Bolivian Declaration of Independence
Battle of Junín
While the Gran Colombian troops disembarked in the port of Callao under the command of General Antonio José de Sucre, General Andrés de Santa Cruz—who until a short time before had been fighting in the ranks of the realistas (Spanish loyalists)—arrived to share the libertarian ideas of José de San Martín and was sent to augment Sucre's troops, beginning their march toward Upper Peru. In August 1823, they entered the city of La Paz and, forced to wage battle, Santa Cruz emerged victorious from the Battle of Zepita on 25 August 1823 against one of General Valdez's divisions.
Between the years of 1822 and 1823, the situation in Peru had turned chaotic: the armies had been defeated by the realistas and politics had plunged into anarchy. It was with these lamentable conditions that Simón Bolívar was confronted when on 1 September 1823 he arrived in Lima. The congress gave him charge of the military.
The situation could not have been more sober for the patriots. The independence of Peru was not assured, and on 29 February 1824 the realistas once again succeeded in occupying Lima. But this time, the political upheavals taking place in Spain spelled the final disintegration of the Spanish troops in America.
General Pedro Antonio Olañeta, a recalcitrant absolute monarchist, rebelled against the viceroy La Serna (who himself had liberal and constitutionalist tendencies) because he attributed to him the desire to separate from the monarchy and liberate Peru from the absolute rule that Olañeta wanted to impose.
Bolívar met the divided realistas and quickly organized an army made up of Colombians, Argentines, and Peruvians. With this army, on 6 August 1824 he defeated the Spanish Army led by General José de Canterac and Colonel Manuel Isidoro Suárez on the fields of Junín. This victory represented above all the first step to the final triumph in the Battle of Ayacucho. The Spanish commanders—Canterac, Váldés, and de la Serna—reassembled in Cuzco and decided to reorganize their forces and flee before the victors of Junín.
Battle of Ayacucho and the Arrival of Sucre in Upper Peru
Charged by Bolívar, Sucre decided to continue his military campaign in Peru. On 9 December 1824, the independents triumphed in a spectacular victory on the plain of Ayacucho. The "Independence of Peru and America" was recognized with the capitulation of the viceroy La Serna.
In Cochabamba on January 16, a cavalry squad of American Dragoons rose up in rebellion. Colonel José Martínez arrested officials and the governor and then seized the First Battalion of the Regiment Fernando VII. He then stood down the squad of Santa Victoria, leaving the city's entire garrison of 800 men in the hands of the independents. He appointed Mariano Guzmán as governor and before his own resignation, appointed Colonel Saturnino Sánchez, and then swore independence.
Lieutenant Colonel Pedro Arraya and the squads Santa Victoria and American Dragoons went to Chayanta, where they also swore independence.
In Vallegrande, the Second Battalion of the Regiment Fernando VII (with 200 men) also rebelled, deposing Brigadier General Francisco Javier Aguilera on 26 January. Colonel José Manuel Mercado occupied Santa Cruz de la Sierra on 14 February. Mojos and Chiquitos joined in the rebellion. As a consequence of these actions, Olañeta abandoned La Paz on 22 January, heading for Potosí.
On 29 January 1825, General José Miguel Lanza (coming from nearby rural zones known as the Republiqueta de Ayopaya) took the city of La Paz and declared the independence of the provinces of Upper Peru. Lanza was named the first president of Upper Peru. On 6 February, Field Marshal Sucre - at the head of the Liberation Army - crossed the Desaguadero River, which was the border with Peru, and entered La Paz the next day.
In Chuquisaca, the "Dragones de la Frontera" Battalion of Colonel Francisco López declared for the independents on 22 February and swore independence.
General Olañeta remained in Potosí, where he received the "Unión" Battalion which had proceeded from Puno at the command of Colonel José María Valdez. Olañeta called a "council of war", which agreed to continue the resistance. Olañeta placed his troops in the fort of Cotagaita with the Cazadores Battalion and the "Chichas" under the command of Medinacelli al Tumusla. Valdez and the rest of the Union Infantry Regiment were sent to Chuquisaca, and he marched to Vitichi with 60,000 coins of gold from the Potosí Treasury. Olañeta abandoned Potosí on 28 March, just before the independent vanguard entered under the command of Arralla.
In spite the governor of Salta's (José Antionio Álvarez de Arenales) final orders not to advance, sent on 17 March to the chief of the vanguard, Colonel José María Pérez de Urdininea and 200 dragoons surprised the Tupiza garrison on 23 March.
Colonel Carlos de Medinacelli and 300 soldiers rebelled against Olañeta on 1 April, the two meeting the next day in the Battle of Tumusla, which culminated with the death of Olañeta. Diverse sources deny the existence of such a battle, arguing that Olañeta died of a single, self-inflicted gunshot.
On 7 April, General José María Valdez surrendered in Chequelte to Urdininea, who had advanced from Jujuy, asking to be included in the Surrender of Ayacucho, ending the war in Upper Peru.
On 7 April, Sucre received an official letter sent by Álvarez de Arenales from Mojo (near Tupiza), informing him of the commission he had been given by the government in Buenos Aires on 8 February to treat (negotiate) with the realistas leaders in the provinces of Upper Peru to end the war: "...on the basis that they need to remain at complete liberty to agree on what best suits their interests and government."
Congress of Chuquisaca
On 6 August 1825, Field Marshal Antonio José de Sucre and Casimiro Olañeta, a lawyer from Chiquisaca and Sucre's nephew, convened all the provinces of Upper Peru to gather a congress to decide the destiny of the nation. However, the destiny of the new republic was subject to three possibilities:
- Pursue union with Buenos Aires, incorporating the whole of the United Provinces
- Maintain ties with Peru, recognizing the measures of incorporation dictated by the Viceroy Abascal as a result of the revolution of 16 July 1809 in La Paz
- Sustain with decision the absolute independence of Upper Peru, not only in relation to Spain, but also in reference to the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata and Peru
Even though the governments of Buenos Aires and Peru recognized this third alternative, Bolívar understood that to encourage at that moment an act of sovereignty of this nature—conspiring against the interests of Gran Colombia—as the territory of the Royal Audience of Quito could expect the same treatment as Charcas. Bolívar did not publicly undermine Sucre's authority, but did reproach him in a private letter regarding this initiative.
The General Constituent Congress of Buenos Aires, by degree on 9 May 1925, declared that "although the four provinces of Upper Peru have always belonged to this state, it is the will of the general constituent congress that they remain at full liberty to decide their fate, as they believe will suit their interests and their happiness," clearing the way for the independence of Upper Peru.
Sucre, a little annoyed by Bolívar's criticism, after demonstrating that he was right, announced that he would obey orders but would also leave the country because he that ordered him did not share his views. To the contrary, Bolívar was in conflict with Sucre's conscience and this compromised his faith in Bolívar's word.
Declaration of Independence
The deliberating Assembly convened anew in Chuquisaca on 9 July 1825. It concluded with the determination of the complete independence of Upper Peru, in the form of a republic, for the sovereignty of its children. Finally, the president of the Assembly - José Mariano Serrano - and a commission wrote the "Act of Independence", which bears the date 6 August 1825 in honor of the Battle of Junín won by Bolívar.
The Act of Independence's introduction says, in a vibrant voice: "The world knows that Upper Peru has been on the American continent, the altar on which was spilled the first blood of the free and the land where exists the tomb of the last of the tyrants...The provinces of Upper Peru, united in resolution, proclaim on the face of the whole earth, that their irrevocable resolution is to govern themselves."
Independence was declared by 7 representatives from Charcas, 14 from Potosí, 12 from La Paz, 13 from Cochabamba, and 2 from Santa Cruz.
Bolívar and Bolivia
On 18 May 1826 in Lima, Bolívar signed on behalf of Peru a degree recognizing the independence of Bolivia.
By means of a decree, it was determined that the new state should bear the name of Bolívar, in homage to the Liberator, who at same time was designated "Father of the Republic and Supreme Leader of the State." Bolívar acknowledged these honors, but declined to accept the presidency of the republic, designating instead General Antonio José de Sucre to accept the office. After some time, they began to debate anew the name of the young nation. One delegate from Potosí, named Manuel martin Cruz, said that just as from Romulo came Rome should Bolivia come from Bolívar. Upon learning this news, Bolívar felt flattered by the young nation.
Until this moment, Bolívar had not really accepted the independence of Bolivia, due to worries about its future. Its geographic situation placed Bolivia in the center of South America, and this, according to Bolívar, would trouble the nation as it faced future wars, points that eventually did come to pass. Bolívar wanted Bolivia to form part of another nation, preferably Peru, but he was finally convinced by the popular opinion. His arrival in La Paz on 18 August was an occasion for popular celebration. The scene was repeated when the Liberator arrive in Oruro, then Potosí, and finally Chuquisaca. This fervent outpouring from the public moved Bolívar, who they called the "Favorite Son" of the new nation.
Controversies and Historical Contradictions
In 2008, modern-day historians commented on the declaration of independence, bringing forth certain contradictions and controversies. The say that it was Colonel Carlos de Medinacelli who was the first liberator of Bolivia and that to this day he is a forgotten hero. After the Battle of Tumusla on 1 April 1825— a day of patriotism that should be celebrated as a historical day instead of 6 August—it was he that had the clear idea that these lands should give birth to a republican life with an identity separate from that of Argentina or Peru. They also say that upon the arrival of Bolívar and Sucre, the Spanish troops had already been defeated. As these represented a significant part of Imperial Spain, it lost its historic territory to the screams of war for the independence of ancient Charcas (Upper Peru).
- Documentos para la historia de la guerra separatista del Perú. Autor: Torata (Fernando Valdés Héctor Sierra y Guerrero), Fernando Valdés Héctor Sierra y Guerrero Torata, Jerónimo Valdés Noriegay Sierra Torata, Torata (Jerónimo Valdés Noriega y Sierra). Publicado por M. Minuesa de los Ríos, 1898. pág. 7
- Apuntes para la historia de la Revolucion del Alto-perú, Hoi Bolivia. Autor Manuel María Urcullu. Publicado por Impr. de Lopez, 1855. pág. 151 - 152