British Southern Cone
by Y.D. Robinson
Argentina and Uruguay are much more developed and stable countries today than they have been in OTL. The fact is, the British have been able to make settler countries like Canada, the US, or Australia more developed in a way that other European powers wouldn't. This is in large part due to the English common law system, which spawned strong democratic values and relative freedom from political, business, and judicial corruption. Of course, much of the wealth initially came from the wheat and cattle of the Pampas starting in the late 19th century, and to a lesser extent from minerals along the border with Chile.
These countries today, are both Spanish- and English-speaking, locally known in English as hispanoparlant and angloparlant, respectively. (Argentina is about 55% angloparlant and 45% hispanoparlant, and Uruguay is 75% and 25%, respectively.) Think of how white South Africa speaks both Afrikaans and English, or how Canada speaks both French and English. (The British conquered both the Afrikaner homeland and French Canada.) In fact, Argentina (and Uruguay) serve as a bridge between the developed Western world and Latin America, much as South Africa serves as a link between the West and Africa.
Long before the British invaded the Southern Cone in 1806, it
already had a good history. First of all, even before the Spaniards came into
the area in the early 1500s, there had already been many Indian tribes, the most
advanced being the Inca civilization that stretched south to present-day north
Chile and northwest Argentina. Other tribes existed further south and east, like
the Charruas, Mapuche, and the Yahgans (on Fireland). This order started to be
disrupted when Juan Diaz de Solis discovered the River Plate in 1516, and
believed it would be a route to the Pacific and to silver mines further upstream
(hence "Plate" or "Plata", meaning silver). In 1536, Pedro
de Mendoza founded Buenos Aires, but subsequently, it succumbed to an Indian
attack; it was refounded in 1580 by Juan de Garay. Meanwhile, other cities had
been founded elsewhere in the region – for example, Mendoza, Santiago del
Estero, Santa Fe, and Cordova. For the first 250 years of Spanish colonization
there, life in the Cone east of the Andes was centred in present-day West and
Northwest Argentina rather than along the River Plate. In fact, the Cone was
merely an extension of the Viceroyalty of Peru.
In 1806, sensing that the Spanish colonies in South America would be freed from Spanish rule and that there were riches waiting, British soldiers under the initiative of Home Riggs Popham and the command of William Carr Beresford invaded Buenos Aires. At first, they beat the Criollos there, with the viceroy of La Plata, the Marquis of Sobremonte, having fled; but after 2-3 months, the Criollos got a new leader, Santiago de Liniers, to fight back the British. Eventually aware of this, the British sent an expeditionary force under the command of first Samuel Auchmuty and then John Whitelocke to reinforce the British soldiers already there.
First, they captured Montevideo in February 1807, under Auchmuty’s command. Then, on July 2 and 3 that year, with Whitelocke having taken command some months earlier, Buenos Aires was captured from the Criollos after a very fierce fight at the Corral de Miserere and then in the city centre. The victory was made possible because unlike in this world, Whitelocke garrisoned the 36th and 88th regiments of the British Army, which had been cooped up in ships for 9 or more months, and the 6th Dragoon Guards, with their awkward cavalry boots, in Montevideo. Instead, the 47th regiment, part of the 38th, and some of the 20th and 21st Light Dragoons, which were all more experienced, fought in Buenos Aires alongside all the other British soldiers present in Buenos Aires. That arrangement enabled the British army in the Buenos Aires area to remain more united and for the generals to communicate more easily, translating into more success on the field. (For more, see Fletcher, Ian, The Waters of Oblivion: The British Invasion of the Rio de la Plata, Turnbridge Wells: Spellmount Ltd., 1991, pp. 86-96.)
This way, the Viceroyalty of La Plata transferred to British rule, and was renamed the River Plate Colony, or the Plate Colony in short.
Meanwhile, other cities along the River Plate basin, such as Cordova, Rosario and Santa Fe, capitulated to the British after little to no fighting, and Whitelocke’s soldiers, especially in Robert Craufurd’s brigade, were about to cross the Andes or sail around the Straits of Magellan to capture Chile. However, they encountered Spanish resistance in Mendoza and other cities in the Cuyo, and even more so in cities to the north, like Salta, Tucuman, and various cities in Upper Peru (now Bolivia), plus those in and around present-day Paraguay. Therefore, the soldiers abandoned plans to go to Chile, and instead concentrated on those cities. These battles were led by the likes of Auchmuty and Craufurd, with Gower, Mahon, and Lumley playing important roles too, even as Whitelocke was the Plate Colony’s governor. Battles raged on over there between the British soldiers and the locals plus the Spaniards there between 1807 and 1812, known as the Anglo-Plate War (or the Plate War or the South American War). From 1807 to 1809, those took place mostly in the Pampas/Uruguay and in the Cordova and Cuyo regions; from 1809 to the end, the theatre of the war shifted to Upper Peru/Salta/Tucuman and Paraguay.
All the above battles from 1806 onwards were part of the Anglo-Spanish Wars fought around the world, in the context of the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800s. Just like in the Peninsular War in Spain and Portugal, so in the Plate Colony, most of the Spanish-speaking commoners supported the British and the deposed king of Spain (Ferdinand VII) against Joseph Bonaparte (Napoleon’s brother), who invaded Spain in 1808 and thereby weakened Spain’s ties to the Americas. Outside the Plate Colony, many of the Criollos supported Spain, while some supported the British. Except in Upper Peru and Paraguay, the British soldiers won within the Plate Colony, but in those two places, the Spanish forces gained victory; the decisive battle (at least for Upper Peru) was the Battle of Tucuman, in 1812. That cleared the way for the Congress of Vienna in 1814-15 to give Upper Peru and Paraguay back to Spain, but for the British to keep other parts of the Plate Colony. Once that was completed, there were lingering skirmishes from the Anglo-Plate War in Paraguay over access via the Parana River, and Paraguay gained independence in 1818 and again in 1824, resulting in an uneasy peace that lasted until the 1860s.
In the Plate Colony, the Plate Act was enacted in 1816, giving recognition and rights to Spanish language, culture, and religion, plus recognizing its borders. Elsewhere in South America, Simon Bolivar liberated Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador around 1819-1822, and came over to Peru in 1823. That was just after Jose de San Martin of Argentina, together with Bernardo O’Higgins of Chile, invaded Peru from the sea and liberated it after having set up a small army in Valparaiso, Chile, to sail from. Bolivar fought against the Spaniards until the independent forces gained control of Peru in 1824, after which it became independent. Down in Chile, the independence movement began in 1812; there as elsewhere, the Criollos had been united with the Spaniards against the British when the British first took over the River Plate, but gradually turned on the Spaniards starting in 1808 when they were less than happy with Spain’s takeover by Napoleon’s brother. San Martin and O’Higgins started out the struggle in Chile. Chile gained independence in 1817, 5½ years after the struggle started in earnest; Bolivia became independent in 1825. Since the British had more or less complete control over the South Atlantic, slavery was abolished in 1828 (five years before it happened in our world). The British have had military, political, economic, and cultural influence throughout South America; for example, they have mitigated or prevented wars that took place in our world, and they enabled Gran Colombia (Bolivar’s dream) to live five years longer than in OTL.
Within the Plate Colony, meanwhile, the two former intendencies of Cordoba (central and west Argentina) and Tucuman (north-central and northwest Argentina) had split off in 1826 from the Plate Colony to form one separate British colony, named Cordova; there, as today, it had a Spanish-speaking majority, much like French-speaking Quebec for Canada. Eight years later, the former intendency of Tucuman cleaved from Cordova; that was named Tucuman. In 1843, Cuyo split from Cordova; the following year, Salta split from Tucuman. In 1828, due partly to the actions of Ardleigh and other separatists and partly to Brazilian interventions, Uruguay also separated from the Plate Colony. The primary reason for these colonial separations (especially Cordova and Tucuman) was because starting around 1820, a big wave of immigration from the British Isles arrived on the Plate Colony’s shores, especially on either side of the River Plate, along the Parana River, and in the Pampas (some trickled into Cordova and, to a lesser extent, Tucuman). In addition, Entre Rios (now South Mesopotamia) and Corrientes (now North Mesopotamia) were created out of the Plate Colony in 1853, and New Lancashire (in our world, Santa Fe province) was split from the Plate Colony in 1858. For a brief time after the rebellions, the provinces of Salta, Tucuman, Cuyo, and Cordova were reunited, but then they went back their own ways.
Brazil continued to covet Uruguay even after it was lost to the British in 1828; it used any excuse to intervene in Uruguay. Thus, when Uruguay was in the throes of civil war between the British (many of whom wanted to remain in the British Empire) and the Spanish-speaking inhabitants (most of whom preferred being absorbed into Brazil) in 1843, Brazil intervened. Brazil also moved in when the Uruguayans, both British and Spanish, rebelled against direct British rule in 1851-52. In the colonies that were to become part of Argentina, the people also rebelled against the British authorities and demanded responsible government. Therefore, in the mid- to late-1850s, they (including Uruguay) got more self-government, and the two new colonies in Mesopotamia were created; after that, more territories were created over the years.
In 1864, Francisco Solano Perez, then the dictator of Paraguay, was hungry to flex his political muscles, and wanted to strengthen Paraguay and have access to the sea. Being angry at both Brazil and the British Empire, and seeing that Brazil intervened yet again in Uruguay in 1864, he waged war on what became known as the Double Alliance (Brazil and Britain, the latter through its Southern Cone colonies). At first, Lopez claimed victory, but eventually, the Double Alliance swiftly got rid of Lopez; Paraguay did not suffer as much from the war as in our world, and the war lasted until 1867. Afterwards, Brazilian troops occupied Paraguay until 1873, and some territory was given over from Paraguay to Brazil and to the Missions Territory, which was occupied variously by North Mesopotamia and by Paraguay until 1869, in present-day Argentina. The Chaco Territory was also taken from Paraguay, in 1870.
Meanwhile, the first railway in the Southern Cone opened in 1837, with a lot more rail lines being developed by 1845-1850. An extensive rail network took form in what are now Argentina and Uruguay by the early 1860s. As a result, general settlement of the land took place 20 years earlier than in OTL, and the rail network became even more extensive than in our world, no matter how much so it was in our world. Also, refrigerated railcars first emerged slightly earlier than in our world, around 1870.
Starting around 1850, the British Southern Cone received Germans, Scandinavians, Swiss, Italians, and Spaniards, among other groups, as well as the British and Irish. In 1876, the idea of a Confederation of the British colonies in the Cone was seriously discussed at the Tucuman Conference; this idea became further discussed at the Parana Conference one year later. Previously unsettled, Patagonia east of Chile became opened up in 1868, with the creation of the Patagonia Territory. Until then, Patagonia had been sort of a part of the Plate Colony. Finally, on October 12, 1880, the idea of Confederation bore fruit, under the British South America Act, becoming a British dominion. Uruguay, though, declined to join (cf. New Zealand vis-à-vis Australia in 1901) because of a past of Brazilian intervention and all its effects – and it would serve as a buffer between Brazil and the new Argentine Confederation.
Julius Rock, one of the Fathers of Confederation, became the first prime minister of Argentina. At this point, the region began receiving immigrants from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia; immigration from Southern Europe (especially Spain and Italy) increased a lot. Over the next several decades, there was a general upswing in agricultural and industrial development as meat, hides, and wheat were being shipped on a large scale to Europe and the United States, and the cities boomed with people moving in from the countryside and abroad. This was Argentina’s coming of age. In 1882, it was decided to move the capital from Buenos Aires to a site just south of the city of Santa Fe called Wilsonton; construction of the Parliament was completed three years later.
The Patagonia Territory split up in 1884 into individual territories that are now provinces, with the exception of Fireland and the Falklands (the latter two were separate territories until 1892, when they joined together). The Falklands had been a separate British colony up until then; it was taken back by the British in 1807 along with the rest of the former Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata, was resettled in 1816, and became its own British colony in 1833.
Throughout much of the 1880s and 1890s, Cecil Rhodes of South Africa planned for a Cape-Plate steamship route, and also a Cape-Plate telegraph line, alongside his plans for a Cape-Cairo railroad and a Cape-Cairo road, in order to cement a British colonial link along the South Atlantic Ocean as well as within Africa. He was able to complete the former two more than the latter two, as only the Atlantic separates the Cape from the Plate, while between the Cape and Cairo, there were numerous countries that had non-British colonial claims, and the terrain and climate were often hostile. From 1899 to 1902, both the Dominion of Argentina and the colony of Uruguay joined soldiers from other parts of the British Empire to fight on the British side of South Africa’s Boer War, though the Spanish-speakers were opposed to the effort.
On March 1, 1903, Uruguay became a British dominion, with the prime minister from then until 1911, and again from 1916 to 1919, being Joseph Batshaw. He turned Uruguay into a welfare state, providing its citizens with free cradle-to-grave benefits; over the course of his premiership (and that of Clarence Williman between 1911 and 1916), women’s suffrage was established, the Catholic and Anglican Churches were disestablished, and the death penalty was abolished. During World War I, the Dominions of Argentina and Uruguay both sent soldiers to fight on the side of the British; there were many casualties from both countries. As more soldiers were being recruited, the hispanoparlants opposed conscription, such that in 1916-17, there was widespread rioting in many cities across the region on the part of hispanoparlants.
After that, Argentina and Uruguay continued to develop and to receive more immigrants; Buenos Aires was fast becoming an equivalent to London, Paris, and New York on the world stage. At the same time, Argentina started to flex its power, economic and military, in much of South America.
The Great Depression hit the Southern Cone very hard from 1929 to 1935; the respective prime ministers of Argentina and Uruguay from 1931 to 1938, Austin Judson and Gabriel Ternham, implemented public works programs, similar to America’s New Deal, to alleviate the situation. Also in 1931, the Statute of Westminster granted Argentina and Uruguay independence from Britain, along with the dominions of Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland, but they would belong to the Commonwealth of Nations. Just like much of the rest of the world, the Southern Cone became increasingly xenophobic and anti-Semitic, in the wake of the Nazi regime emerging in Germany; they severely limited immigration during the 1930s and early 1940s. In World War II, just like in World War I, the two countries fought on Britain’s side, and their armed forces suffered many casualties in the battlefields overseas. German U-boats (submarines) prowled the waters off Argentina and Uruguay as well as in the rest of the Atlantic, to attack shipping between the Southern Cone and Britain; the German warship Graf Spree was scuttled not in Montevideo but on the Chilean side of the Straits of Magellan. Nazi war criminals from Germany who wound up in Argentina (or Uruguay) in our world, lived instead in such countries as Chile.
After World War II, economic growth and immigration picked up again, just like in North America and Australia; this lasted for 2-3 decades. At this point, there was a baby boom going on as returning soldiers started new lives; suburbs sprouted on a big scale, with emphasis on homeownership. Uruguay and, above all, Argentina came of age in international relations and played much more prominent roles there. Argentina, in particular, was seen as a middle-level peacemaking player (cf. Canada), as in a middle power, and was regarded as the number one economic, political, and military power in Latin America, despite Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia having more people (cf. Japan in Asia). Nonetheless, all that was not enough for the two countries; Argentina and Uruguay became republics in 1956 and 1967, respectively.
A desire for Argentina to separate itself more from the United Kingdom, plus pressure from the hispanoparlants, led to a referendum on September 21, 1955, where 61% voted in favour of a republic, 37% voted against, and 2% were undecided. Hence, on April 23, 1956, Argentina became a republic with a ceremonial president at first; when the president gained executive powers in 1976, the position of prime minister was abolished. That same year, Spanish was made an official language alongside English. All this lead to a secularization of Spanish-speaking life in the north and west, where previously the Catholic Church had been in control of education, marriage, and things of that nature (cf. Quebec’s Quiet Revolution). More and more of the corporate world started to be run by hispanoparlants, where previously it had been almost entirely angloparlants who would be in charge of the economy.
This, in turn, lead to a separatist movement for Spanish-Argentines to demand their own state (or to join with Chile or Bolivia) in many parts of the west and north (including Cordova, Cuyo, Salta, etc.) where the majority is hispanoparlant. The separatist movement would turn violent in the late 1960s and the 1970s; they attacked mostly angloparlant businesses and wealthy families in hispanoparlant areas, but also in Buenos Aires. Here, there were three prominent groups, all leftist in orientation. The most important group was the Ejercito Revolucionario del Occidente/Western Revolutionary Army (ERO) – the military wing of the Partido Revolucionario Andino/Andine Revolutionary Party (PRA), advocating for an independent state in western Argentina formally to be called the Andine Republic of Western Argentina. Other groups included the Montoneros (officially, the Montonero Hispanic Movement), who campaigned for an independent state of all hispanoparlant areas of Argentina; and the Fuerzas Armadas del Noroeste/Northwest Armed Forces (FAN), which wanted to join Salta and Tucuman provinces to Bolivia. There were also some people in Cuyo province who have wanted to join with Chile with peaceful means; after all, it had been a part of the Chilean intendency until 1776, when the La Plata Viceroyalty was formed. Just to enumerate the highest-profile incidents, in 1974, a prominent former foreign minister was assassinated, and in 1975 for five days, there were emergency measures enacted in order to arrest hispanoparlant terrorists. On June 14, 1982, there was a referendum for sovereignty in the hispanoparlant areas of Argentina; that was rejected 57% to 41%.
A parallel phenomenon unfolded in Uruguay, though with very important differences. First of all, from 1962 to 1973, terrorists associated with the Spanish-Uruguayan separatist movement seeking self-government or independence wreaked havoc on occasion, the largest group being the Tupamaros, or the Hispanic Liberation Movement. In 1968 and again in 1973, there were brief states of emergency to arrest Tupamaro members. Around this time, on February 15, 1967, Uruguay became a republic (with a president as well as prime minister), for much of the same reasons as in Argentina, except that in Uruguay, they were more cautious of such separation from Britain than Argentina was; there was a new constitution in place. In 1984, a referendum for more Spanish-speaking autonomy passed, and the following year, an autonomous region in much of the north and east (officially called the Autonomous Region of Upper Uruguay) was created, with Rivera as the main administrative centre.
Over the past two decades, both countries have been doing pretty well, though they have a few mild recessions to deal with. The economy gradually recovered through the 1980s. Since there was no Falklands War in 1982 like there was in our world, there was no Condor II missile being developed in the 1980s. Buenos Aires endured the bombing of the Israeli consulate in 1992, as well as a smaller bombing of one of the main Jewish community centres two years later. Also in 1992, they joined the Southern Common Market, along with Brazil and Paraguay (Bolivia and Chile are associate members). In late 2004, the Southern Common Market joined with the Andean Community to form the South American Community of Nations