Latin American Independence

An Age of Revolution 1750-1914

3 Causes of Latin American Independence Movement

Complicated factors contributed to the independence movements in Latin America.


First of all, the colonials resented the colonial rule which litmited trade with other nations and deprived their economic advantages and racist system of the society in which only penninsulars who derectly came from motehr countries and took very small portion of the entire population held political authorities and wealth. Especially creoles, decendents of these Europeans but born in the colonies, who often had a large amount of fortunes and were well-educated were discontented with their second-class status.


The spread of Enligtenment ideas throughout Latin America also contributed to rebels against mother countries by changing peoples' mindset. Colonials were affected by the ideas of many enligtenment philosophers of Europe that the government was based on a contract between the ruler and the ruled, and if the government did violate the natural rights of the people, the citizens had right to rebel against it, which overthrew the former belief in 'divine right' of the king. People started to think they should not bear the injustices of the colonial rule.


More direct cause was Napoleon's invasion of mother countries. After Napolen crowned himself emperor of France in 1804, he invaded Spain and Portugal in an attempt to rule all of the Europe and ousted their kings. Colonials considered this as a chance to achieve independence from the weaken countries.


Besides these, Latin Americans were inspired by the success of revolutions in the United States and France which demonstrated the colonies could get independence from more powerful mother countries.



Latin American Revolutions: Crash Course World History #31

Peninsular War (1808 - 1814)

At the height of his power, Napoleon invaded Spain and Portugal in 1807 and annexed the Papal States. However, with the growth of nationalism and hatred to the French rule, Spanish and Portugals rebelled with guerrila warfare tactics against it which led the Peninsular War in Spain and Portugal from 1808 to 1814. This long and burtal war brought disorder in Spain and Portugal which caused revolts among the colonies in Latin America.

'Spanish Ulcer' - The Peninsular War

Haitian Independence

Enslaved Africans and free Mulattos who are decendants of European and Africans of the French colony of Saint-Domingue rebelled against the French rule for the abolishment of slavery and the independence of Haiti from 1791 to 1804. Toussaint L'Ouvture, a great general who was born a slave, led slave revolts and defeated French troops in 1791. As a result, France abolished slavery in 1793, and Haitian leaders declared independence in 1804.


Haitian Revolutions: Crash Course World History #30

Mexican Independence

Father Miguel Hidalgo and José María Morelos led popular revolts which elites did not join.

However, angered by Spanish reforms that took their privileges under the control of a Liberal legislature in 1820, the elites which included the Mexican military, clergy, and merchants joined in the rebels for an independent Mexico. Agustin de Iturbide overthrew the Spanish viceroy with the united forces and created an independent Mexico on September 28, 1821. Iturbide took the title of emperor, but was quickly overthrown and liberal Mexicans set up the Republic of Mexico.

Mexican Independence. Bicentenario México 2010

Central American Independence

After Napoleon I 's invasion in Spain, liberals in Spanish colonies in Centural America saw the weakened control over them as a opportunity to get independence from Spain, resented the limited economic advantages due to Spanish rule while conservatives remained loyal to the Spanish king. In the early 1820s, all the Spanish colonies in Central America declared independence without bloodshed, and local leaders set up the United Provinces of Central America. However, the union soon fragmented into seperate republics of Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Costa Rica.

Simón Bolívar's liberation of Venezuela

Native Americans had rebelled for their independence against spain since the 1700s in South America, but it had little impact. However, the growing discontent sparked a widespread drive for independence in 1800s.

Simón Bolívar, one of the greatest Latin American revolutionary ledears, led an uprising and established a republic in Venezuela. Then he liberated Bogota, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. He had dreamed a federated Latin America like the United States and formed Glan Columbia in a large area freed from Spain, but it split into three independent nations which were Venezuela, Coumbia, and Ecuador due to severe rivalries among them.

Simon Bolivar Biography

Jose de San Martín's liberation of Argentina

In 1816, Jose de San Martín helped Argentina win freedom from Spain. Then he joined with Bernardo O'Higgins for Chilean independence. In 1817, San Martín and O'Higgins led an army thorugh high passes in the Andes Mountains into Chile. They defeated surpirsed Spaniards in Chile in the Battle of Chacabuco and declared Chile's independence. In 1820, San Martín led an army to Peru and declared independence of Peru in 1821. The next year, he had a discussion with Simón Bolívar of which contents were still unkown. After the meeting, San Martín gave up his commend and left Bolívar to continue the fight for Latin American Independence.

Battle of Ayacucho

On December 9, 1824, the outnumbered army of patriots led by Simón Bolívar and Bolivian general Antonio de Sucre defeated the loyalist forces at Ayacucho in the Peruvian highlands despite the disadvantageous conditions. It was the last battle of the wars of Spanish independence which had begun in 1810.

Independence of Brazil

In the early 1800s, royal family of Portugal fled to Brazil when Napoleon's troops invaded Portugal. Returning to Portugal in 1820, the king left his son, Pedro, to rule the colony. Influenced for Brazil's independence, Pedro came to declare the independnce of Brazil against Portugal and crowned himself emperor, Pedro I, on September 7, 1822. As Portugal admitted its independence three years later, Brazil gained the independence without bloodshed.

Brazilian Independence

Effects of the independence

The colonial rule ended in much of Latin America and 18 independent republics set up. However, these new countries had to encounter severe political, social, and economic disorder. Many people had died and many lands, factories, and farms were devastated during the war. The newly formed governments needed to achieve stable democracy and economic independence. However, many countries had failed to achieve the task.


Democracy was weak and military officers called caudillos held dictatorship supported by the upper classes who wanted to exclude the lower classes from power. Though the unequal trade relationship with Spain was over, their economies became dependent upon the trade with Great Britain and the United States. Social structures did not change much except for the fact that the creoles replaced the peninsulares at the top of the social pyraid.


Still those problems remained in Latin America and many countries continued struggling for achieving complete economic independence and stable societies.


The Economic Effects of the War of Independence