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Belligerents  Argentina

Lautaro flag.svg Mapuche tribes

Commanders and leaders Julio Argentino Roca
Conrado Villegas Manuel Namuncurá

The Conquest of the Desert (Spanish: Conquista del desierto) was an Argentine military campaign directed mainly by General Julio Argentino Roca in the 1870s with the intention of establishing dominance over the Patagonian Desert, inhabited primarily by indigenous peoples. Under General Roca, the Conquest of the Desert extended Argentine power into Patagonia and ended the possibility of Chilean expansion there.

Argentine troops killed more than 1,000 Mapuche and displaced over 15,000 more from their traditional lands. White settlers moved in and developed the lands through irrigation for agriculture, turning the territory into a breadbasket that made Argentina an agricultural superpower in the early 20th century.[1][2] The conquest was paralleled by a similar campaign in Chile called the Pacification of Araucanía.

The Conquest is highly controversial. Apologists describe it as a civilising mission, while revisionists label it a genocide.

At the end of 1878 he started the first sweep to "clean" the area between the Alsina trench and the Negro river by continuous and systematic attacks on the Indian settlements. On 6 December 1878, elements of the Puán Division under Colonel Teodoro García clashed with a native war party at the Lihué Calel heights. In a brief but hard fought battle, 50 Indians were killed, 270 captured, and 33 settlers were freed.[7]

Numerous armed encounters would follow, until by December 1878, over 4,000 Indians had been captured and 400 killed, 150 settlers freed, and 15,000 head of cattle recovered.Numerous armed encounters would follow, until by December 1878, over 4,000 Indians had been captured and 400 killed, 150 settlers freed, and 15,000 head of cattle recovered.[7]

With 6,000 soldiers armed with new breech-loading Remington rifles, in 1879 General Roca began the second sweep, reaching Choele Choel in two months, after killing 1,313 Indians and capturing over 15,000.[1] From other points, southbound companies made their way down to the Negro River and the Neuquén River, a northern tributary of the Negro River. Together, both rivers marked the natural frontier from the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean.[8] This attack led to a large migration of Mapuche into the zone around Curarrehue and Pucón, Chile.

Many European-Argentinian settlements were built on the basin of these two rivers, as well as a number on the Colorado River. By sea, some settlements were erected on the southern basin of the Chubut River, mainly by Welsh colonists at y Wladfa.

Roca was elected and followed Nicolás Avellaneda as president. He thought it was imperative to conquer the territory south of the Negro River as soon as possible, and ordered the 1881 campaign under command of Colonel Conrado Villegas.

Within a year Villegas conquered the Neuquén Province (he reached the Limay River). The campaign continued to push the Indian resistance further south, to fight the last battle on October 18, 1884. The last rebel group,

Within a year Villegas conquered the Neuquén Province (he reached the Limay River). The campaign continued to push the Indian resistance further south, to fight the last battle on October 18, 1884. The last rebel group, with more than 3,000 warriors under the command of chieftains Inacayal and Foyel, surrendered two months later in present Chubut Province.

In the 1880s the Argentine advances effectively disrupted Chileans and German Chilean trade with indigenous communities east of the Andes. This meant the leather merchants in Southern Chile had to cross the Andes and establish livestock operations. As a result a number of Chilean-owned companies were established in Argentina. They imported workers from Chile, mostly people from Chiloé Archipelago.[9] It was in this context that German Chilean Carlos Weiderhold established the trading post and shop La Alemana in 1895, from which the city of Bariloche developed.[9]

To counteract the Argentine conquest of Patagonia, the Chileans supplied arms, ammunition and horses to their Indian Mapuche allies.[10] On 16 January 1883, a 10-man section of a platoon of the Argentine Army in pursuit of a large Indian war party, ran into an ambush in the Pulmarí Valley set up by Chilean soldiers. In the engagement that followed, Argentine Captain Emilio Crouzeilles, along with Lieutenant Nicolas Lazcano and several privates, were killed.[11]

On 17 February 1883, Lieutenant-Colonel Juan Díaz, at the head of a 16-man Argentine infantry detachment, was trailing a war party of 100 to 150 Indians. Upon reaching Pulmarí Valley, they were surrounded by the Indians and around 50 Chilean soldiers. Much outnumbered, the Argentine soldiers skillfully outfought their attack

On 17 February 1883, Lieutenant-Colonel Juan Díaz, at the head of a 16-man Argentine infantry detachment, was trailing a war party of 100 to 150 Indians. Upon reaching Pulmarí Valley, they were surrounded by the Indians and around 50 Chilean soldiers. Much outnumbered, the Argentine soldiers skillfully outfought their attackers, including a bayonet charge mounted by the Chilean detachment.[12] On 21 February 1883, according to Argentine Army Major Manuel Prado, 150-200 Indians armed with Winchesters and Martini–Henry rifles attacked an Argentine Army detachment operating on the Argentine-Chilean border. In a four-hour engagement killed or wounded 22 Argentine soldiers at a cost of some 100 warriors.[citation needed]

Historian Jens Andermann has noted that contemporary sources on the campaign conclude that the Conquest was intended by the Argentine government to exterminate the indigenous tribes, and can be classified as genocide.[13] First-hand accounts state that Argentine troops killed prisoners and committed "mass executions".[13] The 15,000 Indians taken captive "became servants or prisoners and were prevented from having children."[1][2]

Apologists perceive the campaign as intending to conquer specifically those groups of Indians who refused to submit to Argentine law and frequently carried out brutal attacks on frontier civilian settlements.[14] In these attacks, Indians stole many horses and cattle, killed men defending their livestock, and captured women and children to become the slaves and/or forced brides of Indian warriors.[15][16]

The Guardian alleged in 2011 that two education officials lost their jobs due to the controversy over the Conquest of the Desert: It reported that Juan José Cresto was forced to resign as a director of the Argentine National Historical Museum because he "said the Indians were violent parasites who attacked farms and kidnapped women"[2] and Beatriz Horn, a history teacher in La Pampa Province, was fired for "telling a radio station that Roca deserved praise for putting Indians to flight and opening Argentina's frontier to European settlers."[2] Argentine news sources, however, report Juan José Cresto lost his job for being abusive and violent towards employees[17] and Beatriz Horn was fired primarily due to her praise for the military dictator Leopoldo Galtieri.[18]

In recent years, Mapuche rights groups and other activist organizations have criticised the representation of Roca in official state imagery. In 2012, the administration of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner replaced Roca's image on the 100-peso note with a portrait of Eva Perón.[19] A statue of Roca in the civic center of Bariloche is a frequent site for protests and graffiti by local Amerindian rights organizations.[20][21][22]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c The Argentine Military and the Boundary Dispute With Chile, 1870-1902, George V. Rauch, p. 47, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999
  2. ^ a b c d Carroll, Rory (13 January 2011). "Argentinian founding father recast as genocidal murderer". [14] In these attacks, Indians stole many horses and cattle, killed men defending their livestock, and captured women and children to become the slaves and/or forced brides of Indian warriors.[15][16]

    The Guardian alleged in 2011 that two education officials lost their jobs due to the controversy over the Conquest of the Desert: It reported that Juan José Cresto was forced to resign as a director of the Argentine National Historical Museum because he "said the Indians were violent parasites who attacked farms and kidnapped women"[2] and Beatriz Horn, a history teacher in La Pampa Province, was fired for "telling a radio station that Roca deserved praise for putting Indians to flight and opening Argentina's frontier to European settlers."[2] Argentine news sources, however, report Juan José Cresto lost his job for being abusive and violent towards employees[17] and Beatriz Horn was fired primarily due to her praise for the military dictator Leopoldo Galtieri.[18]

    In recent years, Mapuche rights groups and other activist organizations have criticised the representation of Roca in official state imagery. In 2012, the administration of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner replaced Roca's image on the 100-peso note with a portrait of Eva Perón.[19] A statue of Roca in the civic center of Bariloche is a frequent site for protests and graffiti by local Amerindian rights organizations.[20][21][22]