latin America and Independence

  • Understands how and why people create, maintain or change system of power, authority and governance
  • Understand the purpose of government and how its powers have been acquired, used, and justified.
  • Understand different political systems from historical periods.

  During the late 18th century, the Enlightenment, American and French Revolutions helped spark powerful political and economic movements throughout the entire Latin American region.  Liberty , equality and other democratic ideals found their way into the hearts of great freedom fighters like Simón Bolívar and Toussaint L'Overture.  These leaders and other helped move forward great reforms for the people of Latin America and win independence from the colonial powers of western Europe. 

Latin America Revolutions

Web page about causes of Latin American independence

Latin American wars of independence


While Spain was racially "pure" in the sense that the Moors, Jews, gypsies and other ethnic groups had been kicked out centuries before, the New World populations were a mixture of Europeans, Indians and blacks brought in as slaves. The highly racist colonial society was extremely sensitive to minute percentages of black or Indian blood: your status in society could be determined by how many 64ths of Spanish heritage you had. Spanish law allowed wealthy people of mixed heritage to "buy" whiteness and thus rise in a society which did not want to see their status change. This caused resentment with the privileged classes: the "dark side" of the revolutions was that they were fought, in part, to maintain a racist status quo in the colonies free of Spanish liberalism.

Napoleon Invades Spain: 1808

Tired of the waffling of Charles IV and Spain's inconsistency as an ally, Napoleon invaded in 1808 and quickly conquered not only Spain but Portugal as well. He replaced Charles IV with his own brother, Joseph Bonaparte. A Spain ruled by France was an outrage even for New World loyalists: many men and women who would have otherwise supported the royalist side now joined the insurgents. Those Spaniards who resisted Napoleon begged the colonials for help but refused to promise to reduce trade restrictions if they won.


The chaos in Spain made the perfect excuse to rebel and yet not commit treason: many said they were loyal to Spain, not Napoleon. In places like Argentina, colonies "sort of" declared independence: they claimed that they would only rule themselves until such a time as Charles IV or his son Ferdinand were put back on the Spanish throne. This half-measure was much more palatable to some who did not want to declare independence outright. Of course, there was no real going back from such a step and Argentina formally declared independence in 1816.

The independence of Latin America from Spain was a foregone conclusion as soon as the creoles began thinking of themselves as Americans and the Spaniards as something different from them. By that time, Spain was between a rock and a hard place: the creoles clamored for positions of influence in the colonial bureaucracy and for freer trade. Spain granted neither, which caused great resentment and helped lead to independence. But had they agreed to these changes, they would have created a more powerful, wealthy colonial elite with experience in administering their home regions - a road that also would have led directly to independence. Some Spanish officials must have realized this and the decision was taken to squeeze the utmost out of the colonial system before it collapsed.

Of all of the factors listed above, the most important is probably Napoleon's invasion of Spain. Not only did it provide a massive distraction and tie up Spanish troops and ships, it pushed many undecided creoles over the edge in favor of independence. By the time Spain was beginning to stabilize - Ferdinand reclaimed the throne in 1813 - colonies in Mexico, Argentina and northern South America were in revolt.


Lynch, John. Simón Bolívar: A Life. 2006: Yale University Press.

Scheina, Robert L. Latin America's Wars: The Age of the Caudillo, 1791 - 1899. 2003: Washington: Brassey's, Inc.

For the independence struggle in the Hispanic American nations, see Spanish American wars of independence.

Map of Latin American independence

Mexican Independence

The Latin American Wars of Independence were the various revolutions that took place during the late 18th and early 19th centuries and resulted in the creation of a number of independent countries in Latin America. These revolutions followed the American and French Revolutions, which had profound effects on the Spanish, Portuguese and French colonies in the Americas. Haiti, a French slave colony, was the first to follow the United States to independence, during the Haitian Revolution, which lasted from 1791 to 1804. Thwarted in his attempt to rebuild a French empire in North America, Napoleon Bonaparte turned his armies to Europe, invading and occupying many countries, including Spain and Portugal in 1808. The Peninsular War, which resulted from this occupation, caused Spanish Creoles in Spanish America to question their allegiance to the metropole, stoking independence movements that culminated in bloody wars of independence, which lasted almost two decades. At the same time, the Portuguese monarchy relocated to Brazil during Portugal's French occupation. After the royal court returned to Lisbon, the prince regent, Pedro, remained in Brazil and in 1822 successfully declared himself emperor of a newly independent Brazil.


I.   Latin America Independence - The Basics

A.  Society divided into social classes based upon birth

1.  Peninsulares are the men born in Spain and were the highest class and held the most powerful political positions

2.  Creoles are Spaniards born in Latin America and often were army officers

3.  Mestizos are mixed European and Indian ancestry

4.  Indians  

5.  Mulattos are people of mixed European and African ancestry

6.  Zambo

7.  African 

B.  European bloodline would guarantee  a person more power and wealth while people of African and Indian ancestry were the most oppressed and poverty stricken

C.  Causes for reform included Napoleon's conquests, America 's independence, the French Revolution and the Enlightenment 

Use this reading to address the issue of treatment of the Indigenous inhabitants.   Readings about laws that were initiated to protect the Indigenous populations human rights.  Read this and submit study guide. It is titled "New laws of the Indies, 1542"

Assignment:  After reading and discussing "The New laws of the Indies"  do some research on how the Colonies were affected by the new laws? Write a 100 word opinion on the affect of new laws.  Check out info about New laws of Indies.  Abolition of Slavery from Wikipedia.  A time line of slavery, When it was practiced, when it was abolished

Assignment 2013
Chose a Country from the list below.  Construct a Public Service Announcement with music intro (if you like not required) 1 minute in length.  PSA should demonstrate an understanding of knowledge, interpretation or analysis, about these questions:  1.  What is the movement toward Independence?   2. What should be the role of government? 3.  Why must the government be overthrown or not changed? 
Presentation: On an I-movie each person will make a one minute PSA.   (1) demonstrates social studies concepts, including interpretation, analysis, (Why did government need to change?)   (2) What kind of things did people want from the new government or what was the old government not doing?   (3) Communicates explanations or arguments that are clear, complete and accurate.  (Does the government be changed?)    Yahoo answer has a question about why people revolt.  Read

Rubric for PSA              10 to 8                       7 to 5                            4 or less                    


Work demonstrates social studies Knowledge of interpretation, analysis, synthesis or evaluation


A moderate, yet significant portion of work shows interpretation, analysis, synthesis or evaluation

A small portion of the student’s work shows interpretation, analysis, synthesis or evaluation


 Uses skills
Excellent recording
Shows mastery of audio editing

Skills learned in and out of class

Excellent recording

Audio and video editing show quality

Most things worked

No major Problems,

 No music,

Sloppy recording

Hard to understand

No Mastery of assignment



Content:  Creative story, length, content

Engaging PSA

Historical  correct

Required content of: -Needed change, `

-gov’t role,

-why independence

Not Correct length

Includes most required content

Historically not correct 100%

Most content is missing

Story is missing or very short

Doesn’t answer questions



Quality of presentation:  -Shows care and skill –Nicely done

- Made good choice of sound or music

Shows care and skill

Very appealing

Easy to follow story

Good choice of music and message is understandable

Transitions are smooth

Narration is clear

Pace is just ok too fast or too slow

Seems to be Limited in ability

Narration is monotonous

Pace is all over


Fake facebook

U.S. CIA World Fact book Independence Days
Latin American Countries

Argentina 9 July 1816 (from Spain)
Belize 21 September 1981 (from UK)
Bolivia 6 August 1825 (from Spain)
Brazil 7 September 1822 (from Portugal)
Chile 18 September 1810 (from Spain)
Colombia 20 July 1810 (from Spain)
Costa Rica 15 September 1821 (from Spain)
Cuba 20 May 1902 (from Spain 10 December 1898; administered by the US from 1898 to 1902)
Dominican Republic 27 February 1844 (from Haiti)
El Salvador 15 September 1821 (from Spain)
Guatemala 15 September 1821 (from Spain)
Honduras 15 September 1821 (from Spain)
Mexico 16 September 1810 (from Spain)
Nicaragua 15 September 1821 (from Spain)
Panama 3 November 1903 (from Colombia; became independent from Spain 28 November 1821)
Paraguay 14 May 1811 (from Spain)
Peru 28 July 1821 (from Spain)
Puerto Rico none (territory of the US with commonwealth status)
Uruguay 25 August 1825 (from Brazil)
Venezuela 5 July 1811 (from Spain)


II.  Independence Movements and their Leaders

A.  Haiti

1.  Caribbean French colony of Saint Domingue on the western part of Hispaniola  

2.  Majority of population made up of African slaves terrorized and controlled by plantation owners

3.  Toussaint L'Overture led a revolt leading to the abolishment of slavery and an independent country of Haiti  

B.  South America

1.  Wealthy charismatic Venezuelan Creole general, Simón Bolívar,


led a freedom fight that earned him the name " Liberator "

2.  Led daring battles and won Venezuela 's independence from Spain in 1811

3.  Teamed with José de San Martín to defeat Spanish forces in Ecuador

4.  Bolívar says "I will not rest until I have broken the chains that binds us to the will of Spain "

C.  Argentina - José de San Martín helped win independence in 1816 for Argentina but worked to free neighboring Chile to end the constant threat of Spain

D.  Mexico

1.  Popular uprising from the Mestizos and peasants led first by Miguel Hidalgo and later Padre José María Morelos

2.  Mexico 's leaders were greatly influenced by the Enlightenment

3.  Mexico 's revolution suffered several defeats until it declared independence in 1821

E.  Brazil - Through a bloodless revolution,  Brazil wins independence from Portugal in 1822

Other leaders of Independence movement: General Antonio José de Sucre's Ecuador,  José Gervasio Artigas Uruguay's leader, 

More inclusive list from Wiki-pedia:


III.  Conclusions

A.  Independence comes to Latin American nations from a range of methods and events, from violent battles to bloodless revolutions

B.  Unfortunately, poverty and disunity takes the place of European powers for future decades

C.  Latin American independence movements were triumphant in putting to action the ideas of the Enlightenment modeled earlier from America and France

CIA World Factbook  Doing research on countries of Latin and South America

Pick out a country from Latin America and South America (so you have two)  look up in CIA - Background, (summarize) People (summarize) Economy (summarize) Trans-national issues (summarize) Turn in on Google Doc.   Put information on google presentation, 4 slides 3 to 5 bullets per slide.  Present to class, be ready to generalize your results. 


Key Terms


men born in Spain and were the highest class and held the most powerful political positions


Spaniards born in Latin America and often were army officers


people of mixed European and Indian ancestry


people of mixed European and African ancestry


Before and After

Before (Causes)

American Revolution & Independence

  • the American fight for independence was a model for Latin America

French Revolution

  • the ideas of " Liberty , Equality and Fraternity" inspired the leaders of Latin America to break from European control


  • the ideas of social equality, democracy, justice from the Enlightenment greatly influenced the people of Latin America to fight for freedom

Napoleon's Conquest

  • as Napoleon conquered Europe he took with him the ideas of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution
  • these ideas came to the colonies of Latin America

After (Effects)

Independence but at a Cost

  • Mexico and South America took heavy casualties battling for independence

Nationalism & Division

  • disagreement and inequality plague the political and social structure of many Latin American nations


  • despite independence and winning freedoms the majority of Latin Americans live in poverty following independence


Click on Lind to view information about revolution in Latin America