Encountering Sovereignties: Popular Politics and State-Building in the Río de la Plata (1810-1820) Open Access

Lambrecht, Rachel (Fall 2021)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/tq57ns29r?locale=en


During the late 18th century, rebellions involving elite and plebeian groups exploded across the Spanish Empire. The May Revolution of 1810 in Buenos Aires, a byproduct of the Napoleonic invasions, threw the Río de la Plata viceroyalty into this wave of territories calling for independence. Throughout the region, elite groups made alliances as they tried to impose their preferred models for these newly created independent political units. The popular sectors of society, likewise, participated vigorously in the battles that preceded the formation of the Argentine and Uruguayan states. During this time, groups that were commonly located on the margins of political life, such as Indigenous peoples, African slaves and their descendants, and poor Criollos, carved out spaces and played an active role in redefining the rigid social and economic structure imposed on them during the colonial period. My dissertation examines the roots of this participation, particularly the Indigenous groups, focusing on the Rio de la Plata’s Littoral region, whose population united as a proto-political body called “The League of Free Peoples” to antagonize the former viceroyalty’s capital – Buenos Aires – and challenge its centralizing aspirations. Led by José Gervasio Artigas, from Montevideo, the League integrated personalities from a wide social spectrum under an inclusive notion of citizenship. I analyze how these groups conversed and combined common interests under his mediation. Additionally, I explore popular interpretations and applications of sovereignty, used to redraw spaces of territorial and political authority within this dynamic context. Guaraní leader and Artigas’ adoptive son Andrés Guacurarí embodied the constant drive for questioning previously established tangible and intangible frontiers. Finally, I evaluate the challenges and limitations faced by popular groups when becoming active players in this political arena. Considering the repercussions of their intense activity throughout the decade, it becomes clear that popular groups significantly impacted political life in the aftermath of the May Revolution in the Río de La Plata.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. The Río de la Plata’s Littoral: Setting the Context for Political Change

Chapter 2. Dreams of an American Unity: Manuel Belgrano’s expedition through the Littoral (1810-1811)

Chapter 3. Finding the Voice of Freedom. Popular Understandings of Sovereignty in the Mesopotamia (1811-1813)

Chapter 4. Crafting a reciprocal alliance. Artigas and the Pueblos of the Rioplatense Mesopotamia (1814-1815)

Chapter 5. The pueblo de Indios of Santa Lucía: Claims of Sovereignty and Citizenship

Chapter 6. Crossing Frontiers: Andresito Artigas and the establishment of Indigenous Authority in the Mesopotamia



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