Spanish American wars of independence

The Spanish American wars of independence were numerous wars in Spanish America with the aim of political independence against Spanish rule during the early 19th century. These began shortly at the start of the French invasion of Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. Thus, the strict period of military campaigns would go from the battle of Chacaltaya (1809), in present-day Bolivia, to the battle of Tampico (1829), in Mexico.[7][8]

Spanish American Wars of Independence
Part of the Decolonization of the Americas
Decisive events of the war: Congress of Chilpancingo (1813) (top); Congress of Cúcuta (1821) (bottom left); Crossing of the Andes (1817) (bottom right); Map of the Spanish nation according to the Cortes de Cádiz (1810) at the beginning of the war (below).
Date25 September 1808 – 29 September 1833
(25 years and 4 days)

Patriot victory.

Spain loses dominion over all their possessions in the continental Americas and retained only the islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Spanish Monarchy


Supported by:
Russian Empire[1]

Patriots:[Note C]


  • Native American allies of the Patriots

Supported by:

United Kingdom (1815–1819)[Note I]
 United States[2]
Units involved

Royalist Forces:

Main Patriot forces:

  • Armed forces of the United Provinces[Note F]
  • Armed forces of Chile[Note G]
  • Armed forces of Gran Colombia
  • Armed forces of Mexico[Note E]
  • Armed forces of Peru
Spain: 30,000 soldiers (total deployment)[4] Unknown
Casualties and losses
30,000 Spaniards Casualties of Expeditionary Forces. Rest of forces Unknown [5] 570,000 dead[6]

In 1808, the sequestration of the Spanish royal family by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Abdications of Bayonne, gave rise to an emergence of liberalism and desire for liberties throughout the Spanish Empire. The violent conflicts started in 1809, with short-lived governing juntas established in Chuquisaca and Quito opposing the government of the Supreme Central Junta of Seville. At the beginning of 1810, numerous new juntas appeared across the Spanish domains in the Americas when the Central Junta fell to the French invasion. Although various regions of Spanish America objected to many crown policies, "there was little interest in outright independence; indeed there was widespread support for the Spanish Central Junta formed to lead the resistance against the French."[9] While some Spanish Americans believed that independence was necessary, most who initially supported the creation of the new governments saw them as a means to preserve the region's autonomy from the French. Although there had been research on the idea of a separate Spanish American ("creole") identity separate from that of Iberia,[10] political independence was not initially the aim of most Spanish Americans, nor was it necessarily inevitable.[11]

At the end of 1810, Ferdinand VII of Spain, captive, was recognized by the courts of Cadiz and by the governing juntas in the Americas as a subordinate king to popular sovereignty. In agreement on this, a military conflict arose between Royalists and Patriots over the unity or independence of the empire. However, in 1814, with the defeat of Napoleon after the treaty of Valençay, Ferdinand VII returned, and with a coup d'état, reimposed absolutism. Ferdinand was able to defeat and repress the peninsular liberals, and abolished the republican Constitution of Cadiz, although he could not defeat the revolutionaries, who resisted and formed their own national congresses. The Spanish navy had collapsed in the war against Napoleon, so therefore, in practice, was supporting the expeditionary forces who arrived in small groups. In 1820 the Spanish army, led by Rafael Riego, revolted against absolutism, restored the so-called Trienio Liberal, and ended the threat of invasion against the Río de la Plata and Venezuela, but did not change the position of Spain against separatism, resulting in the defenders of the King collapsing in Americas. Over the course of the next decade, the Patriots’ armies won major victories and obtained independence in their respective countries. The political instability in Spain, without a navy, army or treasury, convinced many Spanish Americans of the need to formally establish independence from the mother country. In Spain, a French army of the Holy Alliance invaded and supported the absolutists, restored Ferdinand VII, and occupied Spain until 1828.[12]

These conflicts were fought both as irregular warfare and conventional warfare. These wars began as localized civil wars,[13] that later spread and expanded to promote general independence from Spanish rule.[14] This independence led to the development of new national boundaries based on the colonial provinces, which would form the future independent countries that constituted contemporary Latin America during the early 19th century.[14] Cuba and Puerto Rico remained under Spanish rule until the Spanish–American War in 1898. The new republics immediately abolished the formal system of racial classification and hierarchy, the caste system, the Inquisition, and noble titles. Slavery was not abolished immediately but ended in all of the new nations within a quarter century. Criollos (those of Spanish descent born in the New World) and mestizos (those of mixed American Indigenous and Spanish blood or culture) replaced Spanish-born appointees in most political governments. Criollos remained at the top of a social structure that retained some of its traditional features culturally, if not legally. For almost a century thereafter, conservatives and liberals fought to reverse or to deepen the social and political changes unleashed by those rebellions.

The events in Spanish America were related to the wars of independence in the former French colony of St. Domingue, Haiti, and the transition to independence in Brazil. Brazil's independence, in particular, shared a common starting point with that of Spanish America, since both conflicts were triggered by Napoleon's invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, which forced the Portuguese royal family to flee to Brazil in 1807. The process of Latin American independence took place in the general political and intellectual climate that emerged from the Age of Enlightenment that influenced all of the Atlantic Revolutions, including the earlier revolutions in the United States and France. A more direct cause of the Spanish American wars of independence were the unique developments occurring within the Kingdom of Spain and its monarchy during this era, concluding with the emergence of the new Spanish American republics in the post-Napoleonic world.