A revolution is defined as a sweeping change in the Social, Economic and
political structure of a society or way of thinking.
Revolutions change the status quo, usually leaving a country in turmoil. What occurred in Latin America between the years
1808 and 1826 was no exception. Countries
which were dominated by European imperialism, namely the influence of the Spanish and
Portuguese, fought and won their independence in a
series of bloody battles, culminating in the declaration of Latin American independence. It can also be said that there is no way the Latin
American revolutions would have been possible, or maybe even they wouldnt have
needed to occur, if prior revolutions hadnt exerted their influence over the
empire in Latin America was at its height in the early years of U.S colonization. Even after Spain had relinquished its territories
in what is now Florida, it controlled many island regions, as well as a large part of
South America. There was no single event that
brought the end of the Iberian influence in South America, rather a combination of
factors. Twelve new republics and one
monarchy replaced what had been Spanish and Portuguese colonies by 1826. This left a region of the world, America included,
which had been under the European influence, completely out. The shroud of imperialism lifted, these countries
were now on their own to make their own decisions, and to institute new policies.
sign of decline for the Iberian rulers was the rise of Napoleon following the French
revolution. In 1807, Napoleon invaded Spain
and Portugal with his Imperial army. This
invasion scattered the Iberian rulers, and left the government in disarray. The ruling family of Portugal even fled to Brazil,
where they hid for thirteen years. With
no solidified ruling power in the homeland, the question of who ruled became an up in the
air proposition, and the colonists saw their chance at revolution. While this all seems rather sudden, there was a
deep-rooted history of colonial discontent with empire.
With no prevalent influence from the Spanish, the colonies had been
allowed to develop their own strong identity, one different to that of their crown. Their economic system had developed as they
wanted, and new political ideas flourished in their society. Therefore, when Napoleon intervened in Iberian
government, the Spanish Americans saw their chance at revolution. They desired a government much like that of the
Americans before them, one where they have the primary say, and one that would allow a
free market economy flourish. Because
of the Portuguese influence in Brazil at the time, the government actually assisted the
Portuguese peoples in completing a successful, peaceful revolution for independence. The Spanish were not so lucky. In a two front revolution, the Spaniards in South
America moved, under the command of Jose de San Martin and the army of the Andes, into
Chile, controlling that territory.
It was the
Revolution in the North however, that received the majority of Spanish attention. Moving through Venezuela, in a series of bloody
outbursts, the Spanish army of the North eventually conquered the region of Venezuela, as
well as other territories in the North. The
Spanish division of forces was the major downfall here.
Spain was fighting what was essentially a three front war. They had to focus on de San Martins army in
the Buenos Aries region, as well as the Northern front, led by Simon Bolivar. Yet they also had to contend with the Napoleonic
influence back on the home front. The key
front in Spanish America was clearly the Northern one, led by Simon Bolivar. The son of a slave-owner, Bolivar became the
central figure in the revolutions through charismatic leadership, as well as knowledge of
the European way of thinking. Bolivar had
studied the works of the men of the French Enlightenment extensively, and the works of men
like Voltaire, Diderot and the rest of the key figures of the enlightenment clued him in
to a new way of thinking. He believed
strongly also in the ideals of Napoleon, and even considered himself to be somewhat of a
Latin American Napoleon, a man who could lead his people into a new time. Bolivar led a sort of enlightenment in
Central America, however a much more conservative one than occurred in the European
theater. Bolivar became the central figure in
this revolution, leading his army of the north southward after conquering Venezuela and
the Northern territories. There, his army and
the Army of the Andes met when they converged on the last Spanish stronghold in the
Americas: Peru. The Latin American
independence was won here, but not without a strong resistance by the Spanish forces. In 1824, at the battle of Ayacucho, Bolivars
army and the Spanish fought bravely and intensely, but the Spanish were no match for the
passion displayed by the insurgents.
The final stage
of revolution was won north, in Mexico where there was more of a social revolution, which
frustrated the rulers in Spain enough to grant independence in 1826. The entire Spanish empire was demolished, salvaged
only by the retention of Cuba and Puerto Rico. What
had been a flourishing imperialistic venture for the Spanish turned into a fiasco, and
ultimately a major defeat on the world scale.
have argued that because of Napoleons influence in the beginning of the Latin
American Revolutions, that the French Revolution played the greatest role in the
achievement of Latin American independence. I
strongly disagree with this assertion however, because I believe that the influences on
the Latin American revolutions were much closer to home.
The Haitian Revolution played a gigantic role in the beginning and
continuance of the Revolution led by Simon Bolivar. First,
in 1804, the Haitians achieved their independence, leading those inclined toward
revolution in Latin American to believe it could be done.
More importantly however, the Haitian people committed a lot of time
and energy into assisting the Latin American insurgents.
They committed funds, as well as a lot of manpower and leadership to
the Latin American cause.
The impact of
the United States cannot be discounted either. While
again, the fact that the US achieved their independence from a European power was a very
important factor in the beginning of the insurgency, the policies implemented by the US
were just as important. In 1820, president James Monroe instituted the Monroe
doctrine in an effort to help America, but also all the members of the Western Hemisphere. The doctrine plainly stated that we would
recognize all the new states and their independence, but more importantly, that the entire
Western Hemisphere was independent and needed no European assistance. It closed the Western Hemisphere off to any
influence the Europeans may have attempted to exert over the former colonies. This allowed the new states to develop in a way
that they felt pertinent, with no pressure exerted upon them.
The idea of revolution shaped the times
that we live in today. I personally believe
revolution is inevitable, otherwise man would never have developed and the world wouldnt
change. We would have society after society
developing exactly the same. The six
revolutions discussed in these projects all are intertwined, and they all stem from the
American Revolution for independence. However,
even without Americas freedom, I believe there would have eventually been a
revolution in each of these regions of the world. Tensions
can only last for so long until they need to be exercised.