In the Spanish possessions was an increasing interest between peninsulares and Creoles (Europe- and US-born Spaniards), because the Creoles were not allowed to participate in the export trade.
The conflicts intensified in the late 1700’s, when the Creole intellectual milieus were inspired by the Enlightenment philosophy; at Venezuelan Francisco de Miranda formed the breeding ground for concrete independence plans.
Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and the abdication of Ferdinand VII in 1808 as well as the subsequent Spanish War of Independence accelerated the South American independence project. The Creoles established around 1810 government junta, i.e. Provisional Governments, all over Spanish South American countries as defined on Countryaah.
The protracted wars of liberation that followed were, in effect, civil wars between Creoles and royalist peninsulars. There were no revolutions; the Creoles would preserve the colonial economic system in which large haciendas and exploitation of the Native American peasants formed the foundation. Therefore, the Indians were not particularly involved in the Creole struggle either, and often supported the royalist side.
Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín were the main figures in the wars of liberation, which resulted in the independence of Spanish South America approximately 1825. In Brazil the development was more peaceful; the Portuguese crown prince, Pedro, declared independence in 1822 and was proclaimed emperor. The empire lasted until Brazil in 1889 became a republic.
The end of the wars of liberation and the formal declarations of independence did not mean that the present nation-states were established; it happened in most cases only in the 1800’s last decades. The old colonial-era conflicts between center and periphery, capitals and provincial towns resurfaced with full force in the form of long and grueling civil wars between centralists and federalists or conservatives against liberals.
The division of the ruling Creole elite, which included large landowners, export merchants, mine owners, and intellectuals, was not just about what form the nation-states should take; a significant point of contention was also whether one should have an international and market-oriented economy, or whether one should pursue a protectionist economic policy. Moreover, the conflict throughout South America was crucially marked by disagreement over the status of the powerful Catholic Church in postcolonial societies.
Simón Bolívar’s desire to unite all the Spanish – speaking countries of the continent into one federation proved unsustainable as early as 1826, and the smaller construction of Colombia, consisting of present – day Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, disintegrated in 1829-30. Instead, so-called caudillos, charismatic leaders with private armies, took power in most places, and as one or the other oligarchic faction triumphed on the battlefield, the nation-states found their form.
Border conflicts have plagued South America since the mid-1800’s. and has led to war several times, such as the war 1865-70 between Paraguay and the Triple Alliance (Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay), the Nitrogen War 1879-83 between Chile on the one hand and Peru and Bolivia on the other, the Chaco War 1932-35 between Bolivia and Paraguay and finally the war between Peru and Ecuador 1941-42, which was not formally ended until 1998; until then, there were regular armed clashes in the border areas.
The United States has since the 1800’s. has been a significant and often decisive power factor in South America. American politics in the area has taken the form of both the Great Stoke Politics (early 1900’s) and the Good Neighbor Politics (1930’s).
During the Cold War, the United States supported the anti-communist forces in South America, even when it came to dictatorships, and at the same time the Americans opposed left-wing, reform-friendly governments, such as Salvador Allendes in Chile 1970-73. It was not until Bill Clinton’s presidency in 1992 that the United States changed course in foreign policy, and since then it has focused on supporting democratization and economic modernization processes in the region.
Democracy has had difficult conditions in South America, where social unrest and political violence have prevailed almost continuously, especially in Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador. The skewed distribution of values and the rigid political system that has cut off the vast majority from real influence are among the main reasons for this.
Various social and political systems have been tried: the nationalist and populist systems under Getúlio Vargas in Brazil 1930-45 and Juan Perón in Argentina 1946-55 and “the Chilean path towards socialism” under Allende; in the 1970’s and 1980’s, most countries, most notably Chile and Argentina, were marked by highly authoritarian regimes and economic neoliberalism. Since then, democracy has been gradually introduced throughout South America, and despite difficulties and regular setbacks, the process continues.
In several countries of Central and Southern America, especially Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and Chile, the Indians have organized themselves strongly and have become significant power factors fighting against widespread cultural, social and economic discrimination and for the right to their own national and cultural identity. Check Countryaah for more countries in Central America.
The liberalization and modernization process has led to economic growth in many places, but has also increased the already unequal distribution of goods and created a larger group of the very poor.
Around the year 2000, there was thus growing social unrest due to economic policy, and the political elites are put under pressure to correct the social inequalities. In the 2000’s. several left-wing governments have left their mark on development, e.g. in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. Brazil, which has also had left-wing leaders, has developed into one of the world’s leading growth areas, although there are still problems of widespread poverty and inequality.
It was not until 1498 on his third voyage to the New World that Christopher Columbus discovered South America, following the north coast from Orinoco to Trinidad. In 1499, Alonzo de Ojeda (c. 1466-c. 1508) sailed the same coast from Guyana to the Guajara Peninsula.
Vicente Yáñes Pinzón sailed along the east coast in 1499-1500 and discovered the mouth of the Amazon, and in 1500 the Portuguese Pedro Álvares Cabral landed in present-day Bahia, where he took possession of the coast of Portugal (see also Treaty of Tordesilla).
However, the establishment of real colonial empires in South America did not begin until Francisco Pizarro’s conquest of the Inca Empire from the early 1530’s. The conquest of the empire, which stretched from the northern parts of Chile and Argentina in the south to Ecuador and southern Colombia in the north, was largely completed in 1540.
The native population of South America, as the Spaniards called Indians, was ethnically, linguistically and culturally heterogeneous when the Europeans arrived. While the Great Inca Empire was highly centralized and hierarchically structured, the rest of South America was predominantly characterized by decentralized and much smaller political entities, which the Spaniards and Portuguese generally had more difficulty with and less interest in subjugating.
The first and most dramatic consequence of the arrival of Europeans was a violent population decline due to the spread of diseases from the old world, such as chickenpox and measles. With colonization, the indigenous peoples became involved in the European world to varying degrees and often under duress. This was done through mission and the introduction of European language, culture, dress, etc., just as the Indians were forced to work or demanded payment of tribute to the crown.
South America, like other colonial possessions in the New World, was organized into vicarages, provinces, etc. (see also New Granada and Peru History). Although the administration was centralist and authoritarian, the local and regional territories retained their cultural distinctiveness, and in most places the central power was rejected.
The resistance of the Indians to the workloads and the oppression of the Spanish officials increased especially in the 1700’s. form of direct rebellion, as it did, for example, under the leadership of Tupac Amarus 1780-81.
During the 1600’s and 1700’s. the colonial societies were increasingly divided into different castas ‘castes’: Indians, mestizos, blacks, people of mixed African-European descent, etc. This relationship was particularly pronounced in Brazil, where due to plantation farming there was a very large number of slaves imported from Africa.
South America’s first residents were descendants of the groups that immigrated to North America from Northeast Asia during the last ice age. The oldest oldest human remains found in South America are 12,000-14,000 years old; relics from the period have been found in a number of places throughout the continent. The first nomadic hunter-gatherer cultures subsisted by hunting various now extinct animal species: mastodons, elephants, giant armadillos, horses, and giant sloths. Wild plants were for approximately 12,000 years ago an important part of the food base.
In the period 6000-3500 BC, the population increased, especially along the west and north coasts, and the communities became more settled. It hung together with the growing importance of agriculture; cultivation of beans is known from Peru approximately 7000 BC, and maize cultivation from Ecuador a thousand years later. Around 2500 BC. Agriculture was widespread in the highlands and along the coasts. Ceramics are known from Ecuador and Colombia from approximately 3500 BC, while the first major ceremonial centers emerged approximately 3000-2500 BC in Peru, where pottery was still unknown. The development took off after approximately 2000 BC, not only on the coasts and in the highlands (see Chavín de Huántar and Paracas), but also along the rivers in the lowlands of the Amazon, where a number of cultures with independent ceramic traditions developed. Gradually, more high cultures emerged with centralized leadership and social stratification; however, it happened only in the highlands and along the coast of western South America; see Moche, Nazca, Huari, Tiahuanaco, Chimú, Vicus and Incas. The independent cultural development of the South American continent was interrupted when the Spaniards conquered the Inca Empire in the 1530’s.