V. The Modern Period, 1789–1914 > I. Latin America, 1806–1914 > 2. The Wars of Independence, 1806–1872 > b. The Río De La Plata
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
b. The Río De La Plata
The period of independence in the region of Río de la Plata opened with a British attempt to gain possession of a portion of the area.  1
A British fleet occupied Buenos Aires. The viceroy fled, and Santiago Liniers, at the head of the colonial militia, organized the unified war effort of Spaniards and creoles, who defeated the British. Upon his return, a cabildo abierto deposed the viceroy and elected Liniers, an act that the Crown approved.  2
The British government dispatched an expedition to conquer Buenos Aires. After taking Montevideo, they advanced on Buenos Aires, where the militia organized by local merchants defeated them. The British agreed to retreat from the Río de la Plata and Montevideo. Urban militia allowed the creole elite to control plebeian mobilization through military organization. Military chiefs gained wider influence in the political arena.  3
In view of the apparent success of Napoleon, a provisional junta of the provinces of the Río de la Plata was established in the name of Ferdinand VII (May 25, 1810). Direct Spanish authority was never restored. The junta included Mariano Moreno (1778–1811), a creole lawyer, and Cornelio Saavedra, a merchant from Upper Peru.  4
The provisional junta rejected royal authority, suppressed Indian tribute, and sought to extend control over the Banda Oriental and Paraguay. An expedition sent to liberate Upper Peru was defeated, and Paraguay refused to adhere to the provinces of the Río de la Plata. Moreno and his followers opposed the predominance of militia chiefs. The junta forced Moreno from office, and a triumvirate was installed, with Bernardino Rivadavia (1780–1845), an extreme liberal, as secretary. The triumvirate dissolved the junta and reorganized the urban militia.  5
The triumvirate prohibited slave trade and dissolved the provincial juntas, weakening its popularity in the interior and littoral provinces. Army officers formed the Logia Lautaro, a Masonic lodge, which removed the triumvirate and Rivadavia from power. The conflict between centralists (unitarios) and federalists (federales) intensified. José Gervasio Artigas, leader of the Banda Oriental, pressed for the prompt establishment of a federal system.  6
An expedition to invade Upper Peru failed. An assembly abolished Indian forced labor and gave freedom to all children of slave mothers. It suppressed titles of nobility and disentailed properties, excepting those belonging to the Church.  7
Royalist military buildup in Montevideo and new defeats in Upper Peru induced pessimism about independence among the leaders of Buenos Aires, who started to consider a reconciliation with Spain. The king, however, refused to accept any compromise with the new leaders.  8
Buenos Aires forbade foreign merchants to trade freely with the other riverine provinces, creating further enmity toward the main port. Liberal policies hurt Buenos Aires merchants unable to restrain the growing role of the British in provincial trade. Support for federalism also grew within Buenos Aires, since it would allow the province to keep the revenues from foreign trade for itself.  9
Gen. Alvear (1789–1852) became dictator, while Artigas ruled in the Banda Oriental, and the provinces of Santa Fe and Córdoba announced their own independence. GEN. JOSÉ DE SAN MARTÍN (1778–1850) departed for Mendoza to organize an army to liberate Chile and later move by sea to attack royalists in Peru. He became one of the greatest military figures of the independence wars.  10
1816, July 9
Congress of Tucumán declared the independence of the United Provinces and elected Juan Martín Pueyrredón, a member of the Logia Lautaro, as supreme chief. In his eagerness to destroy federalism, he allowed the Portuguese invasion of the Banda Oriental (See 1811). Federalists, however, prevailed in the littoral provinces.  11
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.