Independence in the Latin America came about in the 19th century after three centuries of colonialism. The then European superpowers in France, Spain, Portugal and Britain had for years colonialized the South Americans. The Creoles` political, commercial and social freedom was in the hands of their European masters. However, according to the encyclopedia Britannica Online website accessed on February 19, 2016, the American-born Spanish and Portuguese decided to seek their independence. They were fed up with the way the Bourbons were unfairly attacking their wealth, political power and social status.

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In the second half of the 18th century, some trade restrictions gradually loosened. This loosening of trade restrictions was a positive move for the Latin Americans in some colonies such as Venezuela. However, the profits that the American-born Europeans got only made them yearn for more free trade than what the colonialists were willing to give. These Latin Americans felt that the Bourbons were treating them like they were recently conquered colonies even after hundreds of service to the colonialists.

The Latin Americans got frustrated and their frustration increased with enlightenment about their political rights. They generated ideas and participated in conspiracies against some of their colonial rulers at the end of the 18th century and early in the 19th century.

“In 1789 when the governor threatened to impose a new tax to make up for the decline in mineral royalties, several members of the heavily indebted elite considered declaring independence in order to manage their own economic fortunes and revenues”

The enlightenment of the American-born Europeans and participation in the conspiracies against the colonialists was similar to some of the then European Enlightenment figures like John Locke and others. This enlightenment of the Creoles strengthened and inspired them in the movements for independence all across the Latin America. They got informed of their identity and their rights and this information also helped them to unite and lead movements all across the European Colonies in South America. The leaders of these independence movements were inspired to become later great leaders of the liberation of Latin America.

However, the information and enlightenment cannot be said to be the leading cause of Latin America`s independence. The South American colonies did not follow all the ideas that came across them. Rather, they selected the most realistically helpful ideologies and adopted the thoughts which revolutionists in France and the United States of America used. Not all the people in Latin America accessed the information because only the elite urban social class obtained the Enlightenment ideologies. The most notable benefit of the enlightenment was creating and reinforcing a questioning attitude towards the then current authority.

Diplomatic and military operations within Europe proved decisive in the liberation of the Latin Americas. Parallel to the independence movements in South America, the events unfolding between the European superpowers in Britain, Spain, Portugal and France were very pivotal in the search for freedom in Latin America.Political disagreements and military competition among the leaders of the colonial countries led to the breakdown in the communication between the colonies and their masters. In the event when the two powers in Spain and France collaborated to bring down Britain and Portugal, the Portuguese leader was forced to flee to Brazil and later made Brazil his administrative headquarter for all the Portuguese colonies. Dramatically, the French king Napoleon turned against his Spanish colleagues thus creating total political unrest in Spain and all its colonies. After breaking the communication between Spain and Portuguese and their subject states, and having captured and imprisoned the Spanish King and Prince, King Napoleon had enough power to stop the most powerful British, who used their naval power to conquer the other superpowers.

With the political unrest in Europe spreading across all the South American States, the Latin Americans’ quest for independence became the most realistic in the early 19th century.

  • Chasteen, John C, and Sarah C. Chambers. Latin American struggles for independence: an anthology of sources. Indianapolis, Ind: Hackett, 2009.
  • Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “history of Latin America”, accessed February 19, 2016,
  • Graham, Richard. Independence in Latin America: CONTRASTS AND COMPARISONS, (2013): 10-11.