October 5th 1988: Constitution of Brazil promulgated

On this day in 1988, the current Brazilian Constitution was promulgated. Emerging from twenty years of military dictatorship, the South American country sought to enshrine citizens’ rights and establish democracy. Brazil’s woes began with a military coup in 1964 which ousted the sitting president. The new military leadership swiftly established a repressive state, issuing a series of military decrees suspending habeas corpus and disbanding congress. Groups opposing the government, notably the Communist Party, were forced undergroud and formed armed resistance movements. Dissent was harshly repressed, and a 2007 report found that 475 people ‘disappeared’ during the twenty-year dictatorship, with thousands imprisoned, tortured, and murdered. Brazil’s military and police officers were trained in torture techniques by American operatives from the CIA, intent on eradicating communist influence in the region. The dictatorship in Brazil was followed by similarly repressive governments in Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina. These Latin American dictatorships violently suppressed opposition to their governments in the US-sponsored Operation Condor. In the 1970s, with the dictatorship at its peak, Brazil’s economy boomed, reaching annual GDP growth rathes of 12 percent. In 1974, the more moderate Ernesto Geisel came to the presidency, and began relaxing the autoritarian aspects of the regime. It was under his leadership that exiles were allowed to return, and habeas corpus was restored. However, the era of military dictatorship did not come to an end until a declining economy and frustration with the lack of democracy caused public protest to reach a fever pitch. In 1985, the electoral college elected a new leader, and the process of dismantling the military dictatorship began. A year later, a Constitutional Congress began drafting a new constitution to end dictatorship and establish democracy. The constitution, which was promulgated two years later, restricted the state’s ability to curtail civil liberties and suppress the democratic process. In 1989, a democratic presidential election was held, and Fernando Collor de Mello became Brazil’s president. The painful memories of the repressive dictatorship continue to haunt many Brazilians, including current president Dilma Rousseff, who was among the 30,000 people tortured by the government.

Juana Azurduy (1780-1862), also known as Juana Azurduy de Padilla, was a South American guerrilla leader who fought for independence from Spanish rule in the early 19th century.

Azurduy was born in Chuquisaca, in what is now Bolivia but was at the time part of the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata, a Spanish territory which controlled present day Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. She was a mestiza by birth, born to a Spanish father and an indigenous mother, however following the death of her father she was raised to be a nun in a convent. She was expelled at the age of 17 for her rebellious behaviour.

Azurduy had a deep appreciation for the indigenous people of Bolivia and in addition to Spanish she spoke the South American languages Quechua and Aymara. In 1805 she married a man who shared this passion, Manuel Padilla, with whom she had four children. When the Bolivian War of Independence began in 1809 both Azurduy and Padilla immediately joined the revolutionary forces and went on to command a 2000-strong guerrilla army in the fight against the Spanish. Padilla was later made civil and military commander for a large area around Chuquisaca and by 1813 their army numbered nearly 10,000 soldiers.

Between 1811 and 1817, Azurduy fought in 23 battles in the effort to liberate the region. During this time Azurduy dressed in male cavalry uniform, keeping her hair under a military cap, and became proficient in fighting with swords, rifles and cannon. On March 8th 1816, her forces captured the Cerro Rico of Potosí, which was the main source of Spanish silver. During the battle Azurduy personally led a cavalry charge which captured the enemy standard. For these acts she was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was personally honoured by General Manuel Belgrano, who gifted her with his own sword.

However Azurduy’s successes came at great cost. Her children were captured by enemy forces and although she and Padilla launched a ferocious raid to save them, all of the children were killed. Azurduy herself was injured in the attempt and Padilla was captured and killed in late 1816. When the Spanish mounted heavy counter-attacks against Bolivian forces in 1818, Azurduy retreated with her forces into Northern Argentina. Here she continued to fight the Spanish with an army of 6000. She also gave birth to a new daughter in the middle of a battle, returning to the fight shortly after the child had been born.

In 1825 Bolivia declared independence and Azurduy was able to return to Chuquisaca. However her efforts in the wars were largely forgotten and she spent the rest of her life in poverty. She died in obscurity in 1862, however her memory has been resurrected in more recent times. She is now remembered as a national hero of both Bolivia and Argentina, has posthumously been granted the rank of General in the Argentinian army, and a 52-foot high statue of her was unveiled in Buenos Aires in July 2015.


On this day in history September 7, 1822: On the banks of the Ipiranga River in São Paulo, Crown Prince Regent Pedro declared Brazil’s independence from Portugal.

The article Brazil’s Independence Day - September 7: Independência ou Morte by Bonnie Hamre from the Go SouthAmerica About webpage briefly describes some of the events that led to Brazil’s Declaration of Independence by Prince Regent Pedro:

With Napoleon and the Peninsular Wars, and the invasion and occupation of Spain and Portugal, Dom João VI, the seventeenth king of Portugal, fled Lisbon and established his court in Rio de Janeiro, where for the next 13 years, he ruled Portugal’s Asian, African, and American colonies. Although Dom João VI (1769-1826) never ruled over an independent Brazil, historians call him the “Founder of the Brazilian Nationality.” One of his major contributions to the growth of Brazil was opening the colony’s ports to free trade with friendly nations, thus signaling a marked change in trade and the resulting improved consequence of Brazil. Additionally, Dom João VI spearheaded the founding of the Academia Naval (Naval Academy), Hospital Militar (Military Hospital), Arquivo Militar (Military Archives), Jardim Botânico (Botanic Garden), Intendência Geral de Polícia (Police Commissariat), Real Biblioteca (Royal Library), the Banco do Brasil (Bank of Brazil), and the gunpowder factory. With the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, he thought it safe to make Brazil another kingdom equal to Portugal. He also decided to remain in Brazil.

The Portuguese government disagreed with both decisions and in 1820 sent troops to assist his relocation to Portugal where the army headed a revolution designed to bring about a constitutional government with Dom João as the constitutional monarch. Dom João returned to Portugal, leaving his 23-year-old son Pedro as prince regent of Brazil. Pedro actively engaged in enlisting support from both able advisors and the people of Brazil.

With revolutions and the desire for independence active in other Latin American countries, Pedro realized Brazil would soon wish for the same. With the support of the Brazilian people and the Brazilian Senate who had bestowed on him the title of Defensor e Protetor Perpétuo do Brasil, Protector and Perpetual Defender of Brazil, he defied an order to return to Portugal. When the Portuguese parliament wished to return Brazil to colonial status, Pedro seized the moment. On September 7, 1822, after receiving orders from the Portuguese parliament limiting his powers in Brazil, Pedro declared Brazil’s independence near the Ipiranga River in São Paulo. Tearing the Portuguese blue and white insignia from his uniform, Pedro drew his sword, and swore: “By my blood, by my honor, and by God: I will make Brazil free.” Their motto, he said, would be Independência ou Morte, Independence or Death! This statement is known as the Grito do Ipiranga.

Pedro de Alcântara Francisco Antônio João Carlos Xavier de Paula Miguel Rafael Joaquim José Gonzaga Pascoal Cipriano Serafim de Bragança e Bourbom, became Dom Pedro I, the first emperor of Brazil and ruled for nine years.

Brazil’s independence was officially Britain and Portugal via the Treaty of Rio de Janeiro on August 29, 1825.

For Further Reading:

Preserved by one of Earth’s driest climates, a long-buried corpse in Chile’s Atacama Desert retains centuries-old skin, hair, and clothing.

Naturally dehydrated corpses like this probably inspired the region’s ancient Chinchorro people to actively mummify their dead, scientists speculate in a new study. The practice, researchers suggest, took off during a time of natural plenty and population growth, when the Chinchorro were better able to innovate and develop culturally.

Living in fishing villages along the coasts of Chile and Peru, the Chinchorro had begun mummifying skeletons by 5050 B.C., thousands of years before the Egyptians. Archaeologists have long wondered how the practice—and a related cult of death—arose, with some speculating it had been imported from the notably wetter Amazon Basin .

“Our study is one of the few to document the emergence of social complexity due to environmental change"—in this case, climate shifts that desiccated the Atacama, study leader Pablo Marquet said.

"Until now, most of the emphasis has been on how environmental change triggers the collapse of societies,” said Marquet, an archaeologist at Catholic University in Santiago, Chile.

Please Join Us on /r/AskHistorians forOur Civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas AMA Panel!

We’re hosting a massive panel AMA on the Americas before Columbus. If you have a question on any topic relating to the indigenous people of the Americas, up to and including first contact with Europeans, you can post it here. We have a long list of panelists covering almost every geographic region from Patagonia to Alaska.

Unlike the neighboring Aztecs or Mayas, who used goods such as beans and textiles to buy and sell products, there was no concept of “money” among the Inca. So, how did they manage to create the largest—and wealthiest—empire in South America? Through a highly regimented system known as the “Mit’a.” From the age of 15, Incan males were required to provide physical labor to the state for a set number of days, sometimes as much as two-thirds of the year. They built public buildings and palaces, as well as an extensive system of roads (14,000 miles in all), which linked the empire together and allowed for its ongoing expansion. In return, the government provided all the basic necessities of life; food, clothing, tools, housing, etc. No money changed hands. Indeed, even if there had been money, there was simply nowhere for an Incan to spend it—no shops, no markets, no malls. That’s not to say that Incan society didn’t value the massive piles of gold and silver sitting beneath their lands. In fact, the Inca used these precious metals as part of their religious worship, considering gold the “sweat of the sun,” and silver the “tears of the moon.


December 9th 1824: Battle of Ayacucho

On this day in 1824, the climatic battle of the Peruvian war of independence occured at Ayacucho, ending in a decisive victory for the revolutionaries. The South American countries had been Spanish colonies for centuries, but their grip on the distant outposts began to falter at the beginning of the nineteenth century. At this time, Spain was wracked by political turmoil following Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and the capture of King Fernando VII. In this climate, other Spanish colonies - including Chile in 1810 - had declared their independence. Peru, however, remained loyal to the Spanish crown until the 1820s, when the regional campaign for self-determination spilled into Peru. There, revolutionaries led by Venezuelan Simon Bolivar sought to rout royalist forces, who were under the leadership of Viceroy Jose de la Serna, and engaged in protracted warfare in the effort to liberate Peru. The revolutionaries were initially repelled by Spanish troops, but Bolivar capitalised on political instability in the colonial administration to recruit soldiers from neighboring countries and launch further attacks. By December, the revolutionaries had amassed a considerable army at Ayacucho, made up of Peruvians, Venezuelans, Colombians, Argentines, and Chileans. Here, they were able take higher ground, giving them a tactical advantage over Spanish troops. Masterful military leadership by Bolivar’s second-in-command - Antonio Jose de Sucre - helped to secure the revolutionaries’ victory at Ayacucho. The royalist defeat, and capture of the viceroy, led to the end of the Peruvian war of independence, with Spanish surrender secured. The next year, Upper Peru (modern Bolivia) was also liberated. The last of the Spanish forces finally departed Peru in 1826, and with them ended Spanish rule in South America.

Eva Peron: Historical and Political Background and Context

Argentina declared independence from Spain in 1825. Almost immediately thereafter, the country became embroiled in a Civil War which lasted until 1853. A constitution was installed in that year, and the country remained relatively stable until 1930.

The early twentieth century was a fairly prosperous time for Argentina; by 1929 Argentina had the world’s fourth highest per capita GDP. However, the stock market crash destroyed that stability, and gave rise to the political instability and unrest which would characterize the 1930’s for Argentina.

The first of many military coups was staged in 1930 when President Hipólito Yrigoyen was forced out of office, and replaced with Félix Uriburu. The next thirteen years—a period deemed by historians as the “Infamous Decade”—was characterized by continued economic instability and collapse, and increased violent conflict between the political left and the political right.

At the same time, the beginnings of what would become Word War II were stirring in Europe. As the Second World War began in earnest, Argentina came very close to fighting on the side of the Allied Forces; however, popular fear that that would lead to the spread of Communism forced Argentina to remain neutral.

On June 4, 1943, the GOU (Grupo de Oficiales Unidos)—a military junta, of which Juan Peron was a member—staged a coup and demanded the resignation of President Castillo; this is considered by historians to mark the end of the “Infamous Decade.” One of the leaders of the coup, Pedro Ramirez, assumed Supreme Executive power, and in that capacity broke all remaining Argentinian ties to the Axis powers. In 1944, another leader by the name of Edelmiro Farrell replaced Ramirez, and in 1945 he declared war on Germany. However, by that point, the war had already ended.

In the meantime Juan Peron had been named as Head of the Department of Labor. This work caused him to form an alliance of sorts between the Department, labor unions, and the socialist movements growing within those unions. This made him very popular with the people, but earned him some enemies within his former inner circle.

On January 15, 1944 the devastating San Juan earthquake hit the city of San Juan, and Peron became highly involved in the relief and fundraising efforts. These efforts increased his popularity amongst the people. It was also through these efforts that he met a young radio actress named Eva Duarte.

By 1945, Peron had been so committed—or perhaps, tied through questionable alliances—to labor unions and the social reform movement that conservatives forces within the government began to see him as an enemy, and began to fear his popularity amongst the people. This sentiment continued to grow until September 1945, when he was forced to resign. He was arrested shortly thereafter.

While the government may not have liked him, the public love for him only grew, and they greeted his arrest with such massive demonstrations that the government was forced to release him after only four days.

It is here, against a history of military coups and a backdrop of public devotion strong enough to sway a military government, that we can begin to discuss the woman who would soon be known to the world as Eva Peron.

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The 2,000-year-old masked face of a mummified Chinchorro woman peers out from shroud made from reeds, rope, and nonhuman skin, possibly of a pelican.

Unlike the ancient Egyptians, who considered only kings and other nobles worthy of mummification, the Chinchorro performed the sacred rite on nearly everyone, regardless of age or status. Infants and even fetuses were mummified with the same meticulous care as adults.

Mikhail Gorbachev and Fidel Castro, 1989
In his first visit to South America in April 1989, Gorbachev met in Havana with Fidel Castro. Crumbling Russian economy could no longer help Cuba as before, and although Gorbachev and Cuban tried to convince journalists that the friendship between Cuba and the Soviet Union was still as strong leaders signed a single agreement. (SERGEI GUNEYEV / AFP / Getty Images)


August 7th 1947: Kon-Tiki expedition ends

On this day in 1947, the Kon-Tiki raft smashed into reef and was beached in the Tuamotu Islands. The expedition was led by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and aimed to prove that pre-historic peoples could have travelled from South America to Polynesia and settled there. The expedition took 101 days and covered 7,000 kilometres across the Pacific Ocean from Peru to the Polynesian islands. The raft was constructed and sailed using only materials and techniques people would have had available in pre-Columbian times. However, the experiment was criticised because they used modern technology such as having the raft towed out to sea. The journey began on April 28th but ended on August 7th, with the crew all returned safely to land.

Riders on a float in the Bud Billiken Parade wave to the crowd at the 4400 block of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Chicago, August 14, 1999. ABC7 food critic James Ward stands on the float in a striped shirt. Photograph by Lynne Lee

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Cannibalism, Brazil. Engraving by Theodor de Bry for Hans Staden’s account of his 1557 captivity
Hans Staden (c. 1525 – c. 1579) was a German soldier and mariner who voyaged to South America. On one voyage, he was captured by the “Toppinikin” people of Brazil, who, he claimed, practised cannibalism; he survived and wrote a widely-read book describing his experiences.