What were the colonial misgivings about “monarchy-wide cortes in February of 1810 (p. 350). What do you think of the relationship between the monarchy (or the Central Junta) and the colonials in Spanish America? Do you think that the criollos were waiting for independence the whole time? Why or why not?
Over the last two weeks, we talked about the Caroline and Bourbon Reforms in Spanish America, and I am sure that after reading Chapters 9 and 10, you feel like movements for Independence in colonial Latin America were only days away from happening (maybe only a week, since I post these on Sunday). But no!
As upset as the criollos might have been by the dramatic economic and political changes that occurred (not the least of which the fact that the power that they had worked for generations to gain was being taken away by peninsulares), the criollos still remained loyal to the Spanish Crown. Independence was certainly something that was whispered about in dark corners, but only by the bold, and perhaps the stupid. If we start during this era of Independence in the Americas, we have to start with the American Revolution–
Hey– I’m not happy about it either (this is Latin American History darn it!)!
But the American Revolution was the first war for independence in the Americas, so it certainly played an important role.
I mean, your book is kind of right– the French Revolution definitely played a much bigger role, but keep in mind:
1) The American Revolution was fought from around 1775 to about 1783
2) The French Revolution was fought from 1789 through the 1790s.
Just because the American Revolution was first does not mean that it had a bigger influence than the French (it did NOT). However, keep in mind that the movements for independence throughout Latin America were just as much about ideas as they were about economics– ok, they were almost as much about ideas as economics– and thus, knowing that there was a neighbor to the north that was able to shrug off colonial power certainly had a psychological effect, if not quite a political one.
The truth is, the eventual movements of independence throughout Latin America was really a combination of things, but one of the largest factors was time– time was needed for these ideas to sink in, and time was needed for things to totally unravel in Europe.
And it really did start with the French Revolution, and Napoleon’s rise to power:
No, not that Napoleon, THIS Napoleon:
Also happening in the late 18th century (the late 1700s) was the Haitian Revolution, which, if the world wasn’t turned upside down already, it definitely was by then. Check out the generally informative Powerpoint I put together about the Haitian Revolution (via your email), and connect it to your text.
Freedom was happening everywhere, and it was happening in many different ways (and in Spain, it was happening largely in the context of Napoleon’s attempt to take over the world!).
The Spanish (in Spain) and Portuguese were freaked out about what was happening in France– the revolution– and rightfully so, because once Napoleon was in power, he directly threatened both Spain and Portugal. In response, Portugal simply moved the ruling family to Brazil (where they stayed nice and cozy for a while). Napoleon put his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, in the ruling seat in Spain, and things got a bit ugly:
1) With a king in power that most people in Spain did not recognize as their rightful king (Joseph Bonaparte), the people fought back.
2) They gave a nickname to Joseph Bonaparte– “Pepe Botella,” because he was allegedly a heavy drinker, and alcoholic. Now, there is not a whole lot of proof to back this up, whether or not the accusation was true didn’t matter. What was important is that the war against this supposed king of Spain was fought by the people in Spain, who employed not only military tactics, but also propaganda (by implying that he was a drunk) to unseat him.
3) Now, this one is ugly, but also not ugly:
Since no one wanted to acknowledge the kingship of Joseph Bonaparte, the Spanish people actually started becoming more democratic (though not totally– they were organizing among themselves, having elections, hearing each other’s grievances, and basically running a country, all while either ignoring or fighting Napoleon’s brother, the alleged alcoholic. In a sense, people in Spain (and the colonies) are beginning to get a taste of what the world outside of a monarchy looks like, and they like it!
(the above meme is not historically accurate. To my knowledge, Mel Gibson has never been near Spain)
In fact, over time, the Spanish people wrote their own constitution (1812, Constitution of Cadíz, after the Cortes of Cadíz in 1810), had their own government, their own ideas of what citizenship meant. This kingdom in Spain was moving towards its own independence phase– independence from monarchy! (this did not work– we will find out more about this next week. What happened there was kind of ugly too. Cliffhanger– you’re going to have to wait until next week to find out!)
(or you could just read the next chapter, I suppose. You have the book, after all!)
Back to the Americas
Let’s return to colonial Latin America for a second. Because of the Bourbon and Caroline Reforms, things were bad for everyone, but most of all the criollos (creoles). They were watching what power they had slip away, and meanwhile, their colonial masters (the Spanish, represented throughout Spanish America by peninsulares) were struggling to survive back in Europe.
But did the criollos want democracy? Did they want to be free of their colonial masters? I’m inclined to say no– because I’d bet that a lot of them looked over towards the Caribbean, to Haiti– where slaves were rising up and fighting against the French, or their colonial masters of a different sort), specifically, and started worrying about all of the slaves, Indians, mestizos, and other castas who were in a much more desperate position than they were, and did not want that to happen to them.
Despite the fact that Enlightenment ideologies encompassed all different kinds of knowledge (religious, social, political, economic, etc), the one that the criollos were probably least concerned with was the “political.” Even the Grito de Dolores in Mexico in 1810 might not have been about independence. Why not? Well, at the time, Latin American colonials were not as concerned with monarchies– they were concerned with bad monarchies. For example, in Mexico, one of the things that the tens of thousands of Indians and Mestizos led by Father Miguel Hidalgo shouted repeatedly was “death to bad government!”
I’m going to end this lecture with a long quote from the book, which I think is important enough to make sure it is said twice:
“Among the frequently mentioned ’causes of independence’ are creole–peninsular hostility, a growing creole self-consciousness, trade restrictions, the Enlightenment, the precedent of the American Revolution, and the revolutionary ideology of the French Revolution. Although neither individually nor collectively were these ’causes’ responsible for the initiation of insurgent movements, once open conflict was under way, they did affect the course of the war, justify actions that insurgents took, and influence new forms of political organization.” (p. 353)
As always, it was a collection of events, moments, and peoples that led to the independence movements becoming what they were. And next week (finally!) we are going to talk about some of those movements.
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