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Domingo Faustino Sarmiento

Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (1811-1888), educator, statesman, and writer, was president of the Argentine Republic from 1868 to 1874. His political career started as a member of the provincial legislature in the 1820s. His outspoken support for liberal ideals forced him to flee to Chile in 1840 during Juan Manuel de Rosas’ dictatorship. He began to write for the Chilean newspaper El Mecurio and became the director of a teacher’s college, the first one established in South America. During this period, Sarmiento wrote Facundo, his scathing biography of Juan Facundo Quiroga, which advanced the idea that the forces of civilization must overcome the barbarism of Facundo, Rosas, and other caudillos. In 1845, Sarmiento traveled to Europe and the United States under the auspices of the Chilean government to study and pursue educational reform. He returned in 1848 believing that education was an essential ingredient in civilizing the continent.

Sarmiento joined the forces that overthrew Rosas in 1852. He came into disagreement, however, with Rosas’ successor, Justo José Urquiza, so he returned to Chile until the caudillo’s fall in 1861 at the battle of Pavón. Shortly afterward, he was elected governor of San Juan. The Argentine government sent Sarmiento to the United States in 1864 to further study its educational system. While abroad, he was elected President in August 1868. He returned to actively promote a domestic agenda that included improving public education at all levels and constructing a transportation and communication system to improve the economy. After leaving office in 1874, he continued to write and lead a public life until his death in 1888.

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