Caudillos in Spanish America, 1800-1850

Caudillos in Spanish America, 1800-1850

Caudillos in Spanish America, 1800-1850

Caudillos in Spanish America, 1800-1850

Synopsis

The caudillo of Spanish America was both regional chieftain and, in the turbulent years of the early nineteenth century, national leader. His power base rested on ownership of land and control of armed bands. He was the rival of constitutional rulers and the precursor of modern dictators. In this book, Lynch explores the changing perception of the caudillo--bandit chief, guerrilla leader, republican hero--and examines his multi-faceted role as regional strongman, war leader, landowner, distributor of patronage, and the "necessary gendarme" who maintained social order. Lynch traces the origins and development of the caudillo tradition, and sets it in its contemporary context. His scholarly analysis of this central theme in the history of Spanish America is underpinned by detailed case studies of four major caudillos: Juan Manuel de Rosas (Argentina), Jose Antonio Paez (Venezuela), Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (Mexico), and Raphael Carrera (Guatemala). This study is an important contribution our understanding of political and social structures during the formative period of the nation-state in Spanish America.

Excerpt

Caudillos and dictators have tended to occupy centre stage of Spanish American history, frequent actors in government, recurring heroes of society. One of the most insistent questions put to the historian of Spanish America is, Why do constitutions fail? How can we explain the prevalence of caudillism? What were its origins, its nature, its meaning? Scholars have not evaded the subject. the caudillo, regional chieftain turned national ruler, is recognized in profile by historians and social scientists, though some of his features remain obscure, and existing interpretations tend to lack the realism of chronology and of case studies. the present enquiry is an attempt to supply these needs, and proceeds on the assumption that it was a combination of conditions and events that produced the caudillo, and that he is to be explained not in terms of cultural values or Hispanic tradition or national character but as part of a historical process in which personalist leaders accumulated functions and added to their power in response to specific interests and to some extent in successive stages.

The method of the book is first to seek origins, establish character, and define roles, moving in a chronological framework from early to mid-nineteenth century, then to show particular caudillos in action, testing the leadership of each by reference to that of the others. Selection has been dictated by practical as well as theoretical considerations, by an awareness of the historian's finite condition as well as a search for a comparative typology. Moreover, a sharp focus on a limited number of caudillos avoids the risk of losing sight of the theme and writing only a general history of Spanish America. Evidence for the structural aspects of the subject comes mainly from Argentina, Venezuela, and Mexico, though in studying some topics, such as bandits and guerrillas, I have found it useful to range beyond these countries. in the case studies I have added the career of Rafael Carrera of Guatemala to those of his contemporaries in Argentina, Venezuela, and Mexico, in order to provide contrast as well as comparison.

The idea of writing a comparative history of caudillism came to me in the wake of studying the Argentine dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas . . .

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