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The May Revolution ( ) was a series of revolutionary political and social events that took place during the early nineteenth century in the city of Buenos Airesmarker, capitol of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, a colony of the Spanish Crownmarker which at the time contained the present-day nations of Argentinamarker, Boliviamarker, Paraguaymarker and Uruguaymarker. The consequence of the revolution was that the head of the Viceroyalty, Viceroy Cisneros, was ousted from office, and government was asumed by the Primera Junta.

The May Revolution was the starting point of the Argentine War of Independence, but without a formal declaration of independence. The Primera Junta did not recognize the authority of the Consejo de Regencia de España e Indias but still ruled in the name of the spanish king Ferdinand VII of Spain, deposed by the abdications of Bayonne and replaced by the french Joseph Bonaparte, brother of the french emperor Napoleon. Even so, most historians consider this display of loyalty (known as the Mask of Ferdinand VII) a trick to conceal the true desires of independency of the revolutionaries. The Argentine Declaration of Independence took place during the Congress of Tucumán the July 9 of 1816.

The May Revolution involves the events that took place during a week known as "May week" ( ), that spans from May 18, when the defeat of the Junta of Seville was confirmed, and May 25, when viceroy Cisneros was ousted from office.


International causes

The United Statesmarker had emancipated themselves from the Kingdom of Great Britainmarker in 1776, a short time before, which provided a tangible example for criollos to think that revolution and independence from Spain could be realistic projects.. In the time between 1775 and 1783 the Thirteen Colonies started the American Revolution, first rejecting the governance of the Parliament of Great Britain, and later the British monarchy itself, and waged the American Revolutionary War against their former metropole. The changes were not just politic but also intellectual and social, combining both a strong government with personal liberties. The text of the Declaration of Independence stated that all men are created equal (and thus become equal before the law), and with unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They had also chosen a republican form of government, instead of keeping a monarchic one. Even more, the fact that Spain aided the colonies in their struggle against Britain weakened the argument that ending allegiance to the mother country could be considered a crime..

The ideals of the French Revolution of 1789 were spreading as well. During it, centuries of monarchy were ended with the destitution and execution of the king Louis XVI and his spouse Marie Antoinette, and the derogation of the priviledges of the nobility. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was highly popular among the young criollos. The French Revolution gave room as well to a boost on liberal ideals on political and economic fields. Some of such notorious political liberal authors, who oposed monarchies and absolutisms, were Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Montesquieu, Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d'Alembert; while the most notorious economic liberal was Adam Smith. The liberal ideas also reached the church, and the concept of the divine right of kings started to be questioned. Francisco Suárez claimed that the political power did not pass directly from God to the governor, but to the population and though it to the governor. According to Suarez, such power belongs to the people and is delegated to the governor, but if such governors did not serve the public good as they should, they would become tyrants and the people would have the right to fight them and choose new governors. The falling consensus about the divine right being legitimate gave room to monarchies being replaced by republics in France and the United States, but also to constitutional monarchies, such as in England.
However, the spread of such ideals was mainly forbidden in the spanish territories, as well as the trafic of related books or their unauthorized possesion. Such blockade started when Spain declared war to France after the execution of Louis XVI, but was kept as well after the peace treaty of 1796. Nevertheless, the events of 1789 and the statements of the French Revolution spreaded around Spain despite the effords to keep them at bay. Even more, the National Convention declared that France would give shelter and aid to all populatons aiming to become free, and made many plans to disrupt the power of Spain on their overseas colonies. Many enlightened criollos came into contact with those authors and their works during university studies,. such as Manuel Belgrano in Spain or Mariano Moreno, Juan José Castelli or Bernardo Monteagudo at the american university in Chuquisaca. Books from the emancipated United Stated also found their way into the spanish colonies through Caracasmarker, due to the venezolan nearness to the United States and West Indies..

The Industrial Revolution started in Britain, with manual labour and horse-drawn vehicles being replaced by machine-based manufacturing and transportation aided by railways and steam power. This leaded to dramatic increases in the productive capabilities of Britain, and the need of new markets to sell the surplus of coal, steel and clothes. The Napoleonic Wars, where Britain was at war with France, made this a difficult task, after Napoleón countered the british naval blockade with the Continental System, not allowing Britain to commerce with any other European country. Thus, England needed that the spanish colonies ended having the usual restrictions of commerce only with their own metropoli. For this end they tried to conquer key cities during the british invasions, and after it to promote their emancipation. The Industrial Revolution also gave room to authors that proposed a liberal economy, like Adam Smith. François Quesnay compared worldwide economy with a living organism, and stated that economy worked beyond political power and shouldn't be interfered by it.

The Napoleonic wars were taking place in Europe, involving France, England and most European countries. Portugalmarker broke the blockade imposed to british commerce and, as a result, was seized by France and their royal families fleed to Colonial Brazilmarker. For doing so, French troops were movilized in Spanish territory. Shortly before the Spanish king Charles IV abdicated due to the mutiny of Aranjuez and give the throne to his son, Ferdinand VII. Feeling that he was forced to abdicate, Charles IV requested Napoleon to be restablished in power. Napoleón helped to remove Ferdinand VII from power, but did not return the crown to the former king: instead, he crowned his own brother Joseph Bonaparte, as the new Spanish king. This whole proccess is known as the Abdications of Bayonne. Joseph's designation found severe resistence in Spain, and the Junta of Seville took power in the absence of the king. So far Spain was an ally of France against Britain, but at this point the spanish that were holding resistence changed sides and allied with Britain against France. The Junta of Seville was eventually defeated as well, being replaced by another one located in Cádiz.

National causes

During the colonial times Spain was the only buyer of the productions of the viceroyalty, and by law it was forbidden to trade with other nations. This situation damaged the viceroyalty, as Spain hadn't an economy as powerful as to be able to buy and sell the ammounts of goods that the Americas would require. Buenos Aires was even more damaged, as Spain did not send enough ships to the city. To prevent the risk of piracy the commerce ships had to be followed by war ships, which made the journey very expensive. Lacking any gold or silver resources, or established indigenous populations to employ systems of encomienda, it was more profitable for Spain to send them all to Mexicomarker or Limamarker. This led Buenos Aires to develop a system of smuggling to obtain, by illegal means, the products that couldn't be received otherwise. This smuggling was allowed by most local authorities, and developed similar numbers than the legal commerce with Spain. This whole situation developed two antagonist groups: the ones who made bartley products and wanted free commerce to be able to sell them, and the ones who were benefited from the prices of the smuggled products, which would have to sell them at lower prices if such commerce was allowed.

In the political organization most authoritative positions were filled by people designated by the spanish monarchy, most of them Spanish people from Europe, without strong compromises with American problems or interests. This created a growing rivalry between the criollos, people born in America, and the peninsulares, people arrived from Europe. Despite all of them were considered Spanish, and that there wasn't a legal distinction between criollos and peninsulares, most criollos thought that peninsulares had undue weight in political conflicts and expected a higher intervention in them, sentiment shared by the lower clergy. This practice was mainly the result of social prejudice. Criollos were also angered by the ease of inmigrants from Spain, regardless of having humble origins, to acquire properties and social distinction that was negated to them. This rivalry evolved later into a rivalry between partisan of becoming autonomous from Spain and partisan of keeping things the way they were. However, this process was much slower than the one experimented by the british colonies in North America, in part because the educatie system was managed almost exclusively by the clergy, influencing the development of a population as conservative as in the mother country.
Buenos Aires and Montevideo had successfully resisted two British invasions. The first one was in 1806, when a British army took control of Buenos Aires, until being defeated by an army from Montevideo, leaded by Santiago de Liniers. The following year a bigger army took Montevideo but failed to take Buenos Aires, being forced to surrender and leave both cities. There was no Spanish aid from Europe either time, and to prepare for the second invasion Liniers formed militias with criollos, despite regulations against such thing. This gave them military power and political influence they did not had before, with the biggest criollo army being the Patricios Regiment leaded by Cornelio Saavedra. The victory achieved without help also boosted confidence on independence, by stating that the Spanish aid was not needed. The prestige earned by Buenos Aires before the other cities of the viceroyalty was exploited by Juan José Paso during the open cabildo to justify taking an inmediate action and hear the opinions of other cities afterwards.

By the ending of 1808 he whole Royal Family of Portugal left Europe, with the country being attacked by Napoleon, and radicated in Brazil. The regent prince arrived with his wife, Charlotte Joaquina, daughter of Charles IV and siser of Ferdinand VII. When the news of the imprisoment of Ferdinand VII arrived to South America, Charlotte tried to take control of the viceroyalties as regent, a project known as Carlotism. She could do so due to the derogation of the salic law by Charles IV in 1789, and she intended to prevent a french invasion in the americas. Some criollos like Castelli, Beruti, Vieytes and Belgrano supported the project, considering it a chance to get a local government instead of one in Europe, or a medium for a later declaration of independence. Other criollos like Moreno, Paso or Saavedra were critics of it, as well as most peninsular spaniards and viceroy Liniers. They suspected the whole project of concealing portuguese ambitions in the region, and her public image wasn't positive: the people around her in Brazil (like the infant Pedro Carlos de Bourbon), and her relations with his husband, arouse strong public rejection. Charlotte also rejected her supporters, as they intended her to lead a constitutional monarchy, while she wanted to retain an absolute monarchy. Britain, with strong presence in Portugal, also opposed the project: they did not want to let Spain, now allied with them against France, be split into many kingdoms, and did not consider Charlotte to be able to prevent separatism.


Liniers Government

After the successful liberation of Buenos Aires from the English troops, the population refused to let Sobremonte reassume government, who had fled to Córdoba with the public treasury. He did so following a law from the time of Pedro de Cevallos, which determined that in the case of a foreign attack the treasury had to be kept safe, but this action made him be seen as a coward by the population. The Real Audience did not let him return to Buenos Aires or resume government, and the new viceroy was then Santiago de Liniers, heroe of the battles with high popular support. He was designated as an interim viceroy first, and later confirmed by the king Charles IV of Spain.

The government of Liniers was popular among criollos but found resistance from peninsular Spaniards, like Martín de Álzaga o Francisco Javier de Elío. The French origin of Liniers was also a source of criticism when France invaded Spain and started the Peninsular War, which included the removal of the Spanish kings by the french ocupping forces. Despite the clear statements of Liniers of remaining loyal to the Spanish Empire or his refusing to accept Joseph Bonaparte as king, his political enemies arouse suspicions of Liniers secretly plotting to do otherwise. They also promoted in the Río de la Plata the xenophobia that was taking place in European Spain against the french, as an indirect means to attack Liniers and lower his prestige. Javier de Elío created a Junta in Montevideo, which would make a strong scrutiny of all the orders coming from Buenos Aires and reserving the right to ignore them, but without denying the authority of the viceroy as such or declaring themselves independent.

Riot of Alzaga

The Spanish merchant based in Buenos Aires Martín de Álzaga and his followers set off a riot in order to remove Liniers. On January 1, 1809, an open cabildo demanded the resignation of the viceroy Liniers and appointed a Junta on behalf of Ferdinand VII, chaired by Álzaga; Spanish militia and a group of people summoned by the bell of the council supported the rebellion. A small number of Criollos (notably Mariano Moreno) supported the riot as a means to get the independence, but most of them did not. The lawyer Juan José Castelli even started a judicial process against Álzaga accusing him of independentism. The seeming contradiction is explained in that the goals of Álzaga were not those of the criollos: he wanted to remove the viceroy to avoid being constrained by his political authority, but he intended to keep the social differences between Criollos and european Spanish unchanged.

Criollo militias led by Cornelio Saavedra surrounded the square, causing the dispersion of the insurgents. The leaders were exiled, and the rebel soldier bodies were dissolved. As a result, military power was in the hands of the natives who had sustained Liniers: all military factions still active after the riot belonged to the criollos, with no militias that would answer to the peninsular Spaniards. The rivalry between criollos and peninsular Spanish deepened. The perpetrators of the plot, exiled to El Carmen, were rescued by Elio and taken to Montevideo.

Appointment of Cisneros

In Spain, the Junta of Seville decided to end the fighting in the Rio de la Plata providing replacement of Liniers by Don Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros, who arrived in Montevideo in June 1809. Some criollos proposed Liniers to resist his removal and reject the appointment of Cisneros, on the grounds that Liniers had been confirmed as viceroy by a Spanish King still in the government, while Cisneros may lack such legitimacy. Nevertheless, Liniers accepted to give up his government to Cisneros, without any resistance. The handover took place in Colonia del Sacramentomarker, not in Buenos Airesmarker, because Europe received many conflicting reports about the politicians or the nature of the events taking place, and he wanted to make sure of the real state of things before arriving to the capitol. Javier de Elio accepted the authority of the new viceroy and dissolved the Junta of Montevideo, becoming once again the governor of the city. Cisneros rearmed the spanish militias disbanded after the coup against Liniers, and pardoned those responsible for them.

In economic terms, given the difficulties and costs of trade with Spain, Cisneros accepted the proposal of Mariano Moreno and established on 6 November 1809 the free trade agreements with other powers. The main beneficiaries were Britain and livestock sectors, exporting hides. However, traders who profited from smuggling requested Cisneros to set aside free trade, to which he agreed to keep their support. This led in turn to the English, Mac Kinnon and Captain Doyle as representatives, to demand a review of the measure, invoking the character of allies against Napoleon in Spain and Britain. Mariano Moreno also criticized the cancellation, making the "Representación de los Hacendados", which is considered the most comprehensive economic report on the time of vice-royalty. Cisneros finally decided to grant an extension of free trade, which would end on 19 May 1810.

On November 25, 1809 Cisneros created the Surveillance Court policy with the aim of pursuing the Francophile and those who encourage the creation of political regimes that oppose America's dependence on Spain. This and a proclamation issued by the viceroy to prevent unruly neighborhood that spreading false news and seductive, designed to maintain the discord makes them think that it was sufficient to Buenos Aires just a formal pretext for the outbreak of the revolution. So in April 1810, Cornelio Saavedra expresses them to his friends:

Revolutions at the Upper Perú

Discontent with Spanish officials also expressed within the inner lands. On May 25, 1809 a revolution deposed the governor and president of the Royal Audience of Charcas Ramón García de León y Pizarro, accused of supporting a Portuguese protectorate. The military command fell to Colonel Juan Antonio Alvarez de Arenales. The civil authority remained in an uncertain situation, so that was partially exercised by the same Arenales.

On 16 July in the city of La Paz other revolutionary movement led by Colonel Pedro Domingo Murillo and other patriots forced the resignation to the governor mayor Tadeo Davila and the Bishop of La Paz, Remigio de la Santa y Ortega. The power went to the council until the "Junta Tuitiva de los Derechos del Pueblo" was formed, headed by Murillo.

The first revolution did not intend to alter Chuquisaca loyalty to the king, while the revolution of La Paz was openly proclaimed independent. Today, historians do not agree on whether the revolution of Chuquisaca was motivated by independence or if it was just a dispute between supporters of Ferndinand and Charlotte. Consequently, there is disagreement on whether the first independence revolution in Hispanic America was that of Chuquisaca or that of La Pazmarker. The researchers John Robinson and Genevieve Loza support the latter position, arguing that the system was maintained and no Spanish government supported the revolution in La Paz, while others such as Teodocio Imaña, Gabriel René Moreno or Felipe Pigna argue that the one at Chuquisaca was a revolution for independence, citing as its main foundation the Syllogism of Chuquisaca that proposed self-determination.

The reaction of Spanish officials beat these movements: the La Paz was bloodily crushed by an army sent from Peru, while that of Chuquisaca was suppressed by troops sent by the Viceroy Cisneros. Soon after, Cisneros Surveillance Court created a policy, designed to persecute the followers of the ideas of the French Revolution or any other political organization that could undermine the authority of the vice-royalty.

The measures taken by the viceroy against these revolutions deepened the resentment of the natives against the Spanish mainland because Álzaga was pardoned from prison received after his coup, which reinforced the feeling among the natives of inequity. Among others, Castelli was present at the proceedings of the St. Francis Xavier University where the Syllogism of Chuquisaca was proclaimed, which influenced his positions in the week of May.

May week

The "May Week" is the week that elapses between 18 and 25 May 1810, which began with the confirmation of the fall of the Junta of Seville and ends with the dismissal of Cisneros and the assumption of the Primera Junta.

On May 14, arrived at the port of Buenos Aires British war schooner HMS Mistletoe from Gibraltar, with newspapers from previous January announcing the dissolution of the Junta of Seville. The city of Sevillemarker was taken by the French, who already dominated most of the Peninsula. The newspaper also said that some members had taken refuge on the island of Leon in Cadiz. The Junta was one of the last bastions of power of the Spanish crown, and had fallen to the Napoleonic Empire, which had previously removed the King Ferdinand VII by the abdications of Bayonne. On the 17th they met in Buenos Aires matching news arrived in Montevideo on July 13 in the British frigate HMS John Paris, adding that members of the Junta of Seville had been refused. Another Junta was created, the "Consejo de Regencia de España e Indias", but none of the two ships passed the news. Cisneros tried to hide the news by establishing rigorous monitoring around the British warships and seizing every newspaper that landed from the boats, but one of them came at the hands of Manuel Belgrano and Juan José Castelli. They were responsible for spreading the word, which challenged the legitimacy of the viceroy, appointed by the fallen Junta.

Cornelio Saavedra, head of the regiment of Patricians, who in the past had advised against taking rushed actions against the Viceroy, was also made aware of the news. Saavedra considered, from a strategic standpoint, that the ideal time to proceed with the revolutionary plans would be the time when Napoleon's forces gain a decisive advantage in their war against Spain. Upon hearing the news of the fall of the Junta of Seville, Saavedra decided that the perfect time to take action against Cisneros had arrived. The group led by Castelli's preferred for conducting an open cabildo, while the military Criollos proposed to depose the viceroy by force.

Friday, May 18

Viceroy Cisneros attempted to conceal the news from Spain; however, the rumor had already spread throughout the whole city. He decided then to give his own version of the facts through a proclamation, while trying to calm down the criollos ("Creoles"). He asked for allegiance to King Ferdinand, but popular unrest continued to intensify. Despite being aware of the news, he only said that the situation in the Peninsula was delicate but did not confirm the fall of the Junta.

Not fooled by the Viceroy's story, some criollos decided to meet at the houses of Nicolás Rodríguez Peña and Hipólito Vieytes. During these secret sessions they decided to name a representative commission to ask Cisneros for an open cabildo composed by Juan José Castelli and Martín Rodríguez. They intended to decide there the future of the Viceroy.

Saturday, May 19

After spending the night on the subject, in the morning Belgrano and Saavedra met with senior alcalde Juan Jose de Lezica, and Castelli with the procurator, Julián de Leyva, calling for support of the Cabildo. They wanted to request the Viceroy to open an open Cabildo, saying that if not granted, it would be requested by the population itself.

Sunday, May 20

Lezica sent Cisneros the request he had received, and he consulted Leyva, who favored the execution of an open council. Before deciding the viceroy summoned military commanders to come forward at seven o'clock in the afternoon at the fort. Cisneros demanded a response to his request for support, but the Colonel Cornelio Saavedra, head of Patricios Regiment, responded on behalf of all the natives saying:

There was a new meeting at Rodriguez Peña's home at midnight, where the military leaders explained the events that took place. Castelli and Martín Rodríguez where sended to the Fort for a new interview with Cisneros. The guardians let them pass unanounced, and they found Cisneros playing cards with brigadier Quintana, prosecutor Caspe and aide Coicolea. Castelli and Rodríguez demanded an open cabildo and Cisneros reacted in anger, considering their request an otrage, but Rodriguez interrupted him and forced him to decide at once a definitive answer. After a short private discussion with Caspe, Cisneros reluctantly gave his consent for the making of the open cabildo. It would be celebrated the following May 22.

That same night there was a theater play on the theme of tyranny, called "Rome Saved", which was attended by many of the revolutionaries. The police chief tried to convince the actor not to appear and, with the excuse of being ill, the work should be replaced with "Misanthropy and repentance," by the German poet Kotzebue. Rumors of police censorship spread quickly, so Morante came and performed the work planned, in which he played Cicero. In the fourth act, Morante made a patriotic roman speech, talking about Rome being menaced by the gallus and the need to have a strong leadership to resist the danger. This scene flared the revolutionary spirits, which led to frenzied applause to the work. Juan José Paso stood up and shouted "¡Viva Buenos Aires libre!" ("Long live free Buenos Aires!"), which produced a small fight with other people present.

After the play, the revolutionaries were called once again to Peña's house. They learned the result of the last meeting, and were unsure if Cisneros really intended to keep his word. In result, they decided to organize a demostration for the following day, in order to ensure that the Open Cabildo was celebrated as decided.

Monday, May 21

Invitation to the Open Cabildo
At 3, the council began its work routine, but was interrupted by 600 armed men, grouped under the name "Infernal legion" (in spanish, "Legión Infernal"), which occupied the Plaza de la Victoria, nowadays Plaza de Mayomarker, and loudly demanded to be convene an Open Cabildo and the resign of Viceroy Cisneros. They carried a portrait of Fernando VII and the lapel of their jackets a white ribbon symbolizing the Criollo-Spanish unity. Among the rioters were highlighted Domingo French and Antonio Beruti. The demostration was so strong that some rumors circulated saying that Cisneros had been killed in it and that Saavedra would take the government. The people distrusted Cisneros and did not believe he was going to keep his word to allow the making of the Open Cabildo the next day. The liquidator Leiva failed to calm the crowd by ensuring that it would be held as planned. People settled down and dispersed through the intervention of Cornelio Saavedra, head of the Regiment of Patricians, who said that the claims of the Infernal Legion had their military support.

On May 21 invitations were distributed among 450 leading citizens and officials in the capital. The guest list was compiled by the Cabildo, trying to guarantee the result by selecting people that would be likely to support the viceroy. For this, they prepared a list a guests taking into account the most prominent residents of the city. However, the revolutionaries countered such move by making a similar one on their own: Agustín Donado (French and Beruti teammate), in charge of printing the invitations, printed many more than requested and distributed the surplus among the Criollos.

Tuesday, May 22

Of the 450 invited guests at the open cabildo, only attended by about 251. French and Beruti, commanding 600 men armed with knives, shotguns and rifles, controlled access to the square, with the aim of ensuring that the open cabildo had a majority of criollos.

The meeting lasted from morning to midnight, with various times, including the reading of the proclamation of the Cabildo, the debate, and the vote, individual and public, written by each attendee and past the minutes of the meeting. The debate in the council had as its main theme the government's legitimacy and the authority of the Viceroy. The principle of retroversion of the sovereignty of the people stated that, missing the legitimate monarch, the power returned to the people; and they were entitled to form a new government. This principle was commonplace in Spanish scholasticism and rationalist philosophy, but had no precedents of being applied in case law rather than in theoric fields.

There were two main opposing positions: those who argued that the situation should remain unchanged, supporting Cisneros in his office of viceroy, and those who believed they should form a Junta to replace him, as in Spain. They did not recognize the authority of the Regency Council, arguing that the colonies in America were not consulted in its formation. The debate also covered, tangentially, the rivalry between Criollos and peninsular Spanish, as proponents of keeping the viceroy considered that the will of the Spanish should prevail over that of the Criollos.

One of the speakers at the first position was the bishop of Buenos Aires, Benito Lue y Riega, leader of the local church. Lue y Riega argued that:

Juan José Castelli was the main orator of the revolutionaries. He based his speech on two main ideas: the expiration of the legitimate government, stating the the Junta of Seville was dissolved and had no rights to designate a Regency, and the mentioned principle of retroversion of sovereignty.He spoke after Riega, arguing that the American people should assume the direction of their destinations until cessation of the impediment of Ferdinand VII to return to the throne.

Pascual Ruiz Huidobro stated that since the authority that had appointed Cisneros had expired, he should be left apart from any function of government, and that in its role as representative of the people the council should assume and exercise authority.

Attorney Manuel Genaro Villota, representative of the conservative Spanish, said that the city of Buenos Aires had no right to make unilateral decisions about the legitimacy of the viceroy or the Regency Council without participation in the debate of the other cities of the viceroyalty. He argued that it would break the unity of the country and establish as much sovereignties as cities. The purpose of such point of view was to keep Cisneros in power by delaying possible actions. Juan José Paso accepted him being right at the first point, but argued that the conflictive situation in Europe and the possibility that Napoleon's forces may continue conquering the American colonies were demanding an urgent solution. He designed then the "argument of the oldest sister", for which Buenos Aires took the initiative to make changes deemed necessary and appropriate, upon the express condition that other cities would be invited to comment as soon as possible. The rhetorical figure of the "oldest sister", comparable to business management, is a name that makes an analogy between the relationship of Buenos Aires and other cities of the viceroyalty with a filial relationship.
The priest Juan Nepomuceno Solá thought the command was given to the council, but only provisionally, until the completion of a governing junta to call on representatives of all populations of the Viceroyalty.

Cornelio Saavedra suggested that the control should be delegated to the council until the formation of a governing board, in the manner and form that the council deems appropriate. He pointed out the phrase "(...) and there is no doubt that it is the people what makes the authority or command." At the time of the vote, Castelli's position was coupled with that of Saavedra.

After the presentations, a vote was taken by the continuity of the viceroy, alone or associated, or dismissal. The voting lasted until midnight, and decided to dismiss the viceroy large majority: 155 votes to 69. The votes against Cisneros was distributed as follows:

  • Plan under which the authority vested in the Cabildo: 4 votes
  • Plan Juan Nepomuceno de Sola: 18 votes
  • Plan Pedro Andres Garcia, Juan José Paso and Luis Jose Chorroarín: 20 votes.
  • Plan Ruiz Huidobro: 25 votes
  • Plan and Saavedra Castelli: 87 votes

At dawn of day 23 a document was released, stating that the viceroy should end his mandate. The authority would temporarily fall into the Cabildo, until the designation of a government Junta.

Wednesday, May 23

After completing the open council notices were placed at various points throughout the city that reported the creation of the Junta and the call to deputies from the provinces, and called to refrain from attempting actions contrary to public policy.

Thursday, May 24

On the 24th the council, following a proposal by the liquidator Leyva, interpreted the results of the Open Cabildo and formed the new Junta, which was to be maintained until the arrival of deputies from the rest of the viceroyalty. Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros was the President and commander of arms, along with 4 members: the criollos Cornelio Saavedra and Juan José Castelli, and the Spanish Juan Nepomuceno Solá and José Santos Inchaurregui.

There are many interpretations on the motives for this action. Historian Diego Abad de Santillán states that the formula responded to the proposal of Bishop Benito Lue y Riega to keep the viceroy in power with partners or attachments, even though the same proposal would have been defeated in elections at the Open Cabildo, and that with it the lobbyists felt that in this way they could contain the threat of revolution taking place in society. Félix Luna, on the other hand, considers it an efford to avoid conflicts by using a middle ground solution by conceding things to all the parties involved, as Cisneros would remain in power but sharing power with criollos.

It was also included a constitutional regulation of 13 articles, written by Leyva, to govern the actions of the Junta. Among the principles included, provided that the Board would not exercise judicial power, which would be exercised by the Court, that Cisneros could not act without the backing of other members of the Board that the council could depose the board members who neglected their duty and must approve proposals for new taxes, which would sanction a general amnesty on the opinions in the open council of 22, and that the councils would request them to send deputies inside. The commanders of the armed forces gave their agreement, including Saavedra, and Pedro Andrés García.

When the news was announced, both the people and the militia became agitated, and the place was invaded by a mob led by French and Beruti. Cisneros staying in power, albeit with a different post than viceroy, was seen as an affront to the will of the Open Cabildo. Colonel Martín Rodriguez explained that if their soldiers were ordered to support Cisneros, they would have to open fire againt the population and that most soldiers would revolt, as they shared the desire to remove the viceroy from power.

There was discussion on Rodríguez Peña's house, where he began to doubt the loyalty of Saavedra. Castelli pledged to intervene for the people to be consulted again, and between Mariano Moreno, Matias Feliciano Chiclana Irigoyen and calmed down the military and youth in the plaza.

At night, a delegation headed by Castelli and Saavedra went to the residence of Cisneros informing the state of unrest and popular rebellion of the troops, announcing their resignations to the Junta and demanding his own one. Cisneros wrote his resignation and sended it to the Cabildo, who would consider it the following day. A delegation of the Patriots claimed the house of receiver Leyva is reconvening of the people, despite their initial resistance finally agreed to do so.

Friday, May 25

Portrait of the events of May 25.
On the morning of 25 May, despite the bad weather, a crowd began gathering in the Main Plaza, current Plaza de Mayomarker, with the militia led by Domingo French and Antonio Beruti. It demanded the annulment of the Junta designated the previous day, the final resign of Viceroy Cisneros and the formation of a Junta without him. The historian Bartolomé Mitre said French and Beruti distributed blue and white ribbons among the guests, later historians doubt that statement but consider it possible that distinctives were distributed among the revolutionaries for self-identification. Despite Cisneros having resigned the night before, it was rumored that the Cabildo may reject his resignation. The crowd's agitation lead to the chapter house being overrun. Due to the delays in issuing a decision, people began to stir, claiming:

The council met at nine in the morning and requested the popular agitation was suppressed by force. For this, they summoned the chief commanders, but they did not obey their orders. Several, including Saavedra, did not presented, those that did said not only they could not support the government but neither themselves, and if they tried to repress the demonstrations they would be disobeyed.

The people gathered in the Plaza, led by French and Beruti, invaded the Cabildo again. They were requested to deliver their requests in a written manner, and with signatures. After a long interval, a document with 411 signatures (still conserved) was delivered. This paper designated the composition of the Primera Junta and an expedition of 500 men to assist the provinces. The document had many ilegible signatures, the signatures of most army commanders, and many known neighbours. French and Beruti signed the document stating "for me and for six hundred more". However, there is no unanimous view among historians about the authorship of that document. Some like Vicente Fidel López claim that was exclusively the product of the popular initiative. For others, such as historian Félix Luna, the composition shows such a level of balance among the political and ideological parties involved that it can't be considered the result of an improvised iniciative. The president Saavedra had a decisive intervention in the revolution and had prestige among all parties. Juan José Paso, Manuel Belgrano, Juan José Castelli and Mariano Moreno were lawyers influenced by the libertarian ideas, and the first three were supporters of the Carlotist project. Juan Larrea and Domingo Matheu were peninsular Spanish, involved in commercial activities of medium importance. Both of them were supporters of Martín de Álzaga, as well as Moreno. Miguel de Azcuénaga was another military, with contacts among the high society, and the priest Manuel Alberti represented the aspirations of the lower clergy. Miguel Angel Scenna points in his book Las brevas maduras that "such balance could not have been the result of chance or influences from outside of the local context, but of a compromise of parties". Both authors deny the theory that claims that the composition of the Junta may had been suggested by the British: there was no time for that, nor there was any British man in Buenos Aires important enough as to influence in such matters.

The Chapter went to the balcony to submit directly to the ratification of the people's request. But given the lateness of the hour and the weather, the number of people in the square had declined, which Leiva pointed to ridicule the claim of the deputation to speak on behalf of the people. This filled the patience of the few who were in the square in the drizzle. From that time (says the minutes of the Town Hall),

It should be noted that the clapper of the bell of the Cabildo had been ordered removed by the Viceroy Santiago de Liniers after the riot of Álzaga at 1809. With the prospect of more violence, the request was read aloud and ratified by the attendees. The rules that govern the Board was roughly the same as that proposed for the Board of 24, adding that the council would control the activity of the members and that the Board would appoint replacements in case of vacancies. Then, Saavedra spoke to the crowd gathered in the rain, and then moved to Fort between salvos of artillery and ringing of bells. Meanwhile, Cisneros dispatched José Melchor Lavin to Cordoba to warn Santiago de Liniers about what happened and to demand military action against the Junta.

The Primera Junta was composed as follows:



Viewpoint of Cisneros

The deposed Viceroy Cisneros gave his version of events the week of May in a letter to King Ferdinand VII dated June 22, 1810:

Revolutionary purposes

Although the government created on May 25 was pronounced loyal to deposed Spanish king Ferdinand VII, historians agree that such loyalty was merely a political maneuver. The Primera Junta did not pledged allegiance to the Council of Regency of Spain and the Indies, an agency of the Spanish monarchy still in operation, and in 1810 the possibility that Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated and Ferdinand returned to the throne (which finally happened on December 11, 1813 with the signing of Valençay) still seemed remote and unlikely. The purpose of the deception was to gain time to strengthen the position of the patriotic cause, avoiding the reactions that may have led by a revolution, on the grounds that monarchical authority was still respected and that there had not been a revolution. The ruse is known as the "Mask of Ferdinand VII" and was upheld by the Primera Junta, the Junta Grande, the First and Second Triumvirates. The Assembly of Year XIII was intended to declare independency but failed to do so because of other political conflicts between it's members; however, it supressed mentions to Ferdinand VII from official documents. The supreme directors held an ambivalent attitude until the declaration of independence in 1816.

For Britain the change was favorable, as it facilitated trade with the cities of the area without seeing it hampered by the monopoly that Spain maintained over their colonies. However, Britain prioritized the war in Europe against France, allied with the Spanish power sector that had not yet been submitted, and could not appear to support American independence movements or allow military attention of Spain being divided into two different fronts. Consequently, they pushed for independence demonstrations not being made made explicit. This pressure was exerted by Lord Strangford, the British ambassador at the court of Rio de Janeiro, expressing support to the Junta but conditioned "... if the behavior is consistent and that Capital retained on behalf of Mr. Dn. Fernando VII and his legitimate successors."

Cornelio Saavedra spoke to the issue privately with Juan José Viamonte in a letter from 27 June 1811. This letter was subsequently rescued. In it, he explicitly mentioned the situation as a deception to avoid England from declaring war on them.

It should be noted that the groups who supported or carried out the revolution were not completely homogenous in their purpose, and several had disparate interests together. The progressive Criollos and young people, represented on the Junta by Moreno, Castelli, Belgrano and Paso, aspired to far-reaching political, economic and social reforms. Moreover, the military and bureaucrats, whose views were carried forward by Saavedra, simply wanted a renewal of office holders, aspiring to remove the Spanish from the exclusive use of power, but inheriting their privileges and powers. The merchants and landlords subordinated the political issues to the economic decisions, particularly with respect to the opening or not of trade with England. Finally, some groups shuffled possibilities to replace the authority of the Regency Council with that of Charlotte of Spain or the British crown, but such projects have had limited impact.

These groups worked together for the common goal of expelling Cisneros from power, but after the Primera Junta was settled they began to express their internal differences.

No religious factors were involved in the revolution: all the revolutionaries and royalists agreed to support Catholicism. Still, most church leaders opposed the revolution. In Upper Peru the royalists and religious authorities sought to equate the revolutionaries with heretics, but the revolutionary leaders always promoted conciliatory policies in the religious aspects. The priests and monks, however, were divided geographically: the provinces "from below" were loyal to the revolution, while those of Upper Peru preferred to remain loyal to the monarchy.


Neither the council of regency, the members of the Royal Court or the Spanish population from Europe believed the premise of loyalty to King Ferdinand VII, not willingly accepting the new situation. Audience members did not want to swear in members of the Primera Junta, and in doing so they did it with expressions of contempt. On June 15 members of the Royal Court secretly swore allegiance to the Council of Regency and sent circulars to the inner cities, calling to disregard the new government. To stop their maneuvers, the Junta convened to all members of the audience, Bishop Lue y Riega and the former Viceroy Cisneros, arguing that their lives were in danger, sending them on the British ship Dart. Its captain Mark Brigut Larrea was instructed not to stop at any American port and transfer all shipped to the Canary Islandsmarker. Following the successful removal of the aforementioned groups a new audience was appointed, composed entirely of natives loyal to the revolution.

With the exception of Cordobamarker, cities that are now part of Argentinamarker endorsed the Primera Junta. The Upper Peru did not take position, due to the outcomes of revolutions in Chuquisaca and La Paz shortly before. Paraguay was undecided. In the Banda Oriental there was a strong royalist stronghold, as in Chilemarker.
Santiago de Liniers led a counterrevolution in Cordoba, against which it was led the first military movement of the government's independence. However, despite the rise of Liniers and his prestige as a hero against the British invasions, the population of Cordoba in general supported the revolution, which led to the power of his army being sapped by desertions and sabotage. The counter-rising of Liniers was quickly smothered by the forces led by Francisco Ortiz de Ocampo. However, once captured Ocampo refused to shoot Liniers who had fought alongside him in the British invasions, so that the execution was done by Juan José Castelli.

After quelling the rebellion proceeded to send military expeditions to many other cities, demanding support for the Primera Junta. The military service was requested to almost all families, both poor and rich, whereupon most of the patrician families chose to send their slaves to the army instead of to their children. This is one of the reasons for the decline of the black population in Argentina.

Montevideomarker, which had a rivalry with the city of Buenos Aires from time before, opposed the Primera Junta and was declared new capitol of the viceroyalty by Spanish Juntas, which appointed Javier de Elío as new viceroy. The city was well defended and could resist possible attacks from Buenos Aires, but the peripheric cities around Montevideo acted contrary to it and supported the change. Led by José Gervasio Artigas, they kept Montevideo under siege until the defeat of the royalists.

The Captaincy General of Chile (modern Chilemarker) followed a process similar to the May Revolution during the same year and was ruled by a Government Junta, starting a brief period known as Patria Vieja. However, they would be defeated in 1814 during the battle of Rancagua, and with the Reconquista Chile would become again a royalist stronghold. Even so, the Andes mountain range provided an effective natural barrier between the revolutionaries and Chile, so there was no military confrontation with them until the completion of the Crossing of the Andes by José de San Martín and the Army of the Andes at 1817. After it, the Royalists in Chile were defeated.

The Primera Junta expanded its membership to incorporate within itself the deputies sent by the cities that supported the Revolution, after which the Junta became known as the Junta Grande. Juntas would be dissolved after the defeat on the battle of Huaqui, replaced by triumvirates, and later by the unipersonal authority of a Supreme Director. With Martín Miguel de Güemes holding the royalist armies at bay in the north, and San Martín attacking the royalist stronghold in Lima from the sea (using Chilean ships), the war moved to the north of South America, and Buenos Aires would engage instead into the Argentine Civil Wars.


According to historian Félix Luna in his book "A Brief History of the Argentines", one of the most important consequences of the May Revolution in society was the paradigm shift, which was the way the relationship between the people and rulers was considered. Until that time, the conception of common good prevailed: while respecting fully the royal authority, when considering that a warrant from the crown of Spain was detrimental to the common good of the local population, it was half-met or ignored. This was a normal procedure. With the revolution, the concept of common good gave way to popular sovereignty, driven by people like Moreno, Castelli or Monteagudo, which held that in the absence of legitimate authority the people had the right to appoint their own leaders. Over time, popular sovereignty would give way to majority rule, which posits that it is the majority of the population that determines, at least in theory, the current government. This maturation of the ideas was slow and gradual, and took many decades to crystallize in a election, but was what finally led to the adoption of the republican system as the form of government of Argentinamarker. Domingo Faustino Sarmiento stated similar points at Facundo, but noticing that cities were more pervious to those changes while rural areas were more resistant to changes, leading to the appearence of caudillos.

Another consequence, also according to the aforementioned historian, was the disintegration of the territories that belonged to the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata in several different territories. Most of the cities composing it had populations, productions, attitudes, contexts and interests of their own. These people were held together by the authority of the Spanish government, but with the disappearance of it, people in Montevideo, Paraguay and Upper Peru began to distance themselves from Buenos Aires. The short duration of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata, barely 38 years, failed to forge a patriotic feeling to link them as a common unit. Juan Bautista Alberdi also sees in the May Revolution one of the early manifestations of the power struggles between the city of Buenos Aires and the interior, one of the axes around which revolved the Argentine civil wars. Alberdi wrote in his posthumous writings as follows:

Historical perspective

Historiographical studies of the May Revolution do not face many doubts or unknown details. Most important details about it were properly recorded at the time, and made available to the public by the Primera Junta as patriotic propaganda. Because of this, the different historical views on the topic differ on interpretations of the meanings, causes and consequences of the events rather than the accuracy of the despiction of the event themselves. The modern historical vision of the revolutionary events do not differ significantly from the contemporary ones.

The first remarkable historiographical school of interpretation of the history of Argentina was founded by Bartolomé Mitre. Mitre regarded the May Revolution as an iconic expression of political egalitarianism, the conflict between modern freedoms and oppression represented by the Spanish monarchy, and the attempt to establish a national organization on constitutional principles as opposed to the leadership of the caudillos.

Meanwhile, Esteban Echeverría epitomized the ideals of May in the concepts of progress and democracy. In future, these concepts would be the axis around which revisionist history would differ from the canonical history in reference to the events of May. The canonical version claimed progress and justify the abandonment or delay the realization of democratic ideals in order not to risk the economic prosperity of society arguing that even then was not able to properly take advantage of political freedom. This situation was known as the establishment of the "Possible Republic."

In the opposite lane, revisionism openly criticized the lack of formation of a true democracy. The historian José María Rosa, for example, asserted that the canonical history portrayed the revolution as the exclusive product of a small sector of the population driven by the desire to trade freedoms and individual liberties, minimizing the involvement of the masses or the desire for independence for independence itself. Rosa also found that the canonical history sought to minimize or conceal the political stances of Manuel Belgrano, presenting him instead only as a military leader.

The figure of Mariano Moreno also led to disputes over his confrontational methods. Some historians see him as the main driver of the revolution, or the government emerging from it, while others relativize his influence. Disparities also exist on his account or not as a Jacobin, the popular uprooting of his positions, or the analyze of his thoughts, his sources or his actions. There's also an alleged document called "Plan de Operaciones" (Operations plan") setting radical goals and measures for the Junta, and whose authenticity and authorship by Moreno is under high controversy. However, beyond the value judgments of every historian, there is consensus among them in regard to Mariano Moreno as one of the protagonists in May with the most radical revolutionary position and determination.

Common misunderstandings

There are many common misunderstandings about the May Revolution, that differ from the regular accepted version of it. Most of such misunderstandings revolve around the demostration of 25 May. Many pictures despict a raining day and people wearing umbrellas at the Plaza; it was likely that there was rain on that day but umbrellas were a luxury item in that time and their use wouldn't be common. The estimated number of people is near to 600 people, which was a lot of people in the underpopulated Buenos Aires of the time but wouldn't be considered a multitude under current standards. French and Beruti are portraited in a lighter tone. The presence of people selling empanadas was unlikely, as the product was common by that time at Spanish cities in the north but not at Buenos Aires.

National homages

Today, May 25 is remembered as a patriotic date in Argentina, with the character of a national holiday. The same is immovable, meaning it is celebrated exactly on May 25 regardless of day of the week. In the year 2010 will be 200 years of the May Revolution, which led to the Bicentennial of Argentina.

The date, as well as the image of a Cabildo in a generic form, are used in different variants to honor the May Revolution. Two of the most notable are the Avenida de Mayomarker and the Plaza de Mayomarker at Buenos Airesmarker, at the latter it was erected the Pirámide de Mayomarker at a year of the revolution, and which was rebuilt to its present form in 1856. "May 25" is the name of several administrative divisions, cities, public spaces and landforms of Argentina, such as the department Twenty-May in San Juan, the town of Twenty-May in the Province of Buenos Aires, the Plaza 25 de Mayo en Rosario and the "island Twenty de Mayo" (internationally known as King George Island). It is also used a commemorative Cabildo at coins of 25 cents, and an image of the Sun of May on the 5 cents.

The May Revolution in popular culture

The nature of anniversaries of May 25 drives each year the description in children's magazines in Argentina, for example Billiken, as well as textbooks use in primary schools. These publications often omit some aspects of the historical event, as their violence or political content might be considered inappropriate for minors, such as the high arming of the population of that time (following the preparation against the second British invasion) or the class struggle among the Criollos and the Spanish mainland. Instead, it focuses on the revolution as an event devoid of violence and that inevitably would have happened one way or another, and the emphasis is on secondary issues such as the weather on 25 and if that day it rained or not, or whether the use of umbrellas was widespread or limited to a minority. It is also presented as archetypal of the revolution the presence of various workers, including a mazamorreros delivering pies among the people in the plaza on May 25. This was reported by the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism as an example of discrimination against black people in Argentina, and therefore requested a reformulation of textbooks facing the academic year 2009.

The events were represented at "La Revolución de Mayo", an early silent films from Argentina, shot in 1909 by Mario Gallo and premiered in 1910, the centenary year. It was the first Argentine fiction film done with professional actors.

Among the songs inspired by the events of May is the Candombe, 1810. The tango singer Carlos Gardel sang the sun of 25, with lyrics by Domingo Lombardi and James Rocca, and Salve Patria Eugenio Cardenas and Guillermo Barbieri. Peter Berruti, meanwhile, created Gavotte de Mayo with folk music.
The revolution of May is also represented on a comic book with scripts by the historian Felipe Pigna along with Stephen D'Aranno and Julio Leiva, and illustrations of Miguel Scenna. It is part of a series of comic books entitled "The comic book Argentina by Felipe Pigna" (making word-games with the words "historia" and "historieta", that stand for "History" and "Comic book"), which also made similar productions on other developments in Argentina's history as the British invasions or the Conquest of the Desert, or biographies of national heroes like Jose de San Martín, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento and Manuel Belgrano. The comic takes place after the arrival of Cisneros to Buenos Aires until the death of Mariano Moreno at sea. The stage of the Primera Junta is portrayed favorably to Moreno and unfavorable to Saavedra.

Felipe Pigna also directed the TV documentary Algo habrán hecho por la historia argentina, which was intended to recount the highlights of the history of Argentina in a way accessible to the public. For those using a companion to whom he explained the story (Mario Pergolini in the first season) and alternated between explanations from the present explanations in the presence of representatives of times explained, and scenes in which various actors representing specific situations. The revolution of May it was in the first chapter of the first season, and had the cooperation of the actors Ernesto Larrese (Juan José Castelli), Pablo Rago (Mariano Moreno), Gabo Correa (Domingo French), Marcelo D'Andrea (Juan José Paso), Norberto Lasalle (Santiago de Liniers), Fernando Llosa (Cornelio Saavedra), Héctor Malamud (Benito Lue y Riega), Pablo Razuk (Nicolás Rodríguez Peña), Marcelo Savignone (Manuel Belgrano) and Fabiana García Lago (Maria Guadalupe Cuenca), among others.

See also


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