Nation Building in Latin America
ESSENTIAL QUESTIONSHow can innovation affect ways of life? How does revolution bring about political and economic change?
Guiding Question:Howwere nationalist revolts in Latin America influenced by the French and American Revolutions?By the end of the eighteenth century, the new political ideals stemming from the successfulAmerican/FrenchRevolution were beginning to influence the creole elites.Creoleswere the descendants of Europeans who had permanently settled in Latin America.Theycontrolled land and business and were attracted to the principles of equality of all people in the eyes of the law, free trade, and a free press.Thecreoles especially disliked the domination of their trade by Spain and Portugal.The creole elites soon began to use their new ideas todenounce (resented)the rule of the Spanish and Portuguese monarchs and theirpeninsulares(Spanish and Portuguese officials who resided temporarily in Latin America for political and economic gain and then returned to their homeland).ThepeninsularesdominatedLatin America and drained the region of itswealth.Atthe beginning of the nineteenth century, Napoleon's wars provided the creoles with an opportunity for change.WhenNapoleon overthrew the monarchies of Spain and Portugal, the authority of the Spaniards and Portuguese in their colonial empires was weakened.Then, between 1807 and 1825, a series of revolts enabled most of Latin America to become independent.
Revolt in Haiti
An unusual revolution occurred before the main independence movements.Santo Domingo—onthe island of Hispaniola—was a French sugar colony.François-DominiqueToussaint-Louvertureledmore than 100,000 enslaved people in revolt.Theyseized control of all of Hispaniola.OnJanuary 1, 1804, the western part of Hispaniola, now called Haiti, became the first independent state in Latin America.
Revolt in Mexico
Beginning in 1810,Mexicoalso experienced a revolt.Thefirst real hero of Mexican independence was Miguel Hidalgo.Aparish priest, Hidalgo lived in a village about 100 milesfromMexicoCity.Hidalgohad studied the French Revolution.Heroused the local Native Americans andmestizos, people of mixed European and Native American descent, to free themselves from theSpanish.OnSeptember 16, 1810, Hidalgo led this ill-equipped army of thousands of Native Americans and mestizos in an attack against the Spaniards.Hisforces were soon crushed, and a military court later sentenced Hidalgo to death.
However, his memory lives on even today.Infact, September 16, the first day of the uprising, is Mexico's Independence Day.The role of Native Americans and mestizos in Mexico's revolt against Spanish control frightened the creoles and thepeninsulares.Afraidof the masses, they cooperated in defeating the revolutionary forces.Creolesandpeninsularesthen decided to overthrow Spanish rule.Theseconservative elites wanted an independent nation ruled by a monarch.Theyselected a creole military leader,Agustínde Iturbide (EE •tur• BEE •thay), to set up a new government.In1821 Mexico declared its independence from Spain.Iturbidenamed himself emperor in 1822 but was deposed in 1823.Mexicothen became a republic.
Revolts in South America
José de San Martín of Argentina andSimónBolívar of Venezuela, both members of the creole elite, were hailed as the "Liberators of South America."Bolívarbegan the struggle for Venezuelan independence in 1810.Healso led revolts in New Granada (Colombia) and Ecuador.By1819, these countries had formed Gran Colombia.By 1810, the forces of San Martín had liberated Argentina from Spanish authority.InJanuary 1817, San Martín led his forces over the Andes Mountains to attack the Spanish in Chile.Thejourney was an amazing feat.Two-thirdsof the pack mules and horses died during the trip.Soldierssuffered from lack of oxygen and severe cold while crossing mountain passes more than two miles (3.2 km) above sea level.
The arrival of San Martín's forces in Chile completely surprised the Spanish forces there.Asa result, they were badly defeated at the Battle ofChacabucoon February 12, 1817.Chiledeclared its independence in 1818.In1821 San Martín advanced on Lima, Peru, the center of Spanishauthority.SanMartín was convinced that he could not complete the liberation of Peru alone.HewelcomedSimónBolívar and his forces.Bolívar, the "Liberator of Venezuela," took on the task of crushing the last significant Spanish army at Ayacucho on December 9, 1824.Bythe end of 1824, Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile had become free of Spain.Earlier, in 1822, the prince regent of Brazil had declared Brazil's independence from Portugal.TheCentral American states had become independent in 1823.In1838 and 1839, they divided into five republics: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua.
Threats to Independence
In the early 1820s, one major threat remained to the newly won independence of the Latin American states.Membersof the Concert of Europe favored using troops to restore Spanish control in Latin America.TheBritish, who wished to trade with Latin America, disagreed.Theyproposed joint action with the United States against any European moves against Latin America.Distrustfulof British motives, James Monroe, the president of the United States, acted alone in 1823.Inthe Monroe Doctrine, he declared that the Americas were off limits for anycolonizationalefforts, and strongly warned against anyEuropeaninterventionin theAmericas.
Guiding Question:Whatdifficulties did newly independent Latin American countries face? How did economic dependence on foreign investment influence Latin America through the mid-1800s?The new Latin American nations faced a number of serious problems between 1830 and 1870.Thewars for independence had resulted in a staggering loss of people, property, and livestock.Duringthe course of the nineteenth century, the new Latin American nations would become economically dependent on Western nations once again.
Rule of the Caudillos and Inequality
Most of the new nations of Latin America began with republican governments, but they had no experience in self-rule.Soonafter independence, strong leaders known ascaudillosgainedpower.Caudillosruled chiefly by military force and were usually supported by the landed elites.Manykept the new national states together. Some were also modernizers who built roads and canals, ports, and schools.Otherswere destructive.
A fundamental problem for all the new Latin American nations was the domination of society by the landed elites.Largeestates remained a way of life in Latin America.Landremained the basis of wealth, social prestige, and political power throughout the nineteenth century.Landedelites ran governments, controlled courts, and kept a system of inexpensive labor.Theselandowners made enormous profits by growing singlecash crops, such as coffee, for export.Mostof the population had no land to grow basic food crops. As a result, the masses experienced dire poverty.
Imperialism and Economic Dependence
Political independence brought economic independence, but old patterns were quicklyreestablished.Insteadof Spain and Portugal, Great Britain now dominated the Latin American economy.Britishmerchants moved into Latin America, and British investors poured in funds.Oldtrade relationships soonreemerged.LatinAmerica continued to serve as a source of raw materials and foodstuffs for the industrial nations of Europe and the United States.Exportsincluded wheat, tobacco, wool, sugar, coffee, and hides. At the same time, Latin American countries imported finished consumer goods, especially textiles, and had limitedindustry.Theemphasis on exporting raw materials and importing finished products ensured the ongoing domination of the Latin American economy by foreigners.LatinAmerican countries remained economically dependent on Western nations, even though they were no longer colonies.