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Two Hundred Years of Independence in Latin America

All over Latin America, countries are celebrating 200 years of independence from 2009 to 2011

Sep 24, 2010

Seit 2009 und noch bis 2011 feiern die Länder Lateinamerikas 200 Jahre Unabhängigkeit
Between 2009 and 2011 the Latin American countries are celebrating 200 years of independence. Image Credit: morgueFILE
Latin America won its independence from European colonial powers Spain, Portugal, and France about 200 years ago – an event that is now garnering widespread recognition and leading to extensive celebrations of the bicentenario.

From the revolution fought by slaves to free Haiti, to the lengthy wars of independence across Spanish holdings in the Americas, to the bloodless emancipation of Brazil, a whole range of events took place 200 years ago. While there were major individual differences between them, all of these occurrences took place in a wider context. The history of Latin America was interconnected with developments in the Atlantic and with the American Revolution and the French Revolution – and even more pronouncedly so than during the colonial period.

The founding of the nations we consider part of Latin America today, which continued into the mid-19th century, shared one feature: anti-colonial resistance. But with the disenfranchisement and dispossession of large social and ethnic groups, the rise of caudillismo, and the development of guerrilla warfare, these events were also marked by the emergence of problems still found in some parts of Latin America to this day. In light of the rise of new indigenous movements such as the one in Bolivia and the rediscovery of Bolivarianism in Venezuela under Hugo Chávez, this dramatic era is taking on new importance and gaining political currency.

Topics of the Present and Future: Democracy and Social Justice

When in 1830 Simón Bolívar looked back on the war for independence, he cited the establishment of stability and legitimization of the political order in multicultural societies as central problems facing Latin America. Today, as various countries celebrate the bicentennial of their independence, issues surrounding the form taken by democracy in Latin America are once again the focus of public attention. In many countries, the bicentennial is considered a reference point for the realignment of the nation’s projects for the future, and for achieving social justice. Even in countries where the official celebrations will not start until later, discussions centering on these topics have long been under way. Under the shadow of their colonial heritage and hampered by problematic beginnings in the early 19th century, the countries of Latin America have fought long and hard, for about 200 years, to discover how to live up to the promise of the revolution.

Further Information

Dr. Stefan Rinke
Professor of Latin American History
Latin America Institute (LAI), Freie Universität Berlin
Rüdesheimer Str. 54-56 — Room 238
14197 Berlin
Tel.: + 49 (0)30 838-55588
Fax: + 49 (0)30 838-57888