Outline and explain the main causes and patterns of political instability experienced in much of Spanish America in the first half-century after independence.

Spanish America's political instability in the first half-century after independence was caused by mediocre political leadership, regional differences, religion, and racial tensions. The problems facing the newly-independent Latin American nations were even much more serious than those in the United States after its independence.

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Simon Bolivar was the most important military and political leader of Latin American independence. As a military commander, Bolivar was at least equal to George Washington. But Bolivar failed as a political leader. He tried to govern as a dictator, before giving up. He died before he could go into exile.

One major problem for Bolivar and other postwar Latin American leaders was political disunity. Bolivar wanted to keep all the newly-independent nations together, but there were too many regional differences throughout an area much larger than that of the United States. There were rebellions throughout Latin America as regional warlords struggled for power. One example of disunity was the United Provinces of Central America, which broke away from Mexican control in 1823. In 1838, the Central American region divided itself into separate nations. Regional tensions also caused a terrible war in South America—the War of the Triple Alliance.

Another source of tension was the Catholic church. It had always been extremely important in Spanish America. Should it continue to enjoy a special status in postwar Latin America? Latin American leaders could not agree on its proper role in the region.

Finally, racial divisions contributed to Latin America's instability. White people, Native Americans, black people, and mixed-race groups distrusted each other and did not work well together.

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