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Museo Histórico Nacional

Texts of the museum exhibits in English - Exhibiciones del Museo en inglés

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fosters reflection and debate on Argentine history through preservation, research, and exhibition of objects, art, historical documents, and cultural and educational activities.

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.

 

The ’80s—Rock and Roll in the Streets – Ground floor and lower level

In this amazing exhibition about Argentine rock ‘n roll from 1982 and 1991, visitors will find more than 800 music instruments, photographs, costumes, records, posters, flyers, original designs, magazines, fanzines, and videos.

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.

Independence - 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.

[ EN 100 ]

The ‘80s: Rock ‘n Roll in the Streets

By the start of the ‘80s, Argentine rock music already had an accomplished history. But it was during the final stretch of the military dictatorship in 1982, that rock music conquered the streets and became a part of mass consumption. It renewed its sound and esthetics by combining diverse and contemporaneous styles. Argentine rock music of the time became famous not only in Argentina but worldwide, and it’s still listened to today.

This exhibition reconstructs the paths of rock music between 1982 and 1991. It was a culturally intense decade for a society that was discovering democracy while dealing with the dictatorship’s heritage and going through a long-lasting economic crisis. The exhibition narrates the raise of rock music in 1982 and 1983 and its subsequent expansion. It presents bands and solo artists that were at the center of the scene and became renowned in the underground music scene. It explores rock’s place, technique, industry, press, and public, among other topics.

The photographs selection includes leading professional figures of the time. The exhibit also contains instruments, costumes, handwritten lyrics, street posters, flyers, discs, designs, drawings, videos, magazines and fanzines lent by artists, journalists, collectors and other personalities of the “rock movement.”

Welcome to a journey through the history of Argentine rock music.

[ EN 101 ] The Soundtrack of the New Times

Between 1982 and 1983, Argentina underwent a complicated transition from dictatorship to democracy. To the beat of change, Argentine rock experienced a deep transformation.

When the Falkland Islands war started, the military government banned radios from broadcasting music in English. Local rock music rose to relevance in the media—where it had been given little attention before—and positioned itself above tango and folklore. It was an unintended push towards the start of the “national rock” boom, a term barely used previously. An entire industry developed around this movement.

During those years, people conquered the streets, going to political demonstrations, union protests, and human rights marches, as well as rock concerts and festivals where it was common to hear songs against the dictatorship.

The taste for classic and symphonic rock, folk music and fusion, and its preference of gifted musicians, began to coexist with new foreign styles, such as new wave, heavy metal, punk, and postpunk. A new pop sound emerged, and it was welcomed by most young people who, after years of repression, just wanted to have fun and dance. Argentine rock gave birth to an era of creative effervescence, and revival and mass-consumption.

[ EN 102 ] The Sound and the Fury

With the arrival of democracy, rock music spread. More concerts, more records, more tours, more audiences, more presence in the media, and more sales. Artists moved from underground music to stardom in a short time. Songs were listened to in every city in the country and beyond.

Between 1984 and 1991, there were several and simultaneous music scenes, not just one. Different sounds and esthetics co-existed through years of frenzy and creativity.

Rock’s vitality stood strong despite the political shifts and the turn of hope into disenchantment from a considerable part of the population who endured the lingering effects of the socioeconomic crisis inherited under years of dictatorship. In such a context, rock bands continued to flourish and renewed the landscape.

In the early ‘90s a new era began, due in large part to currency convertibility, esthetic and technical changes, new fashions and international media. Rock music in the ’80s was about to be replaced with something new.

On 14 December 1991, an event became the symbol of the previous decade’s changes—Soda Stereo played live on 9 de Julio Avenue in front of 250.000 people, a record in popularity which cemented the rise of rock music.

[ EN 103 ] Underground Music

It is impossible to comprehend the ‘80s without the underground scene. On the one hand, it served as a seedbed—a necessary stopover for any band that was just starting, had a few fans, and was looking for fame. On the other hand, there were those artists that viewed underground music as an esthetic and political choice. They were committed to remaining independent and to staying outside of the media demands, the youth trends and the market in general, and presented other forms of self-expression and music, with a rather counter-culture approach.

Bands with different projects and experimental processes—which are now considered “cult” bands—; bands that started being punk and then turned hardcore and had their own touring circuit and fanzines; bands that were just starting their careers by the end of the decade and would become massive in the ‘90s; actors and performers collectives with avant-garde concepts. All co-existed in the vibrant nights—or rather, early mornings—of Buenos Aires, visiting clubs, pubs, theaters, nightclubs, and other “joints”, while struggling with limited resources and police harassment. More than 700 bands took part of the —today’s legendary— porteño underground scene of those years, an original factory of alternative energy.

[ EN 104 ] Rock Factory

The rock movement went far beyond the artists. Record and production companies built the core of an industry that became huge in the ‘80s. Recording studios were key, undergoing major transformation and upgrading equipment. Technological advancements gave way to improvements in concerts, both in sound and lightning. The positions that made these concerts and tours possible were elevated to a professional level: managers, “roadies”, technicians, costume designers, assistants, etc. Similarly, the written press, radio and television were essential for spreading news on all activities concerning bands and solo artists. Even governments played an important role in the scene, either directly or indirectly. All these elements made Argentine rock possible.

[ EN 105 ] Your Majesty, the Audience

Rock was mostly popular among the youth, who perceived their age group as a shared identity. But fans differed from one another and were part of an audience used to critique both the music and the artists’ behavior. Some listened to multiple styles and some others were only interested in one artist (and were not quite keen on others). Some celebrated a band’s popularity and others criticized them for being too “commercial”. Audiences compared bands: Sumo or Los Redondos were perceived as opposites to Soda Stereo. There were also small “tribes” that sometimes clashed against each other.

A new novelty of the time was dancing. In the previous years, disco music was disregarded for being considered too pleasing. In contrast, dancing became popular in the ‘80s, and it was enjoyed either to the rhythm of pop music or by moshing in electrifying rock concerts.

Fans were incredibly enthusiastic during concerts, packed live TV music shows, phoned radio shows and wrote letters to magazines, chased autographs, started clubs, and dressed, walked, and acted like their idols. The rock euphoria of the ‘80s was largely due to the audience.

 

[ EN 200 ]

Greatest hits

A Walk Around the National History Museum Collection

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.

Panorama Cándido

An artist of the Triple Alliance War

[ EN 300 ]

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.

[ EN 301 ] 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 ]

Passages

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 ]

Battles

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 ]

Destruction

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: https://museohistoriconacional.cultura.gob.ar/

 

Independence

[ EN 400 ] Bedroom:

This bedroom is the identical reconstruction of the room where General San Martín lived his last days in the city of Boulogne Sur Mer, France.

In 1899, his granddaughter, Josefa Balcarce y San Martín, donated to the museum the furniture that once belonged to San Martín. She also sent a sketch showing the exact order in which the objects and furniture should be arranged. They have remained like this since 1939.

On the mantel, there is a clock with the exact hour that San Martín passed away. It is ornamented with a bust of Napoleon Bonaparte, whom he admired.

Some of the paintings are watercolors made by San Martín. There are also sea battle scenes and a portrait of Simón Bolívar, which is supposed to have been given by Bolívar himself when they met in Guayaquil.

At first sight, the bed seems to be too small for a man like San Martín, who was 1.68 m tall (5’5’’). But in those days, people slept almost sitting up to breathe better.

The bedroom door opens onto the corridor and then onto his daughter’s bedroom. Mercedes, his daughter, looked after him in his old age.

[ EN 401 ] First text panel:

The independence declared by the United Provinces in 1816 was a turning point, since the political revolution that distanced these colonial territories from the metropoli started in May 1810 in Buenos Aires, six years before.

Those years of war did not end in 1816, they continued across the Andes and the North. They had a military man born here but formed in Spain called José de San Martín, as a protagonist. San Martin himself demanded that independence must be declared in order to export the revolution to Chile and Perú. 

When Spain was occupied by the Napoleonic army, the king Fernando VII was imprisoned. Local “juntas” were formed in different cities of Spain to govern locally in the name of the king. As the French army advanced through the Spanish territory, the local juntas fell, and a Junta Central gathered in the southern city of Sevilla. Eventually, this Junta also was dissolved by the pressure of the invasion.

Claiming equal rights to govern themselves in absence of the king, local cities also formed juntas in America. That is what happend in Buenos Aires in May 25th of 1810, when the Viceroy of the Río de la Plata named by the dissolved Junta Central was removed from power and a Junta was elected.

The revolutionaries of 1810 wanted to gain self-government: to elect their own authorities, to manage the economy and to have legal equality with Spain. There were two different projects. One was the “authonomy” within the kingdom of Spain, meaning to stop being a colony and to become a territory within a constitutional and federal monarchy, equal to the territories of Spain. The other was to become fully independent. Both positions coexisted in tension between 1810 and 1816, while the revolutionaries fought against the local royalist forces, who resisted any kind of change.

In 1814, once the Napoleonic army was defeated, Ferdinand VII resumed the Spanish throne. The local royalist forces along with forces sent from Spain defeated most of the South American insurgents. The Río de la Plata resisted. But the revolutionaries were divided. One hand, there were the United Provinces, with a centralist government headed by Buenos Aires. On the other hand, the League of Free Peoples [or Federal League], under the leadership of the oriental José Gervasio Artigas, who standed for a federal and republican organization.

The United Provinces organized a Congress in Tucumán to declare independence and to organize a new State. The project of integrating an egalitarian monarchy within Spain fell apart once the king refused to negotiate and sent military expeditions to South America. The League preferred not to participate in the Congress, since those provinces already considered themselves independent without the need of a formal declaration.

[ EN 402 ] Targe:

Belgrano arrived in the mining city of Potosí, now Bolivia, in June 1813. Several patriotic ladies from the city gave him this gold and silver targe as a present. It is a tribute to the General, to Buenos Aires and to South America. It celebrates liberty, American unity, and its indigenous tradition.

The Cerro Rico mountain in Potosí salutes and thanks the De La Plata River. At the top, there is an indigenous man, crowned. He is represented in the same way as indigenous peoples were depicted in Europe: a naked torso and feather accessories. He is holding a dagga and a spear with the liberty cap on its tip. He is taking a meaningful step forward.

Belgrano sent the targe to Buenos Aires, along with a list of the 77 representatives who gave him this recognition. Due to its size, it had to be disassembled and reassembled again once in the city by Upper-peruvian silversmith Juan de Dios Rivera. 

[ EN 403] Second text panel:

The deputies of the United Provinces, including some from Upper Peru (at that time, under the colonial domain), met in Tucumán in March 1816. Their main objectives were to declare independence; reconstruct the central power by choosing a respected authority to all the provinces to conduct the war; define a war plan against the royalists and the local federal uprisings; and to define the form of government of the new State.

The election of a Supreme Director (at the time, the Executive power) was disputed between Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, porteño [born in Buenos Aires], and José Moldes, salteño [born in Salta] and famous due to his opposition to Buenos Aires interests. Pueyrredón was finally elected. Doing so, the centralist system was rebuilt.

The second step was the declaration of independence. July the 9th, in the context of a great enthusiasm, the Congress declared: “is a unanimous and indubitable will of these provinces to break the violent bonds that linked them to the kings of Spain, to recover their deprived rights and to invest themselves in the high character of a free nation, independent of the king Ferdinand VII, their successors and its metropolis”. They claimed that the Spanish domain had been founded on the use of force and not in consent and, therefore, it was not legitimate. A few days later, and because of an imminent Portuguese invasion, the declaration was amended and it was added that the independence also was from any other foreign domination.

[ EN 404 ] Poncho:

The Museum keeps two ponchos that belonged to San Martín.

The one exhibited at present is made of blue-dyed sheep wool cloth. This type of poncho is also known as “poncho patria” (homeland poncho) as they were commissioned by the government to be provided to the armies during the Independency Wars. The provinces of Córdoba and San Luis were the main suppliers of ponchos and woolen cloth for the armies.

The other poncho in the Museum collection was given to San Martín by indigenous chiefs with whom he met to negotiate the crossing of one of his army’s columns. The Crossing began in January 1817. As the nights were so cold, warm clothes were vital for the more than five thousand soldiers. Peasant and indigenous women were crucial for the supply of ponchos and blankets needed for the army.  

[ EN 405 ] Bicorne Hat:

This bicorne hat, also known as Napoleonic hat, belonged to San Martín.

In 1812, two years after the beginning of the May Revolution, San Martín arrived in Buenos Aires to join the revolutionary fight. He left Spain behind –which was almost totally invaded by Napoleon– and an outstanding military career that allowed him to learn modern strategies of war.

The bicorne was the type of flexible hat worn by the Spanish army. Its name referred to the “corners” or peaks in its ends. A coating of leather and rubberized cloth makes this hat impermeable and suitable for harsh weather. Therefore, San Martin chose to wear it in the fore-and-aft style (differently from the Napoleonic style) with the aim to protect his face.

[ EN 406 ] Third text panel:

The Congress also discussed how to put an end to the war against the royalists. Some deputies wanted to organize again a great army and send it to High Peru (current Bolivia), where three revolutionary expeditions had been defeated before between 1811 and 1815. But the new Supreme Director decided another direction: in Cuyo, its governor José de San Martín was recruiting an army to cross the Andes mountains and attack the royalists in Chile. San Martín was convinced that the sea was a better way to get to Peru, the biggest colonial’s bastion in South America, than trying again by land through the High Peru.

In June 1816, Pueyrredón and San Martín met in Córdoba and made a deal: Pueyrredón would give total support to the Andes expedition that would insure the independence, and San Martín would reorganize the Lautaro Lodge (which lead the revolution between 1812 and 1815) to put it under the new government service.

Meanwhile, the north frontier’s defense against the royalists from High Peru was in charge of the gaucho militias from Salta and Jujuy under the command of those provinces' governor, Martín Miguel de Güemes.

During 1816, the League of Free Peoples suffered a great Portuguese invasion against Misiones and the Banda Oriental.

That conflictive year also had Manuel Belgrano’s army set in Tucumán, from where it repressed different uprising against the central authorities in the provinces of La Rioja, Córdoba and Santiago del Estero. 

[ EN 407 ] Tailcoat:

This tailcoat was worn by San Martín in his role as Protector of Perú. The tailcoat has the colors of the Peruvian flag, which was designed by San Martín himself, though it is not the one used today.

San Martín and his army reached the coast of Perú in September 1820. At his arrival, the royalist troops left Lima and withdrew to the mountains to regroup and recover strength. On July 28, 1821, San Martín proclaimed the Independence of Perú in front of a crowd gathered at the Plaza de Armas. In August, he was named “Protector of the Liberty of Perú” and seized military and political control. During his protectorate, he took measures to organize the new State and introduced changes into society, after three centuries of colonial rule.

In September 1822, San Martín resigned his protectorate and left the power in hands of a Governmental Junta. Independence was not yet assured, since part of the south and center of Perú was still under royalist forces.   

[ EN 408 ] Fourth text panel:

The political and economic reforms, as well as a prolonged war, provoked significant changes in society. American borned people that supported the revolution were preferred in political, military and ecclesiastic charges despite people with Spanish origins. Meanwhile, the overseas commerce was dominated by the British.

For most, the revolution had opened a way to widen rights and political participation. Joining the patriot forces meant a way of social mobility and prestige, and political involvement for the majorities, who were historically set apart from decision-making. They were the ones who suffered most the hardships of war.

Cultural life also changed: it acquired a fundamental role as a means of expression of new ideas and values. Poetry, theater and popular celebrations were seen as important tools for constructing a common identity.

Art and fashion served as means for ideas to display. The empire style triumph in both dressing and furniture, with its simple forms and lines; light and volatile fabrics which showed the female figure and made it easier to move during these turbulent times. The women's dress got rid of the corset and the petticoat, which had a sharper neckline now, expressing also more freedom.

[ EN 409 ] Saber:

San Martín arrived in Buenos Aires from Europe in 1812. He brought with him a curved saber bought in England.

Its blade is made of Damascus steel, famous for its great quality. The hilt is made of ebony and the scabbard is coated in leather and bronze. It was used by San Martín in the campaigns to Chile and Peru. It was an essential weapon for the cavalry.

After his achievements in Peru, San Martín left his saber in Mendoza, and it was later taken to France by her daughter.

In his will, San Martín bequeathed the saber to Juan Manuel de Rosas, who had been governor of the province of Buenos Aires. In 1897, his daughter Manuela de Rosas, donated the saber to this Museum upon request of its first director, Adolfo P. Carranza.

For many years, the saber was kept elsewhere. But in 2015, it was returned to the Museum.

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