Juan Manuel de Rosas: Biography, History & Politics (1793-1877)

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Juan Manuel de Rosas: Biography, History & Politics (1793-1877)

Juan Manuel de Rosas “Restorer of the Laws” – Politician and landowner from the River Plate who governed the province of Buenos Aires and directed the foreign policy of the Argentine Confederation.

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Birth Buenos Aires, Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, March 30, 1793.
Death Swanthling (Southampton), England, March 14, 1877.
Occupation Politician and landowner.

Biography of Juan Manuel de Rosas?

Juan Manuel de Rosas was a River Plate politician and landowner who ruled the province of Buenos Aires and directed the foreign policy of the Argentine Confederation for almost thirty years in the mid-nineteenth century.

He exerted a government characterized by his personal intervention in every aspect of the life of the porteños, from public to private matters. His strong and authoritarian character marked that period in Argentine history, which is known as “the era of Rosas.”

Portrait of Juan Manuel de Rosas

Portrait of Juan Manuel de Rosas by Italian painter Cayetano Delcalzi.

Juan Manuel de Rosas: Early Life & Youth

Juan Manuel José Domingo Ortiz de Rosas was born in Buenos Aires, then capital of the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata, on March 30, 1793.

His parents were Agustina Teresa López y Osornio, a landowner who managed personally with efficiency, and León Ortiz de Rosas, a military officer and an official of the viceroyalty.

Although his father’s wishes were for him to dedicate himself to military activity, since childhood he felt more interested in life in the country where he felt freer and should not be subordinated to a rigorous hierarchy, as in the army. After a brief stint at a private school in Buenos Aires, he dedicated himself to managing the family ranch.

In 1806, during the first English Invasion of the Río de la Plata, he participated in the reconquest of Buenos Aires and the following year, during the second invasion, he enlisted in a company of Migueletes together with which he acted in the defense of the city.

He did not participate in the process of the May Revolution or in the independence struggles. During that period he dedicated himself to the administration of family stays in the province of Buenos Aires.

On March 16, 1813, he married  Encarnación Ezcurra Arguibel despite the opposition of his parents and his girlfriend. Encarnacion was a woman of strong and determined character. She will be the great ally and main promoter of Rosas when he begins his political activity. With Encarnación he had three children, Juan Bautista (1814), María Encarnación (who died a few hours after birth) and Manuela (1817), his favorite daughter who accompanied him throughout his political life and went into exile with him.

Juan Manuel de Rosas & the Rancher Roses

In 1815, Rosas separated from the family businesses and started a company to produce salted meat for export in partnership with Luis Dorrego and Juan Nepomuceno Terrero. Thanks to the success obtained in his companies, during the 1820s he dedicated himself to buying land and managing estates for third parties.

Rosas was very observant, meticulous and detailed. During those years, he learned to know and interpret the customs of the inhabitants of the countryside. He dealt with them with a paternalistic rigor that made him very popular. He was rigorous, but he also shared his food, his jobs, and his living conditions, thereby gaining the confidence of the gauchos.

During his stay “Los Cerrillos” organized a small army of faithful gauchos, “Los colorados del Monte“, which functioned as a disciplined and efficient militia.

The disorder that ensued at the Battle of Cepeda (1820) convinced him that a strong political intervention was necessary to organize the province and ensure the conditions for the production and export of goods.

Juan Manuel de Rosas Political Life

When he entered political life, Rosas was a rich and respected landowner. He was supported by both the landowning elite, who knew his efficiency and shared his interests, and the people of the lower classes who saw in him someone who understood their needs.

Known for his practicality and his ability to handle subordinates, he had a bargaining will that, accompanied by his military might, often allowed him to exercise his will. For the porteños, he was the right person to pacify and organize the province.

On December 8, 1829, he was elected governor by the Board of Representatives, he was granted extraordinary powers and the title of Restorer of the laws.

Juan Manuel de Rosas: First Government

During his first political office, Rosas dedicated himself to organizing and cleaning up the provincial economy.

Between 1830 and 1831, the conflicts between Unitarians and Federals deepened. In this context, Rosas supported the formation of the Federal Pact, which grouped the provinces led by federals, with the promise of favoring the approval of a national Constitution to organize the State when conflicts were resolved. However, when the Unitary League, headed by General José María Paz, was defeated, Juan Manuel de Rosas found a way to postpone the convocation.

Between 1832 and 1835, due to disagreements with the Board of Representatives, Rosas withdrew from political activity. While in Buenos Aires, Encarnación Ezcurra, his wife, was in charge of organizing strategies for him to regain power, Rosas withdrew to the interior of the province to organize a military campaign to secure the border, always conflictive, with the indigenous people. Its objective was to incorporate land for livestock production but also to gain the unconditional support of ranchers and landowners.

Second Government

In 1834, new conflicts between the northern provinces created a general climate of uncertainty. The fear of the return of the anarchy of previous years decided the Buenos Aires representatives to elect Rosas again as governor of the province under the conditions that he imposed: he was granted extraordinary powers and sum of public power.

From that moment, a period began that would last until 1852 in which Rosas was the most powerful person in the Confederation.

Providing different excuses, he systematically refused to convene a constitutional congress to organize the provinces that he maintained dominated with a policy of economic control that consisted of avoiding sharing the customs income, but compensating with subsidies so that they would depend economically on him.

His government was transformed into a dictatorship that did not hesitate to apply methods of state terrorism. His shock group, the Sociedad Popular Restauradora, better known as “La Mazorca” became a para-police group controlling society. He built an ideological unification, supported by a system of symbols, such as the color red, currency, etc., which eliminated any form of dissent.

At the same time, he exercised a strong protectionist foreign policy that earned him the admiration and recognition of José de San Martín, who, after the Battle of Vuelta de Obligado, in which he faced an Anglo-French squad that tried to navigate the rivers Argentine interiors without authorization, sent him a letter congratulating him on his defense of sovereignty.

rose season poster

Poster of the time that shows Juan Manuel de Rosas as the savior of society.

Juan Manuel de Rosas: His Fall and Exile

From the beginning of his appointment, Rosas regularly submitted his resignation to the representation of foreign relations, knowing that it would not be accepted. But in 1851Justo José de Urquiza, who was governor of the province of Entre Ríos and was harmed by the prohibition of free navigation of the rivers, accepted it by means of a decree known as the Pronouncement of Urquiza. He then faced him in the Battle of Caseros on February 3, 1852 and defeated him.

That same day, knowing that his life was in danger, he took refuge in the English war frigate Centaur, which was in the port of Buenos Aires and traveled to England where he went into exile. For the next 25 years he lived on financial aid from his friends since his assets had been confiscated.

On March 14, 1877 , Juan Manuel de Rosas died on his farm in Swanthling, near SouthamptonEngland, never having returned to South America.

  • Fradkin, Raúl and Gelman Jorge. Juan Manuel de Rosas. Building a political leadership . Buenos Aires, Edhasa. 2016.
  • Luna, Felix (dir.). Juan Manuel de Rosas . Col. Great protagonists of Argentine History, Buenos Aires, Planeta. 1999.
  • Rosasco, Eugenio. Color of Roses . Buenos Aires, Young South American. 1992.
  • Sáenz Quesada, María. Women of Rosas , Buenos Aires, Planeta. 1991.
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