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Historical Background 200 years

At the beginning of the 19th century, Spain and Portugal ruled over vast territories in the Americas, an area what we now know as Latin America. Portugal ruled its territory from Rio de Janeiro, and Spain’s territory was divided into four Viceroyalties:

  1. New Spain (from the southern United States to Central America)
  2. New Granada (modern Colombia, Venezuela, Panama and Ecuador)
  3. Peru and 4- Rio de la Plata (modern Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay)

Although there was a growing number of American born colonists, who had acquired wealth as landowners and merchants, power was still held by a small Spanish born elite. These American born colonists, known as ‘criollos’, resented their inferior status in society. The colonies in the Americas were only allowed to trade with their respective European powers, who taxed all exports and imports.

The disenchanted ‘criollos’ were greatly Influenced by the French Revolution in 1789-1799 and the American Revolution 1775-1783; these historical events influenced more radical individuals who would advocate republicanism and total independence from Spain. These men became the intellectual and political “precursors” of independence, who were well read in the literature of the enlightenment. Some fell foul of the inquisition and were imprisoned while others fled into exile to conspire against Spain.

The most influential of these precursors was Venezuelan Francisco de Miranda, whose vision was to ‘liberate and unify all of Spanish America’, forming an independent empire, stretching from the Mississippi to Cape Horn. Miranda travelled to London on several occasions but after fighting for revolutionary France, settled in London marrying his British housekeeper and subsequently had two children. He was a Freemason who established in the Fitzroy area of London the Lautaro Lodge (Logia Lautaro). a revolutionary Masonic lodge active in Latin American politics in the early Nineteenth Century. The main goal of the Lodge was to establish independent governments in colonial Latin America. Membership of the Lautaro Lodge included many independence leaders such as Bernardo O'Higgins, Jose de San Martin and many other South American historical figures.

As Britain was at the time at war with Spain, Miranda tried to enlist the help of the British Prime Minister, William Pitt ‘the Younger’, in his revolutionary plans. Although only receiving informal support, in 1806 Miranda led an attempted invasion of the Captaincy General of Venezuela. This was a time of change when science and reason challenged monarchies, the church and class distinctions. A turning point for Latin America was Napoleon's invasion of Spain and Portugal and his capture of Spain’s King Ferdinand VII in 1808.

In 1810, Simon Bolívar travelled to London to enlist support from the British for the Revolution that had finally began in South America, persuading Miranda to return to Venezuela, where he was made a general in the revolutionary army. They travelled back to the Americas in the autumn of the same year.

1810, therefore, marks the beginning of the independence war campaigns that engulfed the whole of the Americas and resulted with independence from Spain. The evidence is clear, that these precursors met in London to plan, organise and raise sponsorship to end 300 years of Spanish colonial rule; uniting Latin American people of the continent regardless of race, colour or religion, they dreamt of continental integration and truthful Latin American unity and brotherhood.

 
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