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Road to the long-awaited liberation of the Spanish yoke


istorical events such as the Independence of the United States (1776), the Tupac Amaru II Rebellion (1780-1783), and the French Revolution (1789) served as guides and examples to the Spanish colonies of America to fight for their independence and forge their own destinies and their own sovereign states. During the viceroyalty period, the social stratification consisted of different social classes each of which enjoyed privileges and prohibitions. The Spanish government subjected the unprivileged members of this social order to discrimination, abuse, and injustice, which resulted in a deep seeded discontent. During this period, the Creoles and Mestizos strengthened their national consciousness and their libertarian ideal, thus forming the foundations of the emancipation from the homeland.

The Creoles were direct descendants of Spaniards, by maternal and paternal lines, and were born in the Americas. Many were wealthy and enjoyed certain privileges, but they were prohibited from holding public office. Consequently, this social class was unproductive throughout the 16th century. In the 17th century, this neglected group increased in numbers and some of them dedicated themselves to intellectual pursuits, while others focused in commerce. The neglected group also included poor Creoles, and Mestizo professionals and laborers who decidedly were in favor of the Peruvian emancipation. In the 18th century, through cultural meetings and information from abroad, they echoed other ways of thinking and began to combat the Spanish tyranny to forge a way to achieve the emancipation of Spain and build a free, just, and egalitarian society.
In this context, distinguished individuals emerged. They were precursors of the independence movement heroes: men of broad vision, integrity, and dignity. They can be classified in two groups: reformists and separatists. The reformist precursors promoted a better organization of the colonial system and blamed the officials for the abuses committed against the conquered. They were not against the Spanish crown

Among the most prominent of this group were:

José Hipólito Unanue (1755 – 1833) was a local physician and professor who founded the San Fernando School of Medicine. He contributed to the formation of the “Sociedad Amantes del País”. He wrote in the newspaper “Mercurio Peruano” about his unease about the situation of inequality and proposed changes in the colonial administrative system.

José Baquíjano y Carrillo was one of the greatest intellectuals of the Viceroyalty of Peru and a descendant of the conquerors and founders of Lima. He was a lawyer and professor at the University of San Marcos. In 1781, in his speech in the presence of the Viceroy Don Agustín de Jaúregui, he expressed his reformist position and rejected the exploitation and contempt by the rulers towards the indigenous population.

Toribio Rodríguez de Mendoza, Doctor of Theology from the University of San Marcos, a native of Chachapoyas, Amazonas, is considered the highest representative of the reformists. He was a teacher at the Real Convictorio de San Carlos and from his classrooms he instilled in his students the ideal of freedom of the homeland. He trained many leaders of the emancipation. His signature can be found in the “Act of Independence.”

Other reformist precursors include Mariano Alejo Alvarez, a lawyer from Arequipa and Don Manuel Lorenzo Vidaure who in his work “Plan Peru” exposed the flaws of the colonial government.

Separatist precursors were ideologues of the 18th and 19th centuries. They promoted patriotic thinking and fought for the separation from Spain and Peru’s political independence.

This group included: José de la Riva Agüero was a Creole aristocrat and author of “Manifestación Histórica Política de la Revolución de América”, in which he argued that the 28 causes of separation from Spain are of a social, economic, and political nature. He was the first to promote revolutionary concern among the people in Lima of that time.

Juan Pablo Vizcardo y Guzmán, a native of Arequipa, influenced actively the idea of independence. He is the author of the “Letter to the Spanish Americans,” in which he raised and justified the reasons to fight for the independence from Spain.

This emancipatory mission was neither simple nor easy since many interests and desires had to be combined within the local society. With the passage of time, the unification of Creoles, Mestizos and other social groups including Blacks and the indigenous population, took place as a result of the good work of coordination and organization by their leaders who managed to stabilize and strengthen the patriotic ranks and nurture their emancipatory ideas.

As the Peruvian Viceroyalty was originally the seat of the authority of the Spanish crown, and the center of the Spanish power in South America, the need for its independence was urgent in order to achieve not only the independence of Peru but also the independence of all of Spanish America. The intervention of both the liberating currents of the north and the south was critical for the independence. These liberating currents, led by Don Simón Bolivar and Don José de San Martin, respectively, achieved the consolidation and strengthening of Hispanic Independence.

Don José de San Martin arrived with his liberating army in Pisco, Peru, on September 8, 1820, and on July 28, 1821, he proclaimed the Independence of Peru.

Don Simón Bolivar consolidated the freedom with the battles of Junín and Ayacucho where the capitulation was signed, and Spain admitted its defeat and withdrew definitively from the continents of North and South America in 1824.