After the United States secured its independence from Great Britain in 1783, a passion for liberty and sovereignty began to spread to other nations in the Americas. The French Revolution, begun in 1789, further promoted ideas of “liberty, equality, and fraternity.” In the eighteenth century, Latin American peoples were burdened by colonial control imposed through high taxes, a very powerful church, oppressive working conditions including slavery. To change these conditions, various leaders began movements that would alter the political and cultural landscape of this region: Toussaint L’Ouverture in Haiti (1791), Miguel Hidalgo in Mexico (1810), José de San Martin in what is now Argentina, Chile, and Peru (1808), and Simón Bolívar in what is now Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru (1808). (Although Haiti is quite different from the other revolutionary movements listed in this set, its revolution is a turning point in Latin American history.) With European powers like France and Spain occupied with the Napoleonic wars and their aftermath, Latin American territories began to slip free from colonizers’ control. Only some attempts at independence were fully successful, but seeds sowed by these early revolutions would yield a great harvest in years to come. In this set, students will begin to see how a group of revolutionaries shaped both the map and the mindset of Latin American nations.
Additional resources for research
- The Other Revolution: Haiti 1789-1804, John Carter Brown Library, Brown University.
- The Spanish American Revolutions: Setting the Stage, John Carter Brown Library, Brown University.
- “Enshrined and Oft-Invoked, Simon Bolivar lives on,” NPR.