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José Gervasio Artigas Arnal (June 19, 1764 – September 23, 1850) is a national hero of Uruguaymarker, sometimes called "the father of Uruguayan independence".


José Gervasio Artigas
Born in Montevideomarker to a wealthy family, at age 12 he moved to the countryside and worked on his family's farms. He excelled at marksmanship and riding, and tried his hand at smuggling from Portuguese-controlled Brazilmarker.

At age 33, he took advantage of an amnesty for those who had committed non-violent crimes, and entered the Corps of Blandengues to protect the border with Brazil. From 1806 to 1807, he participated in the Spanish resistance to the British invasions of the Río de la Plata. He was part of the force which, under Santiago de Liniers, Montevideomarker contributed to the liberation ("Reconquista") of Buenos Airesmarker from William Beresford, 1st Viscount Beresford's occupation in 1806, and also to the Battle of Montevideomarker. Following the Spanish defeat at Montevideo, he was captured. He was spared being shipped to Britain as a prisoner of war, having been wounded in the battle.

In 1810, Spain moved the headquarters for the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata to Montevideo after the May Revolution forced them to abandon Buenos Aires. On 15 February 1811, Artigas left the Corps of Blandengues and went to Buenos Aires to offer his military services in the fight for independence in the Eastern Bank. In early April, he returned to Uruguaymarker 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 set siege to Montevideo and was proclaimed First Chief of the "Orientals" (the name of Uruguay being originally Banda Oriental del Uruguay (Eastern Bank of Uruguay) and later Provincia Oriental del Uruguay (Oriental Province of Uruguay). (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, he liberated Montevideo from the control of the "Unitarians" from Buenos Aires.

In 1815, he attended the Proto-congress of the Independence of Argentina, held in Arrollo de la China (today known as 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 Spain and formed the Liga Federal ("Federal League"). The Liga Federal invited other provinces of the former Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata 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 Republicmarker), but added a diagonal festoon in red, the color of federalism in Argentinamarker at that time.

The continued growth of influence and prestige of the Federal League frightened the governments in Buenos Airesmarker (because of its federalism) and Portugalmarker (because of its republicanism), and in August 1816, Portugal invaded the Eastern Province (with tacit complicity from Buenos Aires), with the intention of destroying Artigas and his revolution.

The Portuguese forces, led by Carlos Frederico Lecor, captured Artigas and his deputies and occupied Montevideo on 20 January 1817, but the struggle continued for three years in the countryside. Infuriated by Buenos Aires's passivity, Artigas declared war on Buenos Aires while he was losing to the Portuguese. His subordinates, members of the Federal League -- Francisco Ramírez, governor of Entre Ríos, and Estanislao López, governor of Santa Fe -- managed to defeat the centralism of Buenos Aires. But hope for a new nation was short-lived; both commanders entered agreements with Buenos Aires that went against the principles of Artigas. They rebelled against him and left him to be crushed by the Portuguese.

Without resources and men, Artigas withdrew to Paraguaymarker 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, age 86. It is said that Artigas, feeling near death, asked for a horse and died in the saddle, as a gaucho. His remains were buried and then reïntered at the Panteón Nacional in 1855. On the 19th of June, 1977, his remains were transferred to the Artigas Mausoleum in the center of the Plaza Independenciamarker.


  • I will not sell the rich heritage of the fatherland at the low price of necessity.
No venderé el rico patrimonio de la Patria 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.


Artigas admired the United States of Americamarker and was said to always carry a copy of the United States Constitution with him. He wanted the United Provinces of the River Plate government to be based on the same federalist ideas as the USA. 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.

Legacy and commemoration

Artigas has become a national hero in Uruguay. This is significant as, 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 Departmentmarker, the northernmost region of Uruguay (formed 1 October 1884 from Salto Departmentmarker).
:* Artigasmarker, its capital (established 1852).
:* Artigas Airport (SUAG/ATI), its airport.
:* General Artigas Bridgemarker, which connects Paysandú, Uruguaymarker 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 Basemarker, 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 (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.

Artigas's birthday is celebrated as a national holiday (19 June).

Statues of José Artigasmarker stand on Constitution Avenuemarker in Washington, DCmarker; on 6th Avenuemarker in New Yorkmarker; in Mexico Citymarker; in Newark, New Jerseymarker; as well as in the town center of Montevideo, Minnesotamarker. Asuncion, Paraguaymarker has 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 Departmentmarker was named Josephoartigasia after José Artigas.

There is also a monument and square dedicated to Artigas in Rome, Italy.

There is an order of Merit, the Order of Military Merit of the Companions of Artigas, founded in 1980.

See also

Commemorative plaque in Israeli forest

External links

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