The South American heroes of independence are literally everywhere in South America.

Who are the South American heroes?

When visiting Montevideo, you can’t do without noticing general José Artigas. He’s physically (in bronze) on many squares and in many public buildings, he gave his name to countless streets, avenues, parks, neighbourhoods, even to a town. He is very clearly the national hero of Uruguay, his exploits are taught to children at school, his tomb is exposed and guarded at every hour. 

The same happens in Argentina with general José de San Martin (just see how many places are named after him), in Brazil with Tiradentes, in Chile with Bernardo O’Higgins, etc. 

All these men are referred to as “los libertadores”; they were the heroes of the national independence, fighting against the imperialists for the freedom of Latin America.

If you’re into football, now you know why the South American cup is called Copa Libertadores.

The goal of the South American heroes

Most of them were educated in Europe, where they got influenced by the values of the enlightenment (and often of the freemasonry) which they brought back to their native lands. Their goal was therefore the end of colonialism and the establishment of a republic based on equality and rights, so they became leaders of the Latin American wars of independence from Spain and Portugal.

Wikipedia offers a list of the libertadores of Latin America.

It is interesting to note that several of them spoke of a united South America and have since the beginning included the indigenous and the black slaves in their schemes (but some maintain they were mainly included as cannon fodder). 

The fact that their names are so common here is no wonder -think about how many ‘Washingtons‘ are found in the US geography, or how many ‘Garibaldis‘ inhabit the Italian cities. 

History of South America on the streets

It has to be said about South America though, that the affluence of these names also shows a very restricted history verging on a cult of personality. Of course these nations are younger and don’t have a history as long as the European countries’ history, but they do have a wider range of ‘names’ they could ‘use’, taken from many writers, artists, scientists or sportspeople. The fact that almost all main squares, main avenues, big parks, etc. throughout the continent take their name from the war of independence, show a national pride that seems to me very restrictive.

What is sad is that we in Europe -or even you in North America?- have probably never heard of these men who are so important here. How much more is hidden to us which is so important to our neighbour?

Read about another hero of the independence: Juana Azurduy

Had you heard any of these names before? Is there any very famous person where you live, who is completely unknown outside? Tell us about them in the comments below!


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Who am I?

Anthony fell in love with the world, and more particularly with South America. He wants to offer inspirational guides to the curious backpacker, travel stories to the online generation, and incentives for a more responsible and greener way-of-travel for everyone.

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