Lavalle, Juan Galo (1797–1841)

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Lavalle, Juan Galo (1797–1841)

Juan Galo Lavalle (b. 17 October 1797; d. 9 October 1841), Argentine general. Born in Buenos Aires, Lavalle entered the military soon after the outbreak of revolution against Spain. He earned a reputation for valor tinged with rashness, distinguishing himself both in José de San Martín's crossing of the Andes and in later service with Argentine expeditionary forces in Peru and Ecuador. He returned to Buenos Aires in 1824 and won further distinction in the war of 1825–1828 against Brazil.

Like most of the professional military, Lavalle was a supporter of the Unitarist faction against the Federalists. He thus opposed the Federalist governor of Buenos Aires, Manuel Dorrego, whom he accused of inflicting a disorderly and arbitrary rule upon the province and of ending the Brazilian war on unfavorable terms. On 1 December 1828, Lavalle seized power in Buenos Aires by a coup. Twelve days later he had the former governor shot, thereby setting off a backlash of anger that in the end doomed Lavalle's government. Faced with counterrevolutionary uprisings throughout Buenos Aires Province, he held power less than a year.

For roughly ten years Lavalle lived as an exile in Uruguay, until in 1839 he launched a major invasion of Argentine territory, aiming to overthrow the Federalist dictatorship established by Juan Manuel de Rosas. He penetrated deeply into Buenos Aires Province, but Rosas was able to assemble superior forces. In the meantime, Lavalle's alliance with the French forces intervening in the Río de la Plata made him vulnerable to charges of betraying national interests. He withdrew to the Argentine interior, where he suffered eventual defeat at the hands of Rosas's allies in 1841. Fleeing toward Bolivia, he was assassinated in Jujuy. Lavalle would remain a dashing hero to some; but the execution of Dorrego dogged his historical image just as it did his entire subsequent career.

See alsoAndes; Rosas, Juan Manuel de.


Pedro Lacasa, Vida militar y política del general argentino don Juan Lavalle (1973).

John Lynch, Argentine Dictator: Juan Manuel de Rosas 1829–1852 (1981).

Lily Sosa De Newton, Lavalle (1967).

Additional Bibliography

Pasquali, Patricia. Juan Lavalle: Un guerrero en tiempos de revolución y dictadura. Buenos Aires: Planeta, 1996.

Zenequelli, Lilia. Tiempos de guerra, tiempos de paz: Juan Galo Lavalle, José María Vilela. Buenos Aires: Editorial Dunken, 1999.

                                                   David Bushnell

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