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Independence Day 1821

Declaring Independence Was One Thing, But Winning It Another

Declaring Independence Was One Thing, But Winning It Another

Peru is now celebrating the 193rd anniversary of its own Declaration of Independence by José de San Martin in Lima, as shown in the famous painting above by Juan Lepiani. As with our own Declaration of Independence, there was still a lot of fighting to come. Worse still, disunity was rampant. So much so that San Martin left for Europe in disgust and remained there until his death in 1850. Compared to what happened in South America, our own struggle for independence was a cakewalk, thanks largely to Admiral de Grasse and the French navy.

Let me give you a brief timeline. First there were the native peoples of what is now Peru, who were mostly gobbled up by the Inca empire. Then the Spanish came in under Francisco Pizarro, defeated the Incas, and set up a European-based government. All went somewhat smoothly under the Peninsular War of the early 19th century, in which the English, abetted by Spanish guerrillas, drove Napoleon’s French out of the Iberian Peninsula—at the cost of messing up their colonies in the New World. All criollo (native-born white) officials were replaced by new administrators from Spain. So, feeling disenfranchised, the criollos rebelled under Bolivar, San Martin, Sucré, O’Higgins and others. They won, effectively driving the Spanish from South America.

Even to this day, Peru is largely a criollo-run country, even though whites constitute only 15% of the population. Naturally, the 45% who are Amerindians and the 37% who are Mestizo (mixed races) currently feel disenfranchised. Is Peru due for another revolution? In a way, it had one in the 1980s and 1990s under the Shining Path and the MRTA guerrillas, who were defeated in a series of bloody confrontations in which thousands of innocent people were killed.

It is inevitable that the non-whites in power will be replaced by more of the people from the Altiplano and jungle regions as time goes on. There may be other Independence Days to come. Who knows?

After all, there are people who feel the same way in the United States, people who dress in 18th century costumes with tea bags dangling from their hats.