Latin American Independence

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Latin American Independence

The Spanish amassed great wealth and power in their American colonies through oppression, slavery and racism. An amazing variety of classes developed and created a social gap in the people. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the American-born population began to advance towards independence. The process did not happen over night. Instead, it developed slowly due to social, political, ethnic, and economic factors, and the often bloody war for independence raged for fifteen years.

Enlightenment radically altered the ideas of people in Europe and America. Ideas that challenged old truths began to develop; ideas that praised individual rights such as the notion that ultimate authority in society resides with the people, not with the king, or that all people are created equal in nature and possess equal rights. The French and American revolutions were strongly influenced by these new, bold beliefs. Inspired by the ideas of the Enlightenment and the wars for independence in other parts of the globe, Latin American gained momentum to began their own revolution.

America was a mixing of many different races and each caste held specific rights and limitations. Natural born Spanish had access to the advantages and held the majority of power. The wealthy Creoles were able to ascend to positions of authority, but were always a step down the social ladder from the natural Spanish. Social inequality in America caused tension among the native population. When Spain, in an attempt to centralize their administration (spurred by the Enlightenment), began replacing Creoles with Spaniards in judicial and legislative offices, the tension was escalated even further. This challenged the position and comfort o...

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...they gave them individual property rights. The Indians who were not familiar with private ownership were easily taken advantaged. As a result of freedom and the end of the communal system, many Indians were left without protection and they slid even further down the economic ladder.

Political disorder and powerful leaders attempting to regulate authority marked the period after the revolutionary wars. Independence did not win Latin America its success; freedom created new problems and new challenges that had to be overcome.



Keen, Benjamin. Latin American Civilization. Westview Press. 2000.

Burkholder, Mark A. & Lyman L. Johnson. Colonial Latin America. 4th Ed. Oxford University Press. 2001.

Clayton, Lawrence A. & Michael L. Conniff. A History of Modern Latin America. Harcourt Brace College Publishers. 1999.
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