Among the popular and representative systems of government I do not approve of the federal system: it is too perfect; and it requires virtues and political talents much superior to our own… Simon Bolivar


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Americanos : Latin America’s struggle for independence  John Charles Chasteen  New York : Oxford University Press, 2008  Hardcover. x, 218 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm.Includes bibliographical references and index. and printing. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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In 1808, world history took a decisive turn when Napoleon occupied Spain and Portugal, a European event that had lasting repercussions more than half the world away, sparking a series of revolutions throughout the Spanish and Portuguese empires of the New World. These wars for independence resulted eventually in the creation of nineteen independent Latin American republics.

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Here is a compact history of the Latin American wars of independence. Proceeding almost cinematically, scene by vivid scene, John Charles Chasteen introduces the reader to lead players, basic concepts, key events, and dominant trends, braided together in a single, taut narrative. He vividly depicts the individuals and events of those tumultuous years.

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Here are the famous leaders – Simon Bolivar, Jos de San Martin, and Bernardo O’Higgins, Father Hidalgo and Father Morelos, and many others. Here too are lesser known Americanos: patriot women such as Manuela Saenz, Leona Vicario, Mariquita Sanchez, Juana Azurduy, and Policarpa Salavarrieta, indigenous rebels such as Mateo Pumacahua, and African-descended generals such as Vicente Guerrero and Manuel Piar.

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Chasteen captures the gathering forces for independence, the clashes of troops and decisions of leaders, and the rich, elaborate tapestry of Latin American societies as they embraced nationhood. By the end of the period, the leaders of Latin American independence would embrace classical liberal principles – particularly popular sovereignty and self-determination – and permanently expanding the global reach of Western political values. Today, most of the world’s oldest functioning republics are Latin American. And yet, Chasteen observes, many suffer from a troubled political legacy that dates back to their birth. In this book, he illuminates this legacy, even as he illustrates how the region’s dramatic struggle for independence figures in world history.

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