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Juan Lavalle.

Juan Galo Lavalle (October 17, 1797 – October 9, 1841) was an Argentine military and political figure.


Lavalle was born in Buenos Aires to María Mercedes González Bordallo and Manuel José de La Valle y Cortés, general accountant of rents and tobacco for the Viceroyalty of the River Plate.

In 1799, the family moved to Santiago de Chile, to return to Buenos Aires in 1807. In 1812 he joined the Grenadiers' mounted regiment as a cadet, spelling his surname as Lavalle, supposedly to minimize his Spanish origin, something common among young patriots of those days.

Lavalle reached the grade of lieutenant in 1813, and moved to the army that, under the orders of Carlos María de Alvear, besieged Montevideo. He also fought José Gervasio Artigas in 1815, and the Battle of Guayabos under the command of Manuel Dorrego. A year later he moved to Mendoza to join the Army of the Andes of "liberator" José de San Martín, to fight in Chacabuco and Maipú. He continued with San Martín on his way to Peru and Ecuador, and took part in the battles of Pichincha and the Ríobamba, after which he became known as the Hero of Ríobamba.

Because of disagreements with Simón Bolívar, Lavalle returned to Buenos Aires by the end of 1823. He would later govern Mendoza Province for a short time. He then fought in the war against Brazil in command of 1,200 cavalry, with great episodes of valour in the battles of Bacacay and Ituzaingó in February 1827, beating the forces of General Abreu and being himself proclaimed General on the field of battle itself. (Lavalle's bravery at Ituzaingó made him a legend.)

Back in Buenos Aires, Lavalle organised the Unitarian revolution of December 1 1828, after which he was chosen governor of Buenos Aires Province. One of his unfortunate decisions was to execute former governor Manuel Dorrego, which ignited a civil war. After the Convention of Barracas agreement with Juan Manuel de Rosas, he retired to the Banda Oriental (nowadays Uruguay).

In 1839, with support from exiled objectors to Rosas' government, he arrived in Entre Ríos Province and advanced towards Buenos Aires in order to overthrow Rosas.

Rosas however had gathered 17,000 men to face them and Lavalle, with barely 1,100, decided to withdraw northwards to Santa Fe Province, in September 1840. Persecuted, his troops suffered constant attacks and Lavalle was forced to move further north, being accidentally shot by a Montonera detachment which spread-shot a reputed Unitarian's house, not realising that Juan Lavalle, the very chief of the Unitarians, was staying there. This was in 1841 in San Salvador de Jujuy.

Afraid that his body would be desecrated by the Federales, his followers fled to Bolivia carrying Lavalle's decomposing remains with them. Hurrying over the Humahuaca pass, they were finally obliged to strip the skeleton by boiling it and, after burying the flesh in an unmarked grave, carried off the bones, which is what is today buried at the La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

A statue of the general standing on top of a long, slender column, commemorates the figure of Lavalle at Plaza Lavalle in Buenos Aires.


The classic source on Lavalle is the famous History of Argentina by Vicente Fidel López. See also Ernesto Sábato's Sobre héroes y tumbas.

External links

Preceded by
José Albino Gutierrez
Governor of Mendoza
Succeeded by
Juan de Dios Correas
Preceded by
Manuel Dorrego
Governor of Buenos Aires Province
1828 – 1829
Succeeded by
Juan José Viamonte


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