Biography of Manuel Rivas Vicuña (1880-1937)

Chilean liberal politician, born in Santiago on May 1, 1880 and died in this city in August 1937. Brilliant diplomat, politician, and statesman, had a decisive influence on the Chilean scene for almost the entire period of the parliamentary Republic (1891-1920).

Ignacio studied humanities at the College of San and graduated BA in philosophy, humanities, and fine arts with seventeen years at the University of Chile, in the Faculty of law and political science continued pursuing a degree in law; He graduated in 1902 and obtained the title of lawyer a year later with a report on the "instruction of the people". From this period of student data first by Manuel Rivas social activity by founding in 1901, with a group of fellow, society of evening schools for workers, institution that would donate in 1927 his large library when he was forced to leave Chile for political reasons. Also, their entrenched liberal ideas led him to found the "Liberal Center" - where he was participating in the indoctrination of youth belonging to this group-politician, the Liberal Assembly of Santiago and other similar institutions in provinces.

Manuel Rivas Vicuña combined their task as a Justice of the peace with early responsibility in front of the Secretary General of the party Liberal who was assigned in 1904, year in which married Eduvigis González Edwards. In 1906 he was appointed Professor of Roman law at the University of Chile, he acted as Secretary general of the Convention, which proclaimed the candidature of Pedro Montt and led the campaign that would lead him to the Presidency of the Republic. That same year made her first trip to Europe and for six months he lived in Berlin where he studied the Organization of social welfare. Upon his return to Chile, as well as to pronounce several conferences on social issues, and specifically on the labor world, organized the Liberal Convention held in Santiago in December 1907 to ensure democratic governance of the party and renew its program, giving input to the study of social issues and to satisfy popular demands.

In 1908 he was proclaimed candidate to a Department of the Town Council of Santiago by a majority of parties and directed their efforts to Economic Affairs and improvement of the services of the city reflected in press reports of El Mercurio and Las Últimas Noticias. In 1909 he was elected Deputy to the National Congress by the departments of San Felipe, Los Andes and Putaendo and re-elected in 1912, showing a special interest for the problems related to education, coexistence and the improvement of the electoral system that were addressed in several projects of his own, as well as through his work at the head of the University Extension, body made up of teachers, students and workers belonging to the National Education Association.

In 1912, was called by President Ramón Barros Luco , for the post of first Finance Minister and as President of the Council and Minister of Interior later, carrying out a relentless parliamentary work and Government who left momentarily, between the performance of the two portfolios, in order to restore their health. Tasks performed include the restoration of relations of Chile with Peru, the reorganization of services and public finances, the tobacco act, Telegraph Protocol, the Foundation of the office of the valued species, of the inspection of sewage and drinking water and port, industrial and urban public works. In the institutional order, Rivas vicuña favoured the exchange of visits between the working-class communities of Peru and Chile, in what was its permanent purpose of strengthening links with neighbouring countries, established the law on elections of 1914 and returned to take care of its draft law on compulsory primary education, which was inspiring and driving.

Tired of the parliamentary struggle and with the desire to devote more time to their interests, Rivas vicuña resigned from the re-election as Deputy for Aconcagua in the elections of 1915 but had to accept arise for Curicó in replacement of Arturo Alessandri, candidate for Senator who Rivas vicuña had shared tasks of Government and that he would later reach the Presidency of the Republic. After obtaining the new Deputy Act, overturned their efforts in the campaign for the Presidency of Javier a. Figueroa, assumed the Vice-Presidency of the Liberal Party, was the main opponent to the Government of Juan Luis Sanfuentes and coordinated in 1918 the successful campaign of the so-called "Liberal Alliance" composed of Liberals, radicals and Democrats, a victory that conferred much prestige.

He collaborated with President Sanfuentes in organizing cabinets within the regime of the Alliance but repeatedly rejected its offer of ministerial portfolios, preferring to become the youngest member of the Council of State. With the desire to expand the number of supporters of his political, Rivas vicuña founded in 1919 the Liberal Union which, however, did not achieve its purpose but instead, including presidential race. Thus, the elections of 1920 settled between Alessandri and Luis Barros Borgoño did not contest but with his involvement in the "Court of Honor", which resolved the conflict in favor of the first.

Rivas vicuña accepted the offer by the Government to represent Chile in the Assembly of the society of Nations, in October 1920, traveled again to Europe. He participated in the first three assemblies held until 1922 and attended numerous meetings related to work, communications and transport, international trafficking in women and children, weapons, etc., in various European cities such as Geneva, Barcelona, Vienna and Budapest, highlighting the Chilean politician by his competition, defense of American interests and diplomacy, which earned him sympathy and honors.

On his return to Chile, President Arturo Alessandri Rivas vicuña appointed Minister of the interior - who played for only twenty days - and helped reconcile the Senate majority with the highest authority in the country. After his experience in Europe and thanks to its open and negotiating mood, it took over the General Secretariat of the V Conference Pan American, in addition to participating actively in political events of 1923 and the constitutional reforms made in a country with serious problems of inefficiency of the Congress and the financial disaster. Despite this, in the parliamentary elections of 1924 still could succeed the Liberal Alliance and the Deputy Rivas Vicuña worked actively until the fall of Alessandri in the autumn of that year.

Other active fronts of Rivas vicuña was journalism, especially since 1923 that initiated collaboration with El Mercurio and in whose pages discussed issues of their competence and interest: international treaties, social issues and Chilean domestic politics focused on the need for national reconstruction and to point out the means to achieve this.

Rivas vicuña not figured in positions of Government in the Cabinet chaired by the general Luis Altamirano in the formed the (brief) return of Alessandri in 1925, time this break with the past to convene a constitutional Convention commissioned Constitution (1925) and establish a democratic system and law. Short was also the Government of Emiliano Figueroa Larraín , who attended Rivas vicuña - elected again in 1925 - so organize a Cabinet civilian as a result of the breakdown of political parties with the then Colonel Carlos Ibáñez del Campo who reached Government Headquarters in 1927.

The exclusion of political parties of the Chilean scene and the persecution of its most representative figures were the characteristics of the stage of the general Ibáñez government. That's how Rivas vicuña was forced to leave the country after disclose journalistic media Ibanez conspiracy to take over the Government. He traveled with his family from Chile to Ecuador, Peru and United States, in whose capital was established as Assistant Referee in the courts of claims against Mexico and continued working in the press and signing with initials P.I.P. (unfairly banned Patriot). In Paris was appointed him Chairman of a Commission for the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey, country this where he stayed from 1928 to 1931 (with several visits to Mexico) contributing to the talks and treaties of friendship between the two countries.

At the end of the dictatorship of Ibanez, the Government of Juan Esteban Montero appointed Rivas vicuña Ambassador in Lima, thus ending the career of one of the politicians most efficient and socially sensitive from the beginning of the twentieth century in Latin America.

During his travels, Rivas vicuña wrote from memory and without documents a parliamentary and political history of Chile, which was published posthumously, as well as a novel that conjured up memories of Santiago from 1892 to 1904 entitled the Christ of the master appeared a year before his death.


SOURCES, J.; CORTES, L.; CASTLE, F.; VALDÉS, A. Historical Dictionary of Chile. Santiago, Zig-Zag Ed., 1984.

LEÓN ECHAIZ, R. historical evolution of the Chilean political parties. Buenos Aires-Santiago, Ed. Francisco de Aguirre, 1971 (1st Edition, 1939).

RIVAS Vicuña, M. Parliamentary and political history of Chile. Santiago de Chile, national library Ed., (edited by Guillermo Feliú Cruz), 3 vols., 1964.

BRAVO LIRA, B. Portals to Pinochet. Santiago, 1985.