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Mariano Melgarejo


Born in Tarata, Upper Peru, now Bolivia. He joined the Army at the age of nine. Married Rosa Rajus. He had a legitimate son and daughter with Rosa. They married a sister and brother of one of his mistresses.

President of Bolivia 1865 to 1871. He overthrew the government of General Jose Maria de Acha in February 1865. Another contender, former president Manuel Isidoro Belzu, led a revolt against Melgarejo. Melgarejo shot Belzu in front of the palace March 27, 1865.

He was an excellent example of the corruption of power. He was frequently drunk and abusive. He attended parties with his beer drinking horse. At all male parties he exhibited his nude mistress. He left Bolivia financially ruined. He was called the "Nero of Bolivia." He was defeated in battle January 15, 1871, and took refuge in Peru.

He was shot and killed by Jose Sanchez, the brother of his mistress, in Lima Peru. This ended what has been called "Seven years of moral depravity."

Medals were commissioned and struck at the Philadelphia Mint to honor Melgarejo (Julian PE-21, 22, 23). The legend on PE-21 translates to "The friends of progress in Bolivia, to the protector of the sciences and industry."

bio: ApCAB; NUM 74 Nov 1961 pages 1484-1486 (* some sources give DOB as 1820)

Source credit: Pete Smith, American Numismatic Biographies


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