Julio Argentino Roca

For the son of the President, see Julio Argentino Pascual Roca.
Julio Argentino Roca
9th and 14th President of Argentina
In office
October 12, 1898  October 11, 1904
Vice President Norberto Quirno Costa
Preceded by José E. Uriburu
Succeeded by Manuel Quintana
In office
October 12, 1880  October 11, 1886
Vice President Francisco Bernabé Madero
Preceded by Nicolás Avellaneda
Succeeded by Miguel Juárez
Minister of the Interior
In office
August 6, 1890  May 1, 1891
President Carlos Pellegrini
Preceded by Salustiano Zavalía
Succeeded by José Vicente Zapata
Minister of War and the Navy
In office
January 4, 1878  October 9, 1879
President Nicolás Avellaneda
Preceded by Adolfo Alsina
Succeeded by Carlos Pellegrini
Personal details
Born (1843-07-17)July 17, 1843
San Miguel de Tucumán
Died October 19, 1914(1914-10-19) (aged 71)
Buenos Aires
Political party National Autonomist
Spouse(s) Clara Funes
Children Julio Argentino
María Marcela
Parents José Segundo Roca
Agustina Paz
Military service
Allegiance  Argentina
Service/branch Argentine Army
Rank Lieutenant General

Alejo Julio Argentino Roca Paz (July 17, 1843 October 19, 1914) was an army general who served as President of Argentina from 12 October 1880 to 12 October 1886 and again from 12 October 1898 to 12 October 1904.

Upbringing and early career

Julio Roca was born in the northwestern city of San Miguel de Tucumán in 1843 into a prominent local family. He graduated from the National College in Concepción del Uruguay, Entre Ríos. Before he was 15, Roca joined the army of the Argentine Confederation, on 19 March 1858. While still an adolescent, he went to fight as a junior artillery officer in the struggle between Buenos Aires and the interior provinces, first on the side of the provinces and later on behalf of the capital. He also fought in the War of the Triple Alliance against Paraguay between 1865 and 1870. Roca rose to the rank of colonel serving in the war to suppress the revolt of Ricardo López Jordán in Entre Ríos. President Nicolás Avellaneda later promoted him to General after his victory over rebel general José M. Arredondo in the battle of Santa Rosa, leading the loyalist forces.

Political beginnings

In 1878, during Avellaneda's presidency, he became Minister of War and it was his task to prepare a campaign that would bring an end to the "frontier problem" after the failure of the plan of Adolfo Alsina (his predecessor). The Indians frequently assaulted frontier settlements and stole horses and cattle, and the captured women and children were enslaved or offered as brides to the warriors.[1][2] Roca's approach to dealing with the Indian communities of the Pampas, however, was completely different from Alsina's, who had ordered the construction of a ditch and a defensive line of small fortresses across the Province of Buenos Aires. Roca saw no way to end native attacks (malones) but by putting under effective government control all land up to the Río Negro in a campaign (known as the Conquest of the Desert) that would "extinguish, subdue or expel" the Indians who inhabited there. This land conquest would also strengthen Argentina's strategic position against Chile.

He devised a "tentacle" move, with waves of 6,000 men cavalry units stemming coordinately from Mendoza, Córdoba, Santa Fé and Buenos Aires in July 1878 and April 1879 respectively, with an official toll of nearly 1,313 Native Americans killed and 15,000 taken as prisoners,[3] and is credited with the liberation of several hundred European hostages.[4]

First presidency

In mid-1879, after the death of Alsina, the most prestigious character of the National Autonomous Party was General Roca, which was proposed as a candidate by Cordoba's governor Miguel Celman, and in Buenos Aires by the doctor Eduardo Wilde; quickly gained the support of most of the Argentine state governors. The April 11 elections for president, which came a sweeping victory for the voters of Roca, except in Buenos Aires and Corrientes. On June 13 the Electoral College met and elected President General Roca and Vice President Francisco Bernabé Madero. But in Buenos Aires it was brewing a revolution against the triumph of Roca. Four days later the fighting began, which ended on June 25 with an agreement between the province and the nation; the revolution of 1880 had cost 3,000 dead. Shortly before the presidential inauguration Roca was passed in Congress federalization of Buenos Aires. Under his mandate the so-called "laicist laws" (Leyes Laicas) were passed, which nationalized a series of functions that previously were under the control of the Church. He also created the so-called Registro Civil, an index of all births, deaths and marriages. President Roca also made primary education free of charge by nationalizing education institutions run by the Church. This led to a break in relations with the Vatican. Under Roca's rule the economy became state controlled and he presided over an era of rapid economic development fueled by large scale European immigration, railway construction, and agricultural exports. However, financial speculation and government corruption marred his administration. In May 1886 Roca was the subject of a failed assassination attempt.

Continuing political involvement

Roca did not participate in the 1890 revolution, which was instigated by Leandro N. Alem and Bartolomé Mitre (Unión Cívica, later Unión Cívica Radical). However, he was pleased in the resulting weakness of Miguel Juárez Celman. Roca himself had put forward Juárez Celman as his successor, who also happened to be his brother-in-law. However, Celman distanced himself from Roca and reprivatized large sectors of the economy in a corrupt fashion.

After his first presidency Roca became a senator and Minister of the Interior under Carlos Pellegrini. After President Luis Sáenz Peña resigned in January 1895, José Evaristo Uriburu took over the presidency, during which Roca was President of the Senate. Because of this, Roca again assumed the duties of President between 28 October 1895 and 8 February 1896, when Uriburu was ill.

Second presidency

In the middle of 1897 the Partido Autonomista Nacional party put forward Roca as a presidential candidate once more. Unopposed, he was able to begin a second regular time in office on 12 October 1898. During his second presidency, the Ley de Residencia law was passed, which made it possible to expel Argentina's trade union leaders. During this presidency military service was introduced in 1901 and a border dispute with Chile was settled in 1902. Luis Drago, Roca’s foreign minister, articulated the Drago Doctrine of 1902 asserting that foreign powers could not collect public debts from sovereign American states by armed force or occupation of territory. Roca's second term ended in 1904.

Later years

In 1912 Roca was appointed as Special Ambassador of Argentina to Brazil by President Roque Sáenz Peña. Roca returned to Argentina in 1914 and died in Buenos Aires on October 19, 1914. His son, Julio Argentino Roca, Jr., became vice-president of Argentina in 1932-1938. Julio Argentino Roca was buried in La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

In recent years, there has some re-evaluation of Roca's involvement in the Conquest of the Desert, with some groups claiming that he should be regarded as guilty of a form of genocide against the Indians[5][6]


See also


  1. Argentina: Countries of the World, Erika Wittekind, p. 67, ABDO, 01/09/2011
  2. Captive Women: Oblivion And Memory In Argentina, Susana Rotker, p.32, University of Minnesota Press, 04/12/2002
  3. The Argentine Military and the Boundary Dispute With Chile, 1870-1902, George V. Rauch, p. 47, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999
  4. Twigs of a Tree a Family Tale: From a Priest Defrocked by the French Revolution to English Pioneering on the Pampas, Lin Widmann, p.164, AuthorHouse, 23/04/2012
  5. Rory Carroll, “Argentinian founding father recast as genocidal murderer”, The Guardian, 13 January 2011
  6. Philip McCouat, "Art and Survival in Patagonia", Journal of Art in Society, http://www.artinsociety.com

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Julio Argentino Roca.
Political offices
Preceded by
Nicolás Avellaneda
President of Argentina
Succeeded by
Miguel Juárez Celman
Preceded by
José E. Uriburu
President of Argentina
Succeeded by
Manuel Quintana
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