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Varela, Felipe (1821–1870)

Varela, Felipe (1821–1870)

Felipe Varela (b. 1821; d. 4 June 1870), Argentine caudillo. Varela was one of the last great regional chieftains of the Argentine interior provinces during the long process of state formation. Born in Huayacama, Catamarca, he moved to La Rioja, where he participated in the civil wars against Buenos Aires. In due course, he became a close ally of Angel Vicente Peñaloza. In 1848 Varela was driven from Argentina to Chile, where he displayed some acumen for business. He became associated with Colonel Tristán Dávila, a local mining magnate, and rose through the ranks of the Chilean military based in Atacama. Ironically, he was promoted to captain in Chile's army for his service in defense of the central government. Varela returned to Argentina in 1855 and became the President Justo Urquiza's loyal follower. He participated in the prolonged federalist resistance of the provinces against Buenos Aires, aligning with Governor Juan Sáa of San Luís in the bloody civil war against Buenos Aires-backed forces. Still a loyal Urquizista, Varela joined the last-ditch alliance against Buenos Aires that led to the 1862 mass insurrection in La Rioja. Varela displayed his military prowess, trouncing Buenos Aires forces repeatedly, but the federalists could not overcome the odds. Following the defeat and execution of Peñaloza (1863), Varela fled again to Chile in 1865. He returned to Argentina in 1866, but his distaste for Buenos Aires's plans for the country led him to revolt for the last time in 1867. He could not, however, defeat the combined forces of Buenos Aires and its allies, led by the Taboadas of Tucumán. After a series of bloody encounters, he fled to Bolivia and then to Chile, where he died at Náutico, sick and impoverished.

See alsoArgentina: The Twentieth Century; Urquiza, Justo José de.


Beatriz Bosch, Urquiza y su tiempo (1980).

David Rock, Argentina, 1516–1982: From Spanish Colonization to the Falklands War (1985; rev. ed. 1987), esp. pp. 126-127.

Additional Bibliography

Rojo, Roberto. Heroes y cobardes en el ocaso federal. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ediciones COMFER, 1994.

Torino, Luis Arturo. La invasión de Felipe Varela y el gobierno de don Sixto Ovejero. Argentina: s.n., 1995.

                                        Jeremy Adelman

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