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