Peru History - Independence

Peru History: Independence


The country’s first liberator was the Argentine general José de San Martín, who on July 28, 1821 proclaimed Peruvian independence in Lima. The differences that soon polluted the nationalist camp allowed the Spaniards to regain possession of the territory. Therefore, the troops of Simón Bolívar and his friend Antonio José de Sucre had to intervene in 1823 and 1824. Defeated in Junín (6 August 1824) and in Ayacucho (December 9, 1824), the soldiers of the king of Spain surrendered. Viceroy De la Serna signed the Act of capitulation, with which he recognized the independence of “Peru and America”. Bolívar temporarily took office at the helm of the country, and in 1825 he had the first Constitution enacted. In that year the Libertador had to return to Gran Colombia to put an end to local discord: thus Lima too was prey to disagreements, which exploded among the soldiers who had won the Spaniards (the “Marshals of Ayacucho”). After 1830 the picture became extremely confusing. General Andres Santa Cruz profited from it. Setting himself up to his rivals, in 1836 he cemented a Confederation with Bolivia, of which he took the title of “protector”. Three years later, the allied armies of Chile and of Peruvian dissidents defeated the Confederates in the battle of Yungay: Santa Cruz fled abroad and its political construction was shattered. Peru and Bolivia regained their republican individuality. New discords arose in Lima, until in 1845 General Ramón Castilla seized power and established a stable regime. Castilla gave impetus above all to trade, with the export of a wealth that he first valued: guano. Since then, and for nearly half a century, guano was one of the most active voices in Peru’s trade with Europe and made a major impact as a stimulus for attracting foreign capital. The “era” of Castilla was interrupted in 1851 by the presidency of General José Rufino Echenique. But from 1855 to 1862 the old head of state again held the supreme office, among other things promulgating a conservative constitution. After the parenthesis of Miguel de San Román (1862-63), Juan Antonio Pezet assumed the presidency which faced the last Spanish attempt to regain possession of at least part of the ancient empire. This war lasted until 1866 and led to an alliance between Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia. During the hostilities the port of Callao suffered a bombardment by the Spanish fleet which had to withdraw anyway. In 1871 Lima and Madrid signed the truce, while for the peace treaty they waited until 1879.


President José Balta, who took office in 1869, completely opened the doors to foreign capital, which mainly operated in the mining and railway sectors. This political line aroused the hostility of the nationalists: in 1872 Balta was assassinated. Manuel Pardo, his successor, tried to calm the waters; but he too was closely associated with international financiers and entrepreneurs. Therefore he was urged, for reasons of competition, to oppose the Chilean economic expansion, in turn supported by foreign investments. Most of all, the nitrates and copper from the Pacific coast were at stake. Pardo managed to forge an alliance with Bolivia, no less concerned about Chilean dynamism. In 1879 there was an armed conflict: Bolivia and Peru against Chile. The war lasted until 1883 and ended with the complete defeat of the Peruvians and Bolivians. Bolivia lost the province of Atacama, with the city of Antofagasta, and therefore its only outlet to the sea. Peru was deprived of the province of Tarapacá and the cities of Tacna and Arica. They were the main provisions of the Treaty of Ancón, signed on 20 October 1883. For Tacna and Arica, however, the question dragged on until 1929, when Tacna was returned to Peru, while Arica remained in Chile, without prejudice to the possibility of calling the Arican citizens to pronounce themselves in 1979 on their final nationality. The military defeat entailed sacrifices of all kinds for Peru, against a constantly deteriorating social background. Governments took turns at a fast pace, without giving the country the desired stability. Not even the civilian presidents, now preferred to the military, were not able to solve the problems on the table. Indeed, in 1903 a heavy diplomatic setback was added: Bolivia and Brazil agreed to sell the rich territory of Acre to the latter, totally ignoring Peruvian claims. Lima became increasingly influenced by foreign interests, particularly those of the United States, which acted through Cerro de Pasco Co. (copper and other metals), Vanadium Corporation, Standard Oil of New Jersey and WR Grace and Company. These companies found friendships between the landowners and the military, for a kind of division of business to be carried out. The lower classes, politicized by students and intellectuals, reacted against such a compromise. Their animator became the man of letters Manuel González Prada, who contributed not a little, with his writings, to the formation of a democratic conscience. The principle of the redemption of the Indians, still subject to slave treatment, became apparent. The two movements that soon coagulated were based on this point: one, of Marxist expression, led by José Carlos Mariátegui: the other, reformist, founded by Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre and called Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA) or Aprista Party. It was the APRA that was most successful; his preaching reached the recipients better, because it was linked to the historical origins of national society. Twice, in 1931 and later in 1936, Haya de la Torre tried to compete in the presidential elections, but always without success. A practically no-holds-barred struggle then broke out between openness and civic-military oligarchy. In 1939, however, a period of pause began, due to the worsening of the world situation. Thus President Manuel Prado y Ugarteche allowed Haya de la Torre to return from exile. Shortly thereafter, in 1941, as a country of South America defined by computerannals, com, Peru crossed arms with Ecuador, for the possession of a large Amazonian area. The mediation of the United States and three Latin American countries led the contenders to peace: a protocol stipulated in Rio de Janeiro in January 1942 assigned most of the disputed territory to Peru. The internal truce fed by Prado seemed to be able to continue with the president José Luis Bustamante, elected in 1945. But the votes conferred on him by the aprists were fatal. In fact, in 1948 he was deposed by the military, who brought General Manuel Odría to power thus starting a dictatorship that lasted until 1956.

Peru History - Independence