05/25 – The First Cry for Liberty

A South American revolutionary, sometime during the Latin American Wars of Independence. (Age of Revolutions)

On this day in 1809, a popular uprising began in Chuquisaca (now Sucre, modern-day Bolivia) against the Spanish colonial government. Concerned by events in Europe – the Spanish king Ferdinand VII had been deposed and replaced by a relative of Napoleon – academics at Chuquisaca University started debating the future of their nation. Much to the horror of locals, Chuiquisaca’s governor García León de Pizarro announced plans to hand over authority of the Americas to the much-hated Princess Carlota Joaquina. Bernardo de Monteagudo, an Argentinian-African activist, declared that “…[since] the [Americas] are the personal domain of the King, and the King is impeded to reign … the [Americas] shall govern themselves.” Taking De Monteagudo’s words to heart, the citizens of Chuquisaca took up arms and formed a junta (revolutionary government) in defiance of the Spanish colonial government.

A map depicting the geopolitical evolution that occurred in the early 19th century. When change came to the Americas, it came rapidly. (Freeman-Pedia)

Like most armed uprisings, the Chuquisaca Revolution (AKA Primer grito libertariothe First Cry for Liberty) was quickly and brutally suppressed by Spanish counter-revolutionary forces. The fighters and academics who took part in the junta were jailed or murdered, and a semblance of normalcy returned to Chuquisaca. But the peace was short-lived: according to many scholars, the small uprising helped galvanize South American patriots and nationalists across the continent. Inspired by the American and French revolutions – and now, by news of the revolutionary junta in Chuquisaca – freedom fighters like Simon Bolivar began a massive effort to decolonize the continent. Known as the Latin American Wars of Independence, the real fighting began soon after the failed uprising in Chuquisaca; although the uprising was by no means a singular “spark” that kicked off the broader wave of revolutions, it is viewed as a turning point in Spain’s relationship with the colonies. Harshly divided into European spheres of influence over 300 years prior, South Americans began the long journey to independence that lasted well into the 1830s.

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