Independence Movement of Brazil and Mexico Essay
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If “revolutionary movement” is defined as a social movement dedicated to changing the power or the organizational structures by an independence movement, and if “most” is defined as greatest, “successful” as a desired outcome and “original rationale and/or purpose” is defined as an fundamental intentional reason, then between the countries of Brazil and Mexico, Brazil had the most successful revolutionary movement in terms of its original rationale and/or purpose because Brazil, unlike the Mexican independence movement, had a greater universal agreement about independence between every social class, Brazil was politically stable after independence and it was economically stable after independence.
Before Mexico gained independence from Spain it had multiple social classes, all of whom had different motives before it began. The Mexican Independence was sculptured by the tension between the Peninsulares, who composed 0.2% of the population, and the Creole, who comprised 17.8% of the population. The Peninsulares, were the Spanish born Spaniards of Mexico, and the Creole unlike the Peninsulares, were Mexican born Spaniards (Bethell 54). The rest of the populations were lower class citizens that were 60% Indian, and 22% mixed (Bethell 55). Once Napoleon invaded the Iberian Peninsula on 1808 on July 16, dethroned Ferdinand VII and put his brother at the throne, the alliance that was forming between the Creole bourgeoisie and property-owning elite broke up in the immediate wake of the collapse (Bethell 58). “Jose Primo Verdad and Juan Francisco Azcarate, a friar from Peru, adopted a resolution on July 15 calling upon the viceroy, Jose de Iturrigaray, to assume direct control of the government in the name of Ferdinand VII and the representatives of the people” (Bethell 58).
Although a similar case is present in Brazil there is a slight difference. Through Brazil’s system of clientele and patronage, middle class and lower class individuals could find a place within elites (Viotti da Costa 22). In 1808 Napoleon’s invasion of the Iberian Peninsula caused the Monarch of Portugal, King Joao VI to flee to Brazil, and “elevated the colonial capital to the capital of the Empire”(Meade 74). ” In 1821, under threat from the Cortes of losing his imperial throne entirely, Joao returned to Portugal leaving his son, Pedro, as the Prince Regent of Brazil” (Meade 74). When King Joao VI sought to end the dual kingdom status, Dom Pedro, his son, declared Brazil independent from Portugal in what is known as the Cry of Ipiranga (Meade 74).
The fact that the entire nation of Brazil was in universal agreement for securing independence proves Brazil to be the most successful independence movement with respect to its original rationale and purpose. The mixed and Indian population had no power in Mexico at all, but fully supported independence because they believed it was the first step to eliminating segregation by formal law, and poverty. The chief source of the Mexican conflict was the idea of “Creolism”, meaning the Creoles wanting to attain more power for themselves. This ideology was what caused the social divide of the Peninsulares and Creole. The Peninsulares controlled all the power of the country and were the elite of Mexico. The Creoles were also fabulously wealthy and even noblemen but they were not on equal terms economically, socially, and politically with the Peninsulares, which angered them. For example a wealthy Creole man who marries a freshly immigrated poor Peninsular woman, finds all his wealth and land belonging to the Peninsular women’s father, brother, uncle and other relatives (Ian Li).
Once a window of opportunity was created by Napoleons invasion, the Creole saw this as their chance to present the idea of independence. The Peninsulares on the other hand, saw no need for independence as they lived as the elite of Mexico, and even saw the idea of autonomy treasonable (Bethel 59). This idea of Creolism was what caused the violent insurgencies enacted by the Creole against the Peninsulares, and turned the Mexican Independence movement into a revolutionary civil war. “The war of independence was not a lopsided contest with a foregone conclusion; it was, rather, a struggle in which the nation was divided into loyalties and in which the final outcome was not inevitable; it was a revolutionary civil war” (Bethell 70). In Brazil independence was in universal agreement between all social classes, since Brazil was only split into two classes, due to their unique system that allows a slave to earn his freedom and make a living.
Because of its system of clientele and patronage, the racial and social tension present in Mexico was less severe in Brazil, which is why Mexico had a dissenting agreement on the matter of independence. The support for independence was in concordance from both sides of these social classes of Brazil. “Acting with the support of the Brazilian aristocracy, who were anxious to preserve their considerable landholdings from which they exported sugar, coffee, and cotton, and with the backing of the British, who were eager to monopolize the trade with Brazil, the monarch moved to secure Brazil’s autonomy” (Meade 74).
The slave populations as well as the Brazilian aristocracy were in full support of independence, creating a national bond on the subject. “Lower class blacks and mulattoes saw independence as a step towards eliminating the racial discrimination that prohibited their appointment to administrative positions” (Viotti da Costa 8). Since the idea of independence was not fully supported by the whole of Mexico, it was only successful to a section of the social class of Mexico making it partly successful. The idea of the Mexican independence movement being a revolutionary civil war shows how unsuccessful it really was. Since independence in Brazil was fully supported by the whole nation, of every individual social class, it is the most successful independence movement in terms to its original rationale and purpose in this case.
Because Spain exploited the economy of Mexico, it was a critical factor for them to achieve independence. Before Mexico gained its independence, it was the richest colony of the Spanish empire (Bethell 51). “The colony’s total output of goods and services stood in 1800 at approximately 240 million pesos, or roughly 40 pesos per capita. This was only half the per capita production of the United States at the time…” (Bethel 51). Although Mexico was Spain’s richest colony, Spain imposed a number of economic constraints on its colony. For example Spain prohibited Mexico to trade with foreign ports, in order to monopolize trade of tobacco, gun powder, mercury, and other commodities (Bethell 54).
As well as monopolizing trade with its colony, Spain also imposed taxes that have been calculated to cost Mexico 2.88 pesos per person, roughly 35 times the burden imposed by the British on its thirteen American colonies (Bethell 54). According to Leslie Bethell, a professor of Hispanic and Brazilian history at University College London, “Spanish Economic controls and monopolies were a major source of colonial complaints” (51). Because of how violent and prolonged the Mexican revolution was, it left the economy in shambles. “The wars for independence left Mexico in disorder and decay” (Skidmore and Smith 226). It left the vast majority of the population in poverty, and since the Creole expelled all the Peninsulares from Mexico, after gaining independence, the upper class and aristocrats of Mexico were gone as well as an important source of capital from the economy (Skidmore and Smith 226).
Brazil’s economy also faced a similar situation before it decided to gain independence. “Portugal maintained as far as possible a monopoly of trade within its empire and, as well as being the hubs of the trade in Portuguese goods, Lisbon and Oporto were the entrepots for non-Portuguese goods exported to the colonies and colonial produce imported and re-exported to the rest of Europe” (Bethell 157). Because the Brazil independence movement was much more peaceful and much shorter than the Mexican independence movement, its economy did not plummet. According to Thomas E. Skidmore, a professor of Latin American and Brazilian Studies, “Brazil’s relatively nonviolent acquisition of independence from Portugal in 1822 left the country with an auspicious start. The lack of large-scale conflict meant that physical and economic destruction was minimal” (Skidmore 147).
The Economical rationale and purpose of both countries, was to free themselves from the economic restrictions of their parent countries, and we can infer that they would want to become economically stable and self sufficient. Brazil was more successful here as it still remained stable after independence due to how much shorter it lasted, and how much more peaceful it was. “Conditions were far worse in Mexico than in Argentina or brazil because the actual fighting had been so much more widespread and protracted in Mexico. Spaniards had taken their capital out of the country. Production plummeted to one-third its pre war level” (Skidmore and Smith 226).
A strong central government, a goal the countries of Brazil and Mexico both desired, was an original rationale of both countries. To become sovereign by establishing a stable government, and remove the monarchy that had placed them under their control was one of their goals. Once the Creole got control of Mexico after independence, they fell victim to the control of the Caudillos, or political bosses. “The Caudillos often supported the interests of the oligarchy, even as he pretended to help the common people. The army which he controlled also served the elite” (Skidmore and Smith 550).
Although Mexico had been in control of multiple Caudillos, the most devastating effect of the Caudillo was under the control of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna who lost over half of Mexico as a result of his poor leadership in the revolution of Texas in 1836, and the Mexican War in 1848 (Skidmore and Smith 550). Brazil on the other hand was able to establish a constitutional monarchy under a prince of the ruling dynasty. “The second Emperor of Brazil, Pedro II ruled Brazil for 42 years before he was invited to leave. He provided the country, with good government and encouraged economic development” (Skidmore and Smith 550).
Because the countries of Brazil and Mexico desire to be politically stable after independence, Brazil was more successful in this case, because Brazil did not become politically unstable. Brazil established a constitution in order to limit the powers of the monarchy, and for that reason Brazil did not fall into anarchy like Mexico did. In terms of the political purpose and rationale, Brazil was the most successful, being able to maintain a stable government after independence.
Brazil’s independence movement has been the most successful independence movement in terms of its original rationale and purpose for three important reasons. The whole of Brazil had a universal agreement of independence, and it was economically and politically stable after independence. It can be inferred that no country would want to be victim to chaos once their independence is secured, which is why the Mexican Independence movement was a failure to their original rationale and purpose.
The Mexican independence movement put the country worse off than it was before independence, and made conditions worse. In Brazil, Peaceful means of achieving independence, and a significantly shorter time, proves how much more organized and stable it was compared to the Mexican Independence, making it the most successful independence movement in terms of its original rationale and purpose.
Bethell, Leslie. The Cambridge History of Latin America. New
York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
Meade, Teresa A. Brief History of Brazil. New York: Checkmark Books, 2004.
Newhill, Esko E. Exploring World cultures. Lexington: Ginn and Company, 1986.
Skidmore E, Thomas, and Smith, Peter H. Modern Latin America, Fourth Edition. New York: Oxford University, 1997.
Viotti da Costa, Emilia. The Brazilian Empire Myths and Histories. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.