Americanos: Latin America's Struggle for Independence

Americanos: Latin America's Struggle for Independence

Americanos: Latin America's Struggle for Independence

Americanos: Latin America's Struggle for Independence


In 1808, world history took a decisive turn when Napoleon occupied Spain and Portugal, a European event that had lasting repercussions more than half the world away, sparking a series of revolutions throughout the Spanish and Portuguese empires of the New World. These wars for independence resulted eventually in the creation of nineteen independent Latin American republics.
Here is an engagingly written, compact history of the Latin American wars of independence. Proceeding almost cinematically, scene by vivid scene, John Charles Chasteen introduces the reader to lead players, basic concepts, key events, and dominant trends, braided together in a single, taut narrative. He vividly depicts the individuals and events of those tumultuous years. Here are the famous leaders--Sim n Bol var, Jos de San Mart n, and Bernardo O'Higgins, Father Hidalgo and Father Morelos, and many others. Here too are lesser known Americanos: patriot women such as Manuela S enz, Leona Vicario, Mariquita S nchez, Juana Azurduy, and Policarpa Salavarrieta, indigenous rebels such as Mateo Pumacahua, and African-descended generals such as Vicente Guerrero and Manuel Piar. Chasteen captures the gathering forces for independence, the clashes of troops and decisions of leaders, and the rich, elaborate tapestry of Latin American societies as they embraced nationhood. By the end of the period, the leaders of Latin American independence would embrace classical liberal principles--particularly popular sovereignty and self-determination--and permanently expanding the global reach of Western political values.
Today, most of the world's oldest functioning republics are Latin American. And yet, Chasteen observes, many suffer from a troubled political legacy that dates back to their birth. In this book, he illuminates this legacy, even as he illustrates how the region's dramatic struggle for independence points unmistakably forward in world history.


Long live the Sovereign People!
Our time has come at last…

“Canción americana,” 1797

WHY AMERICANOS, WITHOUT capitalization? Why América—as will be written here—with an accent mark? Americanos are, after all, simply the people of América. América is the same word in Spanish or Portuguese and English, one could say. And yet it isn’t. For Latin Americans, América has never been synonymous with the United States, nor are americanos simply Americans, and the distinction becomes important in the story told here. Therefore, in this book, América will be used to mean what we today call, in English, Latin America, including all the lands colonized by Spain and Portugal. The americanos in these pages are speakers of Spanish or Portuguese, not English.

América and americanos were key terms in Latin America’s independence struggles. Until 1807–8, when Napoleonic invasions of Portugal and Spain unleashed a crisis in América, americano was a term generally denoting whites only. But by the time the dust settled in . . .

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