Southern Cone Under the British
History of the British Southern Cone
Long before the British invaded the Southern Cone in 1806, it already had a good amount of history. First of all, even before the Spaniards came into the area in the early 1500s, there had already been many Indian tribes, the most advanced being the Inca civilization that stretched south to present-day north Chile and northwest Argentina. Other tribes existed further south and east, like the Charruas, Mapuche, and the Yahgans (on Fireland). This order started to be disrupted when Juan Diaz de Solis discovered the River Plate in 1516, and believed it would be a route to the Pacific and to silver mines further upstream (hence “Plate” or “Plata”, meaning silver). In 1536, Pedro de Mendoza founded Buenos Aires, but subsequently, it succumbed to an Indian attack; it was refounded in 1580 by Juan de Garay. Meanwhile, other cities had been founded elsewhere in the region – for example, Mendoza, Santiago del Estero, Santa Fe, and Cordova. For the first 250 years of Spanish colonization there, life in the Cone east of the Andes was centred in present-day West and Northwest Argentina rather than along the River Plate. In fact, the Cone was merely an extension of the Viceroyalty of Peru.
Then, in 1776, to counter threats from the Portuguese and British, the Viceroyalty of La Plata was created, its centre being Buenos Aires. It included present-day Argentina plus Uruguay, Paraguay, much of Bolivia, and a little of southern Brazil; Chile was not included, as it was still in the Viceroyalty of Peru. From that time onwards, more people started to move into Buenos Aires, including some foreign trading merchants and smugglers, so that by 1800 it already had more than 40,000 people. The centre of La Plata life shifted from the north and northwest to Buenos Aires, and trade between the Cone and the outside world was opened up.
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In 1806, sensing that the Spanish colonies in South America would be freed from Spanish rule and that there were riches waiting, British soldiers under the initiative of Home Riggs Popham and the command of William Carr Beresford invaded Buenos Aires. At first, they beat the Criollos there, with the viceroy of La Plata, the Marquis of Sobremonte, having fled; but after 2-3 months, the Criollos got a new leader, Santiago de Liniers, to fight back the British. Eventually aware of this, the British sent an expeditionary force under the command of first Samuel Auchmuty and then John Whitelocke to reinforce the British soldiers already there.
First, they captured Montevideo in February 1807, under Auchmuty’s command. Then, on July 2 and 3 that year, with Whitelocke having taken command some months earlier, Buenos Aires was captured from the Criollos after a very fierce fight at the Corral de Miserere and then in the city centre. The victory was made possible because unlike in our world, Whitelocke garrisoned the 36th and 88th regiments of the British Army, which had been cooped up in ships for 9 or more months, and the 6th Dragoon Guards, with their awkward cavalry boots, in Montevideo. Instead, the 47th regiment, part of the 38th, and some of the 20th and 21st Light Dragoons, which were all more experienced, fought in Buenos Aires alongside all the other British soldiers present in Buenos Aires. That arrangement enabled the British army in the Buenos Aires area to remain more united and for the generals to communicate more easily, translating into more success on the field. (For more, see Fletcher, Ian, The Waters of Oblivion: The British Invasion of the Rio de la Plata, Turnbridge Wells: Spellmount Ltd., 1991, pp. 86-96.)
This way, in Auchmuty-Whitelocke World (AWW), the Viceroyalty of La Plata was transferred to British rule, and was renamed the River Plate Colony, or the Plate Colony in short.
Meanwhile, other cities along the River Plate basin, such as Rosario and Santa Fe, capitulated to the British after little to no fighting, and Whitelocke’s soldiers, especially in Robert Craufurd’s brigade, were about to cross the Andes or sail around the Strait of Magellan to capture Chile. However, they encountered Spanish resistance in some parts of the northeast and in Mendoza and other cities in the Cuyo. They met even more resistance in Cordova and in cities in the north, like Salta, Tucuman, and various cities in Upper Peru (now Bolivia), plus those in and around present-day Paraguay. Therefore, the soldiers abandoned plans to go to Chile, and instead concentrated on those cities. These battles were led by the likes of Auchmuty and Craufurd, with Beresford, Pack, Mahon, and Lumley playing important roles too, even as Whitelocke was the Plate Colony’s governor. As a matter of fact, Auchmuty rose to be second-in-command to Whitelocke after the previous one, Leveson-Gower, was found to be incompetent in the 1807 invasion of Buenos Aires and was subsequently switched to leading the British garrison in Buenos Aires.
Battles raged on between the British soldiers on the one hand and the locals plus the Spaniards on the other hand between 1807 and 1812. This struggle was known as the Anglo-Plate War (or the Plate War or the South American War). From 1807 to 1809, those took place mostly in the Pampas/Uruguay and in the Cordova and Cuyo regions; from 1809 to the end, the theatre of the war shifted to Upper Peru/Salta/Tucuman and Paraguay. In all these places, battles took place against rural caudillos, or warlords, as well as in the cities.
All the above battles from 1806 onwards were part of the Anglo-Spanish Wars fought around the world, in the context of the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800s. Just like in the Peninsular War in Spain and Portugal, so outside the Plate Colony, most of the Spanish-speaking commoners supported the British and the deposed king of Spain (Ferdinand VII) against Joseph Bonaparte (Napoleon’s brother), who invaded Spain in 1808 and thereby weakened Spain’s ties to the Americas. In the Plate Colony, many of the Criollos supported Spain until around 1815, because they did not like British rule. In fact, a number of Criollos in the Plate Colony fled largely to Chile, where they were known as rioplatenses; they joined the Spanish-American wars of independence. Many other Criollos, though, came to accept British rule relatively quickly.
The British soldiers won within most of the Plate Colony, but in Upper Peru and Paraguay, the Spanish forces gained victory. That cleared the way for the Congress of Vienna in 1814-15 to give Upper Peru and Paraguay back to Spain, but for the British to keep other parts of the Plate Colony. Once that was completed, there were lingering skirmishes from the Anglo-Plate War in Paraguay over access via the Parana River, and Paraguay became a British protectorate in 1818. It gained independence in 1824.
In the Plate Colony, the Plate Act was enacted in 1816, giving recognition and rights to Spanish language, culture, and religion, plus recognizing its borders. Elsewhere in South America, Simon Bolivar liberated Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador around 1819-1822, and came over to Peru in 1823. That was just after Jose de San Martin of Argentina, together with Bernardo O’Higgins of Chile, invaded Peru from the sea and liberated it after having set up a small army in Valparaiso, Chile, to sail from. Bolivar fought against the Spaniards until the independent forces gained control of Peru in 1824, after which it became independent. Down in Chile, the independence movement began in 1810; there as elsewhere, the Criollos had been united with the Spaniards against the British when the British first took over the River Plate, but turned on the Spaniards starting in 1808 when they were less than happy with Spain’s takeover by Napoleon’s brother. San Martin, O’Higgins, and others played big roles in the struggle in Chile. Chile gained independence in 1816, 6½ years after the struggle started in earnest; Bolivia became independent in 1825.
Since the British had more or less complete control over the South Atlantic, slavery was abolished in 1828 (five years before it happened in our world). The British have had military, political, economic, and cultural influence throughout South America; for example, they have mitigated or prevented wars that took place in our world, and they enabled Gran Colombia (Bolivar’s dream) to live five years longer in AWW than in our world.
Within the Plate Colony, meanwhile, the two former intendencies of Cordoba (central and west Argentina) and Tucuman (north-central and northwest Argentina) had split off in 1826 from the Plate Colony to form one separate British colony, named Cordova; there, as today, it had a Spanish-speaking majority, much like French-speaking Quebec for Canada. Eight years later, the former intendency of Tucuman cleaved from Cordova; that was named Tucuman. In 1843, Cuyo split from Cordova; the following year, Salta split from Tucuman. In 1828, due partly to the actions of Ardleigh and other separatists and partly to Brazilian interventions, Uruguay also separated from the Plate Colony.
The primary reason for these colonial separations (especially Cordova and Tucuman) was because starting around 1820, a big wave of immigration from the British Isles arrived on the Plate Colony’s shores, especially on either side of the River Plate, along the Parana River, and in the Pampas (some trickled into Cordova and, to a lesser extent, Tucuman). In addition, Entre Rios (now South Mesopotamia) and Corrientes (now North Mesopotamia) were created out of the Plate Colony in 1853, and New Lancashire (in our world, Santa Fe province) was split from the Plate Colony in 1858. For a brief time after the rebellions, the provinces of Salta, Tucuman, Cuyo, and Cordova were reunited, but then they went back their own ways.
Brazil continued to covet Uruguay even after it was lost to the British in 1828; it used any excuse to intervene in Uruguay. For example, Brazil moved in when the Uruguayans, both British and Spanish, rebelled against direct British rule in 1851-52. In the colonies that were to become part of Argentina, the people also rebelled against the British authorities and demanded responsible government. Therefore, in the mid- to late-1850s, they (plus Uruguay) got more self-government, and the two new colonies in Mesopotamia were created; after that, more territories were created over the years.
In 1864, Francisco Solano Lopez, then the dictator of Paraguay, was hungry to flex his political muscles, and wanted to strengthen Paraguay and have access to the sea. Being angry at both Brazil and the British Empire, and seeing that Brazil intervened yet again in Uruguay in 1864, he waged war on what became known as the Double Alliance (Brazil and Britain, the latter through its Southern Cone colonies). At first, Lopez claimed victory, but eventually, the Double Alliance swiftly got rid of Lopez; Paraguay did not suffer as much from the war as in our world, and the war lasted until 1867. Afterwards, British and Brazilian troops occupied Paraguay until 1873, and some territory was given over from Paraguay to Brazil and to what would become the Missions Territory, which was occupied variously by North Mesopotamia and by Paraguay until 1869, and again by North Mesopotamia until 1884, in present-day Argentina. What would become the Chaco Territory (subsequently divided into Chaco and Pilcomayo Territories) was also taken from Paraguay, in 1870, by New Lancashire.
Meanwhile, the first railway in the Southern Cone opened in 1837, with a lot more rail lines being developed by 1845-1850. An extensive rail network took form in what are now Argentina and Uruguay by the early 1860s. As a result, general settlement of the land took place 20 years earlier in AWW than in our world, and the rail network became even more extensive than in our world, no matter how much so it was in our world. Also, refrigerated railcars first emerged slightly earlier than in our world, around 1870.
Starting around 1850, the British Southern Cone received Germans, Scandinavians, Swiss, Italians, and Spaniards, among other groups, as well as the British and Irish. Previously unsettled by Europeans except for a few British penal colonies in the far south, Patagonia east of Chile was opened up in 1868, with the official expansion of the Plate Colony over there. Until then, Patagonia had been sort of a part of the Plate Colony, but in practice was unoccupied. For the next dozen years or so, the native peoples in Patagonia were subdued, displaced, or killed off.
In 1876, the idea of a confederation of the British colonies in the Cone was seriously discussed at the Tucuman Conference; this idea became further discussed at the Parana Conference one year later. (A previous idea for such a confederation, the Federal League of South America, was implemented in the early 1870s but failed after a few years because the Plate Colony refused to take part, and Uruguay hardly wanted to join as well.) Finally, on October 2, 1880, the idea of Confederation bore fruit, under the British South America Act, becoming a British dominion. It became officially known as the United Provinces of the Argentine, or the Argentine Union for short. (Until the 1940s-1950s, that country was known in English more as "the Argentine" or "Argentine" than as "Argentina".) Uruguay, though, declined to join (cf. New Zealand vis-à-vis Australia in 1901) because of a past of Brazilian intervention and all its effects – and it would serve as a buffer between Brazil and the new Argentine Union.
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James Rock, one of the Fathers of Confederation, became the first prime minister of Argentina. At this point, the region began receiving immigrants from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia; immigration from Southern Europe (especially Spain and Italy) increased a lot. Over the next several decades, there was a general upswing in agricultural and industrial development as meat, hides, and wheat were being shipped on a large scale to Europe and the United States, and the cities boomed with people moving in from the countryside and abroad. Hispanoparlants in the west and north migrated to the Pampas, along with Uruguay, in good numbers. This was Argentina’s coming of age. In 1882, it was decided to move the capital from Buenos Aires to a recently-founded town just southwest of the city of Santa Fe named Wilsonton; construction of the Parliament was completed three years later.
In an 1881 treaty, all of Fireland and many nearby islands were awarded to Argentina; the Strait of Magellan became split between Argentina and Chile. Mainland Patagonia became Argentine east of the Andes and Chilean in the rest. Previously, each country claimed the entirety of Patagonia and the Fireland archipelago. The Patagonia Territory, which was created in 1884, split up in 1892 into individual national territories that are now provinces with the exception of Fireland and the Falklands. The latter two were separate territories until 1895, when they joined together. The Falklands had been a separate British colony up until then; it was taken back by the British in 1807 along with the rest of the former Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata, was resettled in 1816 initially as a penal colony, and became its own British colony in 1833.
Throughout much of the 1880s and 1890s, Cecil Rhodes of South Africa planned for a Cape-Plate steamship route, and also a Cape-Plate telegraph line, alongside his plans for a Cape-Cairo railroad and a Cape-Cairo road, in order to cement a British colonial link along the South Atlantic Ocean as well as within Africa. He was able to complete the former two more than the latter two, as only the Atlantic separates the Cape from the Plate, while between the Cape and Cairo, there were numerous countries that had non-British colonial claims, and the terrain and climate were often hostile. From 1899 to 1902, both Argentina and Uruguay joined soldiers from other parts of the British Empire to fight on the British side of South Africa’s Boer War, though the Spanish-speakers were opposed to the effort.
On March 1, 1903, Uruguay became a British dominion, becoming formally known as the Oriental Dominion of Uruguay. The prime minister from 1902 (actually, first in 1899) until 1910, and again from 1915 to 1919, was Joseph Batshaw. He turned Uruguay into a welfare state, providing its citizens with free cradle-to-grave benefits; over the course of his premiership (and that of Clarence Williman between 1910 and 1915), women’s suffrage was established, the Catholic and Anglican Churches were disestablished, and the death penalty was abolished.
During World War I, Argentina and Uruguay both sent soldiers to fight on the side of the British; there were many casualties from both countries. Like the Canadian soldiers, those from Argentina and Uruguay fought mostly on the Western Front; significant battles for the Argentines and Uruguayans included Loos and Messines as well as the Somme, Ypres, etc. As more soldiers were being recruited, the hispanoparlants opposed conscription, such that in 1916-17, there was widespread rioting in many cities across the region on the part of hispanoparlants.
After that, Argentina and Uruguay continued to develop and to receive more immigrants; Buenos Aires was fast becoming an equivalent to London, Paris, and New York on the world stage. At the same time, Argentina started to flex its economic and military power in much of South America. This was marred, however, by violent strikes occasionally, like the Tragic Week in Buenos Aires in 1919, and a similar event in southern Patagonia in the early 1920s.
The Great Depression hit the Southern Cone very hard from 1929 to 1935. The respective prime ministers of Argentina and Uruguay in the mid- to late-1930s, James Rock Jr./Robert Orton and Alfred Baldwin, implemented public works programs (similar to America’s New Deal to varying degrees) to alleviate the situation. Also in 1931, the Statute of Westminster granted Argentina and Uruguay independence from Britain, along with the dominions of Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland, but they would belong to the Commonwealth of Nations. Just like much of the rest of the world, the Southern Cone became increasingly xenophobic and anti-Semitic, in the wake of the Nazi regime emerging in Germany; they severely limited immigration during the 1930s and early 1940s.
In World War II, just like in World War I, the two countries fought on Britain’s side, and their armed forces suffered many casualties in the battlefields overseas. They fought in many of the same battles as the Canadians and the British, including Dieppe, D-Day (both in Normandy), and the Italian and North African Campaigns. German U-boats (submarines) prowled the waters off Argentina and Uruguay as well as in the rest of the Atlantic, to attack shipping between the Southern Cone and Britain; the German warship Graf Spee was scuttled not in Montevideo but in Florianopolis, Brazil. Most Nazi war criminals from Germany and elsewhere who wound up in Argentina (or Uruguay) in our world, lived instead in such countries as Chile. The Korean War also attracted troops from Argentina and Uruguay.
After World War II, economic growth and immigration picked up again, just like in North America and Australia; this lasted for 2-3 decades. At this point, there was a baby boom going on as returning soldiers started new lives; suburbs sprouted on a big scale, with emphasis on homeownership. Uruguay and, above all, Argentina came of age in international relations and played much more prominent roles there. Argentina, in particular, was seen as a middle-level peacemaking player (cf. Canada), as in a middle power, and was regarded as the number one economic, political, and military power in Latin America, despite Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia having more people (cf. Japan in Asia). Nonetheless, all that was not enough for the two countries; Argentina and Uruguay became republics in 1956 and 1967, respectively.
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A desire for Argentina to separate itself more from the United Kingdom, plus pressure from the hispanoparlants, led to a referendum on September 21, 1955, where 61% voted in favour of a republic, 37% voted against, and 2% were undecided. Hence, on April 23, 1956, Argentina became a republic with a ceremonial president at first; when the president gained executive powers in 1976, the position of prime minister was abolished. Also in 1956, Spanish was made an official language alongside English. All this took place amid a secularization of Spanish-speaking life in the north and west, where previously the Catholic Church had been in control of education, marriage, and things of that nature (cf. Quebec’s Quiet Revolution). More and more of the corporate world started to be run by hispanoparlants, where previously it had been almost entirely angloparlants who would be in charge of the economy.
This, in turn, lead to a separatist movement for Spanish-Argentines to demand their own state (or to join with Chile or Bolivia) in many parts of the west and north (including Cordova, Cuyo, Salta, etc.) where the majority is hispanoparlant. The separatist movement would turn violent in the late 1960s and the 1970s; they attacked mostly angloparlant businesses and other institutions, along with angloparlant politicians and wealthy families, in hispanoparlant areas and also in Buenos Aires and other cities. That time also saw nationalist riots in Cordova, Mendoza, Tucuman, and some other cities.
There were 3-4 prominent groups, all leftist in orientation. One of the most important groups was the Ejercito Revolucionario del Occidente (ERO; Western Revolutionary Army) – the military wing of the Partido Revolucionario Andino (PRA; Andine Revolutionary Party), advocating for an independent state in western Argentina formally to be called the Andine Republic of Western Argentina. Other groups included the Montoneros (officially, the Montonero Hispanic Movement), who campaigned for an independent state of all hispanoparlant areas of Argentina; the Fuerzas Armadas Hispanas (FAH), which merged with the Montoneros in 1973; and the Fuerzas Armadas del Noroeste (FAN; Northwest Armed Forces), which wanted to join Salta and Tucuman provinces to Bolivia. There were also some people in Cuyo province who have wanted to join with Chile with peaceful means; after all, it had been a part of the Chilean intendency until 1776, when the La Plata Viceroyalty was formed.
Just to enumerate some of the highest-profile incidents, on June 20, 1973, Montonero snipers opened fire at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires, killing 13 and injuring 65; and on July 2, 1976, the Montoneros set off a bomb at Argentine Federal Police headquarters in Wilsonton, killing 18 and injuring 66. Also, in 1974, a prominent former foreign minister was assassinated, and in 1975 for five days, as well as from 1976 onwards, there were emergency measures enacted in order to arrest hispanoparlant terrorists. On June 14, 1982, there was a referendum for sovereignty in the hispanoparlant areas of Argentina; that was rejected 57% to 41%.
A parallel phenomenon unfolded in Uruguay, though with very important differences. First of all, from 1962 to 1973, terrorists associated with the Spanish-Uruguayan separatist movement seeking self-government or independence wreaked havoc on occasion, the largest group being the Tupamaros, or the Hispanic Liberation Movement. Still, that group was smaller than the ERO or the Montoneros. In 1968 and again in 1973, there were brief states of emergency to arrest Tupamaro members. Around this time, on February 15, 1967, Uruguay became a republic (with a president as well as prime minister), for much of the same reasons as in Argentina, except that in Uruguay, they were more cautious of such separation from Britain than Argentina was; there was a new constitution in place. That same year, Spanish was made an official language alongside English. In 1984, a referendum for more Spanish-speaking autonomy passed, and the following year, an autonomous region in much of the north and east (officially called the Autonomous Region of Upper Uruguay) was created, with Santa Maria as the main administrative centre.
Over the past two decades, both countries have been doing pretty well, though they have a few mild recessions to deal with. The economy gradually recovered through the 1980s. Since there was no Falklands War in 1982 like there was in our world, there was no Condor II missile being developed in the 1980s. Buenos Aires endured the bombing of the Israeli consulate in 1992, as well as a smaller bombing of one of the main Jewish community centres two years later. Also in 1992, they joined the Southern Common Market (in Spanish - Mercosur), along with Brazil and Paraguay (Bolivia and Chile are associate members). In late 2004, the Southern Common Market joined with the Andean Community to form the Union of South American Nations (in Spanish - Unasur). In recent decades, Brazil has become a regional superpower, taking some edge off Argentina.
Also in recent decades, there has been some lingering, though almost entirely non-violent, tensions between angloparlants and hispanoparlants - augmented by ever-increasing immigration from other Latin American countries (kind of similar to tensions over Mexican and other Hispanic immigration to the US).
Note: Click here for a list of prime ministers or presidents in Argentina since 1880 and in Uruguay since 1903, along with certain British colonial governors in some areas.
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