Conquest of the desert objectives causes and Consequences

Conquest of the Desert

Military operation against indigenous peoples. In this article we will describe you the conquest of the desert.

The Conquest of the Desert was a military operation against the indigenous peoples, carried out between 1878 and 1884 in Argentina, to extend the borders of the country and seize the large extensions of land where the Indians lived.

This armed conflict was under the command of Julio Argentino Roca, who carried out various expeditions in the Pampean plain and Patagonia in Argentina .

Combining physical violence with  alliances with certain tribes , Roca managed to obtain more than 10,000 square leagues of land, which were incorporated into the effective control of the Argentine Republic.

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Objectives of the conquest of the desert

The objectives of this campaign were territorial, economic and political.

  • Territorial objectives : the desire to expand the Argentine territory towards the Pampean plain and Patagonia. The imminent claim of these lands by Chile and the United Kingdom rushed Argentina to take possession.
  • Economic objectives: to avoid the constant theft of cattle that the natives carried out from the haciendas and to eliminate the malones , since the natives took people to ask for ransoms in exchange. In addition, the State sought to appropriate large areas of land and then distribute them among people who would use them for livestock.
  • Political objectives : the consolidation of the State and the political consolidation of Roca. Likewise, the need to demarcate a border with Chile to gain space and consolidate a national unity that would equalize the diverse population, expelling the aborigines and forming an Argentine people.

Causes and consequences of the Conquest of the Desert


The main causes of the Conquest of the Desert were the following:

  • The constant attacks of the malones and the organized hordes of aborigines that attacked the border towns.
  • The desire to expand the borders of the Argentine Republic , taking advantage of the aboriginal lands and adding them to the territory of the State.
  • The alliance with certain indigenous groups or civilizations that were rewarded with lands after the campaign.
  • The unsustainable losses of men, livestock and the kidnapping of white women as slaves by the indigenous people.
  • The constant pressure from Chile and the United Kingdom for the lands of Patagonia, which prompted the Argentine State to take possession of them.

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The Conquest of the Desert caused the following consequences:

  • The extermination of the indigenous peoples of Patagonia and the center of the country. The surviving Indians were subjected to slavery, exploitation and misery.
  • The Argentine State strengthened its authority over the Patagonian territory.
  • The large and rich tracts of land that were conquered at the cost of violenceremained in the hands of powerful people who had financed the campaign.
  • The current geographical limits of Argentina are the result of this campaign.
  • An increase in the economic activity of the country , especially due to livestock.

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