What Characterizes South American Independence?


Quick Answer

South American independence describes the self-governing, sovereign nature of most South American territories. Starting in the 1500s, South America was conquered and colonized by several European nations. The progression of South American independence began with armed revolutions in the 1800s, followed by peaceful decolonization in the 1900s.

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Full Answer

After centuries of European control, South American independence was catalyzed by Napoleon's invasions of Spain and Portugal in 1807. After the Spanish king abdicated and surrendered control to France, the Spanish people refused to submit. Various Spanish colonies appointed juntas or provisional governments tasked with resisting France and the new, French-appointed king of Spain.

After the restoration of the Spanish monarchy, the Spanish colonies refused to give up their autonomy and fought the monarchy vigorously. Led by Simon Bolivar and Jose de San Martin, the revolutionaries defeated Spain by 1825. Brazil became an independent kingdom in 1822 in a move that was not militarily opposed by Portugal. In return for its acceptance of the situation, Portugal insisted on financial payment.

As of 2015, the only non-independent territories in South America are French Guiana and the Falkland Islands, which are controlled by the United Kingdom. When Argentina unsuccessfully attacked the Falkland Islands in 1982, it claimed to act in the name of South American independence.

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