This year Argentina is celebrating 200 years since the May Revolution, which initiated the process of independence completed in 1816. This significant anniversary is shared with many other countries in Latin America. Indeed, our histories are inextricably intertwined. Even if it is inaccurate to portray Latin America as an undifferentiated assembly of countries, it can certainly be considered a unity.
Latin America is a matrix not only of historical and cultural ties, but also of strong political and economic relationships. It is with this conviction that our countries have strived in the recent past to achieve new depths of integration, be it through Mercosur, the Rio Group or the Union of South American Nations (Unasur). Argentina believes not only that its partnership with Latin America supports its identity but that it is in the country’s national interests to continue to strengthen these ties.
Argentina is an enthusiastic supporter of strengthening and enhancing all the structures and fora that reinforce the unity and integration of the region. The more the region can work together, the better results it will achieve globally. One of the main challenges as a bloc is to speak with one voice to promote free trade and put an end to protectionism. As examples of this approach to the region, Argentina is a founder and active member of Mercosur and a strong supporter of Unasur, a new and important forum to promote peace and democracy.
The feeling of belonging to a great region that shares a cultural heritage, common values and a vision for the future make the people of Argentina keen to find new and deeper ways to maintain connections and exchanges within Latin America. In the case of trade, some countries in the region are our most important partners and rank among the top destinations for our exports as well as the origin of a significant volume of Argentine purchases. Moreover, some Latin American countries are the top tourist destinations for Argentine citizens, while the largest number of visitors to Argentina arrive from countries in the region.
Finally, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the whole of Latin America and the Caribbean supports Argentina’s call to the United Kingdom to resume negotiations to resolve by peaceful and diplomatic means the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime spaces, in accordance with the United Nations and the Organisation of American States resolutions and declarations.
High Commissioner of Belize Her Excellency Ms Kamela Palma
Belize is in a very fortunate geographical position – in Central America, yet part of the Caribbean.
When Belize thinks of its physical position, it mainly considers its neighbours in Central America and its CARICOM partners across the water.
However the bigger picture demonstrates that Belize is part of the larger geographic/geopolitical and geo-cultural space called Latin America.
Our histories are different yet shared. Whereas what is now Belize was colonialised by Britain, the rest of Latin America was colonialised and settled by Spain and Portugal. The struggles faced by our forebears were similar – the questions of rights to our land, rights to personal and political freedom, rights to fight against racial discrimination and rights to an education – all played out in the theatre of our geographical space, called Latin America.
Belize celebrates with Latin America the achievements of nationhood and the expression of our self-realisation as individual countries within this vast land mass.
We are a melting pot of civilisations and of cultures, and indeed of ethnicities – if you cut deep, is there not the blood of our Mayan, Ketchi, Inca, Ibo, Mandingo, Scottish, English and German forefathers running through all of us?
So Belize today, besides experiencing political and diplomatic relationships with and within Latin America – this land mass of individual countries truly represented by our shared histories, rich cultures, and fascinating languages and peoples – can boast to having a shared vision of democracy and of equality for all.
Happy 200 years, Latin America.
Ambassador of Bolivia, Her Excellency Mrs Maria Beatriz Souviron
When one looks at history and recalls our heroes – the ordinary men and women who changed things when their circumstances demanded it – one tends to ask:
What did these ordinary people do to be remembered today? What did they do to keep their legacy present today? What can we learn from them 200 on?
As Vice-President Garcia Linera once remarked, the legacy those heroes left behind can be summarised in four points:
1. Their passion for freedom, independence and sovereignty kept them strong despite the odds, because they did not understand or accept life without freedom.
2. The commitment to their convictions, meaning they were prepared to leave everything for their beliefs, devoting their life for a cause, is what separates them from the ordinary people.
3. These individuals fought for what we have today, for the land, natural resources, institutions, work, wealth, pride, dignity and future that is the Motherland. They also fought for something that transcends history: the sense of belonging, of identity and of a sovereign, free and emancipated territory.
4. Although they were fighting for their family, their country and their region, these people acted in the interests of all people and their rights and wealth. They were visionaries who could see beyond local needs to those of the greater good.
Despite being born in just one town, these patriots fought for the interest of all: for all neighborhoods, families, provinces and regions. These patriots gave their lives to Bolivia. For almost two centuries, Bolivia, a multicultural and multilingual society, has unrelentingly worked to overcome its problems and differences and become an integrated sovereign nation that has healed its wounds and created a better future for itself.
We have experienced more than 25 years of uninterrupted democracy, which despite many crises, has overcome tests of dissent, looking to legitimate agreements through debate, participation and mutual respect.
Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of Chile Mr Rodrigo Espinosa
The Chilean Nobel laureate poet Pablo Neruda once characterised Latin America as the ‘continent of hope’. The idea behind this portrayal was that, as young nations, we were still looking for a clear sense of purpose in both the domestic and international fields.
Two centuries ago Chile was deemed a poor and distant colony by its Spanish rulers. We didn’t have gold or other precious metals and faced a never ending war with our native inhabitants which made it difficult to develop large areas of our territory. These obstacles taught us that the only realistic way to become a viable society was through hard work and responsibility. Moreover, nature constantly puts us to the test in the form of earthquakes. Therefore there is no room for improvisation; we need to be prepared for what lies ahead.
At the beginning of our life as an independent state our main concern was the consolidation of the Republic and its institutions. Through the hard work of millions of Chileans past and present, we have been able to create a sound economy and implement a stable political system. Without forgetting that, along with many other countries in the world, Chile has recently experienced serious political and economic crises. But we have been able to overcome them with resilience and a profound sense of national identity, perhaps two of our outstanding features as a people.
After 200 years as an independent nation, we can proudly say that Chile is a responsible member of the international community, playing an active role in the advancement of freedom, the respect of human rights, global and regional security and socioeconomic development. Our recent membership to the OECD is a reflection of these achievements.
Our outlook is deeply rooted in Latin America. We share the same principles and thanks to this common standing, our region can project its voice to the rest of the world in a much stronger capacity.
Today the challenge is to incorporate as many people as possible into the benefits of economic growth. Thus, creating a more inclusive society in which equal opportunities and, even more importantly, equal expectations are part of everyone’s life. This is no small feat, but is a strong driving force for the next stage of our independent life
Ambassador of Honduras His Excellency Mr Ivan Romero-Martinez.
Several of Honduras’ brotherly countries in Latin America are celebrating their bicentennial anniversaries of Independence from the Kingdom of Spain between the years 2008 and 2010.
This has been an opportunity to increase their identities and national unity.
Important programs, events and conferences that develop diverse hypotheses on the causes and origins of this phenomenon are taking place.
In each geographical area of the Americas these events are manifested in different ways but with one common goal: the freedom of their people and the forging of their own national identity.
Jose Cecilio del Valle, the wise Honduran, born in Central America and author of the Act of Independence of Central America, wrote to Jeremiah Bentham: ‘Allow me to beg your attention to a new Republic that has just been born and whose happiness is of my utmost interest. Permit yourself to inform me of your thoughts.’
From one end to the other, the ideas and the actions that sparked the flames in the hearts of the liberators of the people started flowing in.
Simón Bolivar, the liberator of America dedicated and gave his entire life for the freedom of the people of Latin America. He stated: ‘I have proclaimed the absolute freedom of the slaves!’ and summoned the Anfictionic Congress of Panama stating:
‘The day that our Plenipotentiaries cash in on their powers, an immortal era of the history of Latin America shall be established. When after 100 centuries, the posterity searches for the origins of our public law and they remember the agreements that consolidated their destiny, they shall respectfully register the protocols of the isthmus. In them, they shall find the plans of the first alliances that trace the routes of our relations with the universe. What would then be the isthmus of Korinthos in comparison to that of Panama?’
In Central America, the figure of Francisco Morazán also called upon the creation of a Federation of Free States.
Pablo Neruda said: ‘High is the night and Morazán overlooks’ and Alvaro Contreras said: ‘Remove the genius of Morazán and you have eliminated the soul of the history of Central America.’
The history of Latin America is full of men and women that gave their lives for a new world based on freedom and independence.
These commemorations must focus our attention on the requirements and duties of a united region, of a full understanding and commitment to the needs of our people and a transformation that converts us into a region of peace, progress and most of all respect for human dignity.
And in the wise words of Jose Celicio del Valle: ‘America shall be as of today my sole occupation. America by day, when I write. America by night, when I think. The most dignified study by an American is our America!’
Ambassador of Mexico, His Excellency Mr Eduardo Medina-Mora
‘The Mexican nation that for 300 years didn’t have voice or will of its own, emerges today from the oppression she has lived in,’ stated the Act of Independence that gave rise to Mexico.
It is said that the past is a different country, but this is an appropriate moment to revisit it, because often time blurs the significance of the actions of men. 1810 marked the beginning of a great narrative that tells us about the triumphs and tribulations of the initial struggle.
Throughout the continent, from California to Patagonia, many who committed themselves to fight against tyranny answered the call to arms. Most of them were military men with an excellent knowledge of the terrain, strategy and discipline: Simón Bolívar, Antonio José de Sucre, José de San Martín and Bernardo O’Higgins among other patriots who fought gallantly.
Mexican Independence was firmly rooted in the people that followed Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a charismatic priest with formidable intellectual powers who provided direction and sustenance to Independence, but with little military instruction.
He led an army made out of labourers, peasants, carpenters and some members of the middle classes. Hidalgo was soon defeated but the fight did not cease; soon another protagonist came onto the scene: José María Morelos y Pavón, who aside from a successful career as a priest, also became a brilliant leader as the country rushed towards war. His sermons were a defiant response to the injustice and iniquity that were rampant throughout the land.
After a gallant resistance to royalist troops, he fell, and what was illuminated throughout those turbulent years was the fierce resolution to become a nation, to bring food to the table, to better oneself and keep the course although the future looked dark and haunting.
This year we look back to those times in many different ways, without losing sight of what was a truly remarkable saga. It gives us inspiration and resolution to face new challenges.
Historians with an Ibero-American vocation probably still debate the very concept of Latin America coined by the French in the nineteenth century but it has served to renovate and enrich the construction of a geo-political entity that prevails within and beyond the region.
Now the most tenacious and sometimes polemic concept has emerged, that of cultural identity with all its diversity and complexity. This concept is fuelled with many ways of thinking, many voices, different accents, but a common heritage that is recognised by more than 500 million people.
The cause of independence was rooted in human nature, in the need for freedom, not only to be equals before the law but freedom of thought and speech that justified fighting the imperial and seemingly invincible power that had ruled for 300 years. The aim was to allow the country to pursue its own way with no thought of imposing it on others.
Two hundred years on, independence does not mean a refusal to relate to other nations but rather a frame to protect cultures and foster unique visions of life. Mexico commemorates the bicentennial of its independence, celebrating its standing history as a committed actor in a globalised world, promoting trade and tourism but also tolerance, respect for the rights of others, peace and understanding among nations. Today, just like then, our country moves decisively towards making its present and future worthy of its majestic past.
Mexico commemorates the bicentennial of its independence, celebrating its standing history as a committed actor in a globalised world, promoting trade and tourism but also tolerance, respect for the rights of others, peace and understanding among nations.
Ambassador of VENEZUELA His Excellency Mr Samuel Moncada
Two hundred years have passed since Venezuela’s declaration of independence and yet Simon Bolivar’s greatest aspiration – the full political unification and integration of Latin America – still needs to be achieved.
Nevertheless, I am absolutely sure that Venezuela is heading in the right direction towards the goal of unity in Latin America. Following Bolivar’s dream at the Panama Congress of 1826, Venezuelans are embracing values they hold in common with their brothers and sisters in the region through concrete affirmative actions of solidarity.
It is important to understand that the concepts of independence and regional integration are not the ends but rather the means to achieving a more egalitarian and prosperous society. Venezuela is making its contribution to such goals with the implementation of several radical programmes, such as Petrocaribe, Telesur, ALBA, Bank of the South, Mission Miracle and others.
By putting people before profit, these regional schemes are designed to bring about higher living standards for rural communities, fishermen, students, workers, indigenous peoples, African-Americans and those living in deprived urban areas as well as other minority groups. In fact, millions of people who have been neglected and discriminated against for most of the past 200 years are now the main recipients and beneficiaries of these continental programmes.
Our dream is that future generations of Venezuelans and all Latin Americans will be celebrating our independence as one single nation with liberty and equality for all, free from colonial and imperial domination.