History Files

The Americas

South American Colonial Settlements


New Andalusia / Rio de la Plata (River Plate)
AD 1534 - 1776

When Christopher Columbus first landed in the Bahamas on 12 October 1492 he began a process of colonisation and empire-building on the part of Spain. By 5 December 1492, Columbus had arrived at western Hispaniola, where he founded the colony of La Navidad and became its first viceroy. Then he sailed to eastern Cuba. This became the launch-pad for the creation of New Spain, created when the greatest Aztec city, Tenochtitlan, was defeated in 1521. European colonisation of central and South American could begin in earnest.

Peopled since at least 10,500 BC by people of the Western Stemmed tradition, the Rio de la Plata (River Plate) estuary was the border between a now-united Spain's colony of Peru, of which Argentina was a part, and the Portuguese colony of Brazil. 'River plate' means 'river of silver' in Spanish. This describes the river itself rather than the estuary, where the rivers Paraná and Uruguay meet. It was first discovered by Europeans in 1516 when the Spanish navigator, Juan Diaz de Solis, was killed by the indigenous people whilst exploring the Rio de la Plata. His death discouraged further European colonisation of what would become Uruguay for more than a century. The Falkland Islands were also discovered in 1520 by members of Ferdinand Magellan's expedition (Magellan did not make landfall on the islands). The colony of Buenos Aires was founded in 1536. Temporarily abandoned, it was re-founded in 1580 by the then-governor of Rio de la Plata, Juan de Garay.

The governorate of Rio de la Plata was established to replace that of New Andalusia after the new viceroyalty of Peru was given territory that had previously been administered directly by New Spain. This handover included Rio de la Plata, now supervised by Peru, and also included Paraguay until 1617. Between its creation and 1776, the province of Argentina within Rio de la Plata was administered separately from the neighbouring provinces of Bolivia, Paraguay, and the Eastern Strip (Uruguay).

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual, C E Bosworth (2004), from Historical Dictionary of Argentina, Ione S Wright and Lisa M Nekhom (1978), from Colonial Latin America, Mark A Burkholder & Lyman L Johnson (Tenth Edition, Oxford University Press, 2018), and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

1529 - 1534

Pedro de Mendoza offers to explore South America at his own expense in 1529, intending to found colonies there. In 1534 his offer is accepted and the conquistador is made the first governor of New Andalusia. This revives a title that had previously existed between 1501-1513, centred largely on what is now Venezuela - or at least its coastal strip. That had been absorbed into the Spanish settlement region of Castilla de Oro from its official incorporation in 1513 (roughly northern Columbia and western Venezuela), only to be downgraded with the creation of the province of Nicaragua in 1524.

Rio de la Plata
The Rio de la Plata (River Plate, or 'river of silver') was first colonised by Europeans in 1536 with the founding of the settlement of Buenos Aires following an unsuccessful exploratory visit in 1516

1534 - 1537

Pedro de Mendoza

First governor and captain general of New Andalusia.

1536 - 1537

In 1536 Pedro de Mendoza founds the colony of Buenos Aires, far to the south of his governorship of New Andalusia - although at this stage of colonial development all land is up for grabs and organisation into official territories is frequently changing. The Spanish encounter the Querandí natives and soon begin to take advantage of them, earning their enmity. Disappointed with the poor progress on the colony, Pedro de Mendoza sets sail for Spain, promising to send reinforcements. He dies during the voyage, while in 1537 Castilla de Oro is divided up between fresh colonial creations.

1537 - 1539

Juan de Ayolas

Governor of New Andalusia. Killed by Payagua natives.

1539 - 1541

Domingo Martinez de Irala

Acting governor of New Andalusia.


The colony of Buenos Aires is abandoned due to the many difficulties being faced there, not least of these being a coalition of native tribes which has been formed against them as a result of a Spanish attack on them in 1536. The colonists move to Asunción, now the capital city of Paraguay.

1541 - 1544

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

Governor of New Andalusia.


The governate of New Andalusia is renamed. Initially covering a wide east-west band of South America from coast to coast, with Buenos Aires at its southern border with New Leon, subsequent land grants have forced New Andalusia to concentrate its colonisation efforts along the Rio de la Plata. The greatest of those grants is the creation of the viceroyalty of Peru in 1542 which initially controls almost all of central and western South America (including New Andalusia). With that in mind, the governate of Andalusia's new name is Rio de la Plata.

1544 - 1556

Domingo Martinez de Irala

Former acting governor. Now governor of Rio de la Plata.


During his period as acting governor of New Andalusia and then as governor of the newly-created governate of Rio de la Plata, Domingo Martinez de Irala has forcibly ensured the construction of new towns, forts, and churches, while subjugating the recalcitrant native population and ensuring the survival of the colony.

1556 - 1558

Gonzalo de Mendoza

Conquistador. Governor at Asunción (Paraguay).

1558 - 1569

Francisco Ortiz de Vergara

Conquistador. Governor at Asunción (Paraguay).

1569 - 1572

Felipe de Caceres

Conquistador. Arrested and sent to Spain for trial.

1572 - 1575

Juan Ortiz de Zárate

Died. Succeeded briefly by son-in-law and then nephew.

1576 - 1578

Diego Ortiz de Zárate

Nephew and acting governor.

1578 - 1583

Juan de Garay

Related to the de Zárate family.


Having already founded two successful colonial settlements with a sense of tact and diplomacy with the natives that few others of his generation seem to possess, Governor Juan de Garay now re-founds the colony of Buenos Aires, on 11 June 1580. The settlement will become the region's most important port.

The southernmost tip of both Argentina and Chile, Patagonia was first explored by Europeans in 1520, but witnessed little serious examination until the eighteenth century

1583 - 1587

Alonso de Vera y Aragon

De facto governor until 1592 from Asunción.

1587 - 1592

Juan Torres de Vera y Aragon

Son-in-law of Juan Ortiz de Zárate.

1592 - 1594

Hernando Arias de Saavedra

Conquistador. First governor of Rio de la Plata & Paraguay.

1594 - 1595

Fernando de Zárate


1596 - 1597

Juan Ramírez de Velasco

Conquistador. Died shortly after being succeeded in office.

1597 - 1599

Hernando Arias de Saavedra

Second term of office. Son-in-law of Juan de Garay.

1599 - 1600

Diego Rodríguez de Valdes y de la Banda


1600 - 1602

Frances de Beaumont

Appointment confirmed in 1601.

1602 - 1609

Hernando Arias de Saavedra

Third term of office. Now restricted the slave trade.


Not one but two Spanish ships anchored near the shore at Buenos Aires are captured by English privateers. Hernando Arias de Saavedra orders that a larger fort replace the existing one, being built at the mouth of the River Matanza.

1609 - 1613

Diego Martin de Negron


1613 - 1615

Mateo Leal de Ayala

Conquistador. Later mayor of Buenos Aires.

1615 - 1618

Hernando Arias de Saavedra

Fourth term of office. Died in retirement in 1634.


The Spanish viceroy of Peru, Francisco de Borja y Aragon, divides the government of Rio de la Plata in two, creating Buenos Aires and Paraguay, both of which remain dependencies of Peru. The idea to divide the existing governate had been devised by Hernando Arias de Saavedra, but it requires royal confirmation (which it receives in 1618) before it can be officially enacted in 1620.

1618 - 1623

Diego de Gongora

Conquistador. Governed Paraguay only until 1620.

1623 - 1631

Francisco de Cespedes

Subdued the Charrúa people of Uruguay.


The first permanent settlement is founded in the Eastern Strip (Uruguay), at Villa Soriano on the north bank of the Rio de la Plata and some way upriver from Buenos Aires. Governor Francisco de Cespedes of Rio de la Plata continues ongoing efforts to pacify the native Charrúa people of the region, still barely touched or even intruded upon by the Spanish settlers.

Native Charrúa people
The native Charrúa people were depicted in 1843 by J C Prichard in the publication Histoire Naturelle de l'Homme: Comprenant des recherches sur L'influence des agens physiques et morau (Natural History of Man: Including research on the influence of physical and moral agents)

1631 - 1637

Pedro Esteban Davila


1637 - 1641

Mendo de la Cueva y Benavidez



Andres de Sandoval

Interim governor.

1641 - 1645

Luis Jeronimo Fernandez de Cabrera

Former viceroy of Peru (1629).

1645 - 1653

Jacinto Lariz


1653 - 1660

Pedro Baigorri Ruiz


1660 - 1663

Alonso Mercado y Villacorta

Previously & subsequently governor of Tucumán.

1663 - 1674

Juan Martinez de Salazar


1674 - 1678

Andres de Robles


1678 - 1682

Jose de Garro

Conquistador. Later governor of Chile (1682).


Portuguese settlers from Brazil build a fort at Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. The move causes the Spanish administration to increase its own interest in the area, as it seeks to limit the expansion of Brazil. Garro launches a surprise attack on the fort which captures it in 1680, but it is returned by royal decree to the Portuguese in 1681 as the attack had been undertaken without royal permission.

1682 - 1691

Jose de Herrera y Sotomayor

Governor ('conquistador' becoming outdated).


The Falkland Islands, sighted in 1520 by Ferdinand Magellan but never set foot on, is now explored by British naval Captain John Strong. He names the islands after Viscount Falkland, his patron, who shortly afterwards becomes First Lord of the Admiralty.

1691 - 1698

Agustin de Robles


1698 - 1701

Manuel de Prado y Maldonado


1701 - 1707

Antonio Juan de Valdes y Inclan


1704 - 1705

Spain is involved in the War of the Spanish Succession as Austria, Britain, and Portugal dispute the Bourbon accession. As part of that war, Governor Antonio Juan de Valdes y Inclan besieges the growing Portuguese settlement at Colonia del Sacramento. In 1705, defeated, the Portuguese are evacuated - troops, civilians, and all their possessions.

War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession was fought to avoid a shift in the balance of power in Europe with the proposed unification of the Bourbon kingdoms of Spain and France


Manuel de Velasco y Tejada

Purchased the office and was arrested.

1708 - 1714

Juan Jose de Mutiloa



The Treaty of Utrecht which concludes the War of the Spanish Succession sees the former Portuguese settlement of Colonia del Sacramento handed back. A fresh influx of settlers arrives there from Brazil. The colony subsequently changes hands many times.


Alonso de Arce y Soria

Purchased the office and died 5 months later.

1714 - 1715

Jose Bermudez de Castro

Sergeant-major and interim governor.

1715 - 1717

Baltasar Garcia Ros

Subsequently lieutenant-governor under Zavala.

1717 - 1734

Bruno Mauricio de Zavala

Founded Montevideo.


Governor Bruno Mauricio de Zavala founds a fortress which forms the basis for the later development of Montevideo. In this period it is purely a military stronghold, with de Zavala feeling that it is required in order to hold back Portuguese encroachment from Brazil. In time it becomes the capital of the independent republic of Uruguay.

1734 - 1742

Miguel de Salcedo y Sierraalta


1742 - 1745

Domingo Ortiz de Rozas


1745 - 1756

Jose de Andonaegui


1756 - 1766

Pedro Antonio de Ceballos Cortes

Later the first viceroy of Rio de la Plata.

1764 - 1774

A small French colony named Port Louis is established on East Falkland in 1764. The sizeable number of Bretons in the colony refer to the islands as a whole as Îles Malouines, from which the Spanish version is later produced - Islas Malvinas. The colony is handed to the Spanish three years later.

A British expedition reaches Port Egmont in West Falkland in 1765, and 'took formal possession of it and of "all the neighbouring islands" for King George III'. Another British expedition establishes a settlement of about a hundred people at Port Egmont in 1766 and, although it withdraws on economic grounds in 1774, 'sovereignty was never relinquished or abandoned'.

East Falkland
East Falkland was first settled by a short-lived Franco-Breton colony, but it was the British who populated the island in earnest, with the French Port Louis eventually being replaced as the capital by Stanley Harbour for its better anchorage

1766 - 1770

Francisco de Paula Bucarelli y Ursua


1770 - 1777

Juan Jose de Vertiz y Salcedo

Later the second viceroy of Rio de la Plata.


Spain is becoming increasingly concerned about the rise of rival world powers, notably the two greatest rival naval powers in the form of Great Britain and Portugal, both of which have an interest in the South American continent. To address their security concerns, Rio de la Plata is raised out of the southern territories of Peru, now named the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata. It gains independent control of the provinces of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata (River Plate)
AD 1776 - 1810

The Rio de la Plata (River Plate) estuary was the border between the Spanish colony of Peru, of which Argentina was a part, and the Portuguese colony of Brazil. The colony of Buenos Aires had been founded in 1536 before temporarily being abandoned and then re-founded in 1580 by Governor, Juan de Garay, for the Rio de la Plata colony.

By the eighteenth century, Spain had become increasingly concerned about the rise of rival world powers, especially Great Britain and Portugal, who both had an interest in the South American continent. To try and address security concerns, Rio de la Plata was raised to a viceroyalty out of the southern territories of Peru in 1776, gaining independent control of the provinces of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. The last such viceroyalty to be created, it quickly lost Chile, which became autonomous in 1789, and just thirty-four years after its creation it was ended by the wars of independence against Spanish colonial control.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The British Invasion of the River Plate 1806-1807: How the Redcoats Were Humbled and a Nation Was Born, Ben Hughes (Pen & Sword Book Ltd, 2014), from Gobernar la Revolución: Poderes en disputa en el Río de la Plata, 1810-1816, Marcela Ternavasio (Buenos Aires, 2007), and from Historical Dictionary of Argentina, Ione S Wright and Lisa M Nekhom (1978).)

1777 - 1778

Pedro Antonio de Ceballos Cortes

Previously served as governor of Rio de la Plata.

1778 - 1784

Juan Jose de Vertiz y Salcedo

Previously governor of Rio de la Plata. Resigned.

1784 - 1789

Nicolas del Campo Maestre Cuesta

A capable administrator. Expanded Buenos Aires.


Under Irish-born Captain-General Ambrosio O'Higgins the captaincy general of Chile becomes autonomous and is withdrawn from the control of the viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata. Chile is still relatively unadvanced when compared to Peru but that does not diminish the growing demands for independence from its colonial settlers.

Ruins of Quilmes
Seen here in its mountainside setting are the ruins of Quilmes, home to the native tribe in the Tucumán region that was defeated by the Spanish in the seventeenth century

1789 - 1795

Nicolas Antonio de Arredondo

Continued del Campo's good work before resigning.

1795 - 1797

Pedro Melo de Portugal y Villena

Died in office.

1797 - 1799

Antonio Olaguer y Feliu

Interim governor. Encouraged international trade.

1799 - 1801

Gabriel de Aviles y Fierro

Former governor of Chile (1796). Gained Peru (1801).

1801 - 1804

Joaquin del Pino y Rozas

Former governor of Chile (1799).


Jose Fernando de Abascal y Sousa

Named viceroy but then handed Peru instead.

1804 - 1807

Rafael de Sobremonte Nunez

Accused of cowardice for 'fleeing' in 1806.

1806 - 1807

Following its victory at Trafalgar, Great Britain is still at war with Spain, and as part of its military efforts British troops attempt to take Buenos Aires. Montevideo in Uruguay is occupied at the start of 1807 for several months as they prepare for the attempt on Buenos Aires, and Rafael de Sobremonte Nunez leaves the city in advance, according to his orders. That attempt is defeated and the British withdraw, boosting the self-confidence of the colony.

1807 - 1809

Santiago de Liniers y de Bremond

Replaced de Sobremonte prior to Spain's confirmation.

1809 - 1810

Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros y la Torre

Ousted by the citizens and militias of Buenos Aires.


Following the French occupation of Spain and the subsequent weakening of the crown, various wars of independence break out across the Spanish Americas, including New Spain and Guatemala. Peru serves as a centre for the royalist opposition to these revolts. On 25 May Buenos Aires revolts, so the viceroy, Abascal, reincorporates the provinces of Chile, Cordoba, La Paz and Potosi (both in modern Bolivia), and Quito (part of New Granada) from Rio de la Plata. Fighting also takes place in Uruguay, although the province remains relatively secure.

Spain's American colonies declare independence in 1811
Thanks to France's occupation of Spain during the Napoleonic Wars, Spain's colonies in the Americas quickly took the opportunity to declare their independence


Francisco Javier de Elio y Olondriz

Last (self-declared) viceroy. Lost territory to rebellion.

1810 - 1811

The viceroyalty effectively dissolves as a vehicle of governance in the region. A new administration is formed without Spain's influence or control. The Spanish settlement on East Falkland, which had been handed over to them by French settlers in 1767, is also withdrawn, 'leaving the islands without inhabitants or any form of government'. Despite this the newly formed United Provinces still claims the abandoned islands as part of the transfer of regional power from Spain.

United Provinces of South America / La Plata
AD 1810 - 1825

The viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata had been formed in 1776 out of the southern territories of Peru. This promoted the previous regional governorship and gave it independent control of the provinces of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. However, the turbulent years of the Napoleonic Wars weakened Spanish influence in its American colonies. Firstly Buenos Aires was able to beat off an attempted invasion by Great Britain in 1807, and then the French occupied Spain itself, showing how weak the imperial master had become. Various wars of independence broke out across the Spanish Americas, and the viceroyalty was all but dead by 1810.

A new, republican administration was formed which was free of any direct Spanish control. This was despite there not having been any declaration of independence (unlike in Venezuela), and despite attempts by the self-declared viceroy, Francisco Javier de Elio y Olondriz, to take control in 1811. The United Provinces of South America was far from stable. All the while the Spanish were fighting to regain their lost territories, with Argentina's own fight against them not ending until 1818, and the former colonial states were also fighting each other.

In 1814, the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata replaced the previous version, with Buenos Aires as the capital. In the process, Paraguay was lost as it established its own independent state while Chile to the west established its own republic. Buenos Aires itself was now under the control of the 'supreme director', but the post turned out to be something of a poisoned chalice. With factions on the republican side at each other's throats on a constant basis, there could be little agreement about who would take the office. The second director was removed by a coup, others were only acting directors or interim directors while some sort of agreement could be reached on a full appointment. Ultimately, the system failed and a new one replaced it in the form of a confederation.

(Information by Peter Kessler, from Gobernar la Revolución: Poderes en disputa en el Río de la Plata, 1810-1816, Marcela Ternavasio (Buenos Aires, 2007), and from Historical Dictionary of Argentina, Ione S Wright and Lisa M Nekhom (1978).)


Cornelio Judas Tadeo

President of the First Junta, 25 May-18 Dec.

1810 - 1811

Cornelio Judas Tadeo

President of the Second Junta, 18 Dec-26 Aug.


Domingo Matheu Chicola

President of the Second Junta, 26 Aug-23 Sep.

1811 - 1814

The First Triumvirate is formed on 23 September 1811. This lasts until 8 October 1812, when the Second Triumvirate replaces it and survives until 31 January 1814. Then the post of supreme director replaces the triumvirate, with a two-year tenure, a nine-man council to regulate him, and the hope of being more effectively able to oppose the royalists who are still fighting to re-establish Spanish rule. The directorship is occupied by nine different incumbents (some of them acting or interim directors) between January 1814 and February 1820, rendering it largely devoid of power. The second director is the nephew of the first, and is removed from office by a coup. The Third Triumvirate takes control as an interim government until the next supreme director can be appointed.

United Provinces eight reales piece
Shown here are two sides of the eight reales piece which was issued by the United Provinces of South America in 1813, just three years into its short political existence

1814 - 1817

A fresh Spanish attack on Chile surprises the Chilean forces and sweeps them into Argentina, where they remain for three years while the royalists take control of the country. The Spanish king, Ferdinand VII, has been restored to his throne, largely thanks to the efforts of British and Portuguese forces in Iberia, and the war to regain the colonies is pursued with fresh vigour.

1815 - 1817

The Liga Federal, or Federal League, is formed in eastern Argentina and Uruguay by Jose Gervasio Artigas, a former officer in the Spanish army. The move leads to war between that and the United Provinces for control of southern and eastern South America. The better-armed United Provinces win the main war in 1817, but fighting continues in the countryside.


Uruguay is invaded by Portuguese troops from Brazil and is ultimately seized from Spanish control. Brazil's own control of it is fleeting, however. It forms part of the United Provinces until 1825, when it frees itself and declares its own independent republic.

1819 - 1825

Fighting a nationalist war of independence in Peru, the Spanish vice-regents are defeated and agree to leave Peruvian territories. La Plata itself is riven by civil war which leaves no effective central control in place. In 1820, the centralist Liga Federal is dissolved and the lands under its control are absorbed into the new federal United provinces, all except Uruguay. Buenos Aires takes command of international affairs when the federal reorganisation is confirmed by the Treaty of Pilar on 23 February 1820. Unfortunately, this results in there being no central authority to managed the federalist state until 1826, which most of the provinces remaining autonomous even after then, despite the creation of the Argentine confederation.

Argentine Confederation
AD 1825 - 1862

The United Provinces of South America was formed in 1810 to administer a large swathe of formerly-colonial South America from the city of Buenos Aires. This evolved quickly into the United Provinces of La Plata in 1814, but it immediately found itself at war against the rival South American Federal League (based in eastern Argentina). The United Provinces were better armed and won the main war, but fighting continued in the countryside. The Federal League was dissolved in 1820, and its territory except for that of the soon-to-be-formed Uruguay was absorbed by the United Provinces.

A confederation of sorts was finally put into place in 1825 after six years of internal strife. Despite apparent unity, the provinces of Buenos Aires, Catamarca, Cordoba, Corrientes, Entre Rios, Jujuy, La Rioja, Mendoza, Salta, San Juan, San Luis, Santa Fe, Santiago del Estero, and Tucuman remained autonomous in all but name during most of the period, between the start of the civil war to around 1852-1862 and the final end of the Argentine confederation (although that name remains valid even today). Those provinces which were actually linked to the confederation were also all secessionist or independent at one point or another. In the wake of colonial rule, it seemed that everyone thought they could claim a piece of South America for themselves. The confederation's capital was at Paraná, while Buenos Aires was often at odds with and acting as a rival against most of the others. For another two generations, South America continued to be a hotbed of unrest and turmoil following the termination of Spain's direct control of the continent.

During the war against Brazil in 1825-1827, the Cisplatine region between Argentina and Brazil broke away, establishing itself as the independent nation state of Uruguay. Following a spell as part of the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata, independence also beckoned for Bolivia in 1825. Lacking a single figure to handle external relations, Juan Manuel de Rosas assumed control in 1829 and remained in charge as a virtual dictator (although the use of this term is sometimes disputed).

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from A History of Argentina, Ricardo Levene (1937), from History of Argentina: From the original towns to the time of the Kirchners (Vols 1-2), Norberto Galasso, and from External Link: Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

1825 - 1827

King John VI of Portugal, under pressure from Britain, recognises the independence of Brazil. War breaks out almost immediately between the Argentine confederation and Brazil. During this the Spanish region of Cisplatine breaks away, establishing itself as the independent nation state of Uruguay.

1827 - 1852

A long Argentine civil war breaks out, but it is little more than a continuation of the years of strife preceding the creation of the confederation. During this period, in 1829, Argentina establishes a short-lived colony on the Falkland Islands under Luis Vernet, but the British reassume direct control of the islands in 1833.

1829 - 1852

Juan Manuel de Rosas

Dictator in Buenos Aires region. Overthrown. Died 1877.


Britain reassumes control of the deserted Falkland Islands, and they remain part of the country's overseas territories from this point onwards, based both on this reoccupation and the initial formal claim of ownership of 1765 which had not been opposed by the Spanish authorities of the time. Settlers create a capital at Port Stanley and the islands' population remains almost completely British.

Juan Manuel de Rosas
Juan Manuel de Rosas gained control of Buenos Aires in 1829, also acting as the official governor in 1829-1832 and 1835-1852, with no less than three other incumbents filling that position between his two spells of office

1836 - 1839

The dictator of Peru is defeated and executed by Bolivian forces which invade the country. The subsequent Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation creates tension between it and Chile and this leads to the latter declaring war on 28 December 1836. The Argentine confederation is Chile's ally, and on 9 May 1837 it follows suit. Eventual defeat for Bolivia comes in 1839.

1839 - 1852

The exiled president of Uruguay, Manuel Oribe forms a government in exile in Montevideo, and war is declared between him and his rivals. The Great War lasts for thirteen years. In 1842 an Argentinean army overruns the country on Oribe's behalf, although the capital remains free. This is besieged from the start of 1843, and when access to Paraguay is blocked for Great Britain and France, they declare war on Argentina and blockade its capital, assisted by Brazil. In 1849 and 1850, Argentina agrees a peace deal with each of the two European powers. Argentinean troops are withdrawn from Uruguay, although Oribe's own forces still maintain a loose siege. In 1851 an Argentinean faction opposes Manuel de Rosas in Argentina, defeats Oribe, and lifts the siege nine years after it began. The following year, Rosas himself is overthrown at the Battle of Caseos on 3 February 1852, ending the war.

1852 - 1859

Having overthrown Manuel de Rosas in 1852 at the end of the Great War, the governor of Entre Ríos, Justo José de Urquiza, fails to persuade Buenos Aires to support the 1852 San Nicolás Agreement. Instead, a stand-alone 'State of Buenos Aires' is declared in opposition to Urquiza. Urquiza himself, in 1854, is elected president of the Argentine Confederation which now has the previously unimportant town of Paraná as its capital. This is located somewhat to the north of Buenos Aires.

In 1858, Valentín Alsina is elected governor of Buenos Aires, which only serves to inflame an already shaky situation. The following year, the 'Federalist' governor of San Juan, Nazario Benavídez, is assassinated by the 'Liberals'. And then the Port of Montevideo sets up a trade deal to rival that of Buenos Aires and hit its lucrative trade. All of this results in the Battle of Cepeda of 1859. Buenos Aires is defeated by the forces of Urquiza. Buenos Aires agrees to the Pact of San José de Flores which largely settles the key sources of conflict.

1854 - 1862

Justo José de Urquiza y García

Standalone president of the confederation. Office abolished.

1860 - 1861

General Mitre, defeated leader of Buenos Aires' forces in 1859, refutes the Pact of San José. The civil war is reignited, leading to the Battle of Pavón in 1861. This time Mitre and Buenos Aires defeat Urquiza's federal forces and the latest president, Santiago Derqui, resigns on 4 November 1861. Mitre is elected the first president of a now-united republic of Argentina in 1862.

Modern Argentina
AD 1862 - Present Day

Located in South America, the republic of Argentina is the world's eighth largest country in terms of its territory. That territory covers a range of climactic zones and several sparsely inhabited or semi-arid regions. For such a large territory it has a small population (in 2016), amounting to about forty-two million. The capital is at Buenos Aires, which lies at the heart of the original Spanish colony of 1536. The country borders Chile to the west, Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, and Brazil and Uruguay to the east.

Modern Argentina was born as a federal state out of the ruins of the Argentine Confederation, the ending of the Great War of 1839-1852, and the last burst of the Argentine Civil War of 1852-1861. The use of 'Argentine Confederation' is still valid today, being enshrined in the country's constitution and relating to the northern part of the country. Initially the capital was at Paraná, and the civil war, which had rumbled on beneath other conflicts since 1814, saw more blood spilt until Buenos Aires replaced it. Once Argentina had returned to a peacetime footing, at first under the presidency of General Bartolomé Mitre, it received massive immigration and heavy investment from Europe (from 1870). This made it one of the richest countries in the world, and neutrality throughout the First World War and most of the Second World War certainly helped it maintain high standards of living. However, the Great Depression had created instability, and post-war dictatorships slowly destroyed any feeling of security and wealth.

By the 1970s, the country had endured decades of coups and counter-coups, and political discord on a national scale. This led to the repressive military dictatorship that oversaw the seven-year 'dirty war' which resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people. The bodies of many abductees - known as the 'disappeared' - have never been found, although forensic work continues to recover some of them. Argentina also remained locked in a territorial dispute with Britain over the Falklands Islands, which are governed as a British overseas territory but which have been claimed by Buenos Aires since the 1830s. The issue led to war in 1982, when the undefended islands fell to an unannounced invasion launched by Argentina's military junta. The islands were almost immediately re-conquered by Britain, with Argentine casualties being three times that of the British. If anything good came of the conflict in Argentinean terms it was the resultant collapse of the junta and a return to a form of democracy.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from A History of Argentina, Ricardo Levene (1937), from Historia de la Argentina, Vols I & II, Norberto Galasso (2011), and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and Nations Online, and Latin America in World War I.)

1864 - 1870

As a result of Paraguay's declaration of war against Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay go to war against Paraguay in the War of the Triple Alliance (which is also known as the Paraguayan War or the Great War in Paraguay). It proves to be a long and costly affair, causing more casualties than any other South American war. Paraguay is totally defeated, losing almost half its territory.

Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires
The Teatro Colon opera theatre in Buenos Aires first opened its doors in 1908, replacing an 1857 building, and it has since been rated as one of the world's best opera houses


Presidential elections on 11 April see Julio Argentino Roca elected as the fourteenth incumbent. Only Buenos Aires and Corrientes fail to support him. In Buenos Aires a rebellion against the outcome brews up in just four days. It lasts until 25 June, leaving around three thousand people dead and a peace agreement in place. It is Roca's liberal policies that starts Argentina's long period of prosperity.


Argentina intervenes to end the domination of Paraguay by Bernardino Caballero, allowing a return to democratic government. General Benigno Ferreira invades the country from Argentina, supported by various Paraguayan factions, and the fighting lasts for four months before they can take control. On 12 December 1904, on board an Argentine gunboat, Paraguay's Colonel Juan Antonio Escurra signs the Pact of Pilcomayo and the Liberal party subsequently gains power. With the Colorado Party out of office, Brazilian influence on the country declines while that of Argentina increases.

1917 - 1918

Unlike many of its neighbours in the Americas, Argentina remains neutral during the First World War against Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire. This is despite many in the new immigrant communities voicing strong opinions for supporting their former homelands. Many British and German immigrants return home from Argentina to fight for the countries of their birth. President Hipólito Yrigoyen expresses detest for this sentiment and instead concentrates on selling war materials to both sides. Subsequent German sinking of several Argentine ships places that profitable neutrality under severe strain, as do anti-German protests in Argentina, so towards the later days of the war it is the allies who gain the best of Argentina's exports.

1930 - 1933

Argentina's Década Infame (Infamous Decade) begins now and actually lasts until 1943. It begins with a coup against President Hipólito Yrigoyen (remarkably still in office). Led by José Félix Uriburu this act serves to begin the country's destabilisation, with political corruption and oppression becoming commonplace. The Great Depression also plays a large role, destroying the businesses of many small farmholders and increasing the need for more expensive importation. An increasing number of now penniless rural folk are forced to migrate to the cities, living in makeshift traveller towns on the urban edges.

President Hipolito Yrigoyen of Argentina
President Hipólito Yrigoyen, in office twice between 1916 and 1930, survived an assassination attempt during the Great Depression years and helped to ensure the safety of US President Hoover during his visit in 1928, but a military coup in 1930 swept away the country's vestiges of democracy

In 1933, the writer, philosopher, and politician, Arturo Jauretche joins with two army colonels to launch an uprising in the Corrientes province of north-eastern Argentina. The uprising fails and Jauretche is detained. In the same year, Vice-President Julio Argentino Roca Jr signs the Roca-Runciman Treaty with Great Britain. As Argentina's main economic partner, Britain secures beneficial import and export rates in the face of the Great Depression. The agreement also greatly benefits Argentina whilst tying it closely to Britain in terms of trade. Roca goes so far as to say that Argentina is now '...part of the British Empire'.

1935 - 1943

Argentina begins a process of replacing imported goods and services with equivalents that are made at home. This process of rapid industrialisation also triggers the rapid growth of unions, so much so that a forty-eight hour general strike is declared in January 1936. There is minor violence attached to this, with six people being killed.

Over a decade of economic damage caused by the Great Depression has resulted in growing social discontent. Now, in 1943, another coup is triggered, known as the 'Revolution of '43'. Within the country's military forces a nationalist faction with fascistic leanings has developed, known as the Grupo de Oficiales Unidos (GOU). Shortly after joining itself to another party to form the fascist Recuperacion Nacional political party, it follows Arturo Rawson when he and Pedro Pablo Ramírez depose acting president Ramón Castillo, ending the Infamous Decade but leading to further destabilisation and more coups.


Arturo Rawson

Military general and usurper. Three-day 'president'. Deposed.

1943 - 1944

Pedro Pablo Ramírez Machuca

Military general and usurper. Replaced Rawson.

1944 - 1946

Edelmiro Julián Farrell

Nominated successor.

1945 - 1946

Argentina joins the Second World War as an ally of the USA and Great Britain on 27 March 1945 against Japan and Germany. With Britain's firm support, it had largely remained superficially neutral, as in the First World War, even in the face of strong pressure from the USA. The following year, after a rapid series of different leaders and coups, General Peron wins an election to become president and heads a popularist government with his second wife, Eva Peron, née Duarte, as a highly influential figurehead.

Eva and Juan Peron
Maria Eva Duarte de Perón, otherwise known as Eva Perón (centre), was the second wife of President Juan Domingo Perón (on the right) and the First Lady of Argentina between 1946 and her untimely death in 1952, and it was her 'common touch' with the poor which largely created the mystique around her image and life story

The basis of their power is the mass support of the former farmers and other dispossessed who are largely living in slums and shanty towns. With them a movement is born that is known as Peronism, with the supporters called Peronistas (probably made more memorable to the world at large thanks to the stage and screen musical, Evita).

1952 - 1955

Eva Peron dies of cancer at the age of thirty-three in 1952. Former army general, President Juan Peron, is deposed by a coup in 1955. He flees into exile in Spain. New elections are arranged for the end of the decade and Peron's Peronist party is outlawed (although it does survive and today is largely represented by the Justicialist Party).


Jose Domingo Molina Gomez

Chairman of the military junta. Arrested and deposed.


Eduardo Ernesto Lonardi Doucet

Conciliatory army lt-general. Deposed after 3 months.

1955 - 1958

Pedro Eugenio Aramburu

Army general. Allowed elections in 1958.


The Peronistas launch an attempted coup under the leadership of General Juan José Valle. It is largely botched and the general is arrested. He and twenty-six other Peronist militants are executed.

1958 - 1962

Pedro Eugenio Aramburu allows elections for the next president to go ahead, promptly retiring from the army once his own duties have been concluded. Arturo Frondizi is elected in a one-candidate process, and remains in office until he is deposed by yet another coup in 1962. The fractious Argentine military object to the election of Andrés Framini as governor of the highly prominent and important Buenos Aires province and, despite Aramburu backtracking, they launch a coup which deposes the president on 29 March 1962.

1962 - 1963

José María Guido

Civilian allowed, with reluctance, by the army to govern.

1963 - 1966

President Guido annuls 1962's election results (the ones that had led to the fall of Aramburu), and the Peronist party is again banned. The country remains severely unstable, with rival military factions frequently combating each other for superiority. The Argentine Navy Revolt is triggered in 1963, although this is successfully suppressed. Democratic elections take place which see Arturo Umberto Illia become president.

The marching masses of the Peronistas - vocal supporters of Juan Peron during his first two terms of the presidential office - offer a powerful representation of Argentina's troubled twentieth century


A revolutionary junta secures control of the country, with a military president again in power. Unlike previous coups, this one does not pave the way for fresh democratic elections. The military remains in charge, and political parties are suspended.

1966 - 1970

Juan Carlos Onganía Carballo

Refused to resign, and was toppled by military junta.

1970 - 1971

Roberto Marcelo Levingston Laborda

Self-appointed military 'president'.

1971 - 1973

Alejandro Agustín Lanusse Gelly

Allowed elections to replace him in office.

1973 - 1976

The elections of 1973 pave the way for the return of Juan Peron. He wins elections to serve a third term as president but his death in 1974 leaves his third wife and vice-president, Isabel Peron, as his successor. A coup in March 1976 displaces her and re-introduces military rule during the worst period of repression the country has seen.

1976 - 1981

Jorge Rafael Videla

Military 'president' and coup leader.


Roberto Eduardo Viola

Military 'president', Mar-Dec only. Deposed.


Carlos Lacoste

Interim military interim 'president', Dec only.

1981 - 1982

Leopoldo Galtieri

Military 'president'. Deposed.


Argentina occupies the Falkland Islands by force. When Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sends a British taskforce to reclaim the islands, Peru promises to support Argentina while Chile sides with Britain. The humiliating Argentine defeat forces the collapse of General Galtieri's regime and an eventual return to elected government. Galtieri is almost immediately removed from office and two short-term caretaker presidents oversee the re-establishment of an elected civilian government.


Alfredo Oscar Saint Jean

Military 'president', Jun-Jul only.

1982 - 1983

Reynaldo Bignone

Military 'president'.


Reynaldo Bignone is unpopular as the military's imposed president. The recessions of the late 1970s have seen minor recoveries but the country's financial state is far from rosy. The slide towards the return of democracy becomes inevitable, and elections are held in October to select a new president. Raúl Alfonsín becomes the country's first elected head of state since Juan Peron in 1973.


Argentina experiences the 'December 2001 Uprising' in which rioting and acts of civil unrest take place across the country. The larger cities suffer the most in what is primarily an expression of protest by a largely middle-class demographic at the continuation of another economic crisis. The country's peso has been tied to the US dollar in an effort to halt the hyperinflation of the late 1980s, but this has left Argentines themselves with little direct control of the country's finances. A revaluation of the dollar in 1997 has worsened Argentina's exports situation, and the crisis reaches breaking point in November 2001 when people start withdrawing their entire savings from the banks.

A banking collapse is barely avoided by the imposition of strict spending restrictions, but this is the final spark for the uprising. The president sees that he has no choice but to resign, and ends up fleeing the presidential palace, the Casa Rosada, in a military helicopter. After this the violence dies down and the country gradually returns to normality.

2001 - 2007

The election of Néstor Kirchner to the post of president is the start of a remarkable reversal in the country's economic fortunes. Unemployment is dramatically turned around and social security policies are improved to help the poorest people. Kirchner is a member of the Justicialist Party, largely seen as the descendant of the Peronists of the mid-twentieth century. He is succeeded as president by his wife, Cristina Kirchner, before dying after suffering a heart attack in 2010.


While never questionable in fact, the ownership of the Falkland Islands is raised by President Cristina Kirchner. She uses the issue to mask her growing unpopularity at home during the thirtieth anniversary of the conflict to expel Argentine troops from the island. Despite repeated assurances by the islands' residents themselves that they are quite happy to remain British, Kirchner ignores them completely, instead attempting to score political points and garner support amongst likeminded governments. However, Argentina's military power is so weak after years of cut-backs and purges that it is unable to offer a convincing military threat to the islanders' independence.

David Cameron and Cristina Kirchner
President Kirchner fails in an attempt to 'handbag' British Prime Minister David Cameron at the G20 industrial nations summit on 19 June 2012, the attempt largely being seen as an attempt to deflect her declining approval ratings and allegations of financial impropriety at home