- José Gervasio Artigas
José Gervasio Artigas Aznar (
June 19 1764- September 23 1850) was a national hero of Uruguayand is sometimes called "the father of Uruguayan independence".
Montevideoto a wealthy family, at the age of twelve moved to the countryside and devoted himself to rural tasks on his family's farms. Observing the local inhabitants - especially the gauchos - he became good at handling weapons and riding, and entering into quasi-legal activities, especially smuggling, on the border with Portuguese-controlled Brazil.
At the age of thirty three, seeking protection in an amnesty for those who had not committed violent crimes, he entered the Corps of Blandengues to protect the border with Brazil. In 1806-1807, he participated in the Spanish resistance to the
British invasions of the River Plate. He formed part of the force which, under Santiago de Liniers, Montevideo contributed to the liberation, ("Reconquista") of Buenos Aires from Beresford's occupation, in 1806, and also in the Battle of Montevideo (1807). Following the Spanish defeat in the latter, he was, as an officer in the regular Spanish forces, made prisoner and about to be shipped to Britain as a prisoner of war. He was spared due to his ill health, having been wounded in the battle.
In 1810, Spain moved the headquarters for the
Viceroyalty of the River Plateto Montevideoafter the May Revolutionforced them to abandon Buenos Aires. On 15 February 1811he left the Corps of Blandengues and moved to Buenos Airesto offer his military services. The people of Spanish America were fighting for their freedom and Artigas wished to defend these ideals in the Eastern Bank. At the beginning of April he returned to his country with approximately 180 men provided by the Government of Buenos Aires; on April 11, he issued the Mercedes Proclamation, assumed control of the revolution and on May 18 defeated the Spanish in the Battle of Las Piedras. He then began the siege of Montevideoand was acclaimed as The First Chief of the "Orientals" (the first names of current Uruguaybeing Banda Oriental (Eastern Bank) and later Provincia Oriental (Oriental Province), Uruguayans thus refer to themselves as 'Orientales').
In 1814, he organized the Liga de los Pueblos Libres ("League of the Free Peoples"), of which he was declared Protector. In the following year, as a federalist, he liberated Montevideo from the centralizing control of the "Unitarians", installed in Buenos Aires.
In 1815 he attended the Proto-congress of the Independence of Argentina, held in Arrollo de la China (today known as the town of Concepción del Uruguay). It was at this congress that the provinces of the Oriental Province (today the country of Uruguay), Córdoba, Corrientes, Entre Ríos, Misiones and Santa Fe declared themselves independent from
Spainand from any other foreign power and formed the Liga Federal("Federal League"). The Liga Federal invited the other provinces of the former Viceroyalty of the River Plate to join them under a federal system.
In this congress Artigas ratified the use of the flag created by
Manuel Belgrano(which would later become the flag of the Argentine Republic), but added a diagonal festoon in red, this color being a symbol of federalism in Argentinaat that time.
The continued growth of influence and prestige of the Federal League frightened
Buenos Aires(due to its federalism) and Portugal(because of its republicanism), and in August, 1816, the latter invaded the Eastern Province(with Buenos Aires' tacit complicity), with the intention of destroying Artigas and his revolution.
The Portuguese forces, led by Carlos Frederico Lecor, thanks to his numerical and material superiority, conquered Artigas and his deputies and occupied Montevideo on
20 January, 1817, but the struggle continued for three long years in the countryside. Infuriated by Buenos Aires's passivity, Artigas declared war at the same time that he faced the Portuguese with armies that were decimated by successive defeats. His subordinates, members of the Federal League--Francisco Ramírez, governor of Entre Ríos, and Estanislao López, governor of Santa Fe--managed to end the victorious struggle against the centralism of Buenos Aires. But any hope of a new nation was short-lived; both commanders entered agreements with Buenos Aires which went against the principles of Artigas. They finally rebelled against him and left him to be crushed by the Lusitanians.
Without resources and without suitable men for the struggle, Artigas withdrew to
Paraguayon his own in September, 1820. In Paraguay, Dr. Francia, the dictator, banished him to Candelaria. He then disappeared from the political life of the region. (B. Nahum).
After a long exile, he died in Paraguay in 1850 at age 86. It is said that Artigas, feeling near to death, asked for a horse and died in the saddle, as a gaucho. Regardless, his remains were buried and then reïntered at the Panteón Nacional in 1855. They were then removed to the
Artigas Mausoleumin the center of the Plaza Independenciain the 1930s.
* I will not sell the rich heritage of the Orientals at the low price of necessity."No venderé el rico patrimonio de los Orientales al bajo precio de la necesidad".
* My authority comes from you, and it ceases before your sovereign presence."Mi autoridad emana de vosotros, y ella cesa ante vuestra presencia soberana".
* Mercy for the defeated."Clemencia para los vencidos".
* Let the Orientals be as cultured as they are brave."Sean los Orientales tan ilustrados como valientes".
He admired the
United States of Americaand was said to always carry a copy of the United States Constitutionwith him. He wanted the United Provinces of the River Plate government to be based on the same federalist ideas as the United States of America. These ideals went against what the Buenos Aires government of the time wanted (a centralised state; some even supported the idea of putting a European monarch in charge of the newly independent lands), but he managed to gain the support of some other provinces. Because of this, the Buenos Aires government supported the Portuguese invasion of the Eastern Bank.
George Washington, Artigas has become a national hero for the country he helped found. This is still more pronounced because, since independence, many Uruguayan figures have been heroes of either the Colorado or the Blanco party, while being reviled by the other side. As such, Artigas has been the namesake of numerous places, vessels, etc. throughout Uruguayan history, particularly during periods of peace and reunification between the parties.
Artigas Department, the northernmost region of Uruguay (formed 1 October 1884from Salto Department).::* Artigas, its capital (established 1852).::* Artigas Airport (SUAG/ATI), its airport.::* General Artigas Bridge, which connects Paysandú, Uruguay and Colón, Argentina (completed 1975).::* Fort General Artigas, a military museum on Montevideo Hill (completed 1809, renamed 1882, rededicated 1916).::* General Artigas Military Club in Montevideo (established 1925).::* General Artigas Military School in Montevideo (established 1947).::* Artigas Base, Uruguay's Antarctic research station (established 1984).::* The Uruguayan 1st Cavalry Regiment ("Reg. "Blandengues de Artigas" de Caballería Nº 1").::* The ROU 04 "General Artigas", a converted German "Lüneburg" (E)-class replenishment oiler(commissioned 2005).::* The former ROU 02 "General Artigas", a converted French "Cdt. Riviere"-class frigate(commissioned 1988, decommissioned 2005).::* The former ROU "Artigas" (DE-2), a converted American sclass|Cannon|destroyer escort (commissioned 1952, decommissioned 1988).::* The former "General Artigas", an Austro-Hungarian gunboat (commissioned 1884, decommissioned 1915).::* The former steamship "General Artigas", employed by President Flores during his successful rebellion.::* The Flag of Artigas, flown outside Uruguayan government buildings and used by all branches of the Armed Forces.
Also like Washington, Artigas's birthday is celebrated as a national holiday (
Statues of José Artigas stand on
Constitution Avenuein Washington, DC; on 6th Avenue in New York; in Mexico City; in Newark, New Jersey; as well as in the town center of Montevideo, Minnesota. Asuncion, Paraguayhas a statue of Artigas in its Plaza Uruguay, and the "Calle Sebastián Gaboto" was renamed the "Avenida Artigas" in his honor in 1926.
Additionally, an extinct giant rodent
genus, whose fossils where first found in San José Departmentwas named " Josephoartigasia" after José Artigas.
Flag of Artigas
Statues of the Liberators
* [http://www.artigas.org.uy/ Biblioteca Artiguista] (in Spanish)
* [http://www.zagan-uruguay.com/tips-and-tourist-attractions/montevideo/meeting-history-the-artigas-mausoleum.html Pictures of the Artigas Mausoleum in Montevideo Uruguay]
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