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López, Carlos Antonio (1792–1862)

López, Carlos Antonio (1792–1862)

Carlos Antonio López (b. 4 November 1792; d. 10 September 1862), president of Paraguay (1844–1862). López was the second of the three major nineteenth-century, post-Independence rulers of Paraguay, after José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia. Elite contemporaries and traditional historians have viewed him as a benevolent despot who discouraged opposition but was less ruthless, more self-interested, and more receptive to foreigners and the elite than was Francia. Revisionist historians see López's administration as having modernized Paraguay and developed commerce and foreign ties.

Born and educated in Asunción, López graduated from the Real Colegio y Seminario de San Carlos. He won a competition in 1814 for the chair of arts and another in 1817 for the chair of theology. A lucrative law practice served to introduce him to influential clients and friends. When Francia gained control of the elite, López retired to his family home in Recoleta. In 1826 he married Juana Pabla Carillo, who had an estancia in Olivares, southeast of Asunción. They had five children.

In February 1841, when Colonel Mariano Roque Alonso, an uneducated soldier, won the power struggle that ensued at the death of Francia, López became his secretary. On March 12 a national congress appointed Alonso and López to a three-year joint consulate and elected López president in 1844, 1854, and 1857.

During his first term, López continued many of Francia's foreign and domestic policies. Paraguay, continuing its isolation from the countries along the Río de la Plata, regulated foreign commerce and migration. In his second and third terms, López sought to modernize Paraguay. The bureaucracy grew and taxes increased, but the budget was balanced. The government strengthened its army, developed a river navy, and improved internal transportation and communication. In 1852 the López government established steamship service between Asunción, Paraná, Rosario, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo. In 1853, López signed commercial treaties with Great Britain, France, and the United States that brought Paraguay international recognition. Although government regulation of major exports—yerba maté, lumber, and hides—continued, commercial treaties signed with Brazil in 1850 and with Argentina in 1856 defined borders, permitted free navigation of the Paraguay and Paraná rivers, and increased trade. In 1861, López inaugurated a railroad from Asunción to Santísima Trinidad, which was extended almost to Areguá before his death.

Pursuing his program of modernization further, López expanded rural primary schools, reopened the seminary that Francia had closed, and encouraged European immigration. He also contracted with European and North American technicians, engineers, educators, and advisers who, among other things, carried out a national geological survey; established medical services; developed industries such as a gun factory, iron foundry, and shipyard; and encouraged education and artistic endeavors. Although López limited free expression, he supported publication of Paraguay's first newspapers: El Paraguayo Independiente (1845–1852) and El Semanario de Aviso y Conocimientos Útiles (1853–1868). Under López agricultural production expanded and the government helped improve the quality of Paraguay's export cotton and tobacco. López ended the African slave trade, recognized Indian villagers as Paraguayan citizens, and used the army to end indigenous border raids.

Although López's vision for Paraguay was more self-serving than Francia's, his administration ensured that the Guaraní peasantry remained the basis of Paraguayan society. López bequeathed a unified, prosperous nation without foreign debt to his eldest son, Francisco Solano López.

See alsoAlonso, Mariano Roque; Slave Trade.


Julio César Chaves, El Presidente López, 2d ed. (1968).

Fundación Cultural Republicana, Mensajes de Carlos Antonio López (1987), is a useful collection of López's speeches.

John Hoyt Williams, The Rise and Fall of the Paraguayan Republic, 1800–1870 (1979).

Thomas J. Page, La Plata, the Argentine Confederation, and Paraguay (1859).

Juan F. Pérez Acosta, Carlos Antonio López, obrero máximo, labor administrativa y constructiva (1948).

Peter A. Schmitt, Paraguay y Europa 1811–1870 (1990), translated from the German by Frank M. Samson.

Charles A. Washburn, in The History of Paraguay, with Notes of Personal Observations and Reminiscences of Diplomacy Under Difficulty, 2 vols. (1871).

Additional Bibliography

Heyn Schupp, Carlos Antonio. Iglesia y Estado en el Paraguay durante el gobierno de Carlos Antonio López, 1841–1862. Asunción: Universidad Católica Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, 1987.

Rivarola Paoli, Juan Bautista. El régimen jurídico de la tierr: Época del Dr. Francia y de los López. Asunción: J.B. Rivarola Paoli, 2004.

Viola, Alfredo. Cárceles y otras penas: Época de Carlos Antonio López. Asunción: Fondo Nacional de Cultura y las Artes: Servilibro, 2004.

                                          Vera Blinn Reber

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