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The United Provinces of South America

Political and administrative changes occurred in the former viceroyalty after 1810. Buenos Aires was soon left with only three of the eight jurisdictions of the former Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata — Buenos Aires, Salta, and Cordoba. In 1813 a further subdivision of Córdoba created the jurisdiction of Cuyo (present-day provinces of Mendoza, San Juan, and San Luis); the next year Entre Rios and Corrientes separated from Buenos Aires to form individual provinces, while Salta was divided into Salta and Tucumán (present-day provinces of Tucumán, Santiago del Estero, and Catamarca). In that same year the Banda Oriental was also given separate provincial status.

Soon after the dissolution of the Revolutionary Assembly, the abildo Buenos Aires assumed the reins of government and created the Junta of Observation, whose most important duty was to convoke a general congress, which met at Tucumán on March 24, 1816, and remained in session until 1820. To assert political authority against national dissolution and anarchy, the provincial representatives appointed Juan Martin de Pueyrredón to lead the United Provinces on May 3.

San Martin and Belgrano were important participants in the congress, where they lobbied for a declaration of independence, which was finally achieved on July 9, 1816. The congress of Tucumán formalized the process of national consolidation that had begun in 1810 when it unanimously declared the independence of the United Provinces of South America in 1816.

After his designation as supreme director, Pueyrredon accepted San Martin's invitation to a meeting in Cordoba to discuss his continental plan of liberation. In 1814 San Martin had been appointed governor of Cuyo and since then had been preparing a revolutionary army to defend the region against royalist forces from Chile. Chilean patriots under the command of Bernardo O'Higgins were defeated by royalist forces at the Battle of Rancagua in late 1814 and then crossed the Andes mountains to Mendoza in hopes of assistance from San Martin. San Martin's Army of the Andes was soon to play a vital role in the independence of the Spanish colonies throughout South America.

During Pueyrredon's rule (1816-19) the United Provinces enjoyed political stability even though international recognition was delayed. A constituent assembly was appointed in 1817 that passed a conservative constitution in April 1819 providing for centralized control under the authority of Buenos Aires. The new constitution disregarded the strength of the local adherents of Federalism and provincial autonomy, who soon forced the collapse of central authority and the resignation of Pueyrredon.

The 1819 constitution deepened the conflicts between Buenos Aires and the provinces and led to a period of anarchy in 1820. Since 1810, however, a common bond had developed among the provinces over achieving both independence from Spain and some sort of national organization, while their rivalries were the result of diverse regional views of a national project for political consolidation.

After a year of internal conflicts, the election of Martin Rodriguez to the governorship of Buenos Aires signaled the beginning of a period of provincial reorganization that was to become an example to the other provinces. A series of reforms were implemented under Rivadavia's influence that touched all aspects of provincial life.

Among the most significant provisions were the creation of a junta of representatives elected on the basis of universal male suffrage and direct elections, the passing of a "law of amnesty" for all political dissidents, the signing of a treaty of cooperation among the provinces of Buenos Aires, Entre Rios, Corrientes, and Santa Fe under the principles of national unity and provincial autonomy, and the abolition of the cabildo, which was incompatible with the existence of a congress of representatives.

Economic reforms were also implemented through a loan for harbor improvements, the establishment of a municipal water supply, and the settlement of communities on the southern coast and in Patagonia; the creation of a bank; and the organization of a military pension system. Despite opposition among Catholics, the church was reorganized, and its fuero (privileges, particularly to be judged by one's peers) and tithes were abolished.

Additional new regulations prohibited people under the age of 25 from taking religious vows and limited the size of religious communities. Another accomplishment of the administration was the creation of the University of Buenos Aires on August 12, 1821, and the reorganization of primary education. By the end of Rodriguez' governorship, a constituent congress had been convoked. On April 2, 1824, Rodriguez was succeeded by Juan Gregorio de las Heras.





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