Bitter Wine: The Mendoza Earthquake of 1861 and the Formation of the Argentine State

Sunday, January 10, 2010: 11:40 AM
Elizabeth Ballroom H (Hyatt)
Quinn P. Dauer , Florida International University, Miami, FL
Natural disasters have shaped the formation of states and nations.  This project examines the 1861 Mendoza earthquake in western Argentina and the responses of local and national authorities. The relative dearth of historical analysis about western Argentina hampers our scholarly understanding of the development and direction of the state along with the amalgamation or fracturing of the nation. The Holy Week earthquake made Mendoza a battle ground for local, state and national politics. In the months that followed the immediate recovery effort, municipal officials argued about remedies, rebuilding strategies and new regulations, hampering the city's return to normal life. On a national level in the military and political spheres, General Bartolomé Mitre leading the army of Buenos Aires defeated the army of the Argentine Confederation led by General Justo José Urquiza at the battle of Pavón in September of 1861 poising Buenos Aires, once again, as the military and economic hegemon. As a result, Buenos Aires troops occupied a ruined Mendoza at the end of 1861, replacing provincial officials. All political levels—national, provincial, and municipal—struggled over the multiplicity of proposed strategies to rebuild the city.  The disaster placed the struggle between Buenos Aires, the exemplar hegemonic urban center and the provinces to the front of the national consciousness over issues of authority and legitimacy in maintaining the population's well-being.
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