Independence Movements in Latin America: Examples & Impact

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  • 0:05 Revolution in Latin America
  • 0:45 Haiti
  • 1:27 Mexico
  • 2:12 Central & South America
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will explore the 19th century Latin American revolutions. In doing so, it will highlight the roles L'Ouverture, Hidalgo, and Bolivar played in bringing freedom to Haiti, Mexico, and South America.

Revolution in Latin America

Toward the close of the 18th century, the revolutionary bug that had spread throughout Europe and North America, made its way to Latin America. Finally, after hundreds of years of European domination, the people of Latin America were ready to ring the bells of freedom.

Like the disenfranchised of the American and European revolutions, the lower classes of Latin Society had reached their fill. Creoles, Mestizos, and Mulattoes, who were all of mixed ancestral descent, were no longer willing to take a back seat to those of pure European blood. Thus, revolution came to Latin America.


In Haiti, revolution was led by Toussaint L'Ouverture. As a free man, L'Ouverture led the native, enslaved population of Haiti in revolt against their European masters. Occurring in 1791, this rebellion was victorious, seeing the freedom of enslaved Haitians within a decade. Although the year 1802 saw them once again threatened by the forces of Napoleon, who desired to retake Haiti, the freedom-hungry Haitians refused to be vanquished. Finally, in 1804 the Haitians declared their official independence. Perhaps just as significant, their success rocked the institution of slavery all over the Americas.


In Mexico, the Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo also decided it was time to throw off the chains of Europe. On September 16, 1810, he and his followers rose up in revolution against Spain. However, they were not as successful as their Haitian counterparts. Although they had some initial success, they were unable to take the capital city. Hidalgo was captured and executed in 1811. Despite this, September 16th is commemorated as Mexico's Independence Day.

Taking up Hidalgo's revolutionary mantle, rebels were finally able to overthrow the Spanish. In the 1820s, the free Republic of Mexico was born.

Central & South America

Similar scenes played out in Central America as local leaders rebelled against Spain and together created the United Provinces of Central America. Although they began as one, these free areas soon became the independent states of Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and El Salvador.

Perhaps the most famous of all 19th-century Latin American revolutions occurred in South America. Led by Simon Bolivar, known to history as The Liberator, a republic in Venezuela began to form. Following this, the areas of Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador were liberated. As other South American territories began to rebel against Spain, Bolivar had a vision for the formation of one nation under the name Gran Colombia. However, feuding among the groups made this impossible. Instead, independent nations like Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador were born.

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