* national histories Latin America South America

National Histories: Latin America--South America

South America history
Figure 1.--Historian Jared Diamond argues that guns, germs, and steel have played an enormous role in human history. It is true that the isolation of the Western Hemisphere before the European discovery left them technologically backward and suspecptable to European disease. One of many advantages the Europeand had was large, powerful draft animals--emensely important before the 20th century mechinization of agriculture. The Native Americns had no draft animals larger than a llama, More importantly, however, The isolation of the Americas and thus the lack of interchange with other socities may explain why they were so technologically backward. These problems Diamond discusses also do not answer the question as to why Latin American countries in the modern world have been unable to develop political and economic systems capable of providing a prosperous life to their people. Copahue is a Volcano on the Argentine-Chilean border.

South America was the home of the important Native American civilizations--especually the Inca. The isolation of the Americas probably explains the failure of Native American civilization to make the transition to the Bronze Age. Despite their impressive achievements, they were stone-age peolples and easily overcome by the Conqistadores. Many Native American tribes were wiped out by the Conquistadores. European diseases to which isolated Native Americans had no immunity played a key role in the fall of their principal civilizations. The region developed as Portuguese and Spanish colonies in which the surviving Native American peoples were Christinized and exploited economically. Modern South Americans are an ethnic mix of Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans imported as slaves to replace decimated Native American populations. The ethnic mix varies from country to country. None of the South American countries have achieved the success of either Europe and North America. Argentina came the closest, but faltered. Today Brazil is making considerable progress. The key question in studying the history of the region is why have these countries have not developed economically and socially so that they can provide their people a decent standard of living. Many Latin Americans influenced by Marxist thought blame the United State and to a lesser extent European economic exploitation. Such conclusions are not based on any real economic analysis, but rather a muddled mix of ideologically-nationalist kant, often effectively used by populist politicans. There is a general reluctance among academics and politicans in the region to more deeply investigate the region's economic failure. Regional annalysts not only fail to assess the reason for the disparity between North and South America, but why many poor Asian countries in the post-World War II era are making the transition to modern economies while Latin America is not. Here are the national histories we have compiled on South American countries.


Archeologists have found evidence of human habitation dating to about 13,000 BC. No major Native American civilizations developed. The less-civilized tribes not only stop the expansion of the Incas south, but also proved more difficult for the Spanish Conquistadores to overwealm. Spanish Conquistadores reached modern Argentina (16th century). Juan de Solís landed in Plata estuary, but was repelled by the Native Americans (1516). Magellan mainland lanfall (1520) during his circumnavigation expedition. Another expedition was repelled (1527). Pedro de Mendoza founded Buenos Aires (1536), but was forced by Native American attacks to abandon it. Garay leading an expedition from Asunción refounded Buenos Aires (1580). Buenos Aires became the capital of the Spanish vice-royalty (1776). The British destroyed the French-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar (1805). Napoleon invaded Spain launching the Peninsular Wars (1806). A weakened Spain faced revolts in its American colonies. Argentines led by Belgrano, Pueyrredón, and San Martín waged a successful war of independence (1810-16). After the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna restored the Old Regime in Europe, but the British Royal Navy prevented the restoration of colonial rule in the Americas. Indepedence was followed by a civil war until Juan Manuel de Rosas imposed a dictatorship (1829-52). Urquiza deposed him (1852) and a new constitution was adopted. This constitution with amendments (1860, 1866, and 1898) was the basic govermental structure until 1949. Civil strife and military coups continued to plague the country. The ongoing border dispute with Chile was resolved (1902). Argentina was a destination for European emigration, especially from Italy. The country remained neutral in World War I, but benefitted from war orders. The country's military leaders were sympathetic to the Axis in World War II. The country again benefitted from war orders. The country seem posed to make the transition to a developed economy, but sucumed to the alures of populalist leader, Col. Juan Peron. His regimes was widely supported by a coalition of workers, catholics, nationalists, and the Army, but chaotic policies severly damaged the economy which has never fully recovered. The declining economy eroded his popularity and he was over thrown by the Argentine Army (1958). Civilian governments failed to arrest the economic decline or deal with a communist insurgency and the Army seized power (1966). The Army conducted a brutal campaign which did destroy the communist insurgency, but in the process many mostly young people disappeared, meaning were tirtured and killed by the military. The military Junta in an effort to regain popularity, invaded the Falkland Islands (1982). British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ordered the military to retake the Islands. Military failure finally resulted in the fall of the Argentine Junta and the restoration of democratic rule.


Western Bolivia was inhabited by the Aymará people. They dominated the area around Lake Titicaca. The war-like Inca conquered them and added them to their emense empire. The Spanish at first focused on the Inca centers in Peru because they were close to the coast and the Inca treasures could be more easily ceased and transported. The Spanish gradually moved into Bolivia which they called Alto Peru (Upper Peru). The Spanish reduced the Native Americans to a form of serfdom little different than slavery. The remoteness of the high Andes helped limit the numbers of Spanish reaching Alto Peru. This had the affect of protecting the Native Americans from the European diseases that so ravaged populations in other areas of the Americas. An extremely stratified society with an elite Spanish land-owning class developed, the continuing impact ofcwhich still affects moden Bolivia. The Spanish discovered a famulosly rich silver vein near Potosi (1544). Potosi became the largest Spanish settlement in South America. The country's independent life was marked by an extended period of domestic power struggles and instability. The country was ruled by a series of dictators called cauldillos. Geography and internal divisions made it difficult for Bolivia to defend the poorly defined borders of Alto Peru. Continued instability in the 20th century, conservative military rule, and socialist economic reforms have left Bolivia the poorest country in South America.


Brazil is the largest country in Latin America, comprising half the area of South Aamerica. It is also has the largest population in Latin America and one of the largest in the world--about 150 million people. The population is still largely found along the coast where cities like Sao Paulo and Rio dominate the country. Brazilan history is less known than that of the more dramatic history of the former Spanish colonies. It was in Brazil that the Atlantic slave trade began and Brzail was the final country in the mesisphere to abolish slavery. While the slave system was extrodinarily brutal, the racism underlying slavery was less pronounced in Brazil. As a result Brazil has the most racially mixed population in the hemisphere. The country does not have a long democratic tradition. There was a long period of military rule or rule by military-controlled civilian governments. There was also a bloody Communist insurection which was brutally supressed by the military. Brazil appears to be bebefitting from a combination of free-market reforms and democratic rule. The economy is now one of the fastest growing in the world. Given the country's size, its future will largely determine that of South America.


Quechua-speaking tribes inhabited the northern region of what is now Chile. Araucanian tribes dominated central Chile. The Inca came to dominte much of Chile, but were resisted by the fierce Araucanian tribes who prevented the Inca from moving further south. At stake was Chile's fertile central valley south of modern Santiago. Chile did not have the allure of Mexico and Peru as there were no civilized tribes with hordes of gold. Many of the early Spanish settlers were from Andalucia. Settlement was concentrated in central Chile rather than the inhospitable, arid north. The central valley of Chile had a pleasant climate and fertile soil. Chile as a Spanish colony was a Captincy General part of the Viceroyalty of Peru. It was dominated by large pastiral holdings. The south remained controlled by the Araucanians until the 19th century. The Chileans persued independence during the Napoleonic Wars. They declared independence (1810). Independence resulted in a period of instability. The Royalists prevailed at the Rancagua (1814) and the Spanish managed to restore control. This led to an invasion by a mixed Argentinian and Chilean force which defeated the Spanish roylist army at Maipu (1818). Boundary desputes emerged with Bolivia and Peru in the north leading to the War of the Pacific. Chile until the War of the Pacific was alargely agricultural country with only limited foreign trade. The nitrate and copper mines significantly diversified the economy. The TransAndine Railway was built. The Chilean economy became integrated into the world economy and impacted by changes in workd prices. Chile developed a multiparty, parliamentary system after the War of the Pacific, but the parties were dominated by upper-class interests, especially landowners and businessmen.


Rodrigo de Bastidas was the first European to sail along the coast of Colombia (1500-01). He sailed along the Caribbean coast from the Cape of La Vela to Point Manzanilla in what is now Panama. The Spanish were at first drawn to Peru and the wealth of the Aztec Empire. Francisco Pizarro ventured south along the Pacific coast (1525). Bastidas founded Santa Marta along the on the northern (Caribbean) coast (1525), the first step in the actual conquest of Colombia itself. Pedro de Heredia founded Cartagena (1533). It became one of the most important naval bases in the Spanish Empire. Cartagena was the first of the fortified ports built along the Spanish Main. The Spanish Main developed as a string of trading ports running north from Caetagena through Central America to the Caribbean. These ports were designed to safely transporting the riches of Spain's new South American colonies back to Spain. In Soon Colombian emeralds, Peruvian gold, and Bolivian silver would flow through Cartagena and the other ports of the Spanish Main. Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada moved into Colombia's Andean interior and founded Bogotá (1538) followed by several other interior cities as well as strong points secureing routes to the coast. The Spanish completed the conquest (mid-16th century).


Ecuador like some other Andean republics has had a tumultuous hitory. The first thing that strikes one about Ecuador is the country's dramatic, diverse georaphy which has played an important role in the country's history. The expanding Inca Empire reached Ecuador (1460 AD). Inca Tupac-Yupanqui invaded the tribes in modern Ecuador. The Canari, the Quitu, and the Caras resisted the Inca army with some success. Pizarro using Cortez's tactics, seized Atahualpa at Cajamarca. He forced him to pay an enormous ransom in gold and silver and then killed him. A fiercely fought war commenced between the Inca and Spanish, but with more Spanish arriving, the Inca were defeated. Pizarro dispatched Benslcázar north into what is now Ecuador prevent Pedro de Alvarado from seizing the area (1533). Spain ruled Ecuador for about 300 years. It was not a separate colony, but the presidency of Quito, ruled as part of first the Viceroyalty Peru and later Colombia. Many Native Americans continued to speak Quechua and other indigenous languages. The Presidency of Quito did not have major mineral resources and thus was a minor pat of the vast Spanish colonial empire. With the Napoleonic Wars (1798-1815) in Europe, Spain was devestated and a weakened Spain gradually lost control of most of its overseas empire. Simon Bolívar, the Liberator of northern South America, decisively defeated the royalist army at Pichincha near Quito (1822). Ecuador's modern history has proven as tumultous as its early history. The vast majority of the new nation's wealth (primarily agricultural land) was held by a few families of European (Spanush) ancestry. They controlled large haciendas where agricultural workers of Native American ancestry worked as essential feudalserfs, known as Husaipungeros in Ecuador. Ecuador since achieving independence has had numerous elected and non-elected presidents. One source reported more than 90 changes of power. Few elected presidents served out their term of office, most lasting only about 2 years. In such chaotic circumstances, the country did not develop strong, stable institutions. And as a result, leaders have been unable to address the country's deep seaded social problems.

Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas

The Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) are a small group of islands in the south Atlantic off the coast of Argentina. The two main islands are East and West Falkland. The British dependent territories of South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands, and the Shag and Clerke rocks are associated with the Falklands. The Islands until the modern era were uninhabited, although there is archeoligal evidents that Native Americans visited the Islands. It is uncleared who discovered the Islands. Magellan is a strong possibility. . The Islands appear in early European maps (early 16th century). John Davis on the Desire is another possibility (1592). Dutchman Sebald de Weerdt made the first undisputed sighting of the islands (about 1600).. A French fishery is launched by people from St. Malo, the origin of the Iles Malouines--and the Argentine name "Islas Malvinas" (1764). The British settled West Falklands (1765). Spain at first made no attempt to settle the Islands, but did contest the French and British presence. The British withdrew from the island for economic reasons (1774). The Spanish bought the French settlement withdrew as the struggle for South American began (1811). The indedendent Argentine Republic claimed the unihabited islands (1820). A diplomatic dispute developed between Argentina and Britain over the Islands, Argentine Caudillo Juan Manuel de Rosas dispatched a governor, Sr. Vernet, along with a small garrison and settlers (1828). The Argentines seize U.S. sealing ships. The U.S. Navy (USS Lexington) attacked the Argentine settlement in reprisal (1831). The British, concerned that the United states may seize the Islands, claim jurisdiction and eject the Abeleagered Argentine garrison (1833). bBritish people settle the island and establish a self-supporting economy based on sheep raising. The Britisg Government grant the Falkands colonial status (1892). The British destoyed a German sqandron off the Falkands during World War I (1914). Stanley served as a Royal Navy station during World War II and serviced ships which took part in the Battle of the River Plate--the first major naval battle of the War and resulted in the scuttleing of the German Graf Spee (1939). Argentine invaded the Islands in an attempt to seize them resulting in the Falklands War (1982).

French Guiana

French Guiana like the other Guianas are located just east of the Caribbean Basin. Despite this, the history and culture is more associated with the Caribbean than South America. The first Europeans to visit the northeastern coast of South America were the Spanish (1496). The Spanish established a few small settlements in what is now French Guiana (1503-04). Control of the Guianas became part of the power struggle between the major European powers. The Dutch not only established themselves in Surinam to the west, but for a time in Brazil to the south. The Dutch and French also attempted to settle the area. There were rumors of great wealth in the interior. English King James I dispatched an expedition to the area which failed and cost Sie Walter Raleigh his head. Finally the Dutch under the Treaty of Brenda relenquished their claim (1667). This was, however, followed by a continued efforts by the European colonial powers (Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Portugal) to control northeast South America. The question was not finally resolved until after the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. With the French Revolution, slaves were freed (1789). Many moved into the interior and attempted to set up villages like the ones they had come from in Arica. International recognition of Fremch jurisdiction was finally achieved (1817). The colony was, however, a backwater, of the new colonial empire French built in the 19th century. There was a brief period of prosperity because of a gold discovery (1850s). Napoleon III to deal with over-crowed jails turned to French Guiana Shipping prisoners to the colony had the advantage of relieving French prisons as well as securing settlers. The colony, as a result, acquired a sinsister reputation as the location of the infamous Devil's Island prison. It was here Cpt Dreyfus was unjustly encarcerated. France after World War II granted French Guiana the status of an Overseas Department (1946). This made French Guiana an integral part of the French nation. French gave little attention to French Guiana and the limited infrastructure began to deteriorate. Civil unrest occurred (1970s). A security crackdown followed, but promised improvements did not occur. The Mitterrand Government finally introduced needed reforms (1982-83). The keystone to the reforms was a degree of centralization. Local affairs are now overseen by the Regional Council. French Guiana is now best known as the location for European satellite launches.


The Guianas was populated by the Carib and Arawak peoples (the same tribes that populated the Caribbean) and the Warao people. The name Guiana appears to come from the Arawak words "wai ana" meaning "land of many waters". The first Europeans to reach the Guianas were Alonzo de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci (1499). Spain founded some settlements, but did not heavily colonize it. Rumors of gold interested the other Europeans. The Dutch established settlements on the Pomeroon River (1581). The settlers were driven out by both Spanish and Native American attacks (about 1596). The evicted Dutch settlers regrouped at Kyk-over-al (Look-over-everything) on the Essequibo River. Sir Walter Raleigh headed an expedition to Guyana looking for gold. Without authorization he attacked a Spanish settlement. King James I had him executed when he returned to England. Here the Dutch West India Company established a fort on the Esquibo River (1616-21). Dutch naval power suceeded in seizing the Guianas from the Spanish during the Dutch War of Independence. he Dutch came to dominate the Guianas and called their colony Essequibo. British planters from Barbados and other Caribbean islands also settled Guyana. The Dutch and British brought in African to work the plantations as slaves. The European settlements were all along the coast. Efforts to move inland failed. The principal crops were coffee, cotton, and sugar, especially sugar. The poor soil quality prevented the plantations from being as productive as the Caribbean sugar islands. A slave nammed Cuffy, led a major revolt--the Berbice Slave revoly (1763). Britain seized Guyana from the Dutch during the French Revolutionary Wars (1796). The Dutch retook it (1802), but the Breitish took Essequibo-Demerara and Berbice again (1803). The British began to undo the slave system, in part to undermine Dutch influence (1806). The British naval victory at Trafalgur (1807) meant that no European country could effectively challenge British rule. The Dutch ceeded Essequibo-Demerara and Berbice to Britain in the Anglo-Dutch Treaty (1814) and British possession was confirmed by the Congress of Vienna (1815). A slave revolt rocked Demerara (1823). The British consolidated the two colonies as as British Guiana (1831). The British abolished slavery (1834). The freed slaves refused to work for the low wages offered. Many scattered inland into the bush mixing with surviving Native American tribes. Some Plantations closed. Other planters brought in indentured laborers, mostly from India. The colonial boundary between the Guianas and Venezuela was nevere fixed. When gold was discovered in the disputed area, now independent Venezuela demanded some of the area. The British rejected the Venezuelan demands. The United States under President Grover Cleveland threatened to intervene. This was the last major despute between America and Britain. The British agreed to an international arbitration (1897). Most of the disputed territory was awarded to the British. The Venezuealan Government excepted the award, but subsequent Venezuelan Governments have insisted that the boundary issue be reopened. Guyana achieved internal self-government under Cheddi Jagan of the People's Progressive Party (PPP) (1961). Jagan's austerity program led to riots and a general strike (1962). British troops had to restore order, but the weak economy cobtinue to cause problems. A coalition formned by orbes Burnham of the People's National Congress (PNC) won the next election (1964). Guyana gained full independence from the British (1966). The country proclaimed itself a republic (1970). Cult leader James Warren ("Jim") Jones staged a mass suiside (1978). The country implemented a new constitution (1980). Burnham was elected president under the new constitution. He died (1985). Desmond Hoyte of the PNC became president. Jagan and the PPP won an internationally supervised election (1992). Janet Jagan, (President Jagan's widow) took over the leadership of thd PPP/Civic and won the next election (1997). under the leadership of won a second mandate. She stepped down due to health reasons and was replaced by Finance Minister Bharrat Jagdeo. PPP/Civic won the subsequent elections (2001).


Modern Paraguay was inhabited by semi-nomadic Guarani-speaking Native American tribes. The area was well watered, annd both ferile and wooded. They had aproud warrior tradition and resisted the expansion of the Quecha-speaking Inca from the Highlands of Peru and Bolivia. Spanish explorer Juan de Salazar ascending the Paraguay River from the Lalata settlement was the first Spaniard to reach the area and founded Asuncion, so named because it was the Feast Day of the Assumption (August 15 1537). The new settlement evolved into the center of a Spanish colonial province. Jesuit missionaries set up reductions to Christianize and govern the Guaraní in what is now Paraguay. They also sought to protect the Guarani from the depredations of Bandeirante slave raiders (17th-18th centurues). The Guarani Reductions were unique because while thee natives had to convert, they were allowed to retain their culture and not adopt European culture. The Jesuits were highly educated and appreciated art and music. They organized choirs in the reduction chuches and taught the boys choral music just as intricate as the music being sung in Europe. Their singing is said to astonished Spanish visitors. The subsequent expulsion of the Jesuits and supression if the Reductions meant that this cultural treasure was lost to what became independendent Paraguay. After the wars of independence began against Spain, Paraguay declared its independence by overcoming the small Spanish garison in Asuncion (1811). The colonials in OParaguay refused to join Argentina. As in much of South America, the country became dominated by a series of strong men often referred to as caudillos. As aesult of Soanish colonial rule, there was no tradition of democracy. The most important caudillos in Paraguay were: Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia, Carlos Antonio Lopez, and his son Francisco Solano Lopez. The younger Lopez involved Paraguay in a devestating War of the Triple Alliance (Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil) ( 1864-70). Paraguay lost substantial territory and half its population. Braziloccupied the country (until 1874). Paraguayan political life became a contest between the Colorado and Liberal parties. The Colorado Pary dominated for thec rest of the 19th century (1880-1904). The Liberal Party then domonated for much of the early 20th century (1904-40). Paraguay fought the Chaco War with Bolivia (1932-35). The War and other developments led to growing instability. General Alfredo Stroessner began a long period of personal rule (1954). He was elected to complete an unexpired term. He ws reelected seven times, but the elections were staged events. He ruled Peru under the state-of-siege provision of the constitution meant for emergency conditions. He used national security and a communist threat to justify the state-of-seige. His rule was butressed by the military and Colorado Party. He turned the country into a kind of personal fiefdom, and as a result of his dictatorial rule, Paraguay became isolated from the international community. Stroessner ruled Paraguay for 34 years, tightly controlling the press and limiting any political opposition. General Andres Rodriguez led a military coup (February 3, 1989). The new military government oversaw presidential and congressional elections (May 1 1989). General Rodriguez running as the the Colorado Party candidate easily won the presidency and the Colorado Party gained a strong majority in the Congressional elections. Opposition parties did well in municipal elections, winning races in important urban centers, including Asuncion (1991). President Rodriguez persued important political, legal, and economic reforms helping to lay the groundwork for a successful transition to democracy. A new Constitution include needed democratic reforms, dramatically improved protection of fundamental rights (June 1992). Juan Carlos Wasmosy, the Colorado presidential candidate, won the next election (May 1993). He became the country's first civilian president in nearly 40 years. International observers reported a fair and free election.


Peru is one of the great world craddels of civilization. It like Mesoamerica is where civilzation occurred indeendently (Egypt and India) had the example of Mesopotamia. Peru of all the cradels of civilzation is surely the most unlikely. Here civilzation developed in the cold Andean higlands and the arid coast. It was one of the great accomplishmets of mankind--an amazing technical achievement. Although still a stone-age people, pre-literate people, they had many important achievements. The most significant was the domestication of the lowly potato which was to transform Europe. The best known Peruvian Native American civilization is of course the Inca. The Inca Empire was the largest such civilization, but rested on a cultural and technological base including many earlier cultures. The Empire lasted on a short period before being cut short by the arrival of Franciso Pizarro and his Spanish Conquistadores. The Spanish wanted gold, but it was the potato that was Peru's great contribution to human society. Inca society was destroyed in the collision with the Conquistadores and the Catholic Church. The Spanish Conquest of Peru is one of the great epics of history. Europeans diseases ravaged the Native American peoples. The pre-Conquest population and the extent of the resulting pagues is still debated by historians, but population estimates have risen in recent yeas as are estimates of the totality od the size of the population disaster. Peru languished within the Spanish Empire for over three centuries. Thus much of the history of Peru is the Spanish colonial history. It is largely a feudal history with the country's much-diminished Native American population held as serfs on large rural estates owned by the Spanish ruling class. There was very little economic development and even less social development. Much of the population did not ebnter the moneyed economy until the 20th century. Peru was the center of Spanish royalist support during the Wars of Independence. Sucre fought the last major battle of the independence struggle, defeating the last important royalist army in the Sierra near Ayacucho (1824). Independence did not, however, bring prosperity to the Peruvian people. There are large areas of Peru today that support smaller populations than during the pre-Conquest era. Peru fought a damaging war with Chile--the War of the Pacific (1879-83).


The first known Native American tribe was the Suinen. They had been suplanted by other Native Americans at the time of the European conquest (16th century). Columbus was the first European to sail along the coast (1498). The area was next visited by Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda (1499) Vicente Yáñez Pinzón (1500). Most of the major European colonizers (British, Dutch, French, and Spanish) attempted to found settlements in the 16th century, but were resisted by the Native Americans. The British founded the first settlement that proved successful (1651). They used slave labor as the Native Americans proved impossible to enslave. The Dutch during the Naval Wars (1652-74)with Britain seized the colony (1667). In the peace settlement that was in pricess, the British ceded the colony to the Netherlands, but retained Nieuw Amsterdam (New York). Since that time, the colony was ruled by the Netherlands. Suriname developed into a prosperous part of the Dutch Empire. Dutch planters who had settled in Brazil were driven out by the Portuguese (mid-17th century). Many restablished themselves in Suriname. As in the Caribbean, sugar became the mainplabtation crop. Other croops were intriduced, including coffee, cacao, cotton, indigo, and wood from the tropical forrests (18th century). Labor was carried out by African slaves and they developed as the principal part of the population. Native Americans were driven inland. Most of the European population was Dutch. Jews fleeing persecution in Europe (Portugal, Spain, and Italy) had sought refuge in Brazil, but the Inquisition began to seek them out here. Some sought refuge in Suriname and came to constitute a third of the European population. Other Europeans were from France, Germany, and Britain. The British seized the colony for brief periods during the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1802 and 1804-15). The Netherlands granted independence to Suriname (1975).


The principal Native American tribe in what is now Uruguay before the European discovery and conquest was the Charrúas. Spanish explorer Juan Díaz de Solis was the first European to reach Uruguay (1516). There was, however, not effort to settle the area for more than a century and a half. It was the Portuguese that began the European settlement when they founded Colonia del Sacramento (1680). Much of the colonial history of Uruguay was a struggle between the Spanish and Portuguese to control the area. Spain eventually prevailed (1778). By this time the Charrúas had been virtually wiped out. As a result, Uruguayans are of mostly European origins. With Spain weakened by the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, The Uruguayans followed the lead of the Porteños and revolted from Spain (1811). The Portuguese who has transeferred their capital from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, used the opportunity to reclaim Uruguay (1817). The Uruguayans will Argentine assistance drove out the Brazilians who had declared independence from Portugal (1825). The Uruguyans declared an independent republic (1828). The new Republic experienced a tumultous 19th century history. A revolt against the Government began a long period of violence and instability (1836). A lengthy civil war proved inconclusive (1839-51). Uruguay was involved in a costly war with Paraguay (1865-70). There were several military efforts by both Argentina and Brazil to annex Uruguay. Eventually by the late 19th century the political situation stabilized. The economy benefitted from growing demand for meat and wool in Europe. The improved financial situation and demand from workers led to the creatiin of the first welfare state in Latin America. President José Batlle y Ordóñez played aajor role in building the welfare system (1903-29). Uruguay was adversely affected by the Depression of the 1930s, but World war II created a renewed demand for exports. Uruguayan governments built an effecttive welfare system, distributing wealth. The Government, however, gave much less attention to promoting economic growth to create the wealth needed to support the welfare system. Uruguayan Governments in the 1950s as the economy stagnated, struggled to support the welfare ststem and large government bureaucracy. The Tupamaros conducted a vicious left-wing urban terror campaign during the 1960s and 70s. The military finally steped in and overthrew the civilian government (1973). The military conducted a brutal campaign to defeat the equally vicious Tupmaros. Thousand of individuals were arrested and held as political prisoners. As in Argentina, many disappeared, meaning they were killed by the military. The military allowed elections (1984) and turned over authotity to an elected government (1985). The new civilian Government faced the sane unresolved problems from the 1950s, a stagnant economy, high inflation and a huge national debt. The center-right Colorado Party won a narrow victory (1994). Julio Sanguinetti Cairolo pushed for constitutional and economic reforms designed at controling inflation and the size of the vountry's large, expensive public sector (1985-90). The Colorado Party also pushed for tax increases and privatization. Jorge Batlle of the Colorado Party won the following presidential election (1999). Continued economic difficulties led to the narrow victory of Tabar� Vázquez of the Socialist Broad Front (2004).


Venezuela was populated by many different Native American groups. There were three main groups: the Carib, Arawak, and the Chibcha.Experts now differ on the pre-Conuest population and the level of cultutre. Christopher Columbus was the first European to see Venezuela which he encountered on his Third Voyage (1498). He landed on the Paria Peninsula in western Venezuela. He also explored the Orionoco Delta in eastern Venezuela. He concluded that he had reached more than another Caribbean island, but still did not believe he had reached Asia. Venezuela proved to be a backwater of the Spanish colonial Empire. The Spanish did not find the gold and silver that made Mexico and Peru so important. Administratively it was part of Nuevo Granada. For three centuries in languished within the Spanish colonial empire. It proved to be a hot bed of the independence movement, it part because Simon Bolívar was born there. Despite repeated stbacks he the independence movement in the north. In a famed march across the Andes, he achieved his first success, liberating Colombia (1819). This was followed by Vnezuela (1821), and Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia (1825). Bolívar's dream was a united Gran Colombia, but this could not withstand regional differences. Gran Colombia split up into modern Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. The independent history of Venezuela was not a tranquil one. Venezuela was racked with civil strife, wars, dictatorships, and economic mismanagement. raged in the country well into the next century. Though some dictators sought real reform, most milked their positions for personal gain. The illdefined border resulted in a serious proble with Britain over the border ith British Guiana (modern Guyana) (1840s). That dispute is still not fully resolved. The discoveryof oil in the Gulf of Maricaibo provided an important new resource (early 20th century). The country continued to be plagued with dictators. The oil wealth went primarily to the ruling oligarchy. Romulo Betancourt led a popular revolt ushering in anew concern with democracy expressed within a new constitution (1947). Venezuela held its first real democratic election--the respected novelist Romulo Gallegos. He did not, however, serve out his term. Another in a long-line of dictators seized power--Perez Jimenez. Democracy was slowly taking route. Venezueal achieved its first non-violent presidential succession (1963). The rise in oil prices during the 1970s greatly increased oil revenue. While democratic governments used the oil revenue better than the dictators, Venezuela did not develop a vibant econonomy. The county was increasingly dependent on oil. Whatever the price of oil, oil exports alone can not provide a decent life for all Venezuelans. And the country's poor received little benefit from the oil-based econoy. The drop in oil prices (late-1980s) hit Venezuela hard setting off domestic turbulence. Riots in Caracas were put down vilontely. Two attempted coups occurred (1992). One of the coup instigators, Col Hugo Chavez, was later to win election as president running a populist campaign. He is turing Venezuela a Socialist state and is intent on making himself Venezuela's permanent president.


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Created: 2:36 PM 10/23/2010
Last updated: 11:05 PM 9/30/2020