Latin American Independence

Resistance and Rebellion to the World and Imperial Order 1740-1800

In the 1700’s Spanish pressures and demand on the Peruvian Indians considerably increased.

In part this was reflected in changes in the mita. The Spanish were determined to increase the output of the silver mine at Potosi.

In the years between 1740 and 1790 the silver quotas of the mitayos were doubled so that even the miners wives and children would have to labor at the silver mine. The quota doubled from 15 to 30 loads per day.

Because of this increase in quota the quality in the Indians life and health worsened considerably.

In addition the repartimiento was levied and sales tax was increased so that the tribute of the Indians increased some million pesos annually.

These measures by the Spanish created pressures on the curacas or the local leaders of the Indian peoples who were responsible for collecting the tribute.

There was also great corruption in the Spanish bureaucracy and the Indians were the victims. As the tax increased so did localized attacks on Spanish political representatives.

The great Tupac Amaru Revolt of 1780-81 in many respects was the great and last battle of the Indians to decide once and for all whether or not South America would be regarded as Indo-America or Latin America.

There were many forerunners to this great revolt. From 1742 to 1755 a native leader named Juan Santos waged guerilla warfare from his base on the eastern slope of the Andes.

The Spanish crushed the revolt but the memory of the Santos rebellion lived on in the minds of the Andean peoples. Jose Gabriel Condorcanqui Tupac Amaru was a leader of Andean people in an area near Cuzco.

TA was well-educated, wealthy and a descendant of Inca Kings. In order to relieve the burden that the repartimiento caused to his people TA went to Lima many times in order to plead the case for his people using legal channels.

Legal channels failed, and then in November of 1780, revolt broke in Tinta a small province near Cuzco where TA and his forces ambushed the hated corregiedor Arriaga. Arriaga was tryed in court and then summarily executed.

TA rebellion had many links and support by British. In fact, the son of TA lived in England for 9 years studying and making business contacts for his father. TA was an arriero or an individual who engaged in the transport of goods from the coast throughout the Andes.

TA sought to have open trade with the British who were beginning to operate in the La Plata region. In fact the British smuggled arms for the Indian forces and served as advisors for the troops of TA.

The real genius behind the rebellion besides the British was the wife of TA Micaela Bastidas, who is probably the most famous woman in the history of Latin America. Micaela was the one who rode from village to village and region to region garnering support for TA.

Micaela was also a military genius and she planned all the successful battles of the revolt against the Spanish.

In early 1780 all of Bolivia was in revolt as the Catari brothers sought to end Spanish abuses of the Indians in the Bolivian altiplano.

But by early 1781 all Indian forces generally recognized TA as the leader of the revolt and unified their efforts around his leadership.

The goals of TA were to return the Andes to the Andean peoples and to create a new Incan state and return to the social system of the Incas. There would be trade with the English and the Spanish, but the Indian peoples would rule themselves. Also, Spanish priests would be driven from the land and all Spanish who resisted leaving would be exterminated.

There are many similarities with the TA revolt of the 1780’s and the Sendero Luminoso guerrilla movement of the 1980’s and 1990’s in terms of its millenarian vision.

Unfortunately TA made some serious tactical errors such as defeating the Spanish all over the Andes but never taking Cuzco. In the trial of TA after the revolt was crushed testimony came out that his wife Micaela had pleaded on her hands and knees for him to take Cuzco, but that he had refused to listen to a woman even though the tactical ideas of this woman were largely responsible for his early success.

By not taking Cuzco, the Spanish relief forces had a safe and defensible refuge from the Indian insurgents. There was also poor communications between the rebel forces, and petty jealousies divided the Indian nobility. In fact, Micaela had even warned him not to go a certain province for she knew that the cacique there would betray him to the Spanish. And this is exactly what happened.

After a prolonged trial in Cuzco, TA was tortured and then drawn and quartered and Micalea was tortured, skinned alive and mutilated by the Spanish authorities, several hundred more of the TA family were put to death. However, the rebellion continued for another 2 to 3 years in Bolivia.

The last Incan revolt as it has been called was not entirely in vain for the Spanish monarchy immediately instituted reforms designed to lighten the tax burden on the Indian populace.

In 1781 there was also another revolt in New Grenada that like the one in Bolivia and Peru had its origins in intolerable economic conditions.

Under the command of hesitant and cautious Creole leaders, thousands of peasants, artisans and poor and people of every walk of life marched on the capital of Bogota. The rebels took Bogota and the Spanish later negotiated with the rebels to return lands that had been taken from the Indians, abolished the tobacco tax and allowed for Creoles to assume political office and not just Europeans.

The next major political upheaval in Latin America was the War for Independence. Among the causes for the revolutionary crisis that developed from 1808 to 1810 was the decline of Spain under the inept Charles IV. In addition the Creoles of Latin America wanted more economic and political autonomy from Spain. Also the Latin American colonies were inspired by the example that the British colonies in North America set in 1776 in their War for Independence.

There were many parallels between the US struggle for independence and that of Latin America. But the Latin American revolution was less unified due to vast distances and geographical obstacles. Also there was a lack of class and racial unity among the society of Latin America and it lacked the democratic heritage that existed in the North American colonies.

Simon Bolivar is the symbol and hero of the liberation struggle in northern South America. Bolivar was originally a Creole born in Carracas Venezuela in 1783. He went to Britain several times to solicit British aid for the coming revolutionary struggle. The war for the Independence of Latin America was a terribly destructive war. In fact Latin America was a far richer land than the US in 1800, but after the wars its economic base and enterprises were completely destroyed.

After the war Latin America faced immense obstacles. Economic life stagnated and the anticipated large-scale influx of foreign capital did not materialize.

Since no land was redistributed to the millions without land the influence of the landed aristocracy actually increased as a result of the leading military role it played in the independence struggle.

Free trade with Europe brought not economic growth, but rather great commercial activity to the coasts of Latin American countries, at the expense of more even economic development in the rest of the countries. Also cheap European goods destroyed local industry and manufacturing.

As a result of all these factors the period of 1820 to 1870 was for most Latin American countries an age of violence, dictatorship and political and economic instability.

The symbol of the time was the caudillo whose political power always rested on force no matter what the written constitution said. The caudillo ruled at the provincial and local levels through lesser caudillos.

There were political parties such as the conservatives, the liberals, Unitarian, and federalist. Liberals were supported by merchants, people who were anti-church, believed in individual rights, and anti-military. Conservatives were backed by the Church, the military and the landed aristocracy. Neither party displayed much concern for the Indian masses.

Beginning in about 1870 as the Industrial revolution picked up steam in Europe it stimulated changes in Latin American economy and polity. European capital flooded Latin America and the debt of many countries expanded.

Extreme one-sidedness was a feature of the new economic order in Latin America. One or two products became the basis of each country’s prosperity, making it vulnerable to fluctuations in the world demand and price.

Other sectors of the economy such as Industry and manufacturing remained stagnant and underdeveloped.

The late 19th century expansion had two other characteristics. Economic expansion took place within the framework of the hacienda system of land tenure and labor, and it was accompanied by a steady growth of foreign control over the natural and man-made resources of the region.

By 1900 a new structure of dependency, or colonialism had arisen called neo-colonialism, with Great Britain and later the US replacing Spain and Portugal.

The struggle for Mexican independence had been begun by the radical priests of Hidalgo and Morelos. In Guadalajara, the burning of the alhondiga and the bloodshed led by the followers of father Hidalgo was the start of the insurrection.

The insurrection was completed by the Creole officer Augustin Iturbide who headed a conservative coalition that consolidated political control of Mexico in 1820.

With conservatives in power the great haciendas continued to dominate the Mexican countryside. The church continued to wield enormous economic, political, religious and social power.

The beginning of free trade brought with it new problems for Mexico. More and more European goods were imported by Mexico with little Mexican exports being bought by the Europeans. Also the Mexican treasury was bankrupt after the war, the bureaucracy was enormous and Mexico had an enormous trade deficit with Europe. Also there was a Mexican officer class that was ready to revolt anytime that they did not receive their pay.

Foreign loans appeared to be the only way out of the crisis. Right after independence in 1824-25 British bankers made loans to Mexico amounting to 32 million pesos. By 1843 unpaid interest and principal raised the foreign debt of the nation to 54 million pesos.

Foreign investment from the British did allow for the recovery of the mining sector.

An ambitious effort to revive and modernize Mexican industry and manufacturing got under way under the direction of the great Mexican statesman Lucas Alaman who sought the creation of a national bank that would give loans to entrepreneurs interested in starting new manufacturing and industrial enterprises. Leading industrial centers included Mexico City, Gudalajar, Puebla, Durango and Veracruz. But by 1843 the Banco de Avio had to close its doors due to a shortage of capital. The Mexican economy then functioned as it had before based on mining and agriculture.

Imports of Mexico consisted of manufactured and industrial goods from Europe.

Politics in Mexico was dominated by Liberals competing against Conservatives. The conflict started the moment that Iturbide the conservatives rode into to Mexico city flanked by two republican and politically Liberal generals Vicente Guerro and Guadalupe Victoria.

The Iturbide government fell in 1823 and this cleared the way for the establishment of a republic in Mexico. The constitution of 1824 represented a compromise between the liberals and the conservatives.

General Santa Ana and the conservatives ruled Mexico for the greater part of two decades from 1834 to 1854. During this period economic and political authority was centralized in a few key Mexican cities.

Conservative neglect and misrule led to the loss of Texas by 1837 and then its annexation to the US in 1845.

Even more disastrous for Mexico was the US/Mexican War of 1846 to 1848 where Mexico lost all of the southwestern territories of the US and California.

This loss of the northern Mexican borderlands provoked a serious political crisis in Mexico. By 1855 Santa Ana had been driven into exile and a more moderate political administration assumed control of Mexico.

An Indian named Benito Juarez became minister of justice and one of his first acts was a decree to abolish special privilege of the church and the military. This led to a great outcry and resistance by conservative Mexican elements.

Even more important was Ley Lerdo decreed in June of 1856. It was poorly designed but it struck a heavy blow at the landed wealth of the church. The church could not speculate in real estate or own lands not used for religious purposes.

The intent of the law was to create a rural middle class. The only problem was that much of Mexican lands that were auctioned wound up in the hands of foreign owners. Also the law declared that Indian village lands be broken up and sold at auction.

These decrees and laws led to a civil war in Mexico by 1857 that lasted until 1860 that pitted the conservatives against the liberals. The conservatives initially won most of the battles, but by 1860 the liberals were in charge of the situation.

By Jan of 1861 Juarez marched back into the capital. The conservatives then looked abroad for support in Europe and the conservative governments of England, France and Spain did not like the Mexican liberals.

The Europeans then demanded payment of Mexican debts, but due to the civil war the treasury was empty and Juarez pleaded that Mexico at the time did not have th money to pay.

In October of 1861 the three powers agreed on a joint intervention in Mexico and in 1862 they landed troops at Veracruz. The English and Spanish soon departed after receiving assurances from the Mexican government that they would receive their money. But the French stayed on and ruled through the puppet emperor Maximillian and his wife Carlotta.

Maximilan ruled until 1867 when he was captured and executed by Liberal troops.

Juarez became the symbol of the successful resistance to foreign invasion and he resumed office as president in August of 1867.

His government inherited a devastated country agriculture and industry were in ruins. In 1873 the level of exports was below that of 1810. In order to balance the budget Juarez dismissed 2/3’s of the army which produced discontent and uprisings.

Juarez did invest money in the development of a public school system and by 1874 there were about 8,000 elementary schools.

In the countryside Juarez continued the liberal program of trying to implant capitalism in the rural sector at the expense of not the haciendas, but of the Indian communities.

The result was a series of nationwide peasant revolts.

Juarez was reelected in 1871, and had to put down a revolt by a hero of the war with the French, General Porfirio Diaz who charged that Diaz was becoming a dictator. But Juarez died of a heartattack. Lerdo assumed power and stole the election of 1876 from Diaz. Diaz then staged a coup and took control of the presidency with the help of his troops.

In Argentina, unity of all the provinces began with the appointment in 1821 of Bernardino Rivadavia as chief minister of the province of Buenos Aires. Rivadavia was an ardent liberal who launched an ambitious program of educational social and economic reform. He promoted primary education and founded the University of Buenos Aires.

Rivadavia sought a balanced program of agriculture and industry for the Argentine provinces, with a large role assigned to British investment and colonization.

The greatest progress was made in the cattle industry that expanded at the expense of Indian landholding in the south.

In 1822 Rivadavia introduced the system of emphyteusis which was a program of distribution of public lands through long-term leases at fixed rentals.

Some people saw this as an attempt at land reform, but it actually contributed to the growth of large landed estates.

As this class grew it became an enemy of Rivadavia’s industrial plans and progressive ideas.

Rviadavia’s planning went beyond the province of Buenos Aires for he had a vision of a unified Argentina under a strong central government that would promote the needed economic development for the whole territory.

After a difficult war with Brazil that ended in 1828 over Uruguay his political fortunes declined quickly.

Even before the end of the war R. lost on a constitutional issue and resigned the presidency in 1827 and went into exile.

After a period of factional struggles the federalism espoused by the landed oligarchy triumphed in the person of Juan Manuel Rosas, who became governor of the province of Buenos Aires in 1829.

Under his leadership in 1831 a federal pact was created under which Buenos Aires assumed representation for the other provinces in foreign affairs, but left them free to run their own affairs.

A network of personal alliances between Rosas and provincial caudillos backed by the use of force against uncooperative local leaders insured for him a large measure of control over the interior.

Rosas’ long reign saw a total reversal of Rivadavia’s progressive, liberal policies. For Rosas his only economy concern was for the export of cattle hides, and salted meats and jerked beef. At the same he neglected industry and manufacturing

Rosas also had a secret police force that eliminated all political opposition to his policies.

By the 1870’s railroads expanded throughout Argentina, and the introduction of alfalfa ranges dramatically improved the quality of cattle grown in Argentina.

In 1876 the arrival of an experimental shipload of refrigerated beef from Argentina led to a great export boom and expansion of cattle ranges in Argentina.

By the late 1870’s the War of the Pacific broke out between Bolivia, Peru and Chile and for the Bolivians the war resembled a Greek tragedy.

Bolivia protested chilean expansion in the Atacama desert where there were large nitrate deposits. In 1878 the Bolivian government initiated a tax on all nitrate deposits and the English director and owners with the full backing of the Chileans labeled the tax unfair, even though they were technically mining in Bolivian territory.

After the Bolivians announced that they would confiscate Chilean and English companies that refused to pay the nitrate tax, the Chileans landed troops at Antofagasta in 1879. By April, the Peruvian entered the war on the side of the Bolivians after they had lost several key battles.

The Chileans deliberately provoked the Peruvians to intervene on the side of the Bolivians in order to once and for all destroy Peruvian military power and seize their coastal and mining interests. Since 1873 the Chileans had secretly prepared for a huge naval war with the Peruvians and were ready for Peruvian intervention.

Within hours after the declaration of war by the Peruvians the Chileans had blockaded almost all of Peru’s ports and by the time the Bolivians were able to mobilize 4,000 troops the chileans were moving troops into southern Peru.

In one of the greatest invasions in the 19th century the chilean armies invaded Lima and the Peruvian sierra.

In Peru, the Chileans burned parts of Lima and carried off a great amount of government papers and documents.

In the sierra most of the Indians and Chinese coolies that had been used to work the haciendas and build the railroads from the Andes to the Peruvian coasts joined the Chilean armies and fought against the Peruvians.

By 1880 the Chileans controlled most of Peru, but refused to invade Bolivia. After a treaty was signed that made Peru and Bolivia the guilty parties for the war, the Chileans withdrew. But Chile gained all the Atacama desert, Bolivia no longer had access to the sea and Peru lost alot of its southern territory as well.

The War of the Pacific destroyed the power of the conservative army in Peru and Bolivia and gave civilian politicians the justification they needed for modernizing the political systems of Peru and Bolivia.

Also for Peru, the war revealed the deep seated racial hatred that the highland Indians had for the people who lived and ruled from Lima.

The result was the ending of the era of military caudillo rule and the beginnings of modern parliamentary government in Peru and Bolivia that would be dominated by civilian politicians.

This ended 55 years of military rule in Bolivia since its independence and it was finally able to enter the age of classic 19th century civilian rule.