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Wars and Booms: the Late 19th Century in Latin America

The late 19th century was a time for the young Latin American democracies to flourish. As economies grew, the republics stabilized and began to develop their own national identities. There was also strife, however, as some of Latin America's most brutal wars, such as the War of the Pacific and the War of the Triple Alliance, took their toll on the new nations.

Bernardo O'Higgins
Bernardo O’Higgins (1778-1842) was a Chilean landowner and one of the leaders of its struggle for Independence. Although he had no formal military training, O’Higgins took charge of the ragged rebel army and fought the Spanish from 1810 to 1818 when Chile finally achieved its Independence. Today, he is revered as the liberator of Chile and the father of the nation

Biography of Simon Bolivar
Venezuelan Simon Bolivar was the most important leader of South America's Independence movement, which lasted from 1806 to 1825. A brilliant general and visionary politician, he led the liberation of Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. His dream of a strong, united Latin America is still unfulfilled.

Latin America: Causes of Independence
In 1810, Spain's New World Empire stretched from the American Northwest to Tierra del Fuego. By 1825, it retained only a handful of islands. What happened? How and why did Spain lose so much, so quickly?

Biography of Porfirio Diaz
Porfirio Daz ruled Mexico like a king for thirty-five long years (1876-1911). During this time, he modernized the economy, improved infrastructure, and made Mexico an important player in the global economy. Why, then, did the people of Mexico rise up and begin the Mexican Revolution just to kick him out?

Biography of Jos Mart
Jos Mart (1853-1895) was a Cuban revolutionary and poet. Although he was not a soldier, he was a leading advocate for Cuban independence from Spain from the time he was sixteen years old. He died in combat against Spanish forces in Cuba in 1895 and is today revered as a Cuban national hero.

Biography of Francisco Morazan
Francisco Morazan (1792-1842) was a Central American general, patriot and political leader. He served as President of the Republic of Central America in the 1830's and did his best to keep the nation united, although his efforts were doomed to failure.

Gabriel García Moreno: Ecuador's Catholic Crusader
Gabriel García Moreno was president and dictator of Ecuador for several years in the turbulent mid-nineteenth century. He is remembered primarily as a Catholic zealot who, in spite of his belief that Ecuador should be ruled by the church, managed to accomplish much during his tenure in office.

Biography of José Santos Zelaya
José Santos Zelaya was president of Nicaragua from 1893 to 1909. He left behind a very mixed legacy: although the country prospered, he was a harsh dictator and his enemies enjoyed little in the way of rights.

Emperor Maximilian of Mexico
From 1864 to 1867, Mexico was ruled not by a president, but by an Emperor: from a noble Austrian family, no less. Maximilian of Austria tried hard, but he was unloved by the people and eventually executed.

The Biography of William Walker
William Walker was the greatest of the American "filibusters:" men who attacked sovereign nations as a private enterprise, generally with the eventual aim of joining them to the United States. His greatest triumph happened in 1855-1857, when he took control of Nicaragua and named himself president.

The Thousand Days' War
The Thousand Days' War, a Civil War fought in Colombia from 1899-1902, devastated the nation and brought about the secession of Panama as an independent nation.

The Pastry War (Mexico vs. France, 1838-1839)
The Pastry War, fought over certain debts and reparations owed by Mexico to France, took place for several months in 1838-1839 and ended in a French Victory. Considered a minor conflict in the history of Mexico, it nevertheless had important consequences.

The War of the Pacific
A brief account of the War of the Pacific, fought between Chile and an alliance of Peru and Bolivia from 1879 to 1884.

Benito Juarez: Mexico's Liberal Reformer
Benito Juarez, one of Mexico's most important statesmen and reformers, was the most powerful Mexican politician of his era and a driving force in Mexican politics for several years.

Spanish-American War
An overview of the essentials of the Spanish American War, 1898.

Wars in Latin American History
The history of Latin America is marked by strife, warfare and violence. Nearly every nation from Mexico to Chile has been involved, at one time or another, in a bloody conflict, either internal or with neighboring countries. Here you'll find a handy list of some of the major conflicts.

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