University of Notre Dame
Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections
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Precursors to Independence
Early Independence
Federalism vs. Unitarianism
Rise of the Caudillos
Juan Facundo Quiroga
Rule of Rosas
Critics of Rosas
The Gauchos
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Juan Manuel Rosas ’ regime began under less than favorable circumstances. The rift between the provinces and Buenos Aires had reached a state of chaos; civil war raged throughout the region. Uprisings against Rosas in the provinces were defeated by the late 1830s, and the liberal platform advocated by Rivadavia was dismantled. As Rosas consolidated his power, he became more tyrannical, silencing dissent with his private police, the mazorcas. Much of the Unitario opposition fled the country; others remained, fearful for their lives. Among those who left were some of Argentina’s most accomplished public figures. They used the pen to attack Rosas from afar, hoping that a foreign power or neighboring army would dispose of the dictator. It would be twenty years before they saw their wish come true.

Known as the generation of 1837, these poets, publishers, and politicians challenged Rosas’ government by issuing newspapers, pamphlets and books from Uruguay and Chile. As Rosas became aware of particularly critical works, he notified the provinces to find and destroy any known copies that surfaced. Esteban Echeverría’s short story, El matadero, lays the blame on the violent character of the Argentine masses that supported Rosas. His Insurreción del Sud de la Provincia de Buenos Aires en Octubre de 1839, included here, documented Rosas’ tyranny. The leading intellectual of the group, Juan Bautista Alberdi, initially supported Rosas but later embraced liberal ideals that Rosas would never accept.

The best-known member of the generation was Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (1811-1888) from San Juan. An educator, journalist, diplomat, and future president of Argentina, he issued a serialized work in the Chilean newspaper, El progreso, then published the articles as a book in 1845 under the title Vida de Facundo Quiroga. The work attacked Rosas' repressive regime through the caudillo, Juan Facundo Quiroga. Sarmiento argued that Facundo and Rosas are essentially warlords who represented barbaric tendencies. Until the civilizing influence of Europe overcame these dictators, Argentina would be cursed by dictatorial rule. Vida de Facundo Quiroga has become the most widely read Latin American nineteenth century publication. It is taught regularly in U.S. universities, including Notre Dame.

As with Rivadavia, the generation of 1837 was greatly influenced by European thinkers of the day. While they opposed Rosas’ dictatorial governing style, they believed in representative government only for members of the middle and upper classes. They did not believe the lower classes, gauchos, and Indians could govern themselves. To this end, they openly supported European—especially Northern European—immigration, which would result in the arrival of civilizing influences to counter Rosas.

Following Rosas’ fall in 1852, several of the generation of 1837 returned to participate in Argentine political and cultural life.

See also: Rule of Rosas and Rosas Bio.



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