I made this stamp to promote 2010 as the U.N.s International Biodiversity Year. But, while I was doing it, I remembered that 2010 is a very important year for several South American countries (Chile, Mexico, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Colombia), and especially for Argentina.
2010, Argentina's bicentennial.
A bit of history. After Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492, the Spanish monarchs chartered several expeditions to explore and conquer the newly discovered land.
It was a personal endeavor of the kings of Spain. They paid for these expeditions from their own personal royal purse.
Futhermore, a Bull by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 gave America to the "Crown". It was a fief of the King. Therefore, the rest of Spain had no part in America. It was the monarch's own "property".
The Spanish Kings set up a bureaucracy to run their "personal estate" and later named Viceroys to govern on their behalf, but it was a separate entity and did not belong to the "Kingdom of Spain".
In 1776, the Viceroyalty of Peru was dismembered and one of its parts became the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata, with its capital at Buenos Aires. It comprised what is now Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay and some parts of Brazil.
Patagonia, which had been an empty hinterland since its discovery in 1520 was incorporated as part of the Rio de la Plata Viceroyalty. The King had three settlements built on its Atlantic coast:
A town was built at Puerto San Julián and named Floridablanca, it was quickly abandoned as it lacked water and the soil was unsuitable for farming.
The settlement at San Josén on Valdés Peninsula survived until it was razed by the natives in 1810.
Only Carmen de Patagones, on the Negro River remained, and was the outpost on the Patagonian border.
Western Patagonia, rain drenched and useless in Spain's eyes, remained abandoned until 1843, when an independent Chile founded the town of Punta Arenas on the Strait of Magellan.
Freedom and revolution.
The European Napoleonic wars would change things. England invaded Buenos Aires twice (1806 and 1807) and after the Viceroy ran away from the invaders the locals had to arm themselves and expel the English army on their own.
Buenos Aires citizenry appointed an interim Viceroy until the King sent out a replacement.
In 1809, Napoleon abducted the King of Spain and his father, had him abdicate and named his brother Jose Bonaparte as new King. The Spanish people opposed this and fought Napoleon's invading army.
They named a "Junta" to run the government until the king was restored to the throne.
When the news reached Buenos Aires, the local Creoles decided that they should act.
They were a wealthy and well educated group of people; they were the descendants of the very ancient Spanish families who had settled in the area, but being born in America, they were not allowed to take part of the Colonial administration.
They were discriminated against by the Peninsular Spaniards appointed by the Royal Court in Spain.
They were also inspired by the new ideas that were changing the world: the United States independence war in the 1770s-80s, and the French revolution in the 1790s promoted ideals of freedom, liberty, equality and rationality which strongly contrasted with the colonial system imposed by Spain where church and state stifled any kind of open mindedness.
The Creoles deeply resented this sitauation and in 1810, after having proven their might during the bloody 1806-1807 Invasiones Inglesas (English Invasions) felt that they could face up to Spain.
On May 22, 1810 the local City Hall (where the Creoles did have a say) called for an "open assembly" to look into the matter.
On May 25, 1810 with the support of the local militia (created after the English Invasions) and the populace of Buenos Aires, they ousted the Viceroy and named a "local Junta" which was known as "La Primera Junta" (First Junta).
This is known as the Revolución de Mayo, (May Revolution) and May 25th is commemorated as the beginning of Argentina's self government and the end of Spanish domination.
To justify their actions they used a legal loophole:
The Viceroy represented the King, America was the King's personal property. If the King was held prisoner, he could not take care of his belongings. The Viceroy lost the power that the king had delegated in him. Furthermore, the Spanish Junta did not have any right to govern America since it was not a part of Spain or the Spanish Nation / Kingdom but a personal property of the King.
Therefore, the sovereignty reverted to the King's subjects, the Creole Americans, who would govern in his name.
The "in his name" part meant that though the Creoles had evicted the Viceroy, they were still the King's loyal subjects.
The "Junta" soon grew into a "Big Junta" with members from other provincial capitals, then it created a Triumvirate (an Executive with three heads - too cumbersome), then in 1813 it convened a Constitutional Congress, which finally, on the 9th of July of 1816, in the city of Tucumán, declared Argentina's independence.
A long war was fought against Spain (1810-1824) and during the process, Uruguay was invaded by Brazil and after an Argentine-Brazilian war in 1826-1828 it became an independent country, a buffer state, created by British diplomacy; Paraguay repealed the 1810 Junta's Army and kept to itself until the 1860s. Bolivia broke off and became an independent country.
Eastern Patagonia was retained by Argentina (Britain snatched the Malvinas - Falklands Islands from Argentina in 1833).
So Argentina is what remains of the Rio de la Plata Viceroyalty and 2010 is our 200th birthday.
Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2010 International Year of Biodiversity
Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall ©