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The American puzzle

About four months ago we wanted to see what a map of Europe would look like if all the regions that have independence movements would be granted succession in their actual state.

However, independent or nationalist movements are not exclusive to the old continent, they are all over the world and the Americas is not the exception, since there are also regions that want to leave the state they are in, or at least be granted more autonomy.

In general, these are a lot larger than the ones we could find in the European cases and they could be divided -summarizing a lot- into three groups, according to the motives for which they pursuit independence: the indigenous claims (such is  the case with the Mapuche of South America or the Lakota in the North), those that come from the processes of decolonization or war (The Confederate States of America or Rio Grande do Sur, for example) and those that want independence so they don’t have to continue paying taxes that go to poorer regions (Rio de Janeiro or Santa Cruz, in Bolivia).

In this review, just like we did with Europe, we won’t go into every case; instead we will concentrate on the ones that seem most curious or interesting, due to the processes or the location, or because of a large number of movements on a state’s surface.


Image 1: America – Source: Own work
To see it click HERE

 South America

In this subcontinent, one of the groups that seek that largest claim is the Mapuche. The claim extends from Argentina to Chile, from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific.

 In general, Mapuche is the population that speaks Mapudungun or the descendants of the inhabitants of the historic region that, as seen on the map, extends from the south of Buenos Aires to the Patagonia – in each side of the Andes – including important cities such as Cordoba, Mendoza, and Bahia Blanca in Argentina and Concepcion in Chile.

 The Araucanians people (as they are also known) were established in the island of Chiloe -another island that also wants autonomy- and the Valley of Aconcagua in the XVI century, later (XVII and XIX century) they expanded to the other side of the Andes into Argentina – not always in a pacifist manner -. However, in the late XIX century, Argentina and Chile decided to occupy these lands and that is why they want autonomy or the secession from the states that “invaded” them. They are members of the UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization) since 1993.


Image 2: Manifestation in Chile against the treatment of the Mapuche people by the Chilean state. 
Source: Patricio Valenzuela
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In the south of Brazil, we find a high number of states looking for independence. On one side the Riograndense Republic (currently, Estado de Rio Grande do Sol), that declared their independence in 1843 and after a war with the Brazil Empire they returned. However, there is still -and even growing- separatist movement that, for example, indicates to the treaty that was signed at the end of the war as unfulfilled (for example the slaves were not liberated), that the treaty never fully arrived and that they have closer relations with Uruguay than the rest of Brazil.

There also exist other movements in the Brazilian Federation that want the same objective: independence. For example, the south region that includes Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and Parana. We also find these movements in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. In those last ones they pursuit secession because they are rich states that don’t want to continue paying taxes for the development of poorer states, such as Mato Grosso, which they call “parasitic states” (há dois Brasis: o Brasil que gera renda, e o Brasil parasita, aquele que consome a renda dos estados geradores de renda).

In Bolivia, something similar is happening in the province of Santa Cruz, a rich province in a poor country. Part of the population prefers independence from their neighbors so they don’t have to continue paying taxes that escape their border and prevent them from developing at a more rapid pace.

We find a curious case in Pasto, in the Republic of Colombia. During the war of independence from Spain Pasto declared itself loyal to the Spanish Empire and since then they hold a sentiment of “I’m different” from the rest of Colombia, although it is not very extensive (we only found a blog). However, it is still strange that in such a small region, and after two centuries, movements continue to appear asking for more autonomy, at least.

Central America

Maybe the best known case is Puerto Rico; they are not yet an integrated state of the United States, it is an unincorporated territory with association to the US. Therefor they have movements and political parties that want complete independence from the North American federation.

Furthermore, there are also movements in favor of secession for some of the islands around the Caribbean that belong to European states: Guadalupe and Martinique, from France; and Monserrat, from the UK. In Martinique, for example, Mouvement Independentiste Martiniquais (Martiniquais Independence Movement) is one of the main political parties in the island and succession from the French “metropolis” is one of their main objectives.

The Raizales is a series of islands that belong to Colombia but are located in front of Nicaragua, a significant distance from the Colombian coast. These islands were inhabited by the Miskito people and then by the descendants of the English and pirates. They islands are claimed by Nicaragua and there is a lawsuit between countries for the territorial waters. The Hague International Court sided with Nicaragua, therefore extending their territorial waters significantly into the Caribbean Sea. After this verdict the secessionist pressures have increased in the island.


Image 3: Delimitation of the waters in the occidental Caribbean Sea after the verdict of The Hague.

Source: Wikipedia

North America

The three countries that compose North America are not exempted from the secessionist movements; actually, there is a high concentration of provinces and states that seek independence in the region, much more than in South and Central America. Due to its extensive territory there are states and provinces that want to be independent from the federations they belong to now.


 One of the best known cases in this study is the state of Chiapas, given the presence of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation that wants to create a socialist and truly democratic state, according to them.

Further north is the republic of Yucatan that extends to Campeche and Quintana Roo. They declared their independence in 1841, and keeping it until 1848 when they returned to the Mexican Federation. Their return to Mexico was due to the leaders of the Republic needing the help of the Mexican military to end the “Caste War of Yucatan”, between the Mayan native population and the whites and mestizos. A war that wasn’t really about caste, but social classes and the use of natives as slaves in the agricultural camps during the agricultural capitalist revolution.


Image 4: Canvas about the Caste War.
Author: Unknown
Source: Wikipedia

Also, we find the Republic of Sonora, independent from 1854 to 1857, similar to the movements in California, meaning they were “invaded” by Americans that were searching for land and gold.

Finally we have Sierra Madre that wants independence partially because the centrality of the Mexican government that does not allow them autonomy, but mostly because these states have a higher GDP than the Mexican average.  According to them, it is comparable to some European countries, like Great Britain. Also, they pretend to annex withTexas, who like California and New Mexico also were Mexican at one point.


Image 5: Extent of Mexico in the XVII century where we can see Sierra Madre occupying part of modern day Texas, formed by St. Louis of Potosi. 
Source: Kalipedia

 United States of America

Recently, after the reelection of Barack Obama up to twenty states petitioned independence from the Union.  However, even without events like Obama’s election to exacerbate nationalist feelings there are still regions and states that want to leave this world power, for now.

The zone where these movements are most concentrated is the southeast, where we find the Confederate States, who lost the civil war and don’t tend to be well regarded by other countries due to ties with racism; there is also the Republic of New Afrika composed by states with large black population (in some instances even majority). On one side some ask for regional independence with racist arguments and others want it to exist in a population of color. The cause is similar; however the results that each group would accomplish with independence would be vastly different.


Image 6: flag of the Republic of New Afrika

We also have Texas (claimed by the Confederate States, partially by the Republic of New Afrika, and Sierra Madre), that according to the constitution is the only state that could become independent, because for a while it was an independent republic after their secession from Mexico. A very conservative state that could maybe accomplish their succession goal due to the help of small screen idols, such as Chuck Norris.

texas y la independencia

Image 7: Manifestation in favor of the secession of Texas. 

 More north we find California, Vermont, Alaska, and Cascadia, that want to unite with other regions and states of Canada.

 However, the most well-known case in the US is the Republic of Lakota. This claim has areas in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota. Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana. It is a self-proclaimed republic which doesn’t make it a secession but a “reiteration of sovereignty”. The search for the independence is based on the “apartheid” like treatment the native population has been subjected to by the federal government, leading to poverty and unemployment.


 There are movements for secession and autonomy in almost half of the Canadian surface.

 The best known case is Quebec. The desire for independence is based, for example, on being the only Francophone region in Canada, and therefore it has a long history with processes of English assimilation and repression. There have been two referendums done to ask for independence, one in 1980 and another 1995, but in none of the secession was able to win majority – though last time it was very close. However in 2006 the Canadian parliament approved Quebec as a nation within Canada, in an attempt to calm some of secessionist ideas.


Image 8: Manifestation in favor of Quebec staying in Canada, 1995. 

In conclusion, America like Europe and much of the world is a hotbed for nationalism and independence movements that, for different motives and diverse reasons thatwe won’t be considering, want to modify their borders to accomplish their objectives.

European colonization, the slaughter of native population, miscegenation, slavery, or the difference in development have generated a large mosaic of regions and towns that still want to shape their borders.

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