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General Jose Gervasio Artigas
National Hero of Uruguay

 

General Jose Gervasio Artigas

General Jose Gervasio Artigas Arnal is the National hero and father of Uruguayan independence. General Artigas was born on the 19th of June in 1764 and died on September 23, 1850. During his lifetime he became a larger than life figure and with the passing of time he achieved an unrivaled position in the history of the South American nation of Uruguay.

There is a large, life sized statue of General Jose Gervasio Artigas in Montevideo's La Plaza Independencia. This impressive artwork is one of the region's most popular and important landmarks.

General Artigas was born into a privileged family and his wealthy parents tried to provide him with every opportunity. Shortly before he entered his teenage years he began working on some of his family's land.

He enjoyed his first taste of independence at this time because the lands on which he worked were out in the country away from his parents who resided in Montevideo. Young Artigas became an expert horseman and marksman. He even smuggled some goods in from neighboring Brazil. It is said that General Artigas was a great admirer of the United States and their new document, the Constitution.

When he was in his early 30s General Artigas enlisted in the Corps of Blandengues which was charged with the protection of the border between Uruguay and Brazil. This enlistment was part of an amnesty deal which was then available for young men who had committed crimes that were of a non-violent nature. He fought to liberate Buenos Aires and he also had a role in the Battle of Montevideo. During the Battle of Montevideo he was wounded and ended up as a prisoner of war.

In February of 1811 General Jose Gervasio Artigas was able to leave the Corps of Blandengues and he then joined the fight to free the Eastern Bank which would later become present day Uruguay.

In April of 1811 he was responsible for issuing the Mercedes Proclamation, assuming control of the revolution's fighting forces and would defeat the Spaniards during the Battle of Las Piedras. He even laid siege to the city of Montevideo and was named the First Chief of the Orientales which was the name of the early people of Uruguay.

Three years later General Artigas organized Liga de los Pueblos Libres. Artigas was officially named "Protector". In 1815 he wrested control of Montevideo from Buenos Aires. He was also part of the 1815 Proto-Congress of the Independence of Argentina. It was during this meeting that all of the Oriental provinces officially announced their freedom and sovereign identity. Even the first Uruguay flag owes a debt of gratitude to General Artigas who ratified its use during the 1815 Proto-Congress meeting. He added a diagonal stripe to this flag and today this banner is known as the flag of Artigas.

Portugal became both jealous and worried about the influence and popularity of General Artigas and this new Federal League that had been established in Uruguay.

The Portuguese army was able to crush Artigas and his troops, but only because several members of the Federal League chose to enter into agreements with Buenos Aires that Artigas did not approve.

This divided the League members and their rebellion against Artigas made it possible for Portugal to defeat his forces.

General Artigas was left with few followers and no resources to call upon. He was forced to go to Paraguay in 1820. Paraguay's dictator exiled him to Candelaria where he would never take part in any politics or military actions again. Artigas died in the nation of Paraguay at the age of 86. His body was buried there but in 1855 his remains were moved to the Panteon Nacional. In 1977 the body of General Jose Gervasio Artigas was returned to Montevideo and placed in the Artigas Mausoleum.

Today his memory is honored in Uruguay and his name has been given to an airport, a museum, schools, clubs, bridges, ships a province and the city of Artigas Uruguay.

Below is a statue of General Artigas located in the San Fernando Square in the city of Maldonado Uruguay

General Jose Artigas


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