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Florencio was born in Buenos Aires on February 23 1808, he was the sixth child of Don Jacobo Adrián Varela and María de la Encarnación Sanjinés, he had a keen interest in the literary arts from a young age. In his youth he wrote poetry and a thetre production.
Varela settled in Montevideo starting a family and associating with several other exile writers and intellectuals who opposed the rule of GovernorJuan Manuel de Rosas.
After suffering a heart condition Varela moved to Río de Janeiro in Brazil where he recovered his health and worked on his history of Argentina. In 1842 he returned to Uruguay. In 1843 he travelled to Europe in order to garner British and French support to the project of a new state comprising Uruguay, Rio Grande do Sul and some Argentine provinces. While in France, and like many other young travelers did, he met José de San Martín.
On 1 October, 1845 he founded the newspaper "Comercio del Plata" in Montevideo, he also founded the biblioteca de obras originales y traducidas (library of originals and translations). He became one of the fiercest critics of Governor Rosas. On March 20 1848 he was assassinated by Andrés Cabrera, who was acting under the orders of Manuel Oribe and Rosas. He is buried in La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.