Beyond the growing shocks it faces, The solidity that the Spanish Empire continues to show in the midst of the Napoleonic storm is striking. It has tolerated almost total isolation between the metropolis and the colonies since 1805, after the Battle of Trafalgar. It also resisted the French invasion of the peninsular territory in 1808. Apart from a few isolated movements, the colonies agreed to transfer their obedience from the captive king to the central council of Seville, to which they swore allegiance. The Empire endures as Spain wages its War of Independence against Napoleonic forces.
But everything has a limit. At the beginning of 1810 the French armies advanced on Andalusia, swept away the resistance of the Spaniards and the Central Council of Seville was forced to dissolve. This desperate Spain can only raise a last symbol of sovereignty in Cadiz, where it establishes a tiny Council of Regency. Spain is, from this moment, a metropolis without territory and without government. The center of the Empire has just disintegrated. The impact that this grim news will have, when it reaches America, will be profound. Profound, but not terminal, as the Empire still has room for resistance. The viceroyalty of Peru will maintain its fidelity to Spain unshakable, although it owes it to that tiny authority which is the Council of Regency. In the viceroyalty of Mexico there will be a revolutionary attempt which will be quickly crushed. The Spanish possessions in the Caribbean will never ride the revolutionary wave. Only in the peripheral areas of South America: the new viceroyalties of New Granada and the Río de la Plata, and the captaincies of Chile and Venezuela, would lasting and coherent rebel movements break out. . And, as we will soon see, even in territories where Revolution pierces quickly, the opposing forces will also be strongand they will oppose him with great resistance.
“The revolutionary process that began in 1810 did not meet with unanimous approval. There are entire regions that oppose him.”
In other words: the revolutionary process that began in 1810 did not meet with unanimous. There are entire regions that oppose him. And in the regions which yield to the rebel movements, it can happen that a good part of the population remains hostile to these movements. We do not even find a solid consensus within the regions and social groups that join the Revolution. Among the revolutionaries there are also countless differences, in terms of objectives, methods, behaviors, interests and motivations. It is, in short, a process marked by extreme diversity.
What we say of the Hispano-American revolutions in general, we also say of the may revolution in Buenos Aires in particular. What are these men looking for who, in May 1810, when news of the fall of the Central Council of Seville spread through the city, seized power from Viceroy Cisneros and formed a local government? We don’t have a single answer to this question.
Not everyone is looking for the same thing. And moreover, once implemented, they will lead to innumerable consequences that they get out of control. To begin with, the revolutionary process ends up stretching much longer than they would have liked. And, after years, the point of arrival of this adventure, far from satisfying them, will have led them to another very far from that to which they intended to arrive.
“Viceregal power is not inherited: it explodes. This bursting power multiplies, and its shockwave shakes and backfires on whoever blasted it first.
More: the men who, in 1810, shook the now fragile tree of the Spanish Empire in the viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata they assume that authority will fall obediently into their hands. These men of the elite of Buenos Aires imagine themselves inheriting the power of the viceroyalty and exercising it peacefully over the immense territory of the former viceroyalty. Completing their fantasy, they expect that the regions that make up this viceroyalty will be limited to obey them. And once freed from the annoying tutelage of Spain, and the absurd corset of its commercial monopoly, they will be able to devote themselves to the happy task of increasing their economic and social prosperity.
The moment they realize the depth of their error, they will have unleashed forces totally beyond their control. Because viceregal power cannot be inherited: explode. That goddamn power multiplies, and its shockwave shakes and backfires on those who struck it down first.
This conflict which the revolutionaries of May imagined limited, minimal, almost surgical, multiplies in increasingly numerous, simultaneous and multiple confrontations. The colonies against the metropolis, the cities of the interior against the capital, the Americans against the peninsulars, the secondary cities against the main ones, the unitaries against the federals, the federals against the federals. And this without alluding to an even deeper nightmare: that the Revolution awaken the social demands of the common people, Indians and slaves.
sin of naive who, in May 1810, initiated a movement to force Viceroy Cisneros to resign from office? Do they simply do “what the play calls for”, imitating what other subjects of Ferdinand VII have already done, in the Peninsula, forming juntas until the king can return, without any encouragement than this retroversion of sovereignty is something definitive?