MundoAndino Home : Bolivia Guide at Mundo Andino

Bolivian Independence War

The Bolivian war of independence began in 1809 with the establishment of juntas in Sucre and La Paz. The war culminated sixteen years later with the creation of the Republic of Bolivia.

The juntas of 1809

During the Peninsular War in Spain, Upper Peru (today Bolivia) closely followed the reports that arrived describing the rapidly evolving political situation in Spain, which led the Peninsula to near anarchy. The sense of uncertainty was heightened by the fact that news of the March 17 Mutiny of Aranjuez and the May 6 abdication of Ferdinand VII in favor of Joseph Bonaparte arrived within a month of each other, on August 21 and September 17, respectively. In the confusion that followed, various juntas in Spain and Portuguese Princess Carlotta, sister of Ferdinand VII, in Brazil claimed authority over the Americas.

On November 11, the representative of the Junta of Seville, Jose Manuel de Goyeneche, arrived in Chuquisaca, after stopping in Buenos Aires, with instructions to secure Upper Peru's recognition of authority of the Seville Junta. He also brought with him a letter from Princess Carlotta requesting the recognition of her right to rule in her brother's absence. The President-Intendant Ramon Garcia Leon de Pizarro, backed by the Archbishop of Chuquisaca Benito Maria de Moxo y Francoli, was inclined to recognize the Seville Junta, but the mostly Peninsular Audiencia of Charcas, in its function as a privy council for the President (the real acuerdo), felt it would be hasty to recognize either one. A fist fight almost broke between the senior oidor and Goyeneche over the issue, but the oidores' opinion prevailed. Over the next few weeks Garcia Leon and Moxo became convinced that recognizing Carlotta might be the best way to preserve the unity of the empire, but this was unpopular with the majority of Upper Peruvians and the Audiencia. Over the next few months the President and the Archbishop became more unpopular.

On May 26, 1809, the Audiencia oidores received rumors that Garcia Leon de Pizarro planned to arrest them in order to recognize Carlotta. The Audiencia decided that the situation had become so anarchic both in Upper Peru and in the Peninsula, that Upper Peru needed to take the government into its own hands. It removed Garcia Leon de Pizarro from office and transformed itself into a junta, which ruled in Fernando's name, just as cities and provinces had done in Spain a year earlier. A second junta was established in La Paz on July 16 by Criollos who took over the local barracks and deposed both the intendant and bishop of La Paz. The La Paz junta clearly broke with any authority in Spain and with the authorities in Buenos Aires. These two juntas failed to consolidate a solid following in all of Upper Peru and were defeated by October 1809 by two armies sent by the viceroys of Lima and Buenos Aires, Jose Fernando de Abascal and Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros.John Lynch, The Spanish American Revolutions, 1808-1826 (Second edition) , 50-52, ISBN 0-393-95537-0; and Jaime E. Rodriguez O., The Independence of Spanish America , 65-66, ISBN 0-521-62673-0. After Buenos Aires successfully established a junta in May 1810, Upper Peru came under the control of the Viceroyalty of Peru and managed to fight off several attempts by to take over it militarily.

The republiquetas

From 1810 to 1824, the idea of independence was kept alive by six guerrilla bands that formed in the backcountry of Upper Peru. The areas they controlled are called republiquetas ("petty republics") in the historiography of Bolivia. The republiquetas were located in the Lake Titicaca region, Mizque, Vallegrande, Ayopaya, the countryside around Sucre, the southern region near today's Argentina and Santa Cruz de la Sierra. The republiquetas were lead by caudillos whose power was based on their personality and ability to win military engagements. This allowed them to create a quasi-states which attracted many followers from political exiles from the main urban centers to the fringe members of Criollo and Mestizo society, such as cattle rustlers. The Criollo and Mestizo members of these republiquetas often allied themselves with the regional Indian communities, although it was not always possible to keep the Natives' loyalty, since their own material and political interests eclipsed regional independence. Ultimately the republiquetas never had the size or organization to actually bring about the independence of Upper Peru, but instead maintained a fifteen-year stalemate with royalist regions, while holding off attempts by Buenos Aires to control the area.Lynch, John (1992). Caudillos in Spanish America, 1800-1850. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 44-51. ISBN 0-19-821135-X

The areas of Upper Peru which remained under royalist control elected a representative to the Spanish Cortes, Mariano Rodriguez Olmedo, who served from May 4, 1813, to May 5, 1814. Rodriguez Olmedo was a conservative representative, signing the 1814 request, known as the [[:es:Manifiesto de los Persas|"Manifesto of the Persians"]] , by seventy Cortes delegates to Ferdinand VII to repeal the Spanish Constitution of 1812.Rieu-Millan, Marie Laure. Los diputados americanos en las Cortes de Cadiz: Igualdad o independencia. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, 1990, 44. ISBN 978-8400070915.

Independence consolidated

The fight for independence gained new impetus after the December 9, 1824, Battle of Ayacucho in which a combined army of 5,700 Gran Colombian and Peruvian troops under the command of Antonio Jose de Sucre defeated the royalist army of 6,500 and captured its leader, Jose de la Serna. The Colombians and Peruvians, who had already liberated Ecuador and Peru, tipped the balance of power in favor of the independence forces. After the Battle of Ayacucho, the remaining royalist troops under the command of Pedro Antonio Olanetawho was opposed to the Constitution and had rebelled in January 1824 against Viceroy La Serna and the liberal restoration of 1820surrendered after Olaneta died in Tumusla on April 2, 1825. Simon Bolivar, president of Gran Colombia and Peru at the time and Sucre's chief, was opposed to Upper Peruvian independence, but local leadersboth former royalists like Casimiro Olaneta, nephew of General Olaneta, and patriotsall supported it. Bolivar left the decision to Sucre, who went along with local sentiment. Sucre proclaimed Upper Peru's Declaration of Independence in the city which now bears his name on August 6. A constituent congress renamed the country "Bolivar," later changed to Bolivia, on August 11, 1825.

From then on, local elites dominated the congress and although they supported Sucre's efforts, they chaffed under the idea that a Gran Colombian army remained in the nation. After an attempt on his life, Sucre resigned the presidency of Bolivia in April 1828 and returned to Venezuela. The Bolivian Congress elected La Paz native Andres de Santa Cruz the new president. Santa Cruz had been a former royalist officer, served under Jose de San Martin after 1821 and then under Sucre in Ecuador, and had a short term as president of Peru from 1826-1827. Santa Cruz arrived in Bolivia on May 1829 and assumed office. The government was now fully in the hands of locals, opening a new, though equally troubled, era in Bolivian history.

See also

Contemporary Bolivian history

History of Bolivia

List of wars involving Bolivia

Military career of Simon Bolivar

Peru-Bolivian Confederation, 1836-1839

Spanish American wars of independence


Acta de Independencia, 6 de agosto de 1825.
Didn't find what you were looking for.
Need more information for your travel research or homework?
Ask your questions at the forum about History of Bolivia or help others to find answers.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Bolivian Independence War

Disclaimer - Privacy Policy - 2009