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Democracy in Latin America 1811-1823

bolivar

DURING THE years when Napoleon and Spain were at war, Spain’s American colonies began their long fight to win independence from the mother country. Some of the earliest revolts were quickly defeated. The leaders were executed, but their deeds were remembered. In the early 1800’s, the leader of an unsuccessful revolt in Bolivia said, as he faced death: “I die; but the torch which I have lighted no one will be able to extinguish.” Francisco Miranda won fame for his unsuccessful revolt in Venezuela in 1811 and 1812. In Mexico, an old priest named Miguel Hidalgo, who wanted freedom for the Indians, led a force of 80.000 followers against the Spaniards in 1810. A great battle raged for hours. It seemed that the victory would go to Hidalgo’s forces, until a fire started in the grass near their position. Flames and smoke drove them back and in the confusion, the enemy butchered thousands of the rebels. Hidalgo’s head was cut off and placed in an iron cage as a warning against revolt. Although there were many revolutions, only Haiti, Paraguay and a province of Argentina had won independence from Spain by 1816. A year later José de San Martin of Argentina invaded Chile, using more than 9,000 mules and 1,600 horses to carry his heavy supplies over the Andes Mountains. With a small army of less than 4,000 men, he crossed high mountain passes that were 12,500 feet above sea level. Taking the Spaniards by surprise, he won a great victory at Chacabuco and freed Chile from Spanish rule. Later he invaded Peru and helped that nation, too, win its independence. Another great revolutionary leader, Simon Bolivar of Venezuela, defeated the Spaniards in Venezuela and Colombia and sent one of his armies into Ecuador and into what is now Bolivia …

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