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This paper explores the caudillo phenomenon in the early Argentine state, especially in regards to how it shaped the development of Argentine society and the economic and political landscapes of the period. Special attention is given to the caudillo Juan Manuel Rosas, and to a lesser extent Juan Facundo Quiroga.
Of supreme importance to the way in which caudillismo impacted Argentina was the construction of power around the head caudillo – in the case of Argentina, this is Rosas. As such, patron-client networks are given special attention. Not only were such systems responsible for shaping power while they remained, but wealth and authority were consolidated through these power structures in the hands of the elite members of society. These elites became an entrenched class and were then poised to dominate Argentina beyond the age of the caudillos.
The economy was not the only area of Argentine life affected by caudillismo, society was also significantly impacted. Gaucho subculture was the chief victim of caudillismo. Prior to the reign of Rosas, the gaucho lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle on the plains of Argentina. They lent their expertise in cattle ranching to the local estates when they saw fit. However, with the dominance of the caudillos over the state, the gaucho was confined to the estates of the elites. Vagrancy laws were enacted under the guidance of Rosas, acting in the interests of the landowners under his control.
Similarly affected by caudillismo were slaves and the indigenous populations of Argentina. Under Rosas, slavery was left intact. Again, the interests of the landed elites and their metropolitan counterparts demanded that slavery remain entrenched. The indigenous peoples suffered greatly at the hands of Rosas, as a way of expanding Argentine settlement, thus opening more land for his subjects to control, he launched the Desert Campaign. The result was that Argentine settlement was greatly expanded and those indigenous groups that did not cooperate with Rosas were forced away from their homelands and far from Argentine settlement.
Finally, this paper briefly examines the role of masculinity in caudillismo. As I argue, masculinity played a key role in the construction and maintenance of power. Caudillos built around them a glorified masculine imagine, depicting themselves as skilled workers or triumphant military leaders – and very often both. These masculine images constructed around each caudillo formed the bedrock of a cult of personality that inspired loyalty. As such, it was of key importance to the caudillo phenomenon.
Bos, Tyler, "The Age of the Caudillos: Power Structures, Masculinity, & Neglect in the Argentine National Period" (2015). Honors Theses. 2558.
Honors Thesis-Open Access