5 facts about Latin American wars of Independence

5 facts about Latin American wars of Independence

Trigger spark

Contrary to popular notion, the cause of Latin American wars of independence was more then just a desire to get rid of “foreign invaders.” Yes, the key positions in the colonies were occupied by the officials sent from the mother country, and local population (even Creoles) was not admitted to high office. But the decisive role belonged to economic reasons:

  • poll tax and labor service of the indigenous population;
  • prohibition for the colonies to trade with other countries;
  • desire of peasants to become owners of their land, and artisans – to be free from landlords.

A spoke in wheel

Latin American colonies won the war for independence from Spain not only by their own courage and strength, but because of some external causes. England defeated the Spanish fleet in 1805, effectively blocking Spain’s capabilities to lead the colonial trade. This is clearly evidenced by a decrease in the number of Spanish vessels arriving in the largest port of Mexico – Veracruz: there were 148 vessels in 1802, 27 in 1803, and only 8 in 1806. Simultaneously, imports from Spain fell in three times, and exports from Veracruz – in seven. Thus, by the beginning of the liberation movement Spain simply has lost the opportunity of economic control over their colonies.


Junta is a Spanish term for union or consultative assembly, later – the government body in Latin America, Spain and Portugal. Such provisional revolutionary governments were established in Latin America when in 1810 the uprising against Spanish colonial rule took place in its major centers. Juntas replaced Spanish colonial administrations, and this event marked the beginning of Latin American wars of independence.

Two sides of the coin

Wars of liberation in Latin America are sometimes also called civil wars, since local people fought on both sides. Thus, besides the Spanish army on the side of royalists there were the Quechua people, Araucana (mapuche, “People of the earth”) – Indian people in Chile and Argentina, ethnic group Wayuu (Guajiro, Wahiro), living in the north of Colombia and Venezuela, and other local peoples. In general, Europeans constituted only one-tenth of the royalist armies of Spanish America.

Unequal equality

Relative social equality was achieved in Latin America long after the wars of liberation. After the overthrow of the Spanish authorities Creoles (descendants of Spaniards born in the new lands) and mestizos (descendants of mixed marriages of Spaniards and Indians) began to occupy key positions, and native local population was actually deprived of the opportunity to influence the government. However, slavery was abolished, as well as the caste system, the Inquisition, and the nobility.

Theories of martialism

There are a number of theories that attempt to explain motivations for wars. A number of psychologists, including Freud, argue that aggression is human nature, but cannot explain human cultures that do not know war. Demographic theories seek the causes of war in the growth of population and the lack of resources, and also argue that a large number of unemployed young men increase probability of war. Rationalist theory knows the most practical motivation for war: it assumes that both sides in the conflict just want to get the maximum benefit.

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