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Uruguay - Early Independence - 1825-1903

The United Provinces of the River Plate ( Spanish Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata ) was the name for the territory of present-day states Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia's Tarija Department between May Revolution ( Revolución de Mayo ) 1810 and 1831. It emerged from the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, which had been shattered since 1810 by the South American independence war. The Eastern Province (Provincia Oriental) became independent as Uruguay, partly retaining its old name in its official name: the Eastern Republic of Uruguay.

The move to independence began, as elsewhere in Latin America, in the early nineteenth century. Uruguay's revolt against Spain was initiated in 1811 by Jose Gervasio Artigas, a gaucho chieftain who became a hero of the independence movement. Artigas is known to Uruguayans as the father of Uruguayan independence, although his attempt to gain autonomy for the country within the boundaries of a regional federation was unsuccessful. Independence was not finally and formally achieved until 1828, following a war between Brazil and Uruguayan patriots supported by Argentina.

British diplomatic mediation ended the conflict and resulted in the recognition of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay (Republica Oriental del Uruguay) as an independent state. Nevertheless, civil wars, invasions, and foreign intervention continued to disrupt the nation's development until the end of the nineteenth century.

The two political parties that dominated Uruguayan political life since independence were born in these early years of instability, although at that time they were litde more than feuding bands of gauchos. The issue that provoked the initial major confrontation was federalism versus unitary rule. In 1838 the federalist sympathies of General Manuel Oribe (president, 1835-38) led to a revolt by the forces of General Jose Fructoso Rivera (president, 1830-35), who again became president following the defeat of Oribe and his followers.

Oribe's forces, supported by merchants, landowners, and the high clergy, became known as Blancos in reference to the white {blanco) hatbands they wore to distinguish their own men from the enemy on the field of battle. Rivera's forces, representing more liberal urban elements, were distinguished by red (Colorado) hatbands and thus were designated Colorados. The political lines drawn in the 1830s evolved into two rival parties: the Colorado Party (Partido Colorado), which identified itself as the defender of Uruguayan sovereignty and as the champion of the common man and liberalism, and the National Party (Partido Nacional, usually referred to as the Blancos), which stood for order and conservatism and declared itself protector of the faith.

During the last three decades of the nineteenth century, a period that included fifteen years of military rule, there were frequent confrontations and clashes between the Colorados and the Blancos and among competing rival factions of the Colorados. A growing gulf between the capital city and the interior contributed to a solidification of the previously somewhat amorphous ideologies of the two parties as the Colorados recruited urban immigrant groups, especially laborers, and the Blancos represented more conservative rural elements.

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Page last modified: 18-05-2017 19:43:32 ZULU