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Era of National States


  • 1798: Toussaint L'Ouverture leads a successful slave revolt in Haiti.
  • 1804: Haiti, once a French colony, becomes the first Latin American or Caribbean country to declare its independence 
  • 1806: British naval forces invade and briefly occupy Buenos Aires, Argentina 
  • 1807: British forces invade and briefly occupy Montevideo, Uruguay; King John and his court flees to Brazil to escape Napoleon's invading armies in Portugal 
  • 1808-33: King Ferdinand VII rules Spain 
  • 1808: Portugal's royal family, headed by King John (Joao) flees Napoleon's invading armies and sails on British ships to Brazil 
  • 1810: Father Miguel Hidalgo issues his "Cry of Dolores" and begins Mexico's independence struggle 
  • 1811: Venezuela and Paraguay declare independence; Hidalgo killed and replaced by Morelos in Mexico; José Gervasio Artigas leads battle for Uruguayan independence 
  • 1815: Bolívar forced to retreat to the island of Jamaica 
  • 1816: Argentina declares independence 
  • 1818: Chile declares independence 
  • 1819: Bolivar becomes president of Gran Columbia.
  • 1821: Iturbide declares Mexico independent with his Plan of Iguala 
  • 1822: San Martín and Bolívar meet a Guayaquil, Ecuador; the former departs for France and self-imposed exile 
  • 1821: Mexico, Central America and Peru declare independence 
  • 1822: Pedro I, son of Portuguese King John, declares Brazil independent and becomes the nation's emperor 
  • 1823: Mexico becomes a republic.
  • 1824: Last patriot victories against the Spaniards:
    • Bolívar at Junín in August and Sucre at Ayacucho.
    • Pedro writes a new Brazilian constitution 
  • 1825: Bolivia declares independence 
  • 1825-28: Argentina and Brazil war over Uruguay (Banda Oriental) 
  • 1829: Venezuela leaves "Gran Colombia" 
  • 1830: Ecuador leaves "Gran Colombia"
    • Bolívar dies preparing to go into exile 
  • 1829-52: Dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas rules Argentina with an iron fist 
  • 1831-1844: Pedro I forced to abdicate.
    • Brazil ruled by committee--the Regency--a time of political fragmentation 
  • 1835-45: Anglo-American settlers in Texas revolt against Mexico, establish an independent nation, and finally join the United States 
  • 1844-89: King Pedro II rules Brazil 
  • 1838: Latin America's first railroad is built in Cuba 
  • 1846-48: US defeats Mexico and annexes the northern half of the country with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo 
  • 1850: Clayton-Bulwer Treaty in which Great Britain and the US agree to maintain as neutral any Central American canal 
  • 1853: With the Gadsden Purchase from Mexico, US acquires route for a railroad through southern Arizona and New Mexico 
  • 1854: Ostend Manifesto urges that the US acquire Cuba from Spain, by force in necessary 
  • 1855: U.S. filibuster William Walker and his mercenaries invade and occupy Nicaragua. Walker declares himself president, rules for 2 years, and is finally shot by a Honduran firing squad on September 12, 1860 
  • 1862-67 French occupation of Mexico until Benito Juárez and his liberal forces defeat and then execute Archduke Maximillian 
  • 1865: US mobilizes troops along the Mexican border as a threat to the French occupying army of Louis Napoleon, whose troops arrived there in 1862 
  • 1865-70: War of the Triple Alliance (Paraguayan War) Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay defeat Paraguay 
  • 1876: First shipment of refrigerated beef from Buenos Aires to Europe. Argentina's beef bonanza is underway. 
  • 1876-1911: Dictator Porfirio Díaz rules Mexico (except 1880-84) 
  • 1879-84: Chile defeats Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific 
  • 1888: Princess Isabel abolishes slavery in Brazil 
  • 1889: Brazil's military overthrows King Pedro II and initiates republican government 
    • 1889-90: First Inter-American Conference held in Washington, DC 
  • 1895: US forces Great Britain into arbitration in its boundary dispute with Venezuela, asserting US dominance in the Western Hemisphere. 
  • 1898: Spanish-American War begins.
  • 1901: Hay Pauncefote Treaty in which Great Britain cedes canal-building in Central America to the US 
  • 1901: Platt Amendment to Cuba's new constitution gives the U.S. the unilateral right to intervene in the island's political affairs.
  • 1903: Theodore Roosevelt intervenes to assist Panamanian independence from Colombia 
  • 1903-29: Uruguay's middle class, led by José Batlle y Ordóñez 
  • 1904: (Theodore) Roosevelt's Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine declares the U.S. to be the policeman of the Caribbean. US forces place the Dominican Republic under a customs receivership. 
  • 1909-12: William Howard Taft promotes "Dollar Diplomacy," based on the erroneous belief that increased US investment will bring stability and economic prosperity to Latin America 
  • 1909-33: US Marines intervene in Nicaragua 
  • 1910: Mexican Revolution
  • 1910-20: Bloody phase of the Mexican Revolution 
    • 1911-13: Francisco Madero replace Porfirio Díaz as president of Mexico 
    • 1913-14: Victoriano Huerta assassinates Madero and rules as dictator of Mexico, arousing opposition from the United States 
  • 1914: Panama Canal opens 
  • 1914: US forces shell and then occupy Vera Cruz, Mexico 
  • 1914-20: Venustiano Carranaz serves as president of Mexico 
  • 1915-34: US Marines invervene in and occupy Haiti 
  • 1916: Francisco "Pancho" Villa raids Columbus, New Mexico, killing 17 US citizens 
  • 1916-22: Hipólito Yrigoyen and his middle-class party rule Argentina 
  • 1916-17: US Expeditionary Force under Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing unsuccessfully pursues Pancho Villa in northern Mexico 
  • 1917: Zimmermann Telegram revealed in which Germany offers to help Mexico recover territory lost to the US in exchange for support in the First World War 
  • 1917: Mexico's revolutionary leaders author a new constitution 
  • 1919: Uruguay promulgates a new constitution representing middle-class political values 
  • 1923: Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes renounces the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctine. US slowly begins moving away from interventionism. 
  • 1927-33: Augusto César Sandino and his guerrilla fighters successfully defy US Marine in Nicaragua 
  • 1929: Ecuador becomes the first Latin American nation to grant women the right to vote 
  • 1929: The Great Depression brings economic disaster and radical political change to Latin America 
  • 1932-35: Paraguay defeats Bolivia in the Chaco War 
  • 1933: FDR announces "Good Neighbor Policy" of non-intervention in Latin America 
  • 1933: US offers to intervene in El Salvador to put down a peasant rebellion. The Salvadoran military dictator refuses, then murders thousands of peasants. 
  • 1934: US abrogates the Platt Amendment of 1901. 
  • 1934-40: Lazaro Cardenas brings populist reform to Mexico and nationalizes the oil industry, including many US holdings, in 1938 
  • 1937: Vargas imposes the Estado Novo (New State) in Brazil
  • 1944-54: The "Guatemalan Revolution" brings needed change under Juan José Arévalo and Jacobo Arbenz 
  • 1945: Garbriela Mistral, female poet from Chile, wins Latin America's first Nobel Prize in literature 
  • 1947: Rio Pact signed, providing for mutual defense against Communism 
  • 1948: Organization of American States (OAS) formed 
  • 1952: Guatemala enacts a sweeping land reform law that takes land from the US-owned United Fruit Company (UFCO) 
  • 1952-64: The Bolivian Revolution brings land and labor reform but the efforts are thwarted by the military 
  • 1954: CIA overthrows constitutional government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala 
  • 1956: US-supported dictator Anastasio Somoza assassinated in Nicaragua 
  • 1957-86: Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier rule Haiti as dictators, with US support 
  • 5/1958: Vice President Richard Nixon meets strong anti-American sentiment on his "good will" tour of Latin America 
  • 1959: Dictator Fulgencio Bastista, supported by the US until 1958, flees Fidel Castro's revolution in Cuba 
  • 1957: US high school students in the Panama Canal Zone burn a Panamanian flag, sparking riots that kill and injure more than 100 people 
  • 1960: CIA plots to depose or assassinate Fidel Castro in what is eventually named "Operation Mongoose" 
  • 1961: Eisenhower administration breaks diplomatic relations with Castro in Cuba 
  • 1961: Failed Bag of Pigs invasion of Cuba 
  • 1961: US-supported dictator Rafael Trujillo assassinated in the Dominican Republic 
  • 1961-69: Kennedy's Alliance for Progress tries to bring reform and development to Latin America 
  • 1962: Missile Crisis with Cuba and USSR 
  • 1964: Brazilian President Joao Goulart overthrown by the military, with covert US support 
  • 1965: US forces, fearing a Communist takeover, occupy Dominican Republic.
  • 1970: For the first time, Latin America's population is as urban as it is rural. The US reached this point in 1920. 
  • 1970-73: US and multinational corporations work covertly to overthrew socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile. He dies in the September 1973 military coup. 
  • 1974-76: Isabel Perón serves as Argentina's and Latin America's first female president 
  • 1977: US and Panama sign a new treaty providing for Panamanian control of the canal in 1999 
  • 1979: Sandinista (FSLN) Revolution takes power in Nicaragua 
  • 1977-80: President Jimmy Carter makes human rights a major goal in his Latin American policy 
  • 1980: Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) revolutionaries begin attacks in Peru 
  • 1981-86: Reagan administration officials secretly direct counter-revolutionary (Contra) forces against the Nicaraguan Sandinista government 
  • 1981-88: Reagan administration strongly supports the Salvadoran military in their fight against the FMLN guerrillas 
  • 1982: Argentina invades the Falklands/Malvinas Islands, held since 1833 by Great Britain. Reagan administration officials debate for two weeks before siding with Great Britain. 
  • 1983: Reagan orders US forces to invade the island of Grenada to halt Cuban work on an airstrip 
  • 1985: Civilian rule returns to Brazil for the first time since 1964 
  • 1986: Congress begins investigations of the Iran-Contra scandal 
  • 1987: President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica wins the Nobel Peace Prize 
  • 1989: End of the Cold War diminishes Latin America's significance in US foreign policy 
  • 1992: Guatemala's Rigoberta Menchú, a Quiche Mayan woman, wins the Nobel Peace Prize 
  • 1993: US, Mexico, and Canada form NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement 
  • 1994: NAFTA takes effect.
    • EZLN (Zapatista) revolutionaries launch attacks in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas 
  • 1994: Threatened invasion of Haiti by US troops 
  • 1994: Summit of the Americas meeting in Miami 
  • 1996: Helms-Burton Law increases economic boycott of Castro's Cuba. 
  • 1997: Bill Clinton visits several South American countries and speaks of extending free trade to more of the region. 
  • 1990s: High levels of drug trafficking, massive foreign debt, economic dependency, rain forest and coral reef destruction, illegal immigration to the US, and other problems continue to face the US and Latin America.
  • 1999: Panama begins sole operation of the Panama Canal.

    This chronology based on the work of

    Richard W. Slatta [[email protected]]

    Professor of History

    North Carolina State University


    Used by permission.

    Revised January 2004


    Primary Sources

    Secondary Sources

    Text copyright 1998-2004 by ThenAgain. All rights reserved.