Independence of Uruguay: History, Causes & Consequences

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Independence of Uruguay

Independence of Uruguay: Process by which the Uruguayan territory became independent from the Spanish Crown.

What was the Independence of Uruguay?

The Independence of Uruguay was the process by which the Uruguayan territory, known then as the Eastern Band of the Río de la Plata, became independent from the Spanish Crown. This process began on February 28, 1811 with the Cry of Asencio.

During the process of Independence of Uruguay, the patriots had to confront the political and territorial interests of neighboring countries, such as Brazil. After several attempts and armed confrontations for the Uruguay seizure of power, José Gervasio Artigas, in command of the independence troops, had to withdraw from Uruguay and hand over power to the Portuguese-Brazilian Empire.

Finally, through a period of political instability and bloody confrontations, the independence army managed to reorganize itself in 1825 and caused the “landing of the 33“. There the independentists, under the command of Juan Antonio Lavalleja, managed to dislodge the Portuguese from political power and began to strengthen an independent state.

Oath of the 33 orientals in the independence of Uruguay

Oil of the oath of the 33 orientals in the Independence of Uruguay, by Juan Manuel Blanes.

Uruguayan Independence Process

The revolutionary process began on February 28, 1811, with the so-called Grito de Asencio, carried out by Pedro Viera and Venancio Benavides.

On April 11 of the same year, Viera and Benavides requested help from Buenos Aires by going to General Artigas, who issued the Mercedes Proclamation, communicating that the Junta would send money, ammunition and three thousand men to contribute to the independence process.

The liberating troops mobilized towards Montevideo, where the battle of Las Piedras took place, on May 18 of the same year. There Artigas achieved an important victory against the royalist army.

However, even having achieved this important victory, Manuel de Sarratea, a Buenos Aires politician of the ruling triumvirate, signed an armistice with the Portuguese, called the Herrera-Rademaker Treaty.

In this treaty, he gave them the command of the Banda Oriental, in exchange for support in the Independence of the Provinces of the Río de La Plata. Consequently, Artigas was forced to withdraw from Montevideo, in the well-known historical event of the Exodus of the Eastern People or La Redota.

But Artigas and his troops tried to retake Montevideo, only temporarily achieving their objectives, until they were defeated by the Portuguese-Brazilian army in the battle of Tacuarembó, in January 1820. From that date, the Eastern Band was called the Cisplatina Province.

In 1825, 5 years later, the so-called “landing of the 33” occurred, when a group of patriots, led by Juan Antonio Lavalleja, managed to evict Montevideo from the Portuguese.

On August 28, 1828, the Preliminary Peace Convention was signed, with which the Banda Oriental was consolidated as an independent State, calling itself the Eastern State of Uruguay. Then, on July 18, 1830, the first National Constitution was promulgated and Fructuoso Rivera was elected president.

Causes and Consequences of the Independence of Uruguay

Causes of the Uruguayan Independence

Among the main causes of the Independence of Uruguay, we can highlight the following:

  • The influence of the independence ideas that emerged in the Independence of the United States and the French Revolution.
  • The weakening of the Spanish Crown, which allowed the independence movements to gain strength and achieve their objectives.
  • The malaise generated in the population by the taxes and injustices caused by the metropolis.
  • Conflicts for territorial interests with Portugal and the Empire of Brazil.

Consequences of the Independence of Uruguay

The process of Independence of Uruguay caused the following consequences:

  • Uruguay remained outside the United Provinces of the Rio de La Plata and the Empire of Brazil, preserving its independence, like Paraguay.
  • In 1830, the first Constitution of Uruguay was issued and its first president was elected.
  • Political instability in the region led to the creation of two predominant parties, the White Party and the Colorado Party, which would later face civil wars for the government.
  • Social conflicts and hostility to foreigners: Many trade agreements with Great Britain and France were lost, causing a period of economic crisis and migration.
  • In 1839 the Great War happened due to foreign conflicts and internal political problems, after independence. The war lasted until 1851.

Key Personnel of the Uruguayan Independence

The protagonists of the Independence of Uruguay were:

  • José Gervasio Artigas (1764-1850): Statesman, military man, head of the Orientals and protector of free peoples. He is considered a hero in this process of independence and a hero in Argentina.
  • Venancio BenavidesMilitary man who starred alongside Pedro José Viera in the Grito de Asencio, which started independence.
  • Pedro José Viera (1779-1844): Soldier and Portuguese-Brazilian deserter, who settled in the Banda Oriental and became one of the heroes of the independence process.
  • Juan Antonio Lavalleja (1784-1853): Military man, politician and head of the 33 orientals who managed to evict the Portuguese from Montevideo.
  • Manuel de Sarratea (1774-1849): Argentine politician and military man, who signed the Herrera-Rademaker Treaty with the colonizers, for the Uruguayan territory.
  • Carlos Federico Lecor (1764-1836): Military and colonial administrator of Portugal, who occupied Montevideo in 1817.
  • Francisco Javier de Elío (1767-1822): Spanish military man, governor of Montevideo and last viceroy of the Río de La Plata.
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