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caudillo(kôdēl`yō Span. kouthē`yō), [Span.,= military strongman], type of South American political leader that arose with the 19th-century wars of independence. The first caudillos were often generals who, leading private armies, used their military might to achieve power in the newly independent states. Many were large landowners (hacendados) who sought to advance their private interests. They had in common military skill and a personal magnetism capable of commanding the allegiance of the masses. Caudillos were not associated with particular ideologies or political philosophies. Although they often began their career by opposing the oligarchy, they almost invariably became oligarchs and rarely upset the existing social order. In power, their authority was largely unchecked. Caudillos, or caudilhos in Portuguese-speaking Brazil, left their mark on the histories of all South American nations. Well-known caudillos were Juan Manuel de RosasRosas, Juan Manuel de
, 1793–1877, Argentine dictator, governor of Buenos Aires prov. (1829–32, 1835–52). As a boy he served under Jacques de Liniers against the British invaders of the Rio de la Plata (1806–7).
..... Click the link for more information. and Juan Facundo QuirogaQuiroga, Juan Facundo
, 1790–1835, Argentine caudillo. One of the most brutal of the early gaucho chieftains, he was called el tigre de los llanos (the tiger of the plains).
..... Click the link for more information. in Argentina, Gabriel García MorenoGarcía Moreno, Gabriel
, 1821–75, president of Ecuador (1861–65, 1869–75), b. Guayaquil. A conservative with deep religious convictions, he gradually came to believe that Ecuadorans could only be united as a nation through their common Roman Catholic
..... Click the link for more information. in Ecuador, Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana and Porfirio DíazDíaz, Porfirio
, 1830–1915, Mexican statesman, a mestizo, christened José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz. He gained prominence by supporting Benito Juárez and the liberals in the War of the Reform and in the war against Emperor Maximilian and the
..... Click the link for more information. in Mexico, and Rafael Leonidas Trujillo MolinaTrujillo Molina, Rafael Leonidas
, 1891–1961, president of the Dominican Republic (1930–38, 1942–52). Trained by U.S. marines during U.S. occupation of the country, he was army chief in the presidency of Horacio Vásquez, whom he ousted in 1930.
..... Click the link for more information. in the Dominican Republic. In Spain, General Francisco FrancoFranco, Francisco
, 1892–1975, Spanish general and caudillo [leader]. He became a general at the age of 32 after commanding the Spanish Foreign Legion in Morocco.
..... Click the link for more information. gave himself the title of el Caudillo, using the term literally without its disparaging connotations.
(1) The official title of Generalissimo F. Franco, the former head of state of Spain. The caudillo is invested with virtually unlimited powers of supreme governmental, political, and military leadership (“the caudillo is responsible before god and history”).
(2) In several Latin American countries, the caudillo is thehead of state, ruling as a personal dictator.