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date: 26 September 2022

The Independence of Uruguay and the Atlantic Worldlocked

The Independence of Uruguay and the Atlantic Worldlocked

  • Nicolás DuffauNicolás DuffauUniversidad de la República, Uruguay

Summary

The process that led to the independence of the Oriental State of Uruguay (now the Oriental Republic of Uruguay) began with the 1810 revolution and lasted until the 1828 Preliminary Peace Convention and the enactment of the first constitution in July 1830. In these twenty years, the territory of the River Plate was marked by war and various experiments of social and political organization.

In the 1810s, some of the elites of the territory located on the eastern bank of the Uruguay River joined the uprising that had begun in Buenos Aires. This support for the Buenos Aires junta—the outcome of demands for the expansion of jurisdiction and greater autonomy—divided the territory between the administration of Montevideo (until 1814 in the hands of Españolistas) and a revolutionary group. In this context, a radical popular revolutionary project was produced under the leadership of José Artigas (1764–1850). This sought a federal union with other provinces along the Uruguay River and became known as the System of Free Peoples. It encountered fierce resistance from the authorities in Buenos Aires. The radicalization of certain postures among the “Orientales” (as the people in what is now Uruguay were called) was rejected by the Creole elites, who abandoned the Artiguista group and imposed restraints on the social revolution. Added to this were the occupation of the territory by Luso-Brazilian forces (who had strong local support) and the transformation of the Oriental Province into the Cisplatin Province, since 1821 part of the Portuguese Empire.

In 1825, a second stage began in the fight for independence from the king of Portugal and the emperor of Brazil, and the union with the United Provinces based in Buenos Aires. Support from the latter was due to a war with Brazil, which ended with the Preliminary Convention of Peace. Signed and ratified in 1828, this allowed the creation of an independent state—with not very precise boundaries—whose first constitution was enacted in 1830.

From the second half of the 19th century to the present, the independence of Uruguay has been a permanent theme of historiographic and political debate, fundamental for the definition of national identity. This discussion became intertwined with the foundation of a national account of the country and the formation of a pantheon of patriotic heroes (headed by Artigas). Views of the past, which merged with the ideological debate of each present, traveled along distant paths, ranging from the initial desire of the Orientales to construct an independent state at the beginning of the revolution, to interpretations that resignified political projects as possible alternatives as events unfolded.

Subjects

  • Revolutions and Rebellions
  • Colonialism and Imperialism

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