Sep 112015


The State of Buenos Aires (Estado de Buenos Ayres) was a secessionist republic resulting from the overthrow of the Argentine Confederation government in the Province of Buenos Aires on September 11, 1852. The State of Buenos Aires was never recognized by the Confederation or by foreign nations; it remained, however, nominally independent under its own government and constitution. Buenos Aires rejoined the Argentine Confederation after its victory at the Battle of Pavón in 1861.

If you want a brief précis then skip to the recipes, I understand. 19th century Argentine history can be pretty dry and detailed. “This one fought this one, lost, and was executed” more or less sums it up. The 19th century saw tremendous factionalism and bloodshed throughout South America. Spain had mostly kept the regional infighting in check through strong viceroyalties, but when they threw off Spanish rule they all began fighting for territory and supremacy. So there were countless internecine wars as well as internal struggles. Inside Argentina the battle was between the Unitarians (who wanted one central government), and the Federalists (who wanted some central government, but most power devolved on the provinces – much like the current U.S.). The secession of the province of Buenos Aires as its own republic in 1852 was part of that struggle. It did not last too long, although the whole affair was bloody.

The Argentine national anthem came out of those struggles:

I confess that I always get misty when I hear or sing this. It is the song of struggle for freedom.

That’s all you really need to know – the details follow. The 19th century, full of bitter fighting, was followed by a century of relative calm and prosperity, ruined by the interregnum of the generals (funded by Kissinger and the U.S. with the assistance of the C.I.A.) who spread terror amongst the populace, and initiated the Malvinas War, the only 20th century war in Argentina. The economy was in decline anyway, but the war hastened its collapse. I wish I could say that it is in recovery, but it is not. It continues in a downward spiral which should never have begun. Argentina was one of the richest and most progressive countries in the world at the beginning of the 20th century, and now barely holds on by its fingernails. Political corruption and mismanagement are the causes, and they are very deeply entrenched at this point.


Regionalism had long marked the relationship among the numerous provinces of what today is Argentina, and the wars of independence did not result in national unity. Following a series of disorders and a short-lived Constitutional Republic led by Buenos Aires centralist Bernardino Rivadavia in 1826 and 1827, the Province of Buenos Aires functioned as a semi-independent state amid an internecine and civil wars. An understanding was entered into by Buenos Aires Governor Juan Manuel de Rosas and other Federalist leaders out of need and a shared enmity toward the still vigorous Unitarian Party. The latter’s 1830 establishment of the Unitarian League from nine western and northern provinces would force Buenos Aires, Corrientes, and Entre Ríos Provinces into the Federal Pact of 1831, and enabled the overthrow of the Unitarian League.


The granting of the sum of public power to Rosas in 1835 established a dynamic whereby leaders (caudillos) from the hinterland provinces would delegate certain powers, such as foreign debt payment or the management of international relations to the Buenos Aires leader. The Argentine Confederation thus functioned, albeit amid ongoing conflicts, until the 1852 Battle of Caseros, when Rosas was deposed and exiled.

The central figure in the overthrow of Rosas, Entre Ríos Governor Justo José de Urquiza, was granted the power of a head of state by the Palermo Protocols of April 6, 1852. This provoked resistance in Buenos Aires, however, which then refused to ratify the San Nicolás Agreement of May 31. The prospect of having the Argentine Congress headquartered in Santa Fe proved especially objectionable, and Urquiza’s June 12 appointment of former President Vicente López y Planes failed to turn public opinion in Buenos Aires. Colonel Bartolomé Mitre rallied the Assembly against the San Nicolás Accords. The most contentious issue was the Buenos Aires Customs, which remained under the control of the city government and was the chief source of public revenue. Nations with which the Confederation maintained foreign relations, moreover, kept all embassies in Buenos Aires (rather than in the capital, Paraná).


Governor López y Planes ultimately resigned on July 26, prompting Urquiza to seize the governor’s post through a Federal intervention decree. His departure to Santa Fe on September 8 for the inaugural session of Congress prompted the September 11 coup d’état against the provisional administration of Governor José Miguel Galán. Led in its military aspect by General José María Pirán and ideologically by Dr. Valentín Alsina and Colonel Mitre, the September 11 revolt created the foremost threat to both the Confederation and Urquiza: Alsina ordered General Juan Madariaga to invade Santa Fe within days of the coup (though without success). The 11th (“once” in Spanish) is celebrated in many topographical names, including a train station and suburb in Buenos Aires.

Naming the aging Manuel Guillermo Pinto as Governor, Alsina secured the allegiance of the deposed Governor Galán, as well as of a number of key Federalist figures such as former top Rosas advisor Lorenzo Torres. Alsina, who was elected Governor by the Legislature on October 31, alienated Colonel Hilario Lagos, however. Lagos persuaded War Minister José María Floresto to leave Buenos Aires and, on December 1, initiated the Siege of Buenos Aires. Alsina resigned and Pinto, who served as president of the Legislature, again took office as Governor.


The siege continued through June 1853, and Urquiza commissioned a naval flotilla to blockade Buenos Aires (whose chief source of revenue was duty collected at the port). The commander of the flotilla, U.S.-born Admiral John Halstead Coe, was bribed with 5,000 troy ounces of gold, however, on June 20, and following his relinquishment of the flotilla to Buenos Aires, Urquiza called off the siege on July 12.

Jurist Pastor Obligado was elected Governor by the Legislature on June 28, 1853. He obtained passage of the Constitution of Buenos Aires on April 12, 1854, and initiated an ambitious public works program, installing the first gas lamps and running water system in the city, and establishing what later became the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires, as well as a network of public primary schools for the largely illiterate population at the time. The 1854 constitution, drafted by Dalmacio Vélez Sársfield, asserted the sovereignty of Buenos Aires, including its right to engage in its own diplomatic relations, as well as a bicameral legislature and freedom of worship.

Obligado abolished slavery and reformed the practice of emphyteusis (a kind of feudalism), whereupon land could then be sold at a regulated rate of 16,000 silver pesos (pesos fuerte, nearly at par with the U.S. dollar) per square league (4,428 acres). He established a national mint under the auspices of the Bank of the Province of Buenos Aires, and subsidies for industry and commerce; on August 30, 1857, the recently established Buenos Aires Western Railway inaugurated its first line, designed by British engineer William Bragge. A census conducted on October 17, 1855, found a population of 248,498 for the State of Buenos Aires, of which 71,438 lived in the capital.

Persistent budget deficits in the Confederation led the Paraná government to establish the Port of Rosario, and to enter into free trade agreements with the Port of Montevideo (to the detriment of Buenos Aires). Worsening relations led to the re-election of Valentín Alsina as Governor at the end of 1858, and in February 1859, Alsina enacted retaliatory tariffs against Confederation goods.


Tensions culminated in the Battle of Cepeda of October 23, 1859. Buenos Aires forces, led by General Mitre, were defeated by those led by President Urquiza. Ordered by Congress in Santa Fe to subjugate Buenos Aires separatists by force, Urquiza instead invited the defeated to join negotiations, though he obtained Alsina’s resignation. These talks resulted in the Pact of San José de Flores of November 11, 1859, which provided for a number of constitutional amendments and led to other concessions, including an extension on the province’s customs house concession, and measures benefiting the Bank of the Province of Buenos Aires, whose currency was authorized for use as legal tender at the port (thereby controlling much of the nation’s foreign trade).


Mitre ultimately abrogated the Pact of San José, leading to renewed civil war. These hostilities culminated in the 1861 Battle of Pavón, and to victory on the part of Mitre and Buenos Aires over Urquiza’s national forces. President Santiago Derqui, who had been backed by Urquiza, and all Federalist governors resigned, and the Argentine Confederation was replaced by the Argentine Republic on December 17, 1861. Mitre, who despite victory reaffirmed his commitment to the 1860 constitutional amendments, was elected the republic’s first president on September 4, 1862, and remained Governor of Buenos Aires as caretaker until his October 12, 1862, inaugural.


Doña Petrona, aka Petrona Carrizo de Gandulfo (1896-1992), was a cookbook author and cooking show personality, who was pivotal in persuading Argentine cooks to switch from wood to gas for cooking, and shepherded her book, El Libro de Doña Petrona, through numerous editions. We had one in our house when I was growing up. It’s always been something of an eclectic collection because Argentine cooking exhibits many influences – Italian, Spanish, English, indigenous, etc. Inasmuch as Argentine cooks use recipes, it is the Bible. Here are two videos showing her making facturas (breakfast pastries). Don’t worry if you do not understand Argentine Spanish, you’ll get the gist.

The most important thing to note about making the dough (masa) – as is true also for making pasta dough – is that you do not make it in a bowl, but on a board, starting with a hollow “volcano” of flour, putting the ingredients in the hollow, and then working the whole mass with your hands. This is the best way to get the proportions right. Working solely with your hands puts you in touch (literally) with the process. Nowadays Argentinos buy morning facturas at pastelerías (pastry and bread shops) because they are fresh baked every morning and are every bit as delicious as homemade. Breakfast in Argentina always consists of yerba mate and facturas, and the morning run to the local pastelería of your choice is a must. I usually bought a mix of medialunas con manteca (buttery croissants) and facturas con membrillo (quince jam). Lack of them in China may go a long way to explaining why I am losing weight.