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Caudillos in Spanish America 1800–1850$
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John Lynch

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780198211358

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198211358.001.0001

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The Necessary Gendarme

The Necessary Gendarme

5. The Necessary Gendarme (p.183)
Caudillos in Spanish America 1800–1850

John Lynch

Oxford University Press

In the post-colonial societies of Spanish America, caudillos fulfilled a vital function on behalf of republican elites as guardians of order and guarantors of the existing social structure. The war of independence raised the value of a caudillo's assets and enabled him to become a military chieftain whose services were indispensable to the cause of liberation. Caudillism was then perpetuated by post-war conflicts, between unitarists and federalists in Argentina, between rival caudillos or caudillo groupings in Venezuela, between neighbouring states in various parts of Spanish America. But the caudillo as warrior does not exhaust the typology of caudillism. The caudillo as warrior, regional chieftain, hacendado, and patrón are obvious models that have tended to overshadow the caudillo as guardian of social order. In Mexico, Antonio López de Santa Anna was regarded as the last resort against anarchy, the ultimate caudillo, the necessary gendarme.

Keywords:   Spanish America, caudillos, caudillism, Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, social order, anarchy, gendarme, war

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