- Uruguay, known as the Banda Oriental or Eastern Bank during South America’s colonial era, had developed in tandem with Argentina as a center of extensive ranching and mercantile trade. Its ports were rivals to Buenos Aires, the regional capital that dominated the region’s trade and its politics. When Spanish authority in Buenos Aires weakened after 1806, Montevideo became a center of Loyalist sentiment despite the port city’s dependence on illegal trade with Portuguese and British merchants.The collapse of the Spanish monarchy in the wake of Napoleon Bonaparte ’s invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in 1807 transformed the military and political conditions in Uruguay. Beginning in 1811, popular forces in the rural areas surrounding Montevideo rebelled. Under the leadership of José Gervasio Artigas, the rebels joined with an invading army from Argentina and surrounded the port. Concerns about the ambitions of the independence movement in Buenos Aires led Artigas and his army to abandon the siege. When Montevideo surrendered in 1814, Uruguay in turn rebelled against the government of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata.Artigas declared a social revolution that promised broader political participation and the distribution of land to Native Americans, people of mixed race heritage, and the landless poor. He also promoted federalism, which helped him gain allies in the interior provinces of Argentina. The radical nature of his proposals and his military achievements, however, also produced powerful enemies. Paraguay, under the dictatorial leadership of Jose Rodríguez Gaspar de Francia, moved to separate Uruguay from its allies in northern Argentina. The Imperial government of Portugal, displaced to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil by Napoleon’s invasion of Iberia, moved to quell rebellions in its southern territories.Although Artigas did retake Montevideo in 1815, a major invasion by Portuguese forces reduced his army and forced him into exile after 1818. Uruguay fell under Portuguese authority until 1825, when a nationalist rebellion set in motion a war that would pit Argentina against Portuguese Brazil. Negotiations led to the creation of an independent Uruguay in 1828. The country’s final borders would not be secured until the defeat of Paraguay in the War of the Triple Alliance, 1864–1870.See also <
>; < >.FURTHER READING:Bushnell, David, and Neill MacAuley. The Emergence of Latin America in the Nineteenth Century. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994;Street, John. Artigas and the Emancipation of Uruguay. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959.DANIEL K. LEWIS
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.