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Juan Manuel de Rosas (1793-1877)

Biographical Information

Juan Manuel de Rosas was a dictatorial governor of the young Argentine republic from 1829 through 1852. While he was an authoritarian ruler who used violence to maintain his control, he also halted the seemingly endless inter-provincial civil wars, which provided the stability that the country needed to experience significant economic growth.

Born into wealth and power, Rosas grew up on an estancia in the province of Buenos Aires. He threw himself into rural life mastering management, marketing, and riding skills that impressed his gaucho workers. Well connected politically, Rosas was appointed in the early 1820s to secure the southern frontier from Indian attacks. His success in accomplishing this placed him as one of the key provincial leaders. With a militia and strong provincial support he joined Estanislao López of Santa Fe to oust the Unitarian government in Buenos Aires whose liberal policies were detested by Rosas and others. He became governor of Buenos Aires in 1829 and would continue in that capacity, except for 1832-1835, until 1852.

Rosas consolidated his power during this first three-year term as governor. During this tenure, he withdrew the province of Buenos Aires from discussions of national unification. Though overwhelmingly re-elected in 1832, he chose not to serve as he was not given complete authority over the province. Instead, he led a successful expedition into the south to expand grazing and farming lands. Appointed governor in 1835, this time with extraordinary powers, Rosas had no worthy competitor in the country. He essentially was the national authoritarian leader as he quashed any opposition that arose. Without opposition, he turned his attention building up the cattle industry, which flourished through the export of dried beef to other parts of Latin America.

Unitarian sympathizers fled the country and impatiently awaited an opportunity to attack Rosas. In Chile, Domingo Sarmiento wrote Civilization and Barbarism, while Echeverria wrote The Slaughterhouse in Montevideo. Both strongly criticized Rosas and the Federalists for their violent attacks on freedom within Argentina. Rosas survived French and English blockades and Unitarian forces until Justo José Urquiza, the Entre Ríos strongman and one of Rosas' longtime supporters, led combined forces to defeat Rosas at the battle of Caseros in 1852. Rosas and his daughter, Manuelita, fled Argentina for England where he lived the remaining 25 years of his life.

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Description of Archival Collection
(MSH/SCH 4016-1 to 4016-2 and 200-01; 4012-01 to 4012-83 and 7000-01 to 7001-06)

The archive currently consists of one letter written to Don Pedro Larrachea on March 29, 1831, discussing recent military triumphs against the Unitarios, and one letter on August 18, 1848 authorizing confession for Wadislao Gutierrez and Camila O'Gorman before their execution. There is also a letter addressed to the Governor of the Province of Mendoza on August 10, 1835, in which Rosas informs him that the Reynafe brothers are being accused for the assasination of Juan Facundo Quiroga.

Notre Dame also holds an archive of letters and personal papers of Antonino Reyes, personal secretary to Juan Manuel de Rosas.

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