South America 1789 CE

The Spanish and Portuguese empires rule most of South America between them.

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What is happening in South America in 1789CE

The Spanish empire

Over the past century and a half most regions of Spanish South America have now been brought under the firm control of the Spaniards. Until fairly recently the east coast has remained under-developed; Buenos Aires has been a struggling port, and this region of the continent has been poor and sparsely populated. With the rise of transatlantic trade, however, the fortunes of Buenos Aires and surrounding areas has markedly improved, and the region now forms its own viceroyalty. Buenos Aires is now equal in status with Lima, in Peru, and Mexico City, in Mexico, as a Spanish American capital.

By this date, racial categorization in Spanish South America is breaking down, with people of mixed descent filling all but the very highest positions in society. The Spanish government’s habit of placing most of the top colonial offices in the hands of European-born officials is a source of growing resentment amongst members of the locally-born elite, the great majority of whom are by now Creoles.

The Portuguese empire

In the Portuguese empire, Brazil’s sugar exports have been losing out to those of the British and French Caribbean, but coffee-growing is becoming more important to the economy. This, plus the mining in the region, has turned the south of the country into the wealthiest part, with Rio de Janeiro as Brazil’s chief city and seat of government.

Next map, South America in 1837

Dig Deeper

Latin America in the Colonial Age

European World Empires

The Atlantic Slave Trade

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