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Museo Histórico Nacional


Welcome to the National Museum of History. We hope you enjoy the experience of going through our past.

The National Museum of History fosters reflection and debate on Argentine history through preservation, research, and exhibition of objects, art, historical documents, and cultural and educational activities.

Opening hours
Wednesday – Sunday: 11 am – 7 pm
Friday: 11 am – 9 pm
(Last entry: 10 minutes before closing time)

Free entrance
Access ramp through park entrance

The Building

The National Museum of History is located in San Telmo neighborhood, at the precise place where Don Pedro de Mendoza, Spanish conqueror, would have founded Buenos Aires back in 1536. The building and its surrounding gardens were built at the beginning of the XIX century. Around 1857, the property was bought and enlarged by José Gregorio Lezama. In 1889, the building hosted the City Museum and later, in 1891, officially became the National Museum of History.  

Texts of the museum exhibits in English

Presently, the museum team is redesigning the main exhibition story, which is why you may find different temporary exhibits in the galleries. These are the exhibitions that you can visit.


Panorama Cándido. An Artist in the War of the Triple Alliance – Ground Floor

This exhibition displays the 32 paintings by Cándido López kept at the museum. They are paintings depicting battle, leisure moments, encampments and incursions through battle fields.

The exhibition also aims to place the artist in the context of the war against Paraguay.

Greatest Hits: A Journey Through the Museum’s Collection – Ground Floor

An exhibition of objects of great historical value, grouped by different themes. The exhibition uses one idea as guide: it is the way we perceive the collection and the questions it raises what gives meaning to the objects and build their stories.

Times of Revolution - Ground Floor

A journey centered on the period between the May Revolution of 1810 and the consolidation of the South American independencies during the following decade. It displays outstanding objects of these defining years and concludes with General José de San Martín’s saber. 

Cannons Courtyards

The museum’s courtyards hold cannons and mortars from the XIX century. These weapons were of paramount importance during battle. Many of them were used in the Independency Wars (1810-1825).

Each cannon received a name, which can be seen engraved on its surface. These names give us a glimpse of the cultural values and perceptions of the times.

Times of Revolution

(This exhibition opened in July 2022. Full translated texts will be available soon).

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The exile of San Martín

In 1824, a few months after the death of his wife Remedios de Escalada, San Martín and his daughter Mercedes left for Europe, where they settled in Brussels. In 1829, he tried to return to Buenos Aires, but his arrival coincided with the execution of the governor Manuel Dorrego, which triggered a civil war. Frustrated, San Martín navigated back to Montevideo. Finally, he returns to Brussels and never came back to America again.

In 1830 a revolution began to free Belgium from the Netherlands. The Belgian rebels offered San Martín the military command, but he did not accept it. He moved to France and lived for several years in a quiet suburb of Paris called Grand Bourg. In 1848, due to the beginning of a great revolution in Paris, he moved to the coastal town of Boulogne-Sur-Mer. There he lived until his death on August 17, 1850.

In 1880, San Martín’s remains were brought to the Cathedral of Buenos Aires. His figure began to be celebrated by the national State as the main hero of Argentine history. The National Museum of History started gathering an important collection of his personal belongings to be exhibit and preserved.
Saint Martin's room in Boulogne-Sur-Mer

The furniture, objects and works of art that are exhibited here belonged to General San Martín.

In 1899, his granddaughter Josefa Balcarce donated these objects to the museum at the request of Adolfo Carranza, first director of this institution. Josefa did a handmade sketch of the room, in which the actual arrangement of the furniture can be appreciate. The condition of the donation was that they should be exhibited in the same order in which San Martín had had them.

Federico Santa Coloma, director of the museum in the 1930s, replicated the "mortuary room" with the collaboration of the Argentine consul in Boulogne-Sur-Mer. Thanks to this, the front door, the internal door, the windows, the marble stove, and the wood paneling of the walls were reproduced with “absolute fidelity”. The exhibit was inaugurated in 1935.

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Revolution Time

In 1808, after a long period of crisis, the Spanish empire began to collapse.

For decades, Europe and America had been experiencing the "age of revolutions" that found a new fertile territory throughout the Spanish-American colonies.

The discussion towards who should command and why started.

Traditional hierarchies were challenged.

After years of war, several independent republics emerged.

One of them was the beginning of what is today Argentina.

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History of a prisoner king

Discontent prevailed in Spain by 1808. The dependence on Bonaparte’s French Empire kept growing. In March, the king Charles IV resigned to his crown due to a popular uprising. He was replaced by his son, Ferdinand VII, who had a different set of thoughts than him. But Napoleon intervened and forced Ferdinand to give this crown back to his father. Carlos, in turn, gave the crown to Napoleon, who finally named his own brother, Joseph Bonaparte, as king of Spain. Ferdinand VII was then imprisoned by the French, who occupied part of Spain.

Lots of Spaniards rejected Joseph Bonaparte. They argued that the peoples would assume the sovereignty they had given to the legitim king, Ferdinand VII, until he would return to his throne. Several “Juntas” [boards] were created, in various cities, in Ferdinand’s name. These were collective government organs formed by functionaries and distinguished “vecinos” [local resident]. The Central Board of Seville brought every board together and lead the resistance against the French.

The news shocked Spanish America, awakening anti-French feelings and the will for autonomy. Some boards were created on the name of Ferdinand VII, although they were rapidly repressed by the colonial authorities.

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The eagle and the lion

The war in Spain was also a fight for symbols. Napoleon’s Empire was represented with an eagle. This animal was displayed in banners and medals which awarded performance, as the one displayed here below. When the Spanish defeated the French in the battle of Bailén, they rewarded those who out in the fought with a badge in which the eagle had been placed upside down.

Due to its strength, speed and accuracy, the eagle worked out as reference in the military since old times. The Roman Republic adopted the eagle as their main banner for its legions during the I century before Christ. During the Empire, the roman aquila expanded over Europe as the main symbol for the imperial domain. In the middle age, Charlamagne used the eagle as a distinctive for his Empire. Napoleon then recovered the animal when he became emperor in 1804.

The image of the lion was also used in different societies throughout history, as a representation of sovereignty, strength, courage, and justice. In the XII century it was adopted as a symbol by the kingdom of León, one of the Iberian Peninsula States. This was later merged with the kingdom of Castile, which included the lion on its coat of arms. In the XIX century it was considered the oldest Spanish emblem.

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Alternatives towards the crisis

Three alternatives emerged in the viceroyalty of Río de la Plata when the crisis in the core of the Spanish Empire appeared.

During the king’s absence, some lettered men as Manuel Belgrano and Hipólito Vieytes, who were already pushing for a series of reforms to develop the American territories, tried to stablish an autonomous government. They proposed to set Carlota Joaquina as Regent. She was the sister of Ferdinand VII and she was married to the Prince Regent of Portugal who was then established in Brazil after Napoleon invaded Portugal. Nevertheless, the project failed because of her connection to the Portuguese crown was not well seen.

Another of the alternatives consisted on creating boards in the name of Ferdinand, as done in Spain. In 1808 a board was created in Montevideo, independently of Buenos Aires, the viceroyalty’s capital. But the Central Board of Seville ordered it to close. In 1809, members of the Buenos Aires Cabildo tried to create a new board to take the power out from Liniers, the viceroy. But the militias stood up for Liniers and the attempt failed. Also, in 1809 two other boards developed in Upper Perú (current Bolivia), specifically in Chuquisaca and La Paz. Both cities stopped obeying to the colonial authorities and to Spain until they were repressed by troops sent from Perú and Río de la Plata viceroyalties.

The third alternative was to maintain the status quo, with the colonial authorities in charge, obeying to the Central Junta of Spain. This option remained, but not for long.

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“From this day forward, revolution”. May 1810

In early 1810, the French army defeated the Spanish resistance. The Central board of Seville was dissolved and almost all of Spain remained in Napoleon’s hands.

When news of the collapse reached Buenos Aires, an “open council” met to discuss what to do. In a vote it was resolved that since there was no government in Spain, the viceroy should leave his post and be replaced by a local board. The viceroy tried to resist and become president of the board, but on May 25 a popular mobilization supported by the city's militias forced him to resign. A board was appointed in which there was no colonial official.

The project of those who took power was to elect their own authorities, manage their economy and no longer depend on Spain. They sought a federal monarchy in which Americans and Europeans would be equal. They wanted to govern themselves until Ferdinand VII regained his throne, if he ever did, and then maintain that autonomy under the king's wing. In the words of a revolutionary: "emancipate the colonies from the tyranny of the mother country and preserve them as a great and flourishing State for the legitimate representative of the Spanish monarchy."

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Board problems and decisions

As soon as it was created, the board took two immediate measures. The first one: summon the main cities of the Viceroyalty to join the board. The second one: the militias of Buenos Aires would become a regular army that would be sent to complete a military expedition up north, to guarantee adherence to the revolution of the strategic mining region of Upper Peru [currently Bolivia].

Most of the cities agreed to recognize the Buenos Aires board, except for Montevideo, Asunción, Córdoba, and several in Upper Peru. The military expedition sent from Buenos Aires defeated the counterrevolutionaries in Córdoba and captured their leader, Liniers, the hero of the British invasions. The board decided to execute him. It was a turning point: it was not possible to go back. Later, the revolutionary army achieved another victory and occupied the whole region of Upper Peru.

Meanwhile, two opposing movements emerged within the board: a moderate one, around President Cornelio Saavedra, and another one, led by Secretary Mariano Moreno, which wanted greater changes. Moreno wrote that they loved Ferdinand VII, but that he had no right to be their king since Spain had made the conquest of the continent, centuries before, by force. The Americans had not consented to domination and violence does not gave rights. Thus, Moreno and his movement already had the idea of total independence.

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Years of conflict

In 1810 a civil war started between the supporters and opponents of the board. Only those who were already living in America participated, since Spain could hardly send reinforcements due to their resistance against the French invasion to the Iberic peninsula. Over the years, the conflict evolved and became a long war for independence. It was a very harsh conflict that devastated the economy and changed the lives of the entire population.

At first, both sides claimed they were fighting for the king and the motherland. But in 1814 Ferdinand VII returned to his throne and the revolutionaries began to fight against him. Now, it was "patriots" against "royalists". Almost all Spaniards were royalists, but there were also many Americans (criollos) who fought for the king.

Between 1810 and 1815, the war was mainly held in two fronts. In the North, where the revolutionaries attempted to control Upper Peru [currently Bolivia] on three occasions, unsuccessfully. They did succeed to repulse two royalist offensives in Tucumán and Salta. The other front was in the Littoral, where they fought both on land and river. In this region, there revolutionary party also fought to each other when the central government was challenged by Artigas and his federalists followers

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Manuel Belgrano

Belgrano abandoned his prominent career in the colonial bureaucracy and became a member of the board in 1810. He soon commanded a small military force that marched towards Paraguay to force the region to accept the new government stablished in Buenos Aires. He failed: he was defeated in 1811. In any case, shortly after Paraguay displaced its colonial authorities and began a de facto independence, without any connection to the rest of the River Plate revolutionary’s movements.

The defeat did not stop Belgrano who decided, in 1812, to create a flag in Rosario to distinguish the patriot forces from the Spanish’s colors. That same year, he led the revolutionary army that had occupied Upper Peru in 1810 and, later in 1811, had been finally crushed.

Belgrano led the army retreat to the South. He urged the population of Jujuy to migrate and follow him, so as not to leave anything within reach of the enemies. When he arrived at Tucumán, despite being at disadvantage compared to the royalist forces, he put up a fight. His army won a decisive victory, which saved the revolution.

He was then victorious again at the Battle of Salta, after which he led a second offensive on Upper Peru. After a successful advance, he was defeated in the Battles of Vilcapugio and Ayohuma. Once again, the revolutionaries lost the entire region.

In 1814, Belgrano left the army command and departed on a diplomatic mission to Europe. Upon returning, he rejoined the war for independence. Until his death in 1820, he devoted himself entirely to the revolution.

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The war at the sea

When the revolution began, Buenos Aires had no warships. Montevideo, which became a counterrevolutionary base, did have a squad. Montevideo warships bombarded Buenos Aires and attacked the coasts of the Paraná and Uruguay rivers on several occasions. In 1811, the board created a squad to fight them, but ended up defeated.

In 1812 the revolutionaries besieged Montevideo, a walled city. As it controlled the rivers, its resistance lasted long. Because of this, the revolutionary government created a new squad in 1814, made up with sailors from different backgrounds: English, Scottish, French, American, Greek, Sardinian. The squad leader was the Irish William Brown.

In May 1814, Brown had a decisive victory over the royalist ships off Montevideo. Now surrounded also by water, the city had no choice but to surrender. It was a fundamental victory because the royalists’ forces lost their main base of operations in the region.

After the success, the revolutionary party decided to dismantle the squad and give letters of marque to their ships. Privateers were given permission to attack enemy merchant ships and keep most of what they could capture. The rest would be given to the revolution. Brown and other privateers acted all over the Pacific Ocean. In 1816, they attacked Callao (port of Lima) and Guayaquil.

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In 1811, the rural population of the Banda Oriental (currently Uruguay) rose up in arms in favor of the Buenos Aires board and against the royalists in Montevideo. A revolutionary leader for the orientales emerged: José Gervasio Artigas.

Artigas's supporters began to question the centralism of Buenos Aires, the Capital city, where successive governments made decisions without consulting the rest of the provinces. The artiguistas proposed then to declare independence and embrace a federal system. Due to this, when deputies from the Banda Oriental were sent to Buenos Aires to join the Assembly of the year XIII (pro-centralism), they were rejected. The central government declared Artigas a traitor, and the revolutionaries divided into two rival parties.

In 1814, the territories of Banda Oriental, Entre Ríos, Corrientes and Misiones stopped obeying Buenos Aires and formed the Free Peoples League. It was a confederation without a Capital city, which run under the "protection" of Artigas. In 1815, Santa Fe was added. The central government tried to subdue the provinces several times, but the League resisted every attempt.

The artiguistas also fought for a more egalitarian society. In 1815, they began an agrarian reform in favor of the most disadvantaged. But the experience was interrupted by a Portuguese invasion from Brazil, which began in 1816.

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The Guaraní revolution

After the Jesuits were expelled from Spanish America, the thirty Guaraní towns that had been missions were separated: eight within Paraguay, seven in Portuguese Brazil, and fifteen relied on Buenos Aires. The latter supported the revolution in 1810. Later, some of them joined the Free Peoples League.

The Guarani claimed a new role in society. The indigenous leader Domingo Manduré broke up relationship with the central government and proclaimed, in 1813: "brothers, we are certain that God endowed us by creating us with freedom, and we know that before him we are equal and the same under the Law." The entire colonial system was based on the idea that the indigenous people were inferior to the Spaniards and their descendants, and that is why this discourse was very revolutionary for the time.

In 1815, the Guaraní leader Andresito Guacurarí, Artigas’ godson, led the project to reunite the former Jesuit province. Although now the reunification would be done without Jesuits nor any other external control, only indigenous self-government. Andresito once said: “that each People govern itself, without any other Spanish, Portuguese or anyone from another province daring to govern”. After years of fighting, Andresito was defeated by the Portuguese during the 1816 invasion.

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The Assembly of Year XIII

In October 1812, a new revolutionary group seized power: the Lautaro Lodge. Their plan was to declare the independence of the United Provinces and sanction a constitution. For that, their government, the Second Triumvirate, summoned the provincial deputies to a congress held in Buenos Aires. It was known as the Assembly and began to parliament in January 1813.

The Assembly acted against the core of the colonial hierarchical society. It put an end to the personal services of the indigenous peoples, stablished the “law of wombs” for the slave’s children, banned torture, annulled nobility titles, and put an end to the Inquisition. The Assembly also abandoned the Spanish monarchy hallmarks and created new symbols and emblems.

The initial enthusiasm cooled down over the months. News arrived: Napoleon was defeated by an alliance of European monarchies, enemies of any revolution. In 1814, Fernando VII recovered the Spanish throne.

Meanwhile, the centralist government of the Lautaro Lodge started to generate opposition within the provinces. In the Littoral region, an alternative federal revolutionary project arose, which ended up splitting from the central government. Due to this complex situation, the Assembly did not declare independence.

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The Lautaro Lodge

In March 1812, a group of officers who had fought in the Napoleonic wars arrived in Buenos Aires. They were well trained in the latest military tactics and techniques and offered their services to the revolution. The central government at the time, the Triumvirate, incorporated them into its forces. Among them were Carlos de Alvear and José de San Martín, who had fought against the French in the Spanish army.

The newcomers also formed a secret Masonry-like political organization: the Lautaro Lodge. The name recalled a Mapuche chief who fought the Spanish in the 16th century. The objective of the Lodge was to leave behind the self-government within the monarchy that the Triumvirate stood for and declare full independence. The lodge also pretended to relaunch the liberation war to expel the Spanish from the whole Continent.

This project was shared by the Patriotic Society, headed by Bernardo de Monteagudo, who followed the ideas of the late Mariano Moreno. Both groups merged into the Lodge, overthrown the Triumvirate and stablished a new one, controlled by the Lodge, which summoned the Assembly. Later they concentrated power in one person, the supreme director.

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The Liberty Cap

The people of the River Plate took from the French Revolution a powerful symbol: the "Liberty Cap". It boosted the patriot party, and it was despised by the royalists.

Its origin comes from ancient times. In Rome, a Pileus hat was given to slaves who were freed, and it was still taken as a symbol of freedom all over Europe even after the fall of the Roman Empire. There was also another previous cap used by the Greeks to represent the inhabitants of Phrygia (currently Turkey). This Phrygian cap, a symbol of the foreign and not of freedom, could often be seen shown on the heads of captives. It is possible that the association of these two caps with slavery, added to the similarity between both, meant that in the French Revolution the cap of liberty could be called Phrygian.

Although this symbol had already appeared during the United States Revolution of the 1770s, it was France that ended up spreading it worldwide, adding its characteristic red color. The Cap also became a symbol of the republic, against the monarchy.

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The Sun

The image of the sun was widely spread among the new emblems created by the American revolutions. On the one hand, it represented social and political renewal after the darkness of tyranny. In this way it had already been used in the French Revolution.

But for those who lived in South America, the image also referred to the Inca Empire and its solar deity, Inti. So, the sun of the revolutionaries had at the same time an Americanist meaning, linking the new reality with a glorious past.

The Assembly of Year XIII placed this sun over different symbols. In 1818 it was added to the light blue and white flag created by Belgrano.

Monteagudo would later say that the sun was "the historical expression of the country of the Incas."

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Indigenous America

The revolutionary leaders, mostly white of European descent, claimed America's indigenous past as their own. On May 25, 1811, Juan José Castelli celebrated the first anniversary of the revolution by gathering several indigenous groups in the ruins of Tiahuanaco [currently Bolivia] to communicate an egalitarian message. That same day there was a celebration held in Buenos Aires, in which an indigenous monarch “laden with shackles and chains” was represented as freeing himself. In 1813, the coat of arms of Salta was changed: the image of a Spaniard resisting a hostile Indian was replaced by that of an Indian shooting an arrow at a defeated Spaniard.

Above all, the Inca past was celebrated. The Patriotic March stated in 1813: "The Inca is roused in his tomb and fire is rekindled in his bones, on seeing his sons renewing his patria’s former splendour". After 1815, the Spaniards sent to fight against the American revolutions started to be called "modern Pizarro's", in reference to the conqueror of Peru. In 1816, Manuel Belgrano suggested that the United Provinces should be organized as a constitutional monarchy and name an Inca descendent as the new king. This idea was supported by several of his party.

The revolutionaries made many changes to move forward into a legal equalization of the indigenous people who lived within the old viceroyalty. The tribute the indigenous were required to pay to the king was abolished. But this measure meant that the peoples were left without any rights over their communal lands they used to pay the tribute. And since the natives did not have the resources to buy those lands, they lost them.

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A revolutionized society

Many things changed with the revolution. It started fighting for the local autonomy but then got radical and seek absolute independence. The revolution also started questioning who should rule and why. Many revolutionary men went from fighting the king to fighting the monarchy as a whole, to institute a new republic.

The Spanish trade monopoly was ended, and free trade was embraced. Important trade men lost their entire fortunes. The revolutionary government forced some of them to finance the war effort.

The officers from the revolutionary army and militias became important social actors and potential political leaders. They were involved in a broader movement: upper class men formed a new kind of political leadership. These men had got into the “revolution career”, as people stated then. Elite women also intervened into politics.

Nevertheless, the whole society was involved in the revolution. Men and women of the lower classes had a prominent political role in the city of Buenos Aires, in the Banda Oriental and Entre Ríos, in the Missions, Salta and Jujuy. They participated not only for a greater kind of freedom but also to achieve social and racial equality.

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The women

Women played a key role in the times of the revolution. They participated in political demonstrations, openly discussed public affairs, spied, marched with the armies as assistants and, in some cases, even got to fight. Some upper-class women organized social gatherings that became central spaces of political life.

Some men were deeply concerned about these kinds of actions, which challenged the subordinate place reserved for the female in the colonial society. In 1813, one of these concerned men published an anonymous pamphlet in Buenos Aires in which he denounced the "scandalous free manners in which a relevant number of young patrician’s women express themselves in political affairs” and openly called for their punishment. Despite male anger, female participation continued.

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The catholic priests

Members of the Catholic Church in the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata were divided because of the revolution. Many of them supported it, and some became prominent political figures.

Both parties claimed to stand for religion and tried to use it for their respective profit. Manuel Belgrano named the Virgin de la Merced as General of his army in the North and José de San Martín did the same with the Virgin del Carmen in the Andes Army. The royalists, as well, did the same with other virgins.

The revolutionary priests used their speeches to defend the cause for which they were fighting. They used quotes from the Old Testament to justify the divorce with Spain. For example, they identified the Americans who were fighting Spanish despotism with the people of Israel who left Egypt in the Exodus.

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The lower classes

The participation of the lower classes was decisive on the revolutionary party. City commoners and countrymen, both men and women, rallied against different governments, denounced enemies, and discussed public affairs in markets and grocery stores. Since most of them were illiterate, traditionally someone would read the newspaper aloud in public places, so that everyone could hear the news.

Many of the soldiers who fought the revolutionary war belonged to the lower classes. Life was hard for the men who fought in the battlefield as well as for the women who stayed home. They had to face the difficulties that resulted from their husbands and children departure to, most often, faraway places.

Many of those, within the lower classes, identified with the revolution were symbolically equaled: by supporting the cause, they were more "worthy" than those who opposed it, even so if the latter had a higher social position. In addition, the revolution ended the castes system: differences based on skin color continued de facto, but no longer in law.

In any case, the hopes for bigger changes were not fulfilled. And, after years of struggle, there was much discontent.

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The sovereign indigenous peoples

The indigenous people from the regions of Chaco and Pampa-Patagonia, who maintained their sovereignty, their religious cults, and languages, were also affected by the revolution. Some of the treaties signed with the colonial authorities that had ensured peace in the latter part of the 18th century were broken. Trade continued, but in some regions border conflicts burst, as well as clashes between different indigenous peoples.

Some of the indigenous peoples from Chaco and Pampa forged alliances with the artiguistas for certain common actions. In the complex Mapuche reality there were some who, at the end of the 1810s, fought side by side with the revolutionaries and others who fought against them, in favor of the royalists.

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The Enslaved people

The revolutionary leaders wanted to end slavery gradually, without affecting those who owned enslaves. In 1812 they banned the trade: whoever arrived on an enslave ship would become free upon entering the United Provinces. With the law of wombs decreed in 1813, progress was made in the sense that without more trade or inheritance, slavery would disappear after the last person subjected to it died.

These measures gave the revolution strong support from the enslaved people. But their main objective was bolder: they wanted immediate freedom, and they lobbied their best in that direction.

The enslaved men had an opportunity: if they join the revolutionary army they became freedmen, that is, they would obtain freedom once the conflict ended. Many of them pressured their masters to donate or sell them to the State to go fight. The revolutionary leaders hesitated at first, but faced with the need for men, they ended up "rescuing" many enslaved for war.

Even though slavery was greatly weakened by the revolution, it persisted for several more decades.

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Revolutionary literature

Alongside the revolution, a new literary genre was born, later called gauchesca. Some poets, as the oriental Bartolomé Hidalgo, spoke on behalf of countrymen to bring to paper the rural culture tone. His verses were not consumed only by the minority of people who could read, but also by those who could not.

In addition to speaking their language, the gauchesca placed the countrymen as protagonists, main historical characters. It also expressed strong political ideas.

This is particularly clear in several verses by Hidalgo, such as his defense of republicanism: "kings are not needed to govern men, beneficial laws do." And also Hidalgo’s defense on egalitarianism: “¿por qué naides más que naides ha de ser más superior?”.

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End the violent bonds. The independence

A great crisis began in 1815. An uprising terminated the Assembly and Alvear, its director. The economy was ruined by the war. Throughout America, the revolutionary movements were defeated by the royalist forces. Only the revolutionary movement of the River Plate stood still, though divided into three parties: the United Provinces, the Free Peoples League, and Paraguay.

In a threatening context, the United Provinces bid for a new congress. The general resentment towards Buenos Aires resulted in the Congress to be convened in Tucumán. Even so, neither the Free Peoples League nor Paraguay sent representatives to the Congress. The provinces of Upper Peru, which were under royalist’s control, did send deputies.

The Congress of Tucumán began to session in March 1816. It named a new Supreme Director consented with the provinces: Juan Martín de Pueyrredón. The Congress also proclaimed, "the end of the revolution and the beginning of order", seeking to strengthen obedience to the central government.

The fundamental action of the Congress took place on July 9, when it stated that "it is the unanimous and unquestionable will of these provinces to end the violent bonds that linked them to the kings of Spain." These provinces would now be "a free and independent nation." Thus, a new country was born, the United Provinces in South America.

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A long-lasting war: the north

The north of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata became a war zone since the very beginning of the revolution. This territory passed hands between royalists and revolutionaries on several occasions.

In 1814 the royalist’s forces occupied Salta. To supply their army, they seized cattle and other products in the city surroundings. This triggered the rural residents to revolt. A military leader, Martín Miguel de Güemes, led these "gauchos" and cornered the royalists, who had to leave Salta. After his victory, he was elected governor of the province by the people of Salta.

In 1815, the revolutionary army moved forward over Upper Peru but was finally defeated. On its retreat, the revolutionaries organized various guerrilla groups to harass the royalists’ forces. But most of them were defeated and the king’s army advanced towards the south, taking Salta once again by 1817. Güemes managed to expel them one more time through guerrilla warfare.

With this method, the gaucho militias managed to stop the following attacks coming from Upper Peru. The clashes against the royalists continued until 1825 in Salta and Jujuy.

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Through the Andes

After the declaration of independence, San Martín managed the new Supreme Director, Pueyrredón, to support his plan to win the war. He proposed to stop trying to move forward though Upper Peru, where the revolutionaries suffered several defeats, and instead attack the royalist’s forces in Chile, from where they would continue to Peru. San Martín had been governor of Cuyo since 1814 and had the project well prepared.

Uniforms, blankets, food, mules, weapons, everything had to be gathered or made. This great effort fell mainly over the population of Cuyo, which also contributed providing most of the troops. Chilean exiles also enrolled, while the Central Government sent men and resources from Buenos Aires. Most of the infantry were made up of freedmen, former slaves, many of whom were born in Africa. San Martín trained everyone at El Plumerillo, on the outskirts of Mendoza. In the meanwhile, he had false information spread to confuse the royalist’s forces.

In January 1817, the Andes army began the complicated passage of the mountain range through six different paths. Upon arrival, they clashed with a royalist army and defeated it at the Battle of Chacabuco. It was the beginning of the liberation of Chile and Peru.

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San Martín and the South American independence

Between 1817 and 1821, San Martín led the revolutionary forces that defeated the royalist army in Chile and the coast of Peru. The last phase of the war for independence began in 1822, when revolutionaries from southern and northern South America united their efforts. San Martín and Simón Bolívar, president of a new republic called Colombia (which included present-day Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, and Venezuela), met in Guayaquil to agree on how to bring down the last bastion of colonial power.

San Martín decided to resign to the government of Peru and left the scene. It was Bolívar and his collaborator Antonio José de Sucre, in command of a large army, who launched the final offensive in the Peruvian highlands. In December 1824, Sucre won a decisive victory over the royalist's forces at the Battle of Ayacucho (Peru). One of the squads of Horse Grenadiers created by San Martín fought there. It was the last episode of a very long war. Shortly afterwards the last royalist strongholds in South America fell.

San Martín returned to Río de la Plata and then left for Europe, where he lived until his death, always well concerned of the affairs of the continent that he helped to liberate.

Panorama Cándido

An artist of the Triple Alliance War

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Cándido López fought as a soldier in the Triple Alliance War.  During the war, he also took sketches. This exhibition presents his paintings and their scenes in the context of a fierce war.

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Towards the great conflict 

  • 1863 - The White Party governed Uruguay. It had a defensive pact with the government of Paraguay. The Colorado Party started a rebellion, which was supported by both governments of Argentina and Brazil
  • Uruguayan Civil War
  • 1864 - Brazil invaded Uruguay to reinforce the victory of the colorados. In order to aid the White Party, Paraguay declared war to Brazil.
  • 1865 - Paraguay asked Argentina permission to march through its territory to get to Uruguay. Argentina refused.
  • Paraguay then attacked the Corrientes province.
  • Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay -where the colorados had taken power-, agreed on an alliance against Paraguay.

Ten thousand soldiers marched to the front. And so began the most terrible war in the region.

A glade across the Santa Lucía River, November 25th, 1865. Corrientes Province. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.

A large-scale bloodshed

The Triple Alliance War -known as the Paraguay War in Argentina-was fought between November 1864 and March 1870.

  • The first stage went until April 1866. The Paraguayans took over the Brazilian Mato Grosso and invaded both Corrientes and Río Grande do Sul, where they were defeated.
  • The second stage lasted until September 1866. The allied troops entered Paraguay. Several deadly battles were fought, but no side could prevail.
  • The third stage carried on until January 1869. After a long reorganization, the allies brought down the Paraguayan defenses and took the capital of the country, Asunción.
  • The fourth stage ended in March 1870. The last phase consisted in the persecution of the Paraguayan president, Francisco Solano López, who led the resistance until he was killed. Thousands of soldiers, of both sides, died in the battlefields or afterwards due to the wounds. Diseases caused countless deaths.

Paraguay was ravaged. The economy was ruined.

Sixty percent of its population died because of the war.

[ EN 302 ]

“Map of the current war theater”, 1865

Corrientes was the main war theater during the first stage of war. The second stage developed in Paraguay, in the north bank of Paraná River and around the Humaitá fortress (in the upper part of the map). All the scenarios painted by Cándido López are depicted in this map.

After the war, the national borders of the region were redrawn. Paraguay lost the territories that were legally disputed with both Argentina and Brazil. Some of them, like Formosa (shown as part of the "Gran Chaco" on the map), were not under the control of any country, they were territories of different independent indigenous peoples.

Lithographic print on paper by J. Pelvilain. Map reviewed and approved in 1865 by geographer engineer Francisco Rave, former chief of the Topographic Department of Corrientes Province. MHN Collection.

[ EN 303 ]

1. Brazilian hussar sabretache

Sabretaches were flat bags for carrying documents. They were worn hanged to the belt of cavalry officers. This one belonged to a Brazilian cavalry corp. 

The Empire of Brazil had an immense regional power and the largest population, 10 million habitants, when Argentina had 1.700.000; Paraguay, 450.000; and Uruguay, 250.000. About 140.000 Brazilians fought throughout the war. And the naval squad of the Empire was decisive during the war.

But the Empire had a hard time building its army. Many national guards from the upper classes sent slaves to replace them. There were also units called “Volunteers of the Motherland”, composed by men of popular sectors who were looking for salaries and land promises.

Sabretache with leather outer flap and metal trim. It has two metallic appliqués: a Brazilian imperial crown and the monogram of emperor Pedro II. MHN Collection.

2. Kepi of Juan Bautista Charlone

For conservation issues the head coverings will rotate between the kepi and the cap.

The uniforms and headcovers, such as this Kepi, were different in every military corp. This was used by the Italians who formed a "Military Legion" in the Argentine army.

The Argentinian military forces were divided in two branches. On one hand was the Army. It was composed by voluntary soldiers or men enrolled by force, as punishment for crime or by arbitrariness of the authorities. The National Guard, on the other hand, was the citizen militia. Service was an obligation for every citizen, but those who had resources, hired “personeros” to replaced them. In 1865 Argentina armed nearly 25.000 men, from which about 70% were national guards.

In some provinces, many men disagreed going to war, and the enrollment was violent. There were soldiers who were forced to march chained so that they would not desert.

Kepi of the Italian Legion. Cap with a leather visor of woolen cloth and knots of metallic thread cord. MHN Collection.

3. Drinking horn of the “Allied Arms”

Ox horns were used to carry liquids. This one has engraved the national emblems of Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay.

In May 1865, the three countries signed the Triple Alliance Treaty, in which was stated that the war was done against the Paraguay government and not against its people. The allied countries compromised that none would lay down arms until victory. In this negotiation, Brazil and Argentina designed the map of the territories that each would get after the war. The treaty was kept secret for a year, but when it became public many people denounced it as a plan of conquest.

Ox horn closed with a wooden top. It bears the legend: “Tuyubue, November 16th, 1867. N Z”. On the backside it has engraved a female figure sitting while holding a cup and a bottle. MHN Collection.

4. Ribbon given by Francisco Solano López to the Paraguayan Ladies Commission

This ribbon was an award for a group of women from the elite for their patriotism. They donated goods, money and jewels for war expenses. 

The female effort was crucial to Paraguay during the war. It covered a wide range of duties: support, supply, land labor, and care for the wounded and sick. Many women accompanied the army and they even had their own camp. There were women who asked to fight alongside men, but López rejected the idea.

Hand-sewn silk ribbon. MHN Collection.

5. Signal mortar

This tiny mortar was used as a device for sending messages remotely. It has traces of being exposed to heat, soot and dust.  

When the war began, many of the weaponry used by soldiers was old and with low precision. Throughout the conflict, the armies acquired modern rifles. The artillery was also modernized. All of this contributed to the increase of the mortality, as had happened shortly before in the Crimean War and the North American Civil War. 

Other technical innovations incorporated were the telegraph, railroads, armored ships, trenches and hot air balloons for surveillance.  

Signal mortar of metal. MHN Collection.

[ EN 304 ]

1. Portrait of the Sapper Corps officers

The sappers acted as engineers in the army. They dig and built trenches, mounted defenses and opened and blocked roads. The war took place in an unstable, swampy terrain, crossed by rivers and streams. The “Pontoneros” built bridges made out of wood, often supported by boats or floats, so that the troops could keep moving forward.

Fifteen Argentine sapper officers posed for this portrait. The only one without a mustache is Carlos Pellegrini, who would become president in 1890.

Painting on cardboard, based on a photograph. MHN Collection.

2. Bayonet ax of the “Pontonero” Sappers

This bayonet ax, both weapon and tool, belonged to Colonel Charlone. He was the leader of the “Italian Legion”. Charlone and most of the Legion were killed in the deadly Battle of Curupaytí.

Soldiers of Italian origin participated in the conflicts of the Plata River since the siege of Montevideo in the 1840s, when they fought under the command of Giuseppe Garibaldi against the troops of Juan Manuel de Rosas. 

In the Triple Alliance War, the Legion was absorbed by the Argentine army, as well as other foreign units such as the "Paraguayan Legion", composed by opponents of López. 

Bayonet ax made out of ferrous metal. It has an engraved inscription: “J. R. Charlone Compañía del Paraguay”. MHN Collection.

3. Saber used in the Curupaytí assault

The militarization of the Paraguayan population was a state affair for many years. At the beginning of the war, Solano López engaged the well-trained army in performing a quick offensive to achieve victory. But the strategy failed and the allied forces invaded Paraguay. When López lost the prepared troops, he then made an approach to seek peace, but there was no agreement. 

While the negotiations were taking place, López ordered the reinforcement of Curupaytí. The English engineer George Thompson, under the service of Paraguay, commanded the construction of a long-fortified line in just a few days. 

When the allies tried to took over Curupaytí on September 22 1866, they suffered their worst defeat. More than 2000 Argentines died under Paraguayan fire. Among the victims were Francisco, son of Argentine Vice President Marcos Paz, and "Dominguito", son of Sarmiento. As well as Manuel Roseti, owner of this saber, although it was not him but General Paunero, who actually used it in combat.  

Curupaytí was a great setback for the allies, who took more than a year to resume the offensive. In the meanwhile, the Argentines had to withdraw part of their troops in order to face a rebellion of the Federal party in several of the provinces. From then on, the Argentine participation diminished.

Saber made in France. The blade is made out of single-edged steel up to its lower third.

It has engraved the inscription "Lieutenant Colonel" on one side, and "Manuel Roseti" on the other. The handle is made out of nacre and wire, and shows the Argentine emblem. MHN Collection.

4. Elisa Lynch's chest

This chest belonged to Elisa Lynch. This Irish woman started a relation with Francisco Solano López in Paris. They were criticized because she separated from her former husband.

When López became president, she acted as the First Lady of Paraguay. During the war, she was called "marshal" and wore military uniforms. She joined López in the front and dedicated herself to the care of the injured. 

In the last stage of the war, she marched in the long retreat to the north, until López was killed, along with their eldest son, “Panchito”, by the Brazilian troops. She was respected for being an English subject, and went into exile in Europe.

Trousseau chest made out of coniferous wood covered with golden leather. The inside is covered with red velvet. On the cover, it bears the following inscription: “E.A.L. Qu / Folkestone / 1850”, which refers to the date and place of the marriage of Elisa Lynch with Xavier de Quatrefages, a French military doctor. MHN Collection. 

Elisa Lynch Image: Biblioteca Digital da Fundação Biblioteca Nacional, Brazil.

[ EN 305 ]

Panorama Cándido

In his canvases, Cándido López intended to record a faithful testimony of the events that took place in the war between 1865 and 1866. He called his work “historical paintings”.

Following the tradition of war painting, he portrayed the encounters of the first stage of the conflict, such as the allied victory of Yatay and the siege of Uruguayana. Cándido also painted the battles of the second stage of war, such as the allied victory in Tuyutí -the biggest combat in South American history-; Estero Bellaco; and Boquerón, a Paraguayan victory. 

Mainly, Cándido depicted less epic aspects of the conflict. In a war, battles are intense but they do not last long. Other scenarios of day-to-day military life were animated by López. Such as the routine of military camps, the refuges for eating meals and drinking mate; for resting; for music; for games; for training; for caring the wounded and bury the dead.

He also painted the troops movements. Soldiers make their way across raw nature turned by Cándido into landscapes. Hundreds of men on foot and horseback. Loaded mules and oxen pulling carts. Bridges, rafts, and boats to cross the water. Forests, rivers, shores and estuaries. Long days on the road. He painted with a panoramic point of view. The armies, on the march, in camps, and battles. Welcome to walk along through Cándido’s gaze.

[ EN 306 ]

Cándido López (1840-1902)

When the war against Paraguay started, López enrolled himself as a voluntary soldier. Before then he was a painter and took daguerreotypes, one of the techniques that anticipated modern photography. 

During the war, Cándido draw and document scenes that later transformed into paintings. He usually used two sheets of his workbook to get to a landscape format. 

In the Curupaytí battle, a grenade wounded his skilled right hand. When he lost it, he abandoned the conflict.

He labored as a rural worker to support his family. Little by little, he trained his left hand, and, few years later, he made paintings after his sketches.

Twenty years after the beginning of the war, in 1885, he managed to exhibit most of his paintings in a quite successful personal exhibition. Thanks to his perseverance, the paintings were acquired by the Argentine State.

Portrait of Lieutenant Cándido López

Cándido López was born in Buenos Aires. When the war broke out in April 1865, he was currently living in San Nicolás de los Arroyos. He worked making portraits by painting and by daguerreotype throughout towns in the north of the province. He joined the first battalion of that city National Guard. Cándido fought in Yatay and participated in the surrender of Uruguayana.

[ EN 307 ]

Army Camps

Top, from left to right:

  • Argentine camp in Uruguayana, September 22nd, 1865. Province of Río Grande, Empire of Brazil. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • Argentine camp in the mounts of the Paraná River’s coast, in front of ltapirú, April 12th, 1866. Province of Corrientes. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • Camp in Uruguayana, September 8th, 1865. Province of Rio Grande, Empire of Brazil. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • Argentine camp on the other side of the San Lorenzo River, December 2nd, 1865. Province of Corrientes. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection. 

Bottom, from left to right:

  • Argentine camp in Empedrado, December 11th, 1865. Province of Corrientes. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • Artillery camp of the Baron of Porto Alegre army corps, below Itapirú, August 13th, 1866. Republic of Paraguay. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • Argentine camp next to Uruguayana, September 14th, 1865. Province of Río Grande, Empire of Brazil. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • El naranjal, headquarters of the General in chief of the allied army in Ensenaditas camp, March 7th, 1866. Province of Corrientes. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.

[ EN 308 ]

Various topics

Up, from left to right:

  • Trenched field of Paso de la Patria, April 27th, 1866. Republic of Paraguay. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • Itapirú and Paso de la Patria seen from Corrales, April 7th, 1866. Province of Corrientes. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • Brazilian blood hospital and Argentine sick patients in the entrenched field of Paso de la Patria, July 17th, 1866. Republic of Paraguay. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.

Bottom, from left to right:

  • Uruguayana surrender, September 18th, 1865. Province of Río Grande, Empire of Brazil. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • Burned Paraguayan army camp under the command of General Resquin, found on the other side of the Santa Lucía River. November 22nd, 1865. Province of Corrientes. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • The 1st and 2nd corps of the Argentine army during mass on the Batel shores, November 12th, 1865. Province of Corrientes. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.

[ EN 309 ]


Up, from left to right.

  • The 1st Corps of the Argentine Army passing through Corrientes River, on June 22nd, 23rd and 24th, 1865. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López in 1899. MHN Collection.
  • Riachuelo Passage, December 23rd, 1865. Province of Corrientes. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • ltapirú, April 19th, 1866. Republic of Paraguay. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • The 1st Argentine Army Corps passing through Corrientes River on November 5th, 1865. Province of Corrientes. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • Arrival of the allied army at the Itapirú fortress, April 18th, 1866. Republic of Paraguay. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.

Bottom, from left to right.

  • Argentine troops boarding in Paso de los Libres, August 23rd, 1865. Province of Corrientes. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • San Joaquín stream passage, August 16th, 1865. Province of Corrientes. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • Santa Lucía River passage, November 21st, 1865. Province of Corrientes. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • Camp on the march, November 16th, 1865. Batel River passage, Corrientes Province. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • Ayuí River passage through the Paso de Ayala, August 13th, 1865. Province of Corrientes. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.

[ EN 310 ]


Up, from left to right:

  • Boquerón attack seen from Potrero Piris. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López in 1897. MHN Collection.
  • Tuyutí battle, May 24th, 1866. Republic of Paraguay. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • Tuyutí battle, May 24th, 1866. 4th and 6th line divisions beginning the battle. Republic of Paraguay. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • Episode of the 2nd Buenos Aires division in the Tuyutí battle, on May 24th, 1866. Republic of Paraguay. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.

Bottom, from left to right:

  • Yatay battle, August 17th, 1865. Province of Corrientes. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • Ambush on the vanguard of the allied army on May 2nd, 1866 in Estero Bellaco. Republic of Paraguay. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.
  • Episode of the 1st Argentine Cavalry Line, in Estero Bellaco, on May 2nd, 1866. Republic of Paraguay. Oil on canvas. Painted by Cándido López between 1876 and 1885. MHN Collection.

[ EN 311 ]

The leaders

Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay were republics. Their presidents, Bartolomé Mitre, Venancio Flores and Francisco Solano López, led their armies throughout the war. On the other hand, Brazil was a constitutional monarchy. Its Emperor, Pedro II, led the armies for only a brief period of time. Most of the war was commanded by other Brazilian generals.

Mitre was commander in chief of the allied forces throughout the first stages of the conflict. At the beginning of 1868, the Brazilian Marquis of Caxías, responsible for taking Asunción, replaced Mitre on his position. During the last stage of the war, Count D’Eu, Pedro II son in law, was the commander in chief. He was blamed for the brutality performed against the last Paraguayan defenses.

1. Portrait of Francisco Solano López

Francisco Solano López succeeded his father in the presidency of Paraguay in 1862. The country had a highly centralized and militarized government, and there were no opposition parties. Unlike its neighboring countries, Paraguay did not suffer civil wars in the previous decades. It had a prosperous peasant economy. The State action promoted modernization. Paraguay had the first railroad in South America and most of its population was literate. 

López spoke Guaraní and enjoyed great popularity among the majority of Paraguayans, who followed him in the war and in his decision not to surrender. In the final stage of the conflict, López accused his own collaborators and relatives of conspiracy, and had many of them executed.

Oil on canvas. Anonymous author. MHN Collection.

2. Portrait of General Bartolomé Mitre, General Venancio Flores and Mariscal Manuel Osório

Flores led the Uruguayan Colorado party, which was close to the porteños liberals under Mitre’s leadership. Mitre helped Flores to organize the rebellion to seized power against the White Party in Uruguay that precipitated the war with Paraguay. 

Flores participated in the war until the Curupaytí battle. He was assassinated in Montevideo in 1868, during an uprising of the White party. 

Osório, native of Rio Grande do Sul, was the Brazilian commander with the best relationship with the other allies. He stood out during the war and was very popular within his soldiers. It was said between them that he was invulnerable to the enemy’s bullets.

Tribute from the Military Encyclopedia to the Armies of the Triple Alliance, 1895. Lithograph on paper. Drawing by F. Fortuny. MHN Collection.

3. Stamps used in the war by General Bartolomé Mitre

The Triple Alliance agreed that Mitre, president of Argentina, would command the joint armies since the war had started in Corrientes province. 

The relation between Mitre and the Brazilian commanders was quite strained. Mitre retained the military command until the beginning of 1868, when Argentine Vice President Marcos Paz, who had ruled during Mitre’s absence, passed away.  

The setbacks of the war discredited Mitre. His candidate to succeed him in the presidency, Rufino de Elizalde, lost the elections to Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, who was supported by many of the officers of the Paraguayan front. He continued active in politics, but his leadership faded away. 

The first seal is made out of silver and wood. The second one, of bronze and wood. MHN Collection.

4. Walking cane given to General Justo José de Urquiza by General Bartolomé Mitre

Mitre and Urquiza were the leading figures in the Argentine politic scenario before the war. Mitre, president since 1862, sought to unify the country under the command of Buenos Aires, favoring the liberal groups to remove the federals ones from the provinces. The resistance of La Rioja province was harshly repressed by the National army. Entre Ríos, where Urquiza continued to rule, was the only province in which National forces did not intervene. 

When the conflict with Paraguay began, Mitre followers thought that the war would strengthen his leadership in the country, but they were proved wrong. The national union did not suffer from the war, but both Mitre and Urquiza got out damaged in their credibility.

This cane belonged to the governors of Buenos Aires during the time in which the province stayed separated from the rest of the country, until it was reincorporated by the San José de Flores pact, in 1859. Mitre gave the cane to Urquiza as a souvenir of this agreement. It is made out of cane covered with tortoiseshell. It has a chiseled gold cuff. It says, "Governor of the State of Buenos Ayres". MHN Collection.

5. Portrait of Justo José de Urquiza

Urquiza was governor of the Entre Ríos province and the main reference of the Argentine federalism. Many people believed that he would oppose the war, because of the Argentine federals' friendship with the Uruguayan Whites, as well as to confront Mitre. 

Solano López hoped that the Paraguayan invasion would trigger a federal uprising in Argentina. But Urquiza remained faithful to the union and to the National State. 

In 1866 there were federal uprisings that offered him the command of the party, but he did not support them. During the conflict, Urquiza made good profit by supplying cattle to the allied forces. Discredited, he was assassinated in 1870 by some of his former followers.

Lithograph by Rod Kratzentein, 1852. MHN Collection.

[ EN 312 ]

War Opponents

The war triggered different kind of oppositions in the countries involved. In Argentina they were of three types. At the beginning of the conflict, there was resistance from many men to military recruitment. Some of them, defected. In Entre Ríos there were two large disbands of troops who refused to go to war. 

Once the Paraguayan invasion of Corrientes was defeated, the press increased its opposition to the war. Many newspapers argued that no longer there were reasons to continue fighting.

The news of Curupaytí's defeat triggered a federal uprising in Cuyo and La Rioja against Mitre’s policy. The rebellion was repressed with troops sent from the battlefront in Paraguay.


1. Manifesto of General Urquiza to his troops

At the beginning of the war, Urquiza gathered the militias from Entre Ríos in the Basualdo camp. But in July 1865, when he went to meet Mitre, the militias disbanded shouting ‘long live Urquiza’ and ‘death to Mitre’. 

Urquiza restored his troops and released this manifesto appealing to the "honor of Entre Ríos" and to the "united Argentine people" in order to fight "under the same flag". He also lent money in advance to its militiamen. 

But since the Paraguayans troops had already left Corrientes, most soldiers thought that the war had become unnecessary. Some of them even stated that they were willing to fight against Buenos Aires or Brazil, but that they would not Paraguay. In the new camp of Toledo, the disbandment happened again: hundreds of soldiers deserted massively.

Print, October 1865. MHN Collection.

2. Portrait of Carlos Guido y Spano

The main newspaper against the war in Argentina was La América. It appeared in Buenos Aires in 1866. Through it, writers such as Olegario Andrade, Agustín de Vedia, and Carlos Guido y Spano, stood out for Paraguay and harshly criticized Mitre. They accused him of abandoning the National interest in benefit of Brazil, which they considered as an enemy. The newspaper was closed by Mitre’s government. 

Guido y Spano published a pamphlet criticizing the war, and he was sent to prison. After the war, he wrote "Nenia", a poem that lamented Paraguay’s ruin.

Lithograph by De Carvalho, F.B. Printed by Stiller and Laas Union Lithograph, 1884. MHN Collection.

3. Letter from Juan Bautista Alberdi to Gregorio Benites and portraits of them both

Alberdi was the main intellectual figure against the war. From Europe, where he was settled, he wrote in the newspaper La América and in other publications. He denounced Mitre for accepting gold from Brazil. He suspected that this was a mean to divide Argentina. Mitre pointed him out as a traitor.

Alberdi also sought international support for the Paraguayan cause. He also maintained an epistolary relationship with his friend Gregorio Benites, secretary to the Paraguayan legation in France during the conflict.

In this letter dated at the end of 1865, Alberdi suggests taking precautions before signing a peace agreement, and also advises making propaganda for Paraguay in Chile, Bolivia, and Peru.

Handwritten letter from Alberdi to Benites. November 20th, 1865 (copy, the original is in the museum's Archive). MHN Collection.

Portraits of Alberdi and Benites in the format of “carte de visite”. Both photographs were taken in Paris in 1870. The one of Benites has a dedication on the reverse “To my excellent friend Dr. Don J.B. Alberdi”. MHN Collection.

4. Portrait of General Juan de Dios Videla and Felipe Varela

In November 1866, the Mendoza National Guard was about to go as reinforcement to Paraguay. But this order was unpopular and led to a rebellion of the federals, who took power there and, soon after, in San Juan and in San Luis. 

One of the leaders of the movement was Juan de Dios Videla, from Mendoza. Soon the federal leader of Catamarca, Felipe Varela, joined and marched over La Rioja, gathering an important force. 

Varela declared his friendship with Paraguay and claimed total opposition to Mitre. But the troops sent from the battlefront in Paraguay and from Santiago del Estero, a province allied to Mitre, defeated the federal rebellion. After that, Varela and Videla went into exile. 

Painted photograph, taken in Chile. MHN Collection.

[ EN 313 ]

Cry, cry, urutaú in the palms of the yatay; the Paraguay where I was born, as well as you, exist no longer!

Fragment of "Nenia" by Carlos Guido y Spano

[ EN 314 ]

The impact of modern photography

The Triple Alliance war was the first armed conflict photographed in South America. Photography introduced new ways of communicating what was happening and allowed to show the consequences of the war in an unprecedented way.

Humaitá Port, Ruins of the Temple. Around 1880.

Ruins of the Church of Humaitá. Around 1880.

Interior of the Church of Humaitá after the bombing. 1868.  MHN Collection.

The table on the chandelier

This table was built with the lower part of a chandelier taken from the remains of the church of Humaitá. Before it was golden leafed. Both parts are made out of cedar wood. It was acquired by the museum in 1901.

[ EN 315 ]


Located in a shore of the Paraguay River, the Humaitá fortress blocked access to get to Asunción. It was the axis of the Paraguayan defense. Only after two years of fighting in its surroundings, the allied forces managed to surround Humaitá, both by land and water, and destroyed it in July 1868. After this, the Paraguayan resistance continued for two more years. 

The images of the Humaitá church damaged by the allied bombs became a symbol of the destruction of Paraguay in the conflict.
After the end of the war, the majority of the Argentine soldiers who were still at the frontline returned to their home provinces. Some of them stayed in Paraguay as part of the allied occupation troops that remained there for years. Those who returned had trouble reintegrating the society they had left for so long. 

[ EN 316 ]

War veterans at the National Museum of History

Adolfo Carranza, the first director of this Museum, summoned veterans from Paraguay to guard the exhibitions. The presence of these soldiers was seen as honorable and at the same time, they were considered living history. In this photograph, five of them pose at the front entrance of the museum, in 1911. 

Several veterans and their relatives donated to the Museum objects related to the conflict. In 1954, President Juan Domingo Perón gave back to Paraguay the personal objects of Solano López taken as trophies that were in the Museum’s collection. 

Photograph of former soldiers and guardians González, Almada, Gómez, Escobar and Chiappini (from left to right). MHN Collection.

Due to conservation matters, the photographs and documents in this exhibition are copies. The originals ones belong to the Museum's collection. The portrait of General Juan de Dios Videla and Felipe Varela is enlarged to twice its original size.

To learn more about the work of Cándido López:


Greatest hits

A Walk Around the National History Museum Collection

[ EN 200 ]

Objects do not tell one story only. On the contrary, they can be prompted to tell many other different stories. It is the way we perceive the collection and the questions it raises what gives meaning to the objects and build out each of their stories.

This exhibition contains notable pieces grouped by different themes. It presents our first national symbols, significant manuscripts of the country and a series of objects that transformed reality.   

The exhibition also presents the story of how the technique of the image changed—from painting to photography. Some objects relate to entertainment and death, essential aspects of the human experience.

And there are objects associated with the working classes, who have not been frequent protagonists in these galleries.

Many items were once exhibited to illustrate a chronological perspective of the nation’s history, but they are now presented in a different way. Other items barely made it to the galleries at all, and they are now finding their place.  

This exhibition is an invitation to visit our collection, to interpret it, to enjoy its beauty, its treasures, its power— its aura.

This is not another museum for Argentine history. This is a museum of Greatest Hits.

[ EN 201 ]

Manuscript Magic

Essential Argentine texts handwritten by their authors: Disertación jurídica sobre el servicio personal de los Indios en general, y sobre el particular de Yanaconas y Mitarios, a documentary work by Mariano Moreno; El Gaucho Martín Fierro, a poem about the famous gaucho by José Hernández; Perfiles, a biographical work by Juana Manuela Gorriti; and a draft of the novel Adán Buenosayres and its book VII entitled Viaje a la Oscura Ciudad de Cacodelphia, a parody novel by Leopoldo Marechal. Four highly valuable works which left a mark on their time and times to follow.

[ EN 202 ]

The History of Image

The desire to portray oneselves and leave a printed record of our daily life and surroundings is part of human history.

Nowadays, taking pictures is quite simple and it is hard to imagine a world without them. But it was not always that simple.

The methods of producing images, not only photographs, changed throughout the years: from paintings, to printed engravings, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, cyanotypes, gelatin silver prints, and photographs, among others.

[ EN 203 ]

National Symbols

Representative pieces used as tools for carving an identity.

Identification at a glance.

Pieces of fabric, written papers and a painted copper plate – items that cease to be mere elements to become symbols of union.

[ EN 204 ]

Sound and Game

Music and games are an invitation to gather.

When a guitar is played, people come together around its music.

In social gatherings, pulperías*, wars, and parties, music and games appear throughout history as essential and frequent elements.

A king’s domino, a graphophone, a military drum or a leader’s chess set.

All these objects, taken from different historical moments, refer to pleasure, leisure and entertainment.

*Typical Hispano-American colonial stores and dining facilities, usually with board games.

[ EN 205 ]

Objects That Changed History

All the objects in the collection are important. They were preserved for their significance in remembering and understanding the past in our country.

But some of them, a few, have a distinctive feature: they were part of key turning points in history.  

[ EN 206 ]

Objects That Almost Changed History

It is common to hear the question of how things would have been if this or that had happened. These objects serve as a starting point for that counterfactual exercise.

[ EN 207 ]

Lower Worlds

At first glance, the museum has a clear class distinction.

A considerable part of its objects belonged to governors, military officers, and other men and women from high society. In other words, a minority. However, when we take a closer look, other actors come into the scene.

People from lower classes are presented in three ways: in images that were made of them, in objects that belonged to them, or as the anonymous manufacturers of other objects.

In this road, we discover men and women whose names and lives are barely known but who are a fundamental part of Argentine history.

[ EN 208 ]

Memento Mori

Dealing with death is one of the keys of human existence.

Commemorations, memorials, eulogies, wills, grief—multiple ways of keeping alive the memory of those who are gone.

Those who die, also unite and divide. They move and teach. They may be admired or hated, but they are not forgotten.