Fabricio Prado

Fabricio Prado

Fearful Vassals

Urban Elite Loyalty in the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata, 1776-1810

Following the creation of the viceroyalty of Río de la Plata in 1776, the elites of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, and Montevideo turned time and again to the Spanish crown for intercession, mediation, and support to maintain their privileged position during the tumultuous years before the May Revolution of 1810. Their loyalty was in part a result of the social status, political opportunities, and economic benefits that produced their privileged style of life. But of greater importance were the various internal and external factors that threatened their privileges, including inter-group rivalries, the presence of subversive ideas linked to the French Revolution, growing numbers of black slaves who engaged in various forms of resistance, indigenous groups who blocked the exploitation of the viceroyalty’s resources, Portuguese interlopers, and British imperial ambitions that culminated with the invasions of the viceroyalty in 1806 and 1807. To retain their privileges and their tenuous hold over the region, the viceroyalty’s urban elites looked to Spain for help, ensuring their continuing loyalty to the Spanish crown in increasingly troubling times.