José Miguel Carrera

José Miguel Carrera

Infobox_President | name=José Miguel Carrera

birth_date=birth date|1785|10|15|df=y
birth_place=Santiago, Chile
death_date=death date|1821|9|4|df=y (aged 35)
death_place=Mendoza, Argentina
spouse=Mercedes Fontecilla

José Miguel Carrera Verdugo (15 October, 1785 - 4 September, 1821) was a Chilean general, considered one of the founders of independent Chile. Carrera was the most important leader of the Chilean War of Independence during the period of the Patria Vieja ("Old Republic"). After the Spanish Reconquista ("Reconquest"), he continued campaigning from exile. Eventually, he was executed in Mendoza, by the military of the United Provinces of South America (River Plate.)

Early years

He was born in Santiago, the oldest son (second child, after his sister, Javiera) of Ignacio de la Carrera y Cuevas and Francisca de Paula Verdugo Fernández de Valdivieso y Herrera. Carrera carried out his first studies in the "Convictorio Carolino", the best school in the country at the time. During these years, he became friends with Manuel Rodríguez, classmate and neighbour, future guerrilla leader of the Chilean independence movement.

After school he was sent to Spain by his parents. There he joined the Spanish Army in 1808. He fought well against the Napoleonic forces, obtaining the rank of Sergeant Major and receiving the command of the "Húsares de Galicia" regiment.

In Spain he also made contact with the United States independence movement and joined the Cádiz Order.

La Patria Vieja ("Old Republic") (1810-1814)

When he learned about the "Junta de Gobierno" that had been established in Chile to rule during the absence of the Spanish monarch, he went back to Chile and got involved in politics. As the Carreras were one of the three major political forces, he became part of the government. On 15 November 1811 the Carreras made a coup d'état and José Miguel became the sole ruler of Chile. (His brothers were military commanders.) Because of his more personal and Chilean-national point of view about Chilean independence, Carrera came into conflict with the Lautaro Lodge, whose more Latin-Americanist centered objective was to unite all Latin America in the same way as the United States of America).

During his government, and influenced by Joel Roberts Poinsett, first United States envoy to Chile, he helped create several Chilean national symbols and institutions: Carrera created the first Chilean Constitution, made the first Chilean flag and coat of arms, and promoted the press by bringing to Chile the first printing press, which directly led to the appearance of the first newspaper in Chile (La Aurora de Chile). Carrera also established September 18 as the national day (which is still celebrated in Chile).

As the Spanish Army and Navy invaded the South of Chile, he became Commander in Chief of the patriotic forces and left the government. He had a successful campaign, expelling the Spaniards from the city of Concepción.

After the Surprise of El Roble, in which Carrera was surrounded and had to jump into a river to save himself (not without first shooting straight at the enemy's head of commander), the government relieved him of his duties and appointed Brigadier Bernardo O'Higgins, who had managed to repel the enemy incursion. Carrera was taken prisoner by the Spaniards but managed to escape, and went on to overthrow the government for the third time.

Bernardo O'Higgins did not acknowledge Carrera and fought against the Carrerian army at the Battle of Tres Acequias. (Carrera's youngest brother, Luis Carrera, defeated O'Higgins using a cunning defensive strategy.) During this chaos, the Spanish army retook Concepción and advanced towards Santiago. Carrera and O'Higgins decided to re-unite the army; Carrera's plan was to draw the Spaniards to the Angostura de Paine, while O'Higgins wanted to make his stand at Rancagua. It was settled to make it at the Angostura de Paine, a gorge, which seemed to be the most logical plan considering that the local forces were outnumbered, but at the last hour, O'Higgins garrisoned the Chilean forces at Rancagua, and after an entire day of fighting, the Spanish commandader Mariano Osorio was victorious in the Disaster of Rancagua, (1-2 October 1814).

Argentina and the United States

With the defeat of the Chilean forces, many patriots escaped to Mendoza, which was governed at the time by José de San Martín. As San Martín was a member of the Lautaro Lodge, he welcomed O'Higgins and his allies. José Miguel and his brothers were forced to travel to Buenos Aires, where Carlos Maria Alvear, a friend of Carrera since the war against Napoleon in Spain, had just been proclaimed national hero. Alvear would shortly go on to take power in Argentina.

While Alvear was in government, Carrera was in a good position in Buenos Aires. But after Alvear was overthrown, power was taken by members of the Lautaro Lodge. Carrera sailed to the United States, and with the help of Commodore David Porter, obtained on credit five ships with crew for the Chilean independence enterprise.

However, as he arrived in Buenos Aires, the Argentine government confiscated the fleet and put Carrera in prison. During his imprisonment, San Martín organized an army in Mendoza, made up of mainly African slaves and Argentine and Chilean soldiers, who crossed the Andes and defeated the Spaniards in the Battle of Chacabuco on 12 February 1817.

Carrera received help from the United States' envoy that came with him and was able to escape, taking refuge in Montevideo under the protection of General Carlos Federico Lecor. While in Montevideo, his brothers plotted against O'Higgins and were arrested in Mendoza and executed by the command of Bernardo de Monteagudo after the patriot defeat at the Second Battle of Cancha Rayada. The Lautaro Lodge had already made plans that, in case of defeat, all political enemies would be executed. After Carrera was informed of this, he decided to write a newspaper against the Argentine government. However, Carrera is not recognised in Argentine history.

Subsequently, he was one of the main promoters of the Argentine federalist war and fought against the Unitarian government. Carrera and the federalist forces defeated the government and entered Buenos Aires. On 23 February 1820, they signed the Treaty of Pilar, the document that established the Argentine federal system.

As a result of this treaty, Carrera received troops, with which he marched towards to Chile. However, he was intercepted in Mendoza and taken prisoner. After being put on trial, he was executed on 4 September 1821.


Carrera is today considered one of the Padres de la Patria (Fathers of the Nation). The conflict between followers of O'Higgins and Carrera continues to some extent to this day, when many declare themselves Carrerists or O'Higginists. Carrerists claim that his figure is not given enough recognition, in comparison with O'Higgins.

In the Patagonian region there is the General Carrera Lake. One of his other legacies, the oldest high school in Chile, has also his name: Instituto Nacional General José Miguel Carrera.

His grandson, Ignacio Carrera Pinto, died during the Battle of La Concepción, in the War of the Pacific.

Also one of his descendent were Federico Santa María who gave his money to build the college Federico Santa María Technical University, one of the best technical and engineering schools of Chile.

In Cinema

The life of José Miguel Carrera is shown through the television project "Heroes".The series include 6 related movies about Chilean Founding Fathers and Heroes.

José Miguel Carrera as portrayed by Diego Casanueva.

Additional information

ee also

*History of Chile
*Government Junta of Chile (November 1811)
*Government Junta of Chile (1812)
*Aurora de Chile
*Carrera family

External links

* [ Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas José Miguel Carrera] es icon
* [ Genealogical chart of Carrera family] es icon
* [ La Aurora de Chile, First Chilean Newspaper (1812) online.] es icon

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