Latin American History

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What inspired Latin Americans to seek independence?

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Several factors and events combined to inspire Latin America's independence wars of the 1800s.

First was the increasing weakness of Spain as colonial master. This weakness signaled to pro-independence agitators an opening and an opportunity to seek separation. The indecisiveness of Charles IV, coupled with the country's preoccupation with the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, demonstrated the growing decay of the Spanish Empire.

Second was the recent success of revolutions elsewhere, especially the American Revolution.

Third was Spain's lack of respect for free trade. Despite the productive wealth of Spain's American colonies, these colonies were only permitted to trade with the mother country. This artificially forced down the prices of goods and resources produced in Central and South America.

Finally, there was a growing sense of separate identity from Spain. Alexander Von Humboldt, a Prussian geographer, visited Cuba, Mexico, and parts of South America in the early 1800s. During his travels, he noted that the locals preferred to be called "Americans" instead of "Spaniards."

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