Bolivian War of Independence | History, Causes & Effects

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Bolivian War of Independence | Bolivia Revolution

Bolivian Independence: Revolutionary process that led to the liberation of the colonial region of Alto Peru and the birth of the Republic of Bolivia.

What was the Independence of Bolivia?

The Independence of Bolivia was a revolutionary process that led to the liberation of the colonial region of Alto Peru and the birth of the Republic of Bolivia in 1825.

The revolutionary process began in 1809, with the uprisings in the cities of Chuquisaca and La Paz. From then until 1825, Upper Peru was the scene of a large number of confrontations between patriots and Upper Peruvian royalists, and between the expeditionary forces sent by Buenos Aires and the royal army of Peru.

After the battle of Ayacucho in 1824, the Bolivarian armies entered Upper Peru and liberated the territories that still remained under royalist domination.

On July 9, 1825, the Constituent Congress, meeting in Chuquisaca, proclaimed the Independence of the Republic of Bolivia, which was dated August 6 to coincide with the first anniversary of the Battle of Junín.

Development of the War for the Independence of Bolivia

Historians divide the war for the Independence of Bolivia into 4 stages.

  • First High Peruvian Revolutions (1809-1810)

Between May and July 1809, independence revolutions broke out in the cities of Chuquisaca and La Paz. Alto-Peruvian patriots took advantage of the crisis of the Spanish monarchy to displace colonial officials from power.

On July 16, the Junta Tuitiva was formed in La Paz, headed by Pedro Murillo. Spanish troops sent by the viceroy of Peru suppressed the rebellion and executed its leaders.

However, the arrival of the news about the May Revolution in Buenos Aires encouraged new uprisings. On September 14, the patriots of Cochabamba proclaimed their adherence to the First Government Junta and on September 24, the Creoles of Santa Cruz de la Sierra did the same.

Bolivian War of Independence | History, Causes & Effects

Execution of Pedro Domingo Murillo in the Plaza de Armas of the city of La Paz, on January 29, 1810. Murillo is considered one of the precursors of the Independence of Bolivia.

  • River Plate expeditions (1810-1815)

The national governments installed in Buenos Aires formed the Army of the North, which on 3 occasions (1810-11, 1812-13, 1815) entered Upper Peru to liberate it and ensure control of the Potosí mines. These aid expeditions achieved some triumphs, but were defeated by the royal army of Peru and had to withdraw to Jujuy.

  • War of the Republiquetas (1815-1824)

After the failure of the Rio de la Plata expeditions, the fight against the royalists was led by several High Peruvian leaders (Juana Azurduy, Manuel Padilla and Vicente Camargo, among others), who, given the numerical inferiority, adopted the tactics of guerrilla warfare.

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During 1816 the royalists unleashed a bloody repression that decimated the patriotic leaders. The surviving caudillos had to take refuge in inhospitable rural areas, while the royalists regained control of all the cities of Upper Peru.

  • Bolivarian Intervention (1825)

In February 1825, the Bolivarian armies, which had defeated the royalists in the battles of Junín and Ayacucho, entered Upper Peru. Upon arriving in La Paz, they were received by the local patriot José Miguel Lanza, who on January 29 had taken the city.

On April 1, patriotic forces defeated the last royalist troops in the battle at Tumusla. On July 9, the Constituent Congress, under the presidency of José María Serrano, drafted the Act of Independence, which was dated August 6.

The new republic was called Bolivia, in honor of Bolívar, who was offered the presidency but who declined it and named Antonio José de Sucre in his place.


Cause and Consequence of the Independence of Bolivia

Causes of the Bolivian Revolution

The main causes of the Independence of Bolivia were the following:

  • Discontent over abuses of power and mistreatment of creoles, mestizos and indigenous people by the colonial authorities. These injustices led to the outbreak of indigenous rebellions at the end of the 18th century, especially those led by the chiefs Tomás Katari, Julián Apaza and Túpac Amaru. Although they were harshly repressed, some authors consider them antecedents of the independence movements.
  • The example of the English colonies of North America, which in 1776 proclaimed the Independence of the United States, the first independent nation of America.
  • The influence of the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity spread by the French Revolution.
  • The crisis of the Spanish monarchy, caused by the Napoleonic invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in 1808. The French intervention culminated in the capture of the Spanish royal family and the accession to the throne of José Bonaparte, Napoleon‘s brother. This situation caused a power vacuum that was used by American patriots to displace colonial officials.
  • The influence exerted by the May Revolution, which had Buenos Aires as its epicenter.
  • The proclamation by José de San Martín of the Independence of Peru, in 1821, which deprived the High Peruvian royalists of reinforcements from Lima.
  • The intervention of the Bolivarian armies that in 1825 entered Upper Peru and overcame the last royalist resistance.
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Consequences of the Bolivian War of Independence

The main consequences of the Independence of Bolivia were the following:

  • The breaking of the unity of the territory of the Viceroyalty of the Río de La Plata, of which Upper Peru had been a part since 1776.
  • The replacement of the Spanish colonial elite by a local elite that kept the indigenous people in a situation of social subordination and marginalization from political participation.
  • A severe economic crisis due to military spending, looting and the destruction of fields and farms. This crisis brought with it a sharp drop in the levels of national and international trade.
  • The construction of a new state apparatus, which began with the convocation of a general congress in 1825 and the sanction of the Bolivarian Constitution in 1826. The constitutional text proclaimed the republic as a form of government and established the division of powers.

Main Battles of the Independence of Bolivia

Among the main military confrontations that took place during the war for the Independence of Bolivia, the following stand out:

Name Date Outcome
Battle of Chacaltaya October 25, 1809 Realistic victory.
Battle of Suipacha November 7, 1810 Patriot victory.
Battle of Aroma November 14, 1810. Patriot victory.
Battle of Huaqui June 20, 1811 Realistic victory.
Battle of Vilcapugio October 1, 1813 Realistic victory.
Battle of Ayohuma November 14, 1813 Realistic victory.
Battle of Florida May 25, 1814 Patriot victory.
Battle of Viluma or Sipe-Sipe November 29, 1815 Realistic victory.
Battle of El Pari November 21, 1816 Realistic victory.
Tumusla Combat April 1, 1825 Patriot victory.
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Protagonists of the Independence of Bolivia

The main protagonists of the Independence of Bolivia were the following:

  • Pedro Domingo Murillo (1757–1810): High Peruvian patriot, considered the precursor of the Independence of Bolivia due to his participation in the revolutions of 1809. He was executed by the royalists on January 29, 1810.
  • Ignacio Warnes (1770 –1816): River Plate patriot who was part of the Second Expedition to Upper Peru and later led the Republiqueta de Santa Cruz. He died in the battle of El Pari, on November 21, 1816.
  • Manuel Ascencio Padilla (1774 –1816): High Peruvian patriot who led, together with his wife Juana Azurduy, the Republiqueta de La Laguna. He was executed by the royalists on September 14, 1816.
  • Juana Azurduy (1780 –1862): High Peruvian patriot, appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the Northern Army by General Manuel Belgrano. After Padilla‘s assassination, he tried to continue the resistance in La Laguna, but had to take refuge in Salta, under the protection of Martín Miguel de Güemes. He returned to Upper Peru to witness the proclamation of Independence. He died in poverty.
  • Vicente Camargo (1785 –1816): High Peruvian patriot who led the Republiqueta de Cinti. He was defeated by the royalists and executed on April 3, 1816.
  • Antonio José de Sucre (1795 –1830): Venezuelan military and politician, Bolívar’s lieutenant. He obtained a decisive victory in the battle of Ayacucho and liberated Bolivia from Spanish domination, being its president between 1825 and 1828.

Portrait of Juana Azurduy

Portrait of Juana Azurduy, heroine of the struggle for the Independence of Bolivia. During the Republican wars, she lost her husband Manuel Padilla and four of her five children.


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