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Revolutionary leader José de San Martín routs Spanish forces in Chile

October 2, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

In the early hours of February 12, 1817, Argentine revolutionary José de San Martín leads his troops down the slopes of the Andes Mountains towards the Spanish forces defending Chile. By nightfall, the Spanish would be routed, the fledgling nation of Chile would have taken a major step toward independence.

San Martín was already a celebrated figure across South America, having liberated Argentina from Spanish rule. As his armies moved through the southern part of the continent, Simón Bolívar waged a similar campaign of liberation in the north, and by 1817 much of the continent was either independent or in a state of revolt. Though uprisings and guerrilla attacks had occurred throughout the narrow region between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, Chile and its ports remained under Spanish control.

San Martín led his army, the Army of the Andes, on an arduous march into Chile. It is estimated that as much as one third of his 6,000 men died in the crossing, and over half his horses were lost. Nonetheless, the patriots outnumbered the Spanish in the region when they finally reached the other side. Knowing Spanish reinforcements were nearby, San Martín pressed the advantage, ordering an early-morning advance down the slopes on February 12th. Two halves of his force were to convene on the Spanish at once, but one of his officers, a Chilean (of partially Irish descent) named Bernardo O’Higgins, could not wait. O’Higgins’ contingent raced down the mountains, giving the Spanish a numerical advantage and forcing San Martín into a somewhat haphazard assault. Nonetheless, by afternoon the patriots had forced the Spanish back into defensive positions around a local ranch, the Rancho Chacabuco. As O’Higgins made another charge, General Miguel Estanislao Soler moved his men to the other side of the ranch, cutting off the Spanish retreat. The result was disaster for the Spanish, who suffered 500 casualties and lost even more prisoners of war. Meanwhile, only a dozen patriot soldiers were reported dead, although roughly 120 would eventually die from wounds suffered in the battle.

The quick and total victory cleared the path to Santiago, the capital of Chile. Though it would take over a year for final victory to be assured, Chacabuco was seen as the pivotal moment in Chilean independence—formal independence was declared on February 12th, 1818, the first anniversary of the battle. The Battle of Chacabuco marked a crucial moment not …read more

Source: HISTORY

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"One Hundred Years of Solitude" is published

October 2, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On May 5, 1967, Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s Cien años de soledad, or One Hundred Years of Solitude, is first published. The book, often referred to as a defining work of Latin American literature, made Márquez a prime candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he was awarded in 1982.

One Hundred Years of Solitude follows seven generations of the Buendía family, fictional founders of the fictional town of Macondo in Márquez’s native Colombia. The town and the family remain isolated from the outside world for much of the novel, but new technologies, political upheavals, and foreign businesses (the novel’s American Fruit Company is a clear reference to the real-life United Fruit Company) encroach upon them and shape the narrative.

Some events in the novel, such as the Thousand Days’ War, really happened, while others, such as the massacre of striking workers, were based on true moments in Colombian history. One of the novel’s defining features, however, is Marquez’s magical realism. Bizarre things happen frequently and are treated by the author and his characters as if they are completely ordinary. One of the Buendías goes mad and spends his final years tied to a tree by his family, another sires 17 illegitimate sons with inexplicably permanent Ash Wednesday crosses on their foreheads, and another ascends into the sky while folding laundry. Marquez’s tendency to treat these events as mundane is a hallmark of magical realism, a fantastical style of storytelling that was popular with the major Latin American authors of his generation.

The novel was an immediate and enduring success. Many critics saw the emergence of a distinctively Latin American style in Marquez’s fatalism and cyclical view of history. His work drew comparisons to that of William Faulkner and Vladimir Nabokov, while Chilean poet Pablo Neruda called it “the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since Don Quijote.” As he accepted his Nobel Prize, Marquez eloquently explained what magical realism meant to him: “I dare to think that it is this outsized reality, and not just its literary expression, that has deserved the attention of the Swedish Academy of Letters,” he said. “A reality not of paper, but one that lives within us … full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more.”

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Source: HISTORY

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When Gandhi’s Salt March Rattled British Colonial Rule

October 2, 2019 in History

By Evan Andrews

In March 1930, Mahatma Gandhi and his followers set off on a brisk 241-mile march to the Arabian Sea town of Dandi to lay Indian claim to the nation’s own salt.

Since the late-1910s, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had been at the forefront of India’s quest to shake off the yoke of British colonial domination, otherwise known as the “Raj.” The thin and abstemious former lawyer had led civil disobedience against colonial policies, encouraged Indians to boycott British goods, and had served two years in prison on charges of sedition.

Gandhi’s philosophy of “satyagraha,” which sought to reveal truth and confront injustice through nonviolence, had made him the most polarizing figure on the subcontinent. While the British regarded him with suspicion, Indians had begun calling him “Mahatma,” or “great-souled.”

When the Indian National Congress redoubled its efforts for independence in January 1930, many assumed Gandhi would stage his most ambitious satyagraha campaign to date. Yet rather than launching a frontal assault on more high profile injustices, Gandhi proposed to frame his protest around salt.

Female members of the Indian National Congress during the Gandhi inspired Indian independence uprising known as the Salt March.

As with many other commodities, Britain had kept India’s salt trade under its thumb since the 19th century, forbidding natives from manufacturing or selling the mineral and forcing them to buy it at high cost from British merchants. Since salt was a nutritional necessity in India’s steamy climate, Gandhi saw the salt laws as an inexcusable evil.

Many of Gandhi’s comrades were initially skeptical. “We were bewildered and could not fit in a national struggle with common salt,” remembered Jawaharlal Nehru, later India’s first prime minister. Another colleague compared the proposed protest to striking a “fly” with a “sledgehammer.” Yet for Gandhi, the salt monopoly was a stark example of the ways the Raj unfairly imposed Britain’s will on even the most basic aspects of Indian life. Its effects cut across religious and class differences, harming both Hindus and Muslims, rich and poor.

On March 2, he penned a letter to British Viceroy Lord Irwin and made a series of requests, among them the repeal of the salt tax. If ignored, he promised to launch a satyagraha campaign. “My ambition,” he wrote, “is no less than to convert the British people through nonviolence and thus make them see the wrong they have done to India.”

Irwin offered no …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Will Taiwan’s Pivotal 2020 Election Be a Prelude to War?

October 2, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

As Taiwan’s January 2020 presidential election approaches, the stakes for Taiwan, China, and the United States are extremely high. In a worst-case scenario, the aftermath could even resemble the debacle that flowed from the pivotal 1860 election in the United States. When voters chose Abraham Lincoln as the new president, several southern states concluded that preserving the delicate status quo regarding slavery was no longer desirable or even feasible. Instead, they opted for secession, and their decision triggered a horrific war. Beijing’s reaction to an adverse outcome to Taiwan’s balloting similarly has the potential to be drastic and disastrous.

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Both the governing Democratic Progressive Party and the opposition Kuomintang Party have selected their nominees, and their positions regarding cross-strait policy have a stark contrast. After a bruising primary battle, DPP voters selected incumbent president Tsai Ing-wen. She survived a strong challenge from her former prime minister, James Lai, who had accused her of being an ineffectual leader in general and insufficiently strong in standing up to Beijing’s bullying tactics in particular. Lai’s campaign highlighted the extent of the discontent within the party’s militantly pro-independence wing. Tsai’s margin of victory was a modest 8.2 percentage points, despite the advantages of incumbency.

Meanwhile, the Kuomintang Party selected Han Kuo-yu, the maverick populist mayor of Kaohsiung, who has advocated for closer relations with the mainland. Earlier this year, Han visited China and met with Communist Party officials from both Hong Kong and Macau. He seemed highly fond of the PRC’s “one country, two systems” arrangement (under which Hong Kong received a considerable degree of self-rule) for Taiwan. However, Beijing’s thinly veiled threats to intervene against the growing pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong appear to have caused Han to beat a retreat from the one country, two systems issue. To rebut innuendos that he would embrace an appeasement policy toward Beijing, he asserted that if he were elected president, Taiwan would accept China’s one country, two systems proposal “over my dead body.”

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