Internal Conflicts

Unlike the United States, which forged a stable federation following its revolution, most Latin American countries suffered decades of internal turmoil. Simón Bolívar’s vision of a political union of Spanish-speaking nations failed to unite disparate interests and rival caudillos (military-political leaders). In many places, medals were issued for the military response to the rebellions of indigenous peoples against rulers of European descent.

Map of Argentina, 1865, course of the Rio Salado, published in Thomas J. Hutchinson, Buenos Ayres and Argentine Gleanings: With Extracts from a Diary of Salado Exploration in 1862 and 1863. London: E. Stanford, 1865.
Liberals versus Conservatives

As royalist forces were gradually defeated by republican armies, new revolutionary leaders competed for power. In most countries creoles (citizens of European descent) aligned themselves with one of two ideologies: conservatism or liberalism. The conservatives generally were supported by wealthy landowners in alliance with the Catholic Church. Liberals drew their strength from the major cities and trading ports; they promoted free trade, sought to separate church and state, and attempted to end aristocratic and ecclesiastical privileges. In some countries this conflict continued well into the twentieth century.

El Salvador, Medal for Distinguished Valor to the Loyal Defenders of the Liberal Regime of Francisco Morazán against Invading Armies from Guatemala and Nicaragua, 1839 (Sv1 )
El Salvador, Medal for Heroism to the Loyal Defenders of the Liberal Regime of Francisco Morazán against Invading Armies from Guatemala and Nicaragua, 1839 (Sv1 )
Honduras, Order of Francisco Morazán, in Memory of Central America’s Leading Liberal Figure, instituted 1941, Grand Cross set, Knight (Hn_18)
Guatemala, Medal for the Campaign of 1851 to the Defenders of the Conservative Regime of Rafael Carrera against Invading Forces of El Salvador and Honduras (Gt_1)
Guatemala, Officer’s Cross to the Defenders of the Conservative Regime of Rafael Carrera against Invading Forces of El Salvador and Honduras, 1863 (Gt_3)
Guatemala, Medal to the Defenders of the Conservative Regime of Rafael Carrera against Invading Forces of El Salvador and Honduras, 1863 (Gt_4)
Guatemala, Cross of Honor to the Defenders of the Conservative Regime of Estrada Cabrera against Internal Rebellion, 1906 (Gt_7)
Guatemala, Medal to the Defenders of the Conservative Regime of Estrada Cabrera against Internal Rebellion, 1906 (Gt_8)
Venezuela, Star of the Regeneration of Venezuela to Supporters of the Liberal Regime of Antonio Guzmán Blanco, 1870 (Ve9)
Federalists versus Unitarians

Another political fault line separated proponents of a strong central government from regional leaders who wanted to see the benefits of nationhood distributed more equitably among distant provinces. Argentina suffered years of warfare between federalists and unitarians during the dictatorship of Juan Manuel de Rojas (1793–1877). The conflict was motivated by the desire to control tax receipts from the customhouse in the port of Buenos Aires.

Argentina, Medal of Order to supporters of the Central Regime against those of Santa Fe, 1819 (Ar10)
Argentina, Medal for Military Virtue, “Death to the Unitarians!” uncertain date (Ar13 )
Argentina, Medal of the Battle of Pago Largo to supporters of the Unitarian leader Manuel Rosas, 1839 (Ar19b)
Military Campaigns against Indigenous Peoples

Spain’s three-hundred-year rule of Latin America generally failed to integrate indigenous peoples into colonial society. The wars of independence put families of European descent in power without changing the social status quo. These creoles showed little interest in defending indigenous rights if they conflicted with personal economic interests. Indian communities often rose up to defend their lands, which led to armed conflict, particularly in Argentina.

Argentina, Medal for the Campaign in Rio Negro and Patagonia, 1881 (Ar33 )
Argentina, Medal of the Andes to Those Who Defeated Tehuelche Indians in the South, 1882–1883 (Ar34 )
Argentina, Commemorative Medal for the Survivors of the Desert Campaign, 1929 (Ar35)
Argentina, Medal for Those Who Participated in the Exploration and Campaigns of the Chaco Region, 1888 (Ar36)
Argentina, Medal from the People of Salta to the San Lorenzo Brigade, 1896 (Ar41)
Argentina, Medal for the Southern Army, 1894 (Ar42)
Argentina, Medal for Expeditionary Forces in the West, 1897–1900 (Ar43)
Argentina, Medal for Forces Who Defeated an Indian Uprising at El Salado in the North, 1830 (Ar14 )
Argentina, Medal for the Triumph over a Division of Chilean Indians in the South, 1839 (Ar16 )
Argentina, Medal for the Exploration of the Rio Salado, 1856 (Ar25)
Caudillos

Caudillo is a Latin American term for a political leader who takes power by force or through a fraudulent election and rules as a dictator. The term is no longer in popular use. The word fit the many dictators who ruled in the nineteenth century in most Latin American countries. The Bolivian caudillo Manuel Mariano Melgarejo (1820–1871) is especially known for the repressive nature of his regime and the large quantity of medals he had struck at the mint of Potosí, often on the same standards as coins.

Bolivia, Medal of 1865 (Bo15)
Bolivia, Medal for the Battle of Potosí, 1865 (Bo16)
Bolivia, Medal for Youth, 1865 (Bo17)
Bolivia, half Melgarejo coin, 1865 (PUNC)
Bolivia, Star for the Battle of Viacha, 1866 (Bo18a)
Bolivia, Star of Potosí, 1868 (Bo23)