Caudillos significance characteristics origin and main caudillos


Political, military and ideological leaders who emerged during the 19th and 20th centuries. In this article we will provide you the significance of Caudillos.

The caudillos were political, military and ideological leaders that emerged during the 19th and 20th centuries in various countries of South America. 

These  were not popular leaders , but led the popular sectors leading a coalition of elite forces .

The appearance of numerous caudillos in the different South American countries formed a social phenomenon.

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Caudillos significance

In the history of Latin America , the caudillo is a figure that is associated with the political and social phenomenon known as caudillismo. The caudillo is the result of institutional instability and political immaturity that followed the independence of the new sovereign American states. As such, the internal power struggles and the process of political reorganization were the propitious setting for the dynamics of caudillismo.

The political dynamics of caudillismo consisted of the rise to power, by whatever means, which could well be the armed struggle, the coup or rebellion, of a man who was attributed the ability to solve the common problems of the nation. and represent the interests of power groups. This dynamic created a climate of constant political instability that affected most Latin American countries from the 19th century , when the emancipation of Spain took place, until the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st.

The caudillo, in Latin America, was a fundamental figure to justify innumerable dictatorships , repressions , wars and excesses of all kinds throughout the political history of the American continent.

The caudillos , in general, have been characterized as men-at-arms, charismatic, with strong leadership and undeniable ancestry , who have enjoyed great popularity and support from the masses, all of which has allowed them to accumulate around yes great power. However, caudillos, rather than representing a rational expression of leadership, are a popular sentiment, with enormous emotional roots in their followers, and are a clear symptom of political immaturity and institutional weakness in a country.


Among the main characteristics of the caudillos we can highlight the following:

  • They were charismatic leaders who generally came to power through informal procedures, such as integrative and populist speeches with simple and dogmatic rhetoric, or by resorting to patriotism, regionalism, and gift giving.
  • They were seen as exceptional men, capable of defending and representing the interests of the community and with a developed capacity for political-military command .
  • They were characterized by having a great ambition for political and social power , and by being able to face fighting to impose their ideals.
  • Most of them were landowners who stood out in the protection of the borders, the fight against the Indian or in their participation in the independence struggles.
  • They enjoyed economic resources;  some were merchants, landowners or military men who had great power and prestige .
  • They managed the sectors according to their needs, the social actors through interest and approval, and their opponents through repression.

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After the independence movements throughout Latin America, at the beginning of the 19th century , the politically unstable scenarios and the long armed conflict  led to the appearance of caudillos in several of the new countries, who stood out for being strong and charismatic men.

Their power was based on the support of important fractions of popular sectors, which trusted them for their expression of joint interests and their ability to solve common problems.

Caudillismo, as a political and social phenomenon, occurred during long periods of republican history in Latin America.

In some cases this led to strong dictatorships, political and economic stagnation, while on other occasions it led to the first federal and democratic modalities in the respective republics , as well as the implementation of ideals of autonomous development .

Main caudillos

Among the main leaders who stood out for their actions, we can mention the following:

  • Juan Manuel de Rosas  (1793-1877) : Argentine military and politician, governor of the province of Buenos Aires and main leader of the Argentine Confederation.
  • José Gervasio Artigas  (1764-1850) : military man, statesman and messenger of federalism, who participated in the war for the independence of the united provinces of the Río de La Plata, was head of the Orientals and protector of free peoples.
  • Manuel Dorrego  (1787-1828) : politician and military man who participated in the Argentine War of Independence , he was one of the main references of federalism and, on repeated occasions, governor of the province of Buenos Aires.
  • Bernardo O’Higgins  (1778-1842) : military and politician who had a great participation in the process of the Independence of Chile . He is recognized as one of the fathers of the Chilean homeland.
  • Agustín Gamarra  (1785-1841) : Peruvian military and politician who, based on his great ambitions and participation in the politics of that country, was a military leader and president.
  • Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla  (1753-1811) : priest and revolutionary who participated in the Mexican War of Independence . This was captured and shot in Chihuahua after being defeated in these battles for independence.

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