Gamarra, Agustín (1785–1841)

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Gamarra, Agustín (1785–1841)

Agustín Gamarra (b. 1785; d. 1841), quintessential military caudillo of nineteenth-century Peru, born in Cuzco, and twice president of Peru (1829–1833, 1839–1841) during an unstable period in which there were more than thirty presidents in twenty years (1826–1846). Like Andrés de Santa Cruz and Ramón Castilla, Gamarra was initially trained by the Spanish colonial army. Under creole Generals José Manuel Goyeneche and Pío Tristán, Gamarra fought against independence movements in the regions of Upper and Southern Peru between 1809 and 1820. In 1820, however, the entire royalist Numancia battalion in which Gamarra served passed over to General José de San Martín's independence forces, at the time active on the Peruvian coast. Consequently, Gamarra fought in the independence army in the battles of Junín and Ayacucho that finally removed Spanish colonial presence in Peru.

Soon after independence Gamarra became prefect of Cuzco and military commander of the southern Peruvian armies. Gamarra was a zealous creole-patriot, politically conservative and protectionist in trading matters. He achieved renown in early "national" military campaigns against Colombian influence in Bolivia (1828) and in the dispute over the port of Guayaquil with Colombia (1829). In the middle of the latter, unsuccessful campaign in Ecuador, Gamarra forcibly exiled President José de la Mar to become president of Peru. In his first presidency, Gamarra foiled at least seventeen rebellions with the aid of his belligerent wife Francisca Zubiaga de Gamarra, but was finally defeated in a civil war by General Luis José Orbegoso in 1833.

Gamarra continued to conspire but did not seize power until 1839, after he led the opposition against General Santa Cruz's Peru-Bolivia Confederation (1836–1839). The Chilean army, employing Peruvian dissenters such as Gamarra himself, defeated Santa Cruz in the battle of Yungay (1839). Finally, Gamarra's attempt to incorporate Bolivia into Peru was soundly defeated in the battle of Ingaví (1841), in which Gamarra lost his life.

See alsoPeru: Peru Since Independence .


Jorge Basadre, Historia de la República del Perú, vols. 1-2 (1963).

Celia Wu, Generals and Diplomats: Great Britain and Peru 1820–40 (1991).

Additional Bibliography

Manrique, Nelson. Historia de la república. Lima: Fondo Editorial de COFIDE, 1995.

Walker, Charles. Smoldering Ashes: Cuzco and the Creation of Republican Peru, 1780–1840. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

                                      Alfonso W. Quiroz