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Biography of Bernardo O'Higgins (1778-1842)

Bernardo O'Higgins.

Liberator of Chile, born in Chillán August 20, 1778 and died in Lima on October 24, 1842.

He was the natural son of Ambrosio Higgins, who became viceroy of the Peru, and Isabel Riquelme, Creole hacendada of the province of Concepción. His father came from the County of Meath (Ireland), where he/she had emigrated towards Cádiz, where he/she dedicated himself to trade on behalf of the Dowel House, which sent him later to Lima. He/She then moved to Chile and returned to Cadiz. He/She left for the second time to America at the service of the King, forming part of the vast contingent of Irishmen who served at that time to the Spanish monarchy. Ambrosio Higgins joined in the colonial army participating in the Suppression of the uprisings of the Araucano. In 1786 he/she was appointed intendant of Concepción. In 1796 he/she was appointed viceroy of the Peru, also receive titles and lands. His mother, on the other hand, came from a stale Creole family whose farm was located near Los Angeles. There met the parents of the future liberator of Chile.

Early childhood of Bernardo O'Higgins is relatively little known. In 1782 he/she moved to reside with Juan Jacobo Alvano, a landowner friend of his father, who was in charge of their education and maintenance so as to keep their existence secret. In 1788 Bernardo was born at Chillán by order of his father, where he/she made his studies by enrolling with the maiden name because of his illegitimacy. There was contact with his mother's family including his sister Rosita (daughter of the marriage of his mother with Félix Rodríguez, which widowed shortly later) was until he/she was sent in 1790 to the colegio de San Carlos, in the capital of the Viceroyalty of the Peru. In Lima he/she expanded his studies, and in 1795 he/she embarked for Europe, step forced for the Creole oligarchy of the moment, following the route designed for him by his father. In Cádiz Bernardo O'Higgins stayed at home of Nicolás de la Cruz, whom his powerful father had provided with a pension to keep it. The young Bernardo then went to England, beginning an stay in Richmond, characterized by an ever-more-painful personal economic situation, an extension of their knowledge and experiences, a contact with the revolutionary ideas and the discovery of the independence cause by the hand of his friend and master Francisco de Miranda.(See Francisco de Mirandaand independence of America - in a voice independence).

There it pervaded all ideas and guidelines of the illustrated and Venezuelan revolutionary, aimed at achieving the independence of Spanish America. Their economic situation has deteriorated up to misery, after having tried to contact by letter with his parents and Nicolás de la Cruz, which never ended you send money that Yes came in quantity at the correct time to Cadiz. In 1799, when his situation in London was painful its Cadiz administrator finally responded to your continued requests and sent him money to return to Cadiz. There he/she embarked on the "Confidence" frigate bound for Buenos Aires, but in 1800, Spain was at war with England and the ship captured by the British was taken to Gibraltar where Bernardo returned to Cadiz. Then precipitated events: his mother and his sister Rosita passed hardships following the death of his grandfather and his father was dismissed from the post of Viceroy because of the closeness of his bastard son to independence circles. At this time O'Higgins contracted yellow fever, which was about to take him to the death. He/She then received the news of the death of his father, who had tested in its favour recognized him as his son.

Recovered from the illness he/she decided to return to Chile, where he/she arrived on September 2, 1802. Heritage received consists in the hacienda de las Canteras, that Bernardo O'Higgins turns into a powerful landowner. Waiting for a situation favorable for the desired independence, it dedicates to his farm and regional policy. With the invasion of the peninsula in 1808 by Napoleon's troops will appear so hopeless. In 1810 the Buenos Aires cabildo replaced the viceroy and dissolves the Supreme regional board. In the same way acts the cabildo of Santiago. In both cases it is replaced with the viceroys through coups d'etat disguised as political actions highlights full legitimacy. Bernardo O'Higgins is located at this time very close to the friend of his father and member of the Board of Santiago Martínez de Rozas. On 15 December 1810 O'Higgins was elected Congressman for conception, making important policy actions, but a military coup realistic pro and a change of Government away it's power. José Miguel Carreras then broke into the politics of the still Spanish colony with a blow of clear-cut independence which the junta dissolves forming another that lasted a year, until its second military coup. Then is when the own racing proposes to O'Higgins entering the new Board, charge that he/she accepted. However, the despotic spirit of racing soon led him to resign. Few months later came a conception uprising against despotism with O'Higgins to the front; only a few conversations of last hour and promises unfulfilled by racing avoided confrontation. On the other hand, the threat of the royalists was far from imaginary. In 1813 had come to San Vicente, then heading to Santiago without finding it passes more than unorganized militia. Separatists had reacted late. O'Higgins is located in Talca with racing and they decide to attack Linares. This was already one of the great actions of the war, since it led the people to take up arms. The success of the O'Higgins campaign gave him command of the patriot army, but the realists in another offensive yielded several squares until the viceroy strikes up conversations that end on May 3, 1814 in agreements of Lircay. After its signature racing turned against O'Higgins, the immediate consequence being the battle of Maipo, in which Luis Carrera demolished the forces of O'Higgins. Terrible resolution of this dispute in the Patriot field could not bring more than bad consequences, although the realistic common enemy brought once more to the Carrera brothers (José Miguel, Luis and Juan José) to defend the camino de Santiago. Finally, in the terrible battle of Rancahua Bernardo O'Higgins he/she starred in another epic episode being besieged by the royalists and get out alive without any relief. They are the final days of the old homeland, with the victory without discussion of the arms of the King of Spain.

After this series of bitter episodes Bernardo O'Higgins decided to take the road of the Andes, initiating the flight to Mendoza. There awaits José de San Martín, person of great importance in the life of O'Higgins and firm ally of the Chilean independence cause, which helped and encouraged at all times.

Next to him, O'Higgins will be delivered to the task of organizing the army of the Andes, conceived as the instrument that would make it possible to achieve not only the Chilean independence but assault the most important realistic bastion of continental South, the Peruvian Viceroyalty. It should be recalled that at the time was unthinkable an attack against the realistic Peru without before release to Chile of realistic troops. At the time, San Martín was Mayor of whose. During 1815 O'Higgins moved with his family to Buenos Aires, dedicated to developing plans to return to Chile and to make powerful decisions. While racing trying to get money and ships, O'Higgins was in contact with the lodge Lautaro in order to achieve greater political support to the cause of independence. The army of the Andes finally reached the Aconcagua Valley January 27, 1817. Shortly after the battle of Chacabuco, which filed the Chilean people after the victory as the liberator of Chile, after the large samples of heroism in combat to Bernardo O'Higgins took place. The arrival in the capital was triumphant and there received the investiture of Supreme director. From this position he/she devoted himself to chase down the enemies of the independence cause, but with his Government also came the influences of San Martín and his lodge in Chilean politics, what wasn't his countrymen. In addition, subsisted conflicts generated by the racing, the guerrilla Rodríguez and the realists of the South, which had the support of the araucano. While O'Higgins penetrated in a campaign to submit them, the Government remained in the hands of Quintana, who failed to cope with political instability. Racing was arrested with his brothers after bring ships of the United States to be an element of destabilization in the eyes of power exercised authoritatively. Later, José Miguel Carrera was released, but his brothers were executed. A new realistic expedition came from Peru, so O'Higgins lifted the siege of Talcahuano and marched to Santiago.

On February 12, 1818 is in fact achieved in Chacabuco the independence of Chile; the new nation faces still long with realistic troops who won the battle of Cancha Rayada, but lose the Maipo before an army commanded by San Martín. In this first period the Government of the new State is played by Bernardo O'Higgins from positions of strength with retaliation so extreme as the execution of the sole survivor of the racing brothers and the embargo of the family assets. It is time that the new Government, supported in characters like Freire and the English Corsair Cochrane, raises an army that O'Higgins puts in charge of San Martín, managing to conquer Lima in 1821. Then, Bernardo O'Higgins seem to yield to the attractions of power, discussed the need to trim the powers of the Supreme director, but he/she remains insensitive to the outcry calling for the entry of the country into political normality. While the South remained as unruly as ever, the political and economic problems acuciaban to Chile. Finally, after an uprising in Concepcion, O'Higgins resigns from the post of Supreme director. Shortly after taking the final path of exile, settling in Lima at the hacienda his faithful friend José de San Martín had given him. In later years, almost banned its name in Chile, it turned to its property to keep in touch with your friends and your family. Between the wishes of return and return plans go by his last years; with a Treasury in poor condition and a medical condition that prevents him from boarding, Bernardo O'Higgins died in Lima in 1842. His remains were brought to Chile in 1869, being buried with the honors he/she deserved as a founder of the independent Chile.


COLLIER, S. "Chile", in Leslie Bethell Ed., history of Latin America, Vol. 6, Barcelona, 1991.

FERNANDEZ LARRAÍN, S. O'Higgins, Santiago, ORB, 1974.

LUCENA SALMORAL, Manuel, et al.: history of Latin America. Contemporary history, Madrid, 1988.

VILLALOBOS, S. et to the. History of Chile. Santiago, Editorial Universitaria, 1980.

M. Lucena Giraldo.