Antonio Rivero

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Antonio “El Gaucho" Rivero was a gaucho who murdered the five leading members of the settlement of Port Louis on the Falkland Islands on 26 August 1833.[1]


Rivero was born in Concepción del Uruguay, at that time a rural village in Entre Ríos Province, Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, now part of Argentina on November 27, 1808.

When he was about 20 years old, he was taken to the Falkland Islands by Luis Vernet, to work as a gaucho. Conditions of employment caused discontent among Vernet's workers. They were paid with promissory notes which Matthew Brisbane, Vernet's deputy, devalued following the reduction in Vernet's fortunes.[2] On August 26, 1833, eight months after the British took control of the Falkland Islands, Rivero led a group of Creoles and Indians in an attack against the senior members of Vernet's settlement.

His co-conspirators were two gauchos, Juan Brasido and José María Luna, and five Charrúa Indians, Manuel González, Luciano Flores, Felipe Salazar, Pascual Latorre and Manuel Godoy. They killed five men, Captain Brisbane, Juan Simón (foreman of the gauchos), Dickson, Antonio Vehingar and Ventura Pasos. The population of that time, mainly women and children, fled to the nearby Peat island, until rescued by the sealer Hopeful in October 1833, who then passed information about the murders to the British squadron at Rio de Janeiro.

In January 1834, the British ship HMS Challenger arrived in the islands, bringing Lt Henry Smith, who set out to capture the murderers, who fled into the interior. The gang was sent for trial in London but under the British Legal system could not be tried, because the Crown Court did not have jurisdiction over the Falkland Islands at the time of the alleged offences. In the British colonial system, colonies had their own, distinct governments, finances, and judicial systems.[3][4] Rivero was not tried and sentenced because the British local government and local judiciary had not yet been installed in 1834; these were created later, by the 1841 British Letters Patent.[5] Subsequently, Rivero has acquired the status of a folk hero in Argentina, where he is portrayed as leading a rebellion against British rule.[5] Ironically, it was Rivero's actions that were responsible for the ultimate demise of Vernet's enterprise on the Falklands. They were deported to Rio de Janeiro, and returned later to the zone of the Río de la Plata.

The circumstances of Rivero's death are unknown.

Historical perspectives[edit]

The initial British plans for the Falklands were based on the perpetuation of Vernet's settlement, backed by an annual visit by a warship. This was the standard practice of maintaining a settlement with the minimum of expense. Thus, there was no British presence in the islands at the time of the Port Louis murders. A direct result of the murders was the installation of a permanent British Government presence - Lt Henry Smith became the first British resident in January 1834. Subsequently, the permanent presence led to the decision in 1841 to form a permanent colony rather than a minor naval outpost.

The Argentine National Academy of History considered in 1966 that Rivero and his followers were common criminals driven by no patriotic feeling, and Argentine historian Laurio H. Destéfani wrote in his 1982 book on the history of the Falkland Islands dispute:

On the other hand, historian Juan Lucio de Almeida maintained in Félix Luna's magazine, Todo es Historia,(ES) that even if it cannot be shown that Rivero was driven by a desire to recover the islands for the Confederation, he nevertheless wasn't a common criminal. Traditional historical revisionism of Argentina would use the opposite angle, considering him a patriot with authors Pablo Hernández, Horacio Chitarroni, José María “Pepe” Rosa or Fermín Chávez portraying him in a positive light, not because of patriotic motivations but rather in the context of class struggle.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

Armando S. Fernández wrote in 2009 a historical novel about the uprising of Rivero, called "El Gaucho Rivero y la conspiración para apoderarse de Malvinas". It was presented at the 2009 Buenos Aires International Book Fair, and has a prologue by the journalist Chacho Rodríguez Muñoz.


  1. ^ Thomas Helsby. "Thomas Helsby's Account of the Port Louis Murders". Captain Onslow's report of the visit of HMS Clio to Port Louis in January 1833; Narrative by Port Louis settler Thomas Helsby. Wikisource. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  2. ^ "A Brief History of the Falkland Islands, Part 3 - Louis Vernet: The Great Entrepreneur". Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  3. ^ "British colonies". Hutchinson encyclopedia. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  4. ^ Karsten, Peter, Between Law and Custom, "High" and "Low" Legal Cultures in the Lands of the British Diaspora - The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, 1600-1900
  5. ^ a b c Laurio H. Destéfani, The Malvinas, the South Georgias and the South Sandwich Islands, the conflict with Britain, Buenos Aires: Edipress, 1982. pp. 91-92. ISBN 950-01-6904-5
  6. ^ Pigna, Felipe. "El gaucho Rivero" (in Spanish). Retrieved February 29, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Ware, Richard. "The Case of Antonio Rivero and Sovereignty over the Falkland Islands," The Historical Journal (1984) 27#4 pp. 961–967 in JSTOR

External links[edit]