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Juan Bautista Alberdi (Figarillo)

Other names/titles:
Gender: M
Ethnic origin: White

Biographical details

Born in 1810, he was orphaned at 10. His mother’s family’s influence enabled him to obtain a scholarship to study in Buenos Aires in 1824. After Rosas fell in 1852, he had an acrimonious split with Sarmiento. (Shumway, Little, 236).

He wrote La República Argentina 37 años después de su Revolución de Mayo, a pro-caudillo assessment of Independence. His attitude towards caudillos was ambivalent: he was fascinated by Quiroga and had several discussions with him “that hardly touched political issues” and was aware of Quiroga’s efforts to organise the region. In his lifetime Alberdi published texts in favour of immigration from North Europe, but posthumous work showed admiration for caudillos as “the product of the people, their most spontaneous and genuine personification”. But he was also critical, as “a man of his class, a bourgeois conquistador” he saw caudillos as “retrograde representatives of a historical period that had to be superseded” and of an inferior race and social grouping. In 1837 he claimed that Rosas was interpreting the will of the masses in Fragmento. (This was possibly due to Marcos Sastre’s influence, as Sastre appreciated Rosas’s restoration of law and order.) Months later he was vehemently opposed to Rosas. (Katra, 37, 50, 306.)

In 1837, Sastre, Alberdi and Juan María Gutierrez founded the Salón del ’37, a Buenos Aires based salón literario. This was also known as Marcos Sastre’s Salón Literario. It was composed of a group of young intellectuals who were dissatisfied with Rosas’s infiltration/ control of the University. They met in Sastre's library to design a project of national conscience and liberal reforms to bring about Rosas’s downfall. It had about 50 members, among them Vicente López, and Esteban Echeverría. They also devised the cultural programme implemented by Sarmiento. (Denegri, 120.) It lasted only for a few months due to Sastre’s approval of Rosas for having brought order and peace to Argentina. (Katra, 48.)

On 23 June 1838 he, together with Esteban Echeverría, established La Joven Argentina, a group of 35 young men who were opposed to Rosas. Their “code” (15 symbolic faith words of the young generation) was published in El Iniciador, Montevideo, in January 1839 and in El Nacional, Montevideo, in February 1839. This was later revised by Echeverría and published in 1846 as "El dogma socialista" an 86 page essay. The group was committed to cultural and political activism to overthrow Rosas. (Katra, 61-62.)

He was the driving force behind La Moda, a paper ostensibly about fashion, but that aired progressive ideas. It proclaimed “long live the federation” in an effort to gain Rosas’s compliance, but he closed it down nonetheless. Alberdi then appears to have been in opposition to Rosas. He went into exile in Montevideo in August 1838 to avoid government surveillance and persecution as Rosas’s regime became more brutal. There he met other exiled Argentines who later became known as “Young Alberdians”. In exile, Alberdi established El Nacional, a paper that became the anti-Rosas faction’s organ of expression. He was also associated with El Grito Argentino, Muera Rosas! and El Puñal that promoted negative images of Rosas. He left Uruguay in 1843 after a relationship with a woman who had his child. He went to Chile in 1844 and worked as Santiago correspondent for El Mercurio, Valparaíso and suggested a pan-South American congress. He admired the Chilean Conservative Party for its ability to bring order (as had been the case with Rosas in his early years). (Katra, 57-71, 136.)

He and others wrote pamphlets in English attacking Britain’s support for Rosas. One such publication could be FOP O.14 Anonymous, “Rosas and the River Plate”, 1 June 1844, 56 pages. This could be in response to attitudes such as that shown in pamphlet FOP O.59 “British Diplomacy in the River Plate”, 1847.

He was friends with Mariquita Sánchez and attended her tertulias in Montevideo (Sáenz Quesada, 14).

He and Echeverría were members of the Asociación de Mayo, set up in 1837. He went to Europe in 1843. (Coester, 121-122)

Davies notes that he stated that his views of women were "conservative and owe much to Rousseau. Women should stay at home and not waste time in 'vasas reuniones'". (Davies et al, 242-243)

He died in 1884.

He used the pseudonym Figarillo.

Life Events

Born 1810
Other 1837He co-founded the Salón del 37 in Buenos Aires.
Other 1838He founded La Joven Argentina.
Other 1838He went to Montevideo in exile. He attended Mariquita Sánchez's tertulias.
Other 1843He went to Europe.
Other 1844He went to Chile, where he worked for El Mercurano.
Died 1884


Shumway, Nicolas, (1991), The Invention of Argentina

Katre, William H., (1996), The Argentine Generation of 37, Echeverría, Alberdi, Sarmiento, Mitre

Denegri, Francesca, (1996), El Abanico y la Cigarerra: La primera generación de mujeres ilustradas en el Perú, 1860-1895

Sáenz Quesada, María, (1996), Mariquita Sánchez, Vida política y sentimental

Anderson Imbert, Enrique, (1954), Historia de la literatura hispanoamericana, Tomo I, La Colonia cien años de República

Coester, Alfred, (1919), The Literary History of Spanish America

Lavrin, Asunción, (1978), Latin American Women: Historical Perspectives; Contributions in Women's Studies, No.3.

Davies, Catherine, Brewster, Claire and Owen, Hilary, (2006), South American Independence. Gender, Politics, Text


Pamphlet: Memorias


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Gendering Latin American Independence

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