Liga Federal, Liga Litoral, Liga Unitaria

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Liga Federal, Liga Litoral, Liga Unitaria

The Federal, Littoral, and Unitary leagues were political alliances during the independence and early national periods. The Liga Federal, also known as Liga Litoral and Liga de los Pueblos Libres (League of Free Peoples), was not created through a specific pact but came into being in 1814–1815 as Federalist leaders in the Argentine littoral provinces joined forces with each other and with the Uruguayan leader José Gervasio Artigas in opposition to the porteño revolutionists who sought to enforce strict obedience to the central authorities in Buenos Aires. The caudillo José Eusebio Hereñú of Entre Ríos is credited with making the initial move. His province was ultimately joined by Santa Fe, Corrientes, Misiones, and Córdoba, all of which were represented at the Congress of Free Peoples meeting at Concepción del Uruguay, Entre Ríos province, in mid-1815. All proclaimed Artigas as protector. The ultimate objective was an independent Argentina organized as a loose confederation of Platine provinces, which would have included what is now Uruguay. They did not achieve this aim, and Artigas's Uruguay fell to Portuguese occupation. The other provinces continued with varying success, and despite repeated internal dissensions, to resist the control of Buenos Aires. The Federalists' victory at the battle of Cepeda (February 1820) led to the final collapse of the centralist regime, after which the league dissolved.

The Liga Unitaria (also known as Liga Militar), formed in August 1830, was based in the interior province of Córdoba, where the Córdoba-born Unitarist general José María Paz had seized control the year before. By decisively defeating the leading Federalist caudillo of the Argentine interior, Juan Facundo Quiroga, Paz was able to bring nine provinces, extending from Córdoba to the Bolivian border, into his orbit. They formed the Liga Unitaria to create a supreme military power that functioned in practice, under Paz, as a provisional national government. However, it still faced the bitter opposition of Buenos Aires governor Juan Manuel de Rosas and his Federalist allies in the littoral provinces, and it quickly collapsed following the capture of Paz during a skirmish in May 1831.

The Liga Litoral (also known as Liga Federal and Liga de los Pueblos Libres) organized expressly to combat the Liga Unitaria, had its origin in a series of separate understandings among the provinces of the littoral region that were allied with Buenos Aires. Their alliance was formalized in January 1831 by the signing of the Federal Pact, which, in addition to providing for military cooperation against the Unitarists, created an interprovincial representative commission and delegated to Rosas, the governor of Buenos Aires, authority to act in the name of all provinces in foreign relations. As the tide of civil conflict turned against the Unitarists, more provinces became signatories of the Federal Pact; eventually all signed it. While the representative commission never became effective, Rosas took advantage of his special role in foreign relations to secure his personal political control over the country. After the fall of Rosas in 1852, the Liga Federal ceased to exist.

The leaders of these movements held diverse political goals and represented provinces with a range of economic interests. In the late twentieth century, scholars began to examine caudillos' popular supporters, in particular the gauchos, their definitions of Unitarian and Federalist Party identities, and the charismatic appeal of rural leaders. The caudillos' appeal rested on how well they represented culturally specific aspects of their followers—local notions of power, ethnicity, religion, authority, patronage, patriarchy, and even belief in the supernatural.

See alsoArgentina, Movements: Federalists; Rosas, Juan Manuel de.


Alberto Demicheli, Formación constitucional rioplatense, vol. 3, Los pactos en el proceso de organización (1955).

John Street, Artigas and the Emancipation of Uruguay (1959), pp. 243-328.

Victor Tau Anzoátegui, Formación del estado federal argentino (1820–1852) (1965).

José María Paz, Memorias, vol. 2 (1968), chap. 16.

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

Additional Bibliography

Chasteen, John Charles. Heroes on Horseback: A Life and Times of the Last Gaucho Caudillos. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995.

Chiaramonte, José Carlos. Ciudades, provincias, estados: Orígenes de la Nación Argentina, 1800–1846. 2nd Edition. Buenos Aires: Emecé, 2007.

De la Fuente, Ariel. Children of Facundo: Caudillo and Gaucho Insurgency during the Argentine State-Formation Process (La Rioja, 1853–1870). Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000.

Garavaglia, Juan Carlos. Poder, conflicto y relaciones sociales: El Río de la Plata, XVIII-XIX. Rosario, Argentina: Homo Sapiens Ediciones, 1999.

Goldman, Noemí, and Ricardo Donato Salvatore, eds. Caudillismos rioplatenses: Nuevas miradas a un viejo problema. Buenos Aires: Eudeba, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1998.

Halperín Donghi, Tulio. Historias de caudillos argentinos. Edited by Jorge Raúl Lafforgue. Buenos Aires: Extra Alfaguara, 1999.

Lynch, John. Argentine Caudillo: Juan Manuel de Rosas. Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 2001.

Myers, Jorge. Orden y virtud: El discurso republicano en el régimen rosista. Buenos Aires: Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, 1995.

Szuchman, Mark D., and Jonathan C. Brown. Revolution and Restoration: The Rearrangement of Power in Argentina, 1776–1860. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.

                                     David Bushnell