and influence spread far beyond the House of Representatives. He exercised tight control over the bureaucracy as well as his cabinet, stating: "Do not imagine that my Ministers are anything but my Secretaries. I put them in their offices to listen and report, and nothing more."[58] His supporters were rewarded with positions within the state apparatus, and anyone he deemed a threat was purged.[59] Opposition newspapers were burned in public squares.[60] Rosas created an elaborate cult of personality, presenting himself as an almighty and fatherlike figure who protected the people.[61] His portraits were carried in street demonstrations and placed on church altars to be venerated.[62] Rosismo was no longer a mere faction within the Federalist ranks; it had become a political movement. As early as 1829, Rosas had confided to an Uruguayan diplomatic envoy: "I tell you I am not a Federalist, and I have never belonged to that party."[63] During his governorship, he still claimed to have favored Federalism against Unitarianism, although in practice Federalism had by that time been subsumed into the Rosismo movement.[64]

Painting depicting a group of men and women bearing banners approaching a man in military uniform who holds a scroll, with a tent and flag in the background
Argentine slaves paying homage to Rosas

Totalitarian regime

Rosas believed that rigged elections were necessary for political stability, because most of the country's population was illiterate.[55] He acquired absolute power over the province with the assent and support of most estancieros and businessmen, who shared his views.[56] However, the estancia formed the power base on which Rosas relied. Lynch said that there "was a great deal of group cohesion and solidarity among the landed class. Rosas himself was the center of a vast kinship group based on land. He was surrounded by a closely knit economic and political network linking deputies, law officers, officials, and military who were also landowners and related among themselves or with Rosas."[57]

A plebscite was held to determine whether the citizens of Buenos Aires supported Rosas's reelection and assumption of dictatorial powers. During his governorship from 1829 to 1832, Rosas had reduced the election process to a farce. He had installed loyal associates as justices of the peace, powerful officeholders with administrative and judicial functions who were also charged with tax collection, leading militia and presiding over elections.[51] Through the exclusion of voters and intimidation of the opposition, the justices of the peace delivered any result Rosas favored.[52] Half of the members of the House of Representatives faced reelection each year, and the opposition to Rosas had quickly been eliminated through rigged elections, allowing him to control the legislature. Control over finances had been stripped from the legislature, and its approval of legislation turned into a rubber stamp to preserve the appearance of democracy.[53] The result of the 1833 election was a predictable 99.9% "yes" vote.[54]

While Rosas was away on the Desert Campaign in October 1833, a group of Rosistas (Rosas's supporters) laid siege to Buenos Aires. Inside the city, Rosas's wife, Encarnación, assembled a contingent of associates to aid the besiegers. The Revolution of the Restorers, as the Rosista coup came to be known, forced the provincial governor Juan Ramón Balcarce to resign. In quick succession, Balcarce was followed by two others who presided over weak and ineffective governments. The Rosismo (Rosism) had become a powerful faction within the Federalist Party, and pressured other factions to accept a return of Rosas, endowed with dictatorial powers, as the only way to restore stability.[49] The House of Representatives yielded, and on 7 March 1835, Rosas was reelected governor and invested with the suma del poder público (sum of public power).[50]

Profile view of Rosas at age 42, 1835; miniature by Fernando García del Molino

Absolute power

Second governorship

While the government in Buenos Aires was distracted with political infighting, ranchers began moving into territories in the south inhabited by indigenous peoples. The resulting conflict with native peoples necessitated a government response.[45] Rosas steadfastly endorsed policies which supported this expansion. During his governorship he had granted lands in the south to war veterans and to ranchers seeking alternative pasture lands during the drought.[46] Although the south was regarded as a virtual desert at the time, it possessed great potential and resources for agricultural development, particularly for ranching operations.[46] The government gave Rosas the command of an army with the directive to subdue the Indian tribes in the coveted territory. Rosas was generous to those Indians who surrendered, rewarding them with animals and goods. Although he personally disliked killing Indians, Rosas relentlessly hunted down those who refused to yield.[47] The Desert Campaign lasted from 1833 until 1834, and Rosas subjugated the entire region. His conquest of the south opened up many additional possibilities for yet further territorial expansion, which led him to state: "The fine territories, which extend from the Andes to the coast and down to the Magellan Straits are now wide open for our children."[48]

By the end of his first term, Rosas was generally credited with having staved off political and financial instability.[42] He faced increased opposition in the House of Representatives, however. All members of the House were Federalists, as Rosas had restored the legislature which had been seated under Dorrego, and which had subsequently been dissolved by Lavalle.[43] A liberal Federalist faction, which accepted dictatorship as a temporary necessity, called for the adoption of a Constitution.[44] Rosas was unwilling to govern constrained by a constitutional framework and only grudgingly relinquished his dictatorial powers. His term of office ended soon after, on 5 December 1832.[42]

Rosas' early administration was preoccupied with the severe deficits, large public debts and currency devaluation which his government inherited.[38] A great drought that began in December 1828, which would last until April 1832, greatly impacted the economy.[39] The Unitarians were still at large, controlling several provinces which had banded together in the Unitarian League. The capture of José María Paz, the main Unitarian leader, in March 1831 resulted in the end of the Unitarian–Federalist civil war and the collapse of the Unitarian League. Rosas was content, for the moment, to agree to recognize provincial autonomy in the Federal Pact.[40] In an effort to alleviate the government's financial issues, he improved revenue collection (while not raising taxes) and curtailed expenditures.[41]

Rosas (center, mounted on a dark horse) leading the war against Indians in the Desert Campaign, 1833

Desert Campaign

On 6 December 1829, the House of Representatives of Buenos Aires elected Rosas governor and granted him facultades extraordinarias (extraordinary powers)—in other words, "unbridled dictatorial powers".[33] This marked the beginning of his regime, described by historians as a dictatorship.[34] He saw himself as a benevolent dictator, saying: "For me the ideal of good government would be paternal autocracy, intelligent, disinterested and indefatigable ... I have always admired the autocratic dictators who have been the first servants of their people. That is my great title: I have always sought to serve the country."[35] He used his power to censor his critics and banish his enemies.[36] He later justified these measures, stating: "When I took over the government I found the government in anarchy, divided into warring factions, reduced to pure chaos, a hell in miniature ..."[37]

In December 1828 Juan Lavalle, the Unitarian governor of Buenos Aires, had Dorrego seized and executed without trial.[25] With Dorrego gone, Rosas filled the vacant Federalist leadership and rebelled against the Unitarians. He allied with Estanislao López, caudillo and ruler of Santa Fe Province, and they defeated Lavalle at the Battle of Márquez Bridge in April 1829.[26] When Rosas entered the city of Buenos Aires in November of that year, he was hailed both as a victorious military leader and as the head of the Federalists.[27] Rosas was considered a handsome man,[28] standing 1.77 meters (5 ft 10 in) tall[29] with blond hair and "piercing blue eyes".[30] Charles Darwin, who met him during his circumnavigation aboard HMS Beagle, assessed him as "a man of extraordinary character".[upper-alpha 5] British diplomat Henry Southern said that in "appearance Rosas resembles an English gentleman farmer—his manners are courteous without being refined. He is affable and agreeable in conversation, which however nearly always turns on himself, but his tone is pleasant and agreeable enough. His memory is stupendous: and his accuracy in all points of detail never failing."[32]

National unity crumbled under the weight of a continuous round of civil wars, rebellions and coups. The Unitarian–Federalist struggle brought perennial instability while caudillos fought for power and laid waste to the countryside. By 1826, Rosas had built a power base, consisting of relatives, friends and clients, and joined the Federalist Party.[22] He remained a strong advocate of his native province of Buenos Aires, with little concern for political ideology.[23] In 1820, Rosas had fought alongside the Unitarians because he saw the Federalist invasion as a menace to Buenos Aires. When the Unitarians sought to appease the Federalists by proposing to grant the other provinces a share in the customs revenues flowing through Buenos Aires, Rosas saw this as a threat to his province's interests.[24] In 1827, four provinces led by Federalist caudillos rebelled against the Unitarian government. Rosas was the driving force behind the Federalist takeover of Buenos Aires and the election of Manuel Dorrego as provincial governor that year.[24] Rosas was awarded with the post of general commander of the rural militias of the province of Buenos Aires on 14 July, which increased his influence and power.[24]

Half-length painted portrait depicting a man with dark blond hair wearing a military tunic with gold epaulets, red piping, a red sash and upraised collar bearing calvary insignia
Rosas at age 36, 1829

Governor of Buenos Aires

At the end of the conflict, Rosas returned to his estancias with acquired prestige for his military service. He was granted the rank of cavalry colonel and was awarded further landholdings by the government.[19] These additions, together with his successful business and fresh property acquisitions, greatly boosted his wealth. By 1830, he was the 10th largest landowner in the province of Buenos Aires (in which the city of the same name was located), owning 300,000 head of cattle and 420,000 acres (170,000 ha) of land.[20] With his newly gained influence, military background, vast landholdings and a private army of gauchos loyal only to him, Rosas became the quintessential caudillo, as provincial warlords in the region were known.[21]

When the Congress of Tucumán severed all remaining ties with Spain in July 1816, Rosas and his peers accepted independence as an accomplished fact.[16] Independence resulted in a breakup of the territories which had formed the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata. The province of Buenos Aires fought a civil war with the other provinces over the degree of autonomy which the provincial governments were to have. The Unitarian Party supported the preeminence of Buenos Aires, while the Federalist Party defended provincial autonomy. A decade of strife over the issue destroyed the ties between capital and provinces, with new republics being declared throughout the country. Efforts by the Buenos Aires government to quash these independent states were met with determined local resistance.[17] In 1820 Rosas and his gauchos, all dressed in red and nicknamed "Colorados del Monte" ("Reds of the Mount"), enlisted in the army of Buenos Aires as the Fifth Regiment of Militia. They repulsed invading provincial armies, saving Buenos Aires.[18]

The May Revolution of 1810 marked the early stage of a process which later led to the disintegration of Spain's Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, independence and the eventual formation of Argentina. Rosas, like many landowners in the countryside, was suspicious of a movement advanced primarily by merchants and bureaucrats in the city of Buenos Aires. Rosas was specially outraged by the execution of Viceroy Santiago Liniers at the hands of the revolutionaries. Like many landowners, Rosas felt nostalgic about colonial times, seeing them as stable, orderly and prosperous.[15]

Painting depicting 2 mounted horsemen wearing tall hats riding toward a group of panicking wild horses
Gauchos hunting feral horses. They served in the private army of Rosas.


Rise to power

[14]. In 1813, he married estancias Rosas acquired a working knowledge of administering ranchlands and, beginning in 1811, took charge of his family's

[11] He was in this way merely a product of his time and not at all unlike the other great landowners in the Río de la Plata region.[10] Shaped by the colonial society in which he lived, Rosas was conservative, an advocate of hierarchy and authority.[9]

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