Social Studies – Anti-Colonial Struggles: Central and South America
When Spain fell to Napoleon’s forces in 1809, it set off a string of rebellions in Central and South American colonies. So, Spain’s colonies in Central and South America saw that Spain could be conquered when Napoleon’s forces defeated Spain.
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And they said to themselves, “Why should we still be listing to Spain? Spain is way across the ocean. Spain’s ruler is not here, telling us what to do. We should be our own rulers.”
And they felt like it was a good time to break free. Spain was already occupied across the ocean in Europe, fighting off Napoleon’s forces, or rebuilding after Napoleon had defeated Spain. And the people realized Spain was weakened, Spain wasn’t in a position to really fight with them right now, and they felt like they could get their independence at this time.
The provinces of Chile and Buenos Aires declared themselves independent. At this time, Peru was the stronghold of Spanish power in the New World. So, the rebels attacked the government there. So, Chile and Buenos Aires said, “We are independent now. We’ve broken off from Spain. We’re going to have our own countries.” And Peru was the stronghold of Spanish power, so people who actually were dignitaries from Spain who were sent there to rule, those people would’ve been in Peru. So, the rebels who were promoting this independence movement all went to Peru to attack the government there. They were led by Argentinian Jose San Martin, and the rebels entered Lima – the capital of Peru – and declared Peru an independent state in 1821. So, Peru couldn’t declare itself independent right away because that was where all the Spanish power was centralized. But the rebels came in and helped them, and Peru declared its independence as well.
The greatest military leader of the independence movement was not Jose San Martin, but Simon Bolivar. And Bolivar had traveled extensively in Europe. So, he used his knowledge of the enemy to run the Spaniards out of Colombia, Venezuela, and Central America. So, Bolivar had traveled through Europe. He knew the ways of the Spanish, he knew their language, he knew what would work and what wouldn’t, and so, he used his knowledge of the enemy, knowing their weaknesses, knowing where their strengths would be, and he ran the Spaniards out of Colombia, Venezuela, and Central America. So, he ran them out of a great area where they had colonized previously. And so, that left several of the countries independent now.
Bolivar eventually seized control of Peru as well, and he did that hoping to form a great union of South American nations. There were all these nations that had declared themselves independent, and Bolivar wanted to make them all join together to form a great union of South American nations. However, this alliance was eventually destroyed by internal feuds. So, they did form an alliance under Bolivar with his pushing for it, but it didn’t last that long because there was still a lot of internal feuding between the different nations, and so, they split back up into their individual, independent nations.
So, Central and South America, during this period of anti-colonial struggles, rebelled against their mother country of Spain when Spain was weak after losing to Napoleon’s forces. They started declaring their independence, rebels pushed the Spaniards out of Lima, the capital of Peru, where their power was centralized, and also ran them out of all the other countries that they have been dominating. Eventually, they were almost all independent nations, and Simon Bolivar tried to get them to join together in one union. They did, but it only lasted briefly, and then they went back to being independent, individual nations.