The American empires founded by Spain and Portugal broke up in the 19th century. These European countries were no longer powerful, and their colonies struggled to break away. Wars brought liberation, but independence was often followed by strife between the new nations.
Table 53. LIBERATION
|1816||Argentina declares independence|
|1818||San Martín liberates Chile|
|1819||Gran Colombia is founded|
|1820||Brazil annexes Uruguay|
|1821||Peru gains independence Venezuela and Ecuador are liberated|
|1822||Brazil breaks away from Portugal|
|1825||Bolivia is liberated|
Simón Bolívar, “the Liberator,” helped to free much of South America. He fought in Venezuela and ruled Colombia and Ecuador. He freed Peru, and Bolivia was renamed in his honor. Other freedom fighters included Bernardo O’Higgins and José de San Martín, who fought in Argentina, Chile, and Peru.
When Portugal was invaded by the French emperor Napoleon in 1807, the Portuguese royal family fled to their colony of Brazil. King John VI returned home in 1821, leaving his son Pedro to rule Brazil for him, but in 1822, Pedro declared himself to be emperor of an independent Brazil.
The capital city of Argentina, Buenos Aires (meaning “fair winds”), was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century. In 1810, its people rose up against Spanish rule, gaining their independence in 1816. There followed a civil war between the city-dwellers and the ranchers of the provinces. The country was finally united in 1861.
In the 19th century, South America’s gold and silver mines began to run out. A new source of wealth was needed. In Brazil, plantations of coffee and rubber were set up, while Argentina’s grasslands supported sheep and cattle. When refrigeration was invented, huge amounts of beef were exported from Buenos Aires.