José Andrés Pacheco de Melo in the Independence of the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata

By María Laura Mazzoni

This short essay explores the process of Independence of the United Provinces of South America through the life of José Andrés Pacheco de Melo, a priest from Alto Perú who was a representative in the Congress of Tucuman in 1816. In order to revisit the revolutionary origins of contemporary nation-state borders, it will analyze the Alto Peru,  a space in dispute that the United Provinces struggled to gain for the revolutionary cause even in 1816 when this territory was already in royalist hands. This essay will also show how the participation of Alto Peruvian congressmen revealed that in 1816 the “political map” of the United Provinces was to be built. What resulted in the República Argentina was not destined to be at the beginning of this process.

José Andrés Pacheco de Melo

Born in Salta in 1779, José Andrés Pacheco de Melo was parish priest of Quilaquila and member of the Congress of Tucumán in 1816 representing Chichas, a jurisdiction of the old Intendence of Potosí, currently part of the Bolivian State.  He frequently participated in politics.[1] The clergy acted in politics by granting the theoretical fundamentals for the new political order opened by the Revolution of 1810 in Río de la Plata. They enacted laws and resolved problems of the new governments on par with civilians.[2] Priests were among the few literate people of these old regime societies, and thus held a symbolic capital[3] that placed them in a privileged position among their communities.

The revolution changed Pacheco de Melo’s life. In 1813, after the defeat of the Ejército Auxiliar del Perú in the battle of Ayohuma, Pacheco de Melo fled his parish. However, he returned  in 1815, and asked the governor of Salta for arms for the revolutionary forces in the area.[4] This behavior and his defense of the revolutionary government probably granted him an elevated position among his parishioners. Thus, they elected him as a representative chair for the Congress of Tucumán representing Chichas a year later. As congressman, he acted as president and vice-president of the assembly and participated in some of the commissions that functioned at the congress.

The revolution was at stake at the Congress of Tucumán. The Congress had three goals: a declaration of independence, a decision on the form of government the South America United Provinces would adopt, and a draft of a constitution. The representatives needed to decide about those issues as Fernando VII[5] regained his throne in Spain with the support of the Holy Alliance and under the constant threat of the arrival of troops from the Spanish Peninsula in order to crush the rebellion in Spain’s South American colonies.

In these circumstances, some representatives considered that a rapprochement to the monarchy was a viable option. The chamber also discussed the proposal of crowning an Inca as king of a constitutional monarchy for these territories. The representatives who held this initiative believed that in doing so, the government of the United Provinces would assure the support of Alto Peruvian communities.[6] Those regions were crucial in order to obtain soldiers and resources for the war against the royalists. This project was initiated by Manuel Belgrano, General of the Ejército Auxiliar del Perú, and was backed by the representatives of the northern and Alto Perú provinces of the ex-viceroyalty of Río de la Plata, who were enthused by the idea of unifying the former viceroyalty. Pacheco de Melo was also one of the congressmen who supported this plan, but it lacked sufficient support in the chamber.           

Upon declaring the independence of the United Provinces in July 1816, the Congress moved to Buenos Aires and continued in session for the next three years. The Chichas’ congressman, who represented a territory that had been lost for the revolution and was fully controlled by the royalist army, kept participating in the Congress.

Some years later Pacheco de Melo was part of the provincial states that formed in the 1820s,[7] a mediator in political conflicts among the states and part of the bureaucracy of those autonomous states.   

As we take into account the biography of Pacheco de Melo and his performance in this historical process, we could relinquish the map and frontiers imposed by national histories when analyzing the Independence of the United Provinces of South America.[8] In 1776, as part of the Bourbon reforms,[9] the southern territories of the Peru Viceroyalty were separated from it, and a new administrative and political unity was formed: the Rio de la Plata Viceroyalty, with its capital at Buenos Aires, and which included the mining territories of Alto Peru. The revolution and war again altered these colonial demarcations. By 1816, the map of the territories effectively under control of the revolutionary government was very different from the colonial one. The Alto Peruvian provinces (with its mining resources) were practically under exclusive royalist control since 1811. Nowadays, most of those territories are part of the Republic of Bolivia.   

Along with Pacheco de Melo, there were many men and women who had a  distinguished participation in the independence process of the United Provinces of South America. Those people felt part of the space that had been the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata and that constituted part of their identity. These circumstances allow us to think that after May 1810, the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata had an uncertain shape. The frontiers of the national states at the end of the nineteenth century were not in the mind or the horizon of those people. The result could have been different from what became the contemporary map of the Spanish speaking part of South America.    

Examining the lives of political figures in those times, and shedding the current map of South American republics, allows us to observe and study the richness of the process and the multiple paths that bifurcated during the Age of Revolutions.[10]


María Laura Mazzoni is Argentine and lives in Mar del Plata, province of Buenos Aires. She has a PhD in History, specializing in the history of the Catholic Church in Rio de la Plata, clergy and politics, Church hierarchy of the Bishopric of Cordoba, and ecclesiastical justice in the nineteenth century. She teaches Argentine History of the nineteenth century at the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, and she is an assistant researcher in CONICET (Argentine Council of Scientific and Technical Research). More information and links to recent publications: https://www.conicet.gov.ar/new_scp/detalle.php?keywords=Mar%C3%ADa+Maria+Laura+Mazzoni&id=33398&articulos=yes And on Academia: https://conicet.academia.edu/Mar%C3%ADaLauraMazzoni

Title image: Intendencia de Potosí, Pedro Vicente Cañete, 1787.

Further Readings:

Ayrolo, Valentina. Estudios Sobre Clero Iberoamericano, Entre La Independencia Y El Estado-Nación.  Salta: CEPIHA, 2006.

———. Funcionarios De Dios Y De La República. Clero Y Política En Las Autonomías Provinciales.  Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2007.

Ayrolo, Valentina, and María Elena Barral. “El Clero Rural, Sus Formas De Intervención Social Y Su Politización (Las Diócesis De Buenos Aires Y Córdoba En La Primera Mitad Del Siglo Xix).” Anuario de Estudios Americanos 69, No. 1 (2012): 139-67.

Ayrolo, Valentina, and Gabriela Caretta. “Oficiar Y Gobernar. Apuntes Sobre La Participación Política Del Clero Secular De Salta Y Córdoba En La Pos-Revolución.” Andes 14 (2003 2003): 105-30.

Ayrolo, Valentina, Ana Laura Lanteri, and Alejandro Morea. “Repensado La “Carrera De La Revolución”. Aportes a La Discusión Sobre Las Trayectorias Políticas Entre La Revolución Y La Confederación (Argentina. 1806-1861).” Estudios Históricos – CDHRP 7, No. III (2011).

Ayrolo, Valentina, and María Laura Mazzoni. “De Familiar a Obispo De Córdoba. La Trayectoria Política De Benito Lascano Como Ejemplo De Ascenso En La Carrera Eclesiástica, 1800-1836.” Anuario de la Escuela de Historia Virtual 4 (2013 2013): 35-56.

Connaughton, Brian. “El Cura Párroco Al Arribo Del Siglo Xix: El Interlocutor Interpelado.” In Religión Y Vida Cotidiana. El Historiador Frente a La Historia, edited by Alicia Mayer. México: UNAM, 2008.

Glave, Luis Miguel. “Un héroe fragmentado. El cura muñecas y la historiografía andina.” Andes 13 (2002).

Marchionni, Marcelo. Política Y Sociedad En Salta Y El Norte Argentino (1780-1850).  Salta: CONICET-ICSOH-Facultad de Humanidades, 2019.

Mazzoni, María Laura. Mandato Divino, Poder Terrenal. Administración Y Gobierno En La Diócesis De Córdoba Del Tucumán (1778-1836).  Rosario: Prohistoria ediciones, 2019.

Mazzoni, María Laura, and Fernando   Gómez. “Clero Y Política En La Rioja En Los Años Veinte Del Siglo Xix. El Teniente De Cura Melchor León De La Barra, De Revolucionario a ‘Reo De Alto Crimen’.” Almanack, No. 9 (2015).

Taylor, William. “La Iglesia Entre La Jerarquía Y La Religión Popular: Mensajes De La Zona De Contacto.” In Historia De América Latina, Vol. 1 La Época Colonial, edited by Brian Connaughton, 177-226. México: CCyDEL- UNAM, 2000.

———. Ministros De Lo Sagrado. Sacerdotes Y Feligreses En El México Del Siglo Xviii. II vols. Vol. I, México: El colegio de México y El colegio de Michoacán, 1999.

Thibaud, Clément. La Academia Carolina Y La Independencia De América. Los Abogados De Chuquisaca (1776-1809).  Sucre: Charcas-Archivo y Biblioteca Nacionales de Bolivia, 2010.

Endnotes:

[1] Brian Connaughton, “El Cura Párroco Al Arribo Del Siglo Xix: El Interlocutor Interpelado,” in Religión Y Vida Cotidiana. El Historiador Frente a La Historia, ed. Alicia Mayer (México: UNAM, 2008); William Taylor, Ministros De Lo Sagrado. Sacerdotes Y Feligreses En El México Del Siglo Xviii, vol. I (México: El colegio de México y El colegio de Michoacán, 1999); “La Iglesia Entre La Jerarquía Y La Religión Popular: Mensajes De La Zona De Contacto,” in Historia De América Latina, vol. 1 La Época Colonial, ed. Brian Connaughton(México: CCyDEL- UNAM, 2000).

[2] Valentina Ayrolo and Gabriela Caretta, “Oficiar Y Gobernar. Apuntes Sobre La Participación Política Del Clero Secular De Salta Y Córdoba En La Pos-Revolución,” Andes 14 (2003); Valentina Ayrolo, Funcionarios De Dios Y De La República. Clero Y Política En Las Autonomías Provinciales(Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2007); Estudios Sobre Clero Iberoamericano, Entre La Independencia Y El Estado-Nación(Salta: CEPIHA, 2006); Valentina Ayrolo and María Elena Barral, “El Clero Rural, Sus Formas De Intervención Social Y Su Politización (Las Diócesis De Buenos Aires Y Córdoba En La Primera Mitad Del Siglo Xix),” Anuario de Estudios Americanos 69, no. 1 (2012); Valentina Ayrolo and María Laura Mazzoni, “De Familiar a Obispo De Córdoba. La Trayectoria Política De Benito Lascano Como Ejemplo De Ascenso En La Carrera Eclesiástica, 1800-1836,” Anuario de la Escuela de Historia Virtual 4 (2013).

[3] Pierre Bourdieu, “Espacio Social Y Espacio Simbólico,” in Razones Prácticas. Sobre La Teoría De La Acción(Barcelona: Anagrama, 1985).

[4] Mario E. Videla Morón, Genealogía. Hombres Del Nueve De Julio(Buenos Aires1966).

[5] Fernando VII became King of Spain in March 1808 after his father Carlos IV was forced to abdicate to the throne as a consequence of the Aranjuez Revolt. By May 1808 french troops invaded the Peninsula and Fernando VII was imprisoned and obliged to abdicate by Napoleon who replaced him by his brother, José Bonaparte.

[6] Alto Perú was an area within the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata. Those territories are currently part of Bolivia. These lands, the southeast part of the Viceroyalty of Perú before the creation of the Río de la Plata viceroyalty in 1776, was also the highlands of these administrative districts (alto means high). In 1782 there were founded four Intendences as part of a reform. Those Intendences were: La Plata, which included the whole archbishopric of Charcas but Cochabamba and Potosí; Cochabamba, with the jurisdiction of Santa Cruz de la Sierra within it; La Paz, which covered the bishopric of La Paz and the provinces of Carabaya, Lampa y Azangaro; and Potosí, formed by Porco, Chayanta, Atacama, Lipes, Chichas and Tarija. 

[7] During 1820 and 1852 the United Provinces functioned as autonomous states linked among them in some periods by a lax confederation. For further knowledge: Chiaramonte, José Carlos “El federalismo argentino en la primera mitad del siglo XIX” In: Carmagnani, Marcello (coord.) Federalismos latinoamericanos: México, Brasil y Argentina. México: F.C.E, 1993.

[8] For a further reflection upon the methodological approach to historical biographies, see María Laura Mazzoni, Mandato Divino, Poder Terrenal. Administración Y Gobierno En La Diócesis De Córdoba Del Tucumán (1778-1836) (Rosario: Prohistoria ediciones, 2019).

[9] During the eighteenth century, after the Spanish War of Succession, the new french dynasty in the throne of Spanish Monarchy –the Bourbon- started a serie of reforms mainly on its American colonies in order to centralize the administrative and political structure of the Crown, reorganize the defense of its domains and reinforce the tax collection. The creation of new viceroyalties, such as the one of Río de la Plata, was part of those reforms. For further analysis on this topic see:  Jorge Gelman, Enrique Llopis, and Carlos Marichal, Iberoamérica Y España Antes De Las Independencias, 1700-1820:: Crecimiento, Reformas Y Crisis(El Colegio de Mexico AC, 2015); Jorge Gelman, “El Desempeño Económico De Hispanoamérica Durante El Siglo Xviii Y Las Reformas Borbónicas,” Cuadernos dieciochistas 20(2019); Horst Pietschmann, “Discursos Y Reformas Dieciochescas En El Mundo Ibérico,” La formación de la cultura virreinal 3(2006); Michel Bertrand and Zacarías Moutoukias, “Actores, Instituciones, Estado: La Fiscalidad Y Los Debates Historiográficos Sobre El Cambio Político,” Actores, instituciones, Estado: la fiscalidad y los debates historiográficos sobre el cambio político (2018).

[10] On a similar perspective I strongly suggest the article: Glave, Luis Miguel. “Un héroe fragmentado. El cura muñecas y la historiografia andina.” Andes 13 (2002).

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