|Fig.1: If only all civil wars were fought with such ecstasy!
During the Argentine War for Independence against the Spanish starting in 1810, Patriots from the city and the countryside fought side-by-side to achieve their freedom, from the resounding victory in the Battle of San Lorenzo in 1813, to the daring exploits of José de San Martin and his crossing of the Andes in 1814, to the celebration in 1818 where everyone got drunk and just couldn't stop hugging each other. But when the Spanish left, taking away the thing that united the newly-independent Argentines (that being the hatred of the Spanish), they had a difficult time answering the question, "Now what?" Many from the burgeoning port city of Buenos Aires, which was the capital of the former Spanish colony, believed that a strong, centralized nation was the best way to move forward. Others from the sprawling fields and farmlands in the provinces like Córdoba, Santa Fe, and Entre Ríos believed each of the separate regions knew what was best for them, and didn't want to always have to listen to the yuppies in their high-rise apartments and $200 coffee makers. This led to the rise of the Unitarian Party in the city, the Federal Party in the country, and the blood pressure of all of the above.
|Fig.2: Regional conflict in 19th century Argentina can summed up by saying that the
provinces of Córdoba, Santa Fe, and Entre Ríos were a little bit country, and the city
of Buenos Aires was a little bit rock n' roll.
|Fig.3: Here's the picture he
But then Rosas got a little too greedy. Unsatisfied with governing the provinces, he invaded neighboring Uruguay and Paraguay, thinking it would be guay if he could restore his nation to its colonial borders. Some provinces like Entre Ríos took advantage of this distraction and rebelled in 1851, but it was the declaration of war by Brazil that really plucked Rosas' petals. After his defeat at the Battle of Caseros in 1852, Rosas fled Argentina to live out the rest of his life in the UK; upon leaving, he declared, "It is not the people who have overthrown me. It is the monkeys: the Brazilians!" adding that they were admittedly the best soccer-playing monkeys he'd ever seen. Buenos Aires was subsequently captured, and the city was forced to sign a treaty renewing the Federal Pact. The capital was moved to Santa Fe, and everything would be hunky-dory for the rest of Argentina's history.
|Fig.4: With civil wars, it's difficult to tell who is fighting
on what side. In this picture, it's difficult to tell if people
are fighting at all!
Though he and his city were victorious, especially after his election as President in 1862, Mitre knew something had to be done to end the constant warfare (and thus, end my work on this history as well). And so Mitre compromised with the provinces in order to find peaceful solutions to all their troubles, from the power of the central government, to the distribution of tariffs, to the theme for the upcoming Christmas party. He even worked out an Electoral College system that allowed the provinces to have more of a say in electing the President; of course when this system led to his defeat in the election of 1874, he got all whiny about it and actually mutineered a gunboat in an attempt to stop his opponent's inauguration (he used this same tactic to stop his ex-girlfriend's wedding a few years earlier). Aside from this, it appeared that the regional conflicts between Argentina's largest city and the rest of the country were coming to an end. After some griping, legislation was passed by the central government in 1880 that federalized Buenos Aires, meaning that legislation passed by the central government in Buenos Aires could actually be enforced in Buenos Aires. Wait, what?
The civil wars in 19th century Argentina are a classic example of how differences between urban and rural elements of a population can create conflict that extends beyond city-folks not knowing how to make a campfire and country-folks not knowing how to parallel park. The issues of where power lies (and vicariously, where the money stays) between the two regions of the country is not unlike the problems that plagued the early history of the United States, with similarly violent results. Luckily, peace was achieved, and just like the North and South of the U.S., both sides were then able to focus on an honorable goal that fostered a sense of national unity and comradery: the near-extermination of the indigenous population and the capture of their lands. Hooray for team-building activities! Nonetheless, if there's anything to be learned from the Argentine Civil Wars, it's that it doesn't matter where you're from or what you do for a living or whether you ride a horse or the C Train to work; people from the city and country need to work together to succeed (lest those weirdos from the suburbs take over and force everyone to manicure their lawns).