Caudillo is a Spanish (caudilho in Portuguese) word usually used to designate "a political-military leader at the head of an authoritarian power." At the beginning this word was used to refer to military power: Indíbil and Mandonio, Viriato, Almanzor (sometimes in the modern historiography), (Don Pelayo) and other fighters of the Reconquista, even Bolivar, Franco, etc., but in Hispanoamerica has evolved other significance: the liberal caudillo lawyer and politician Jorge Eliécer Gaitán was named by the Colombian People like Caudillo proudly (Caudillo of The Colombian People) , (and other nuances with a significance mostly demagogic -accused by the right wing opposition and some landowners-) and even without state responsibilities like cacique in Spain and oligarquical-plutocratic power. It is usually translated into English as "leader" or "chief," or used on this language more pejoratively, warlord, "dictator" or "strongman". "Caudillo" was the term used to refer the charismatic populist leaders among the people.
The related caudillismo is a cultural phenomenon that first appeared during the early 19th century in revolutionary South America, as a type of militia leader with a charismatic personality and enough of a populist program of generic future reforms to gain broad sympathy, at least at the outset, among the common people. Effective caudillismo depends on a personality cult.
The root of caudillismo lies in Spanish colonial policy of supplementing small cadres of professional, full-time soldiers with large militia forces recruited from local populations to maintain public order. Militiamen held civilian occupations but assembled at regular times for drill and inspection. Their salary from the Crown was a token; their recompense was in prestige, primarily because of the fuero militar ("military privilege"), that exempted them from certain taxes and obligatory community work assignments (compare the feudal corvée), and more significantly, exempted them from criminal or civil prosecution. Away from colonial capitals, the militias were at the service of the criollo landowners.
In the upheavals of the decades of revolution and its aftermath, leaders who were able to draw to themselves bands of loyal followers and keep them well armed and otherwise well cared for could assume the title of "general." Caudillos began to attain this power in the course of the South American Wars of Independence, where the militias did much of the fighting and earned a heroic reputation. The caudillos used their small armed bands to overthrow the vulnerable newly independent states in South America. These caudillos were not always welcome, but they were not publicly condemned either. Some were large landowners (hacendados) who sought to secure their private interests, but more typically they began as vigilantes keeping the local peace for the hacienda, then gained independence of action and developed an anti-oligarchic public stance and finished by supporting an acquiescent establishment that included the Catholic Church.
A few examples of powerful Caudillos in the Americas during the early 1800s include Juan Manuel de Rosas and Juan Facundo Quiroga in Argentina, José Gervasio Artigas in Uruguay, Antonio López de Santa Anna in Mexico, José Rafael Carrera in Guatemala, and José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia, "El Supremo," in Paraguay. In Venezuela, a century of caudillismo was initiated with the 1848 coup of José Tadeo Monagas who ruled Venezuela in partnership with his brother, followed after the Federal War by the rule of Antonio Guzmán Blanco, but the tradition of caudillismo has lingered; after the coup by which the designated vice-president Juan Vicente Gómez overthrew the elected president, Gómez ruled Venezuela by his personal authority until his death.
Well-known later caudillos have included Gabriel García Moreno in Ecuador and Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. The strongman with a military following who controls political developments continues to be an unsettling factor in Latin American societies.
The Spanish ruler Francisco Franco used from 1936 the title "Caudillo de España, por la gracia de Dios", echoing (as usual at that time) the titles "Führer" and "Il Duce." English speakers are reluctant to use the term "caudillo," which they imagine must have pejorative connotations; in Spain, it resounded of the old warriors of history. The word had already been used for key men like the Cid Campeador and, in retrospect, Fernan Gonzalez, Viriathus. Similarly, António de Oliveira Salazar was called caudilho.
Franco's contemporary Juan Domingo Perón, however, had to fight the connotation of the uncultivated Argentinian caudillos of the 19th century. In spite of Peronism's nationalism, the Peronist press used the Anglicism líder (from English "leader"), and the term caudillo was only employed when context ensured it would not be misunderstand.
The death of Cirilo Vázquez, a cacique from Acayucan, Veracruz, made headlines in newspapers in Mexico and the United States. Nowadays some European and opposition press use the term to refer Hugo Chavez, compared with Eliecer Gaitan or Perón and for his military origin with Franco or Juan Vicente Gómez, and for his Bolivarian project with Simón Bolivar or George Washington.
Children of Facundo. Caudillo and Gaucho Insurgency during the Argentine State-Formation Process (La Rioja), 1853-1870. (Reviews).
Jun 22, 2002; Children of Facundo. Caudillo and Gaucho Insurgency during the Argentine State-Formation Process (La Rioja), 1853-1870. By...