Caudillismo: An Interpretive Note

The first source is Caudillismo: an Interpretive Note by William H. Beezley, included in the Journal of Inter-American Studies. In the section, he first discusses the Spanish Empire’s system of rule by “theory and practice”. This created room for a relatively flexible government in the colonies which gave immense power to a single person governing the region. Thus, the colonial period “contributed to the centralistic rule, undivided authority, intense mental system that left the gap between theory and practice to be manipulated at the discretion of officials in the enforced legal restrictions” (Beezley. 346). However, independence from Spain, meaning the absence of a king to be loyal to, resulted in a divided nation. Charismatic Caudillos who could captivate the loyalty of the people were perfect figures to unite the divided communities. It was also essential that these individuals had control over the military, and ties to other branches of the government as well. Caudillos had four elements of society, the clergy, the military the haciendas, and political groups, which they could side with to secure their positions and attract further popularity. Since none of these four elements had enough power to take control of the government on their own, they were used by caudillos as popularity boosters depending on their usefulness at a certain moment. Beezley also argues that the successful rule of the Caudillos established a sense of nationalism in the region. Even in areas with strong regional autonomy, the national caudillo would command his regional counterparts which would result in establishing the notion of a national community in the people. Additionally, Beezley draws comparisons between successful and unsuccessful caudillos. Ones which rule successfully create enforced social and political stability while unsuccessful ones do the exact opposite, deepening the divisions between local communities.  By including the information from the text, the video will be able to show how the colonial period had an effect on the establishment of caudillismo, as well as the impacts a successful caudillo and an unsuccessful caudillo has on the region. However, the article does not mention the factors which makes a certain individual rule successfully. Comparing the regimes of well-known national caudillos, such as Antonio López de Santa Anna and Rosas, with lesser known ones would provide a better understanding of what determined caudillo’s success. Also, the text only provides one way of analyzing the causation factors of caudillos which can be avoided by including writings of other scholars.


Beezley, W. (1969). Caudillismo: An Interpretive Note. Journal of Inter-American Studies, 11(3), 345-352. doi:10.2307/165417

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