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Arturo Alessandri was the son of Pedro Alessandri Vargas and Susana Palma Guzmán. His grandfather, Pietro Allesandri Tarzi, was an Italian immigrant from Tuscany who had arrived in Chile from Argentina. Alessandri’s father, Pedro, became head of the family at the age of 19; at the time of Alessandri’s birth, he ran an estate in Longaví. At the age of 12, Alessandri enrolled at the Sacred Hearts High School, where his brothers and father had studied.
At the age of 20, Alessandri began his legal studies at the University of Chile. In 1891, while studying, he participated in the newspaper La Justicia, which was opposed to then President José Manuel Balmaceda. After graduating in 1893, Alessandri married Rosa Ester Rodríguez Velasco, with whom he had 9 children.
In 1897, Alessandri began his political career, becoming a member of the Liberal Party and representative of Curicó, a seat he would keep for nearly 20 years. In 1915, already aspiring to the presidency, Alessandri challenged the senator of Tarapacá Province, Arturo del Río; he won a hard-fought victory, from where he earned the nickname of “León de Tarapacá” (“Lion of Tarapacá”).
In 1920, Alessandri was the Liberal Alliance candidate for president, narrowly defeating his opponent of the Coalition Party, Luis Barros Borgoño. With speeches favoring the working class, Alessandri alarmed Chilean conservatives, who felt their interests were in jeopardy. Since the opposition controlled the National Congress, Alessandri favored strengthening the executive power, which lacked political weight before the Congress (Parliamentary Era).
His political life did not end with his presidency. Due to the death of the communist Senator of Curico, Talca, Linares and Maule, Amador Pairoa, he participated in a complementary Senatorial election and won, returning to the Senate on November 8. In 1949 he was reelected but this time for Santiago, while also chosen to be President of this body.
He was of vital importance in the presidential elections of 1942 and 1946, in the first by causing a division of votes of the liberals, supporting Juan Antonio Ríos, and in the second by presenting himself as a preliminary candidate of the liberals. He later yielded his candidacy to his son Fernando, resulting in the division of the presidential candidates of the right and conservative support for Dr. Eduardo Cruz-Coke, in turn favoring the victory of Gabriel González Videla. While President of the Senate of Chile, Alessandri died at the age of 82, on August 24, 1950, and was replaced by his son Fernando Alessandri. One of his other sons, Jorge Alessandri, was president of Chile from 1958 to 1964.