14.2 Latin American Nations Win Independence

By the late 1700s, the revolutionary fever that gripped Western Europe had spread to Latin America. There, discontent was rooted in the social, racial, and political system that had emerged during 300 years of Spanish rule. By 1825, most of Latin America was freed from colonial rule.

Painting of men in military uniforms circled around a man seated at a desk, pointing to papers and looking at the viewer.

Simón Bolívar was a Venezuelan-born military and political leader. Inspired by Enlightenment ideals, he led revolutions to end Spanish rule in Latin America.


  • List the causes of growing discontent in Latin America, including the influence of the Enlightenment.
  • Trace the influence of the American and French Revolutions on Latin America.
  • Describe the revolutions in Haiti, Mexico, and Central America.
  • Explain how South American nations won independence, including the role of Simón Bolívar.

Key Terms

  • peninsular
  • creole
  • mestizo
  • mulatto
  • Simón Bolívar
  • Toussaint L'Ouverture
  • Father Miguel Hidalgo
  • Father José Morelos
  • José de San Martín
  • Dom Pedro

Latin America Ripe for Revolution

A Complex Social Structure

Spanish-born peninsulares, members of the highest social class, dominated Latin American political and social life. Only they could hold top jobs in government and the Church. Many creoles—the European-descended Latin Americans who owned the haciendas, ranches, and mines—bitterly resented their second-class status. Merchants fretted under mercantilist policies that tied the colonies to Spain.

Meanwhile, a growing population of mestizos, people of Native American and European descent, and mulattoes, people of African and European descent, were angry at being denied the status, wealth, and power that were available to whites. Native Americans suffered economic misery under the Spanish, who had conquered the lands of their ancestors. In the Caribbean region and parts of South America, masses of enslaved Africans who worked on plantations longed for freedom.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments