Peru-bolivian Confederation: Causes And Consequences

The Peru-Bolivian Confederation was established between 1836 and 1839 as a confederate state in South America. Shortly after the independence of Peru and Bolivia from the Spanish Empire, the governments of both nations decided to integrate into a single state.

This brief integration test was also known as the Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation. Its territory was made up of the North-Peruvian State, the South-Peruvian State and Bolivia, since the Peruvian territory had previously been divided into two republics or states.

The Confederation was officially promulgated on May 9, 1837 by representatives of each region during the Congress of Tacna. In this city the capital of the Confederation was established. Its first and only ruler was Marshal Andrés de San Cruz, then president of Bolivia and one of the heroes of the Independence.

Santa Cruz received the title of supreme protector, while Luis José de Orbegoso was appointed president of the North-Peruvian State. The Peru-Bolivian Confederation disintegrated after the Confederation War which was won by the Restoration army.

This army was made up of a coalition of Chilean, Argentine, and Peruvian forces. Other internal factors of power also influenced its disintegration. The ambitious integration project attempted to resume commercial and political ties between Peru’s southern territories and Bolivia.

The purpose was to consolidate a more powerful state than Chile and the rest of South America, based on the mineral wealth they possessed.


During the Colony, the current territory of Bolivia – which at that time was known as Alto Perú – was part of the Real Audiencia de Charcas. Since its creation it belonged to the viceroyalty of Peru, but in 1776 this region was administratively separated.

The Audiencia de Charcas then became a province of the viceroyalty of Río de la Plata, which had been created recently. However, it maintained its traditional and historical ties with Lima and not with the capital, Buenos Aires. Geographical, social and cultural reasons were deprived of it.

However, after Independence was declared, the Republic of Bolivia was founded in 1826 (named after the Liberator Simón Bolívar). The Bolivian territory was separated from the Cuzco-Arequipa zone, as well as from its natural ports of Ilo and Arica.

Bolivia was left with only the coastal territory located further south, crossed by the Atacama desert. These were inhospitable and unpopulated territories that made it difficult for Bolivia to trade.

Beginning of the Peru-Bolivia integration project

Like the other territories located further south, Arica belonged to the department of Tarapacá and its capital was the city of Iquiques. Historically, the port of Arica was used to transport mercury cargoes from Upper Peru (Bolivian mines) by sea.

The union of Peru and Bolivia was widely supported by the rulers and the political class of both nations, but the Liberator Simón Bolívar and Marshal Antonio José de Sucre had other plans for these territories.

They were working on a much more ambitious project: Pan Americanism; that is, the integration of the five newly liberated nations.

In such a way that the Republic of Bolivia was created, whose first president was precisely Bolívar. However, shortly after Bolívar left the presidency and Sucre was in charge. Political instability and conspiracies in Colombia forced him to return to Bogotá.

Political instability in the nascent republic

The independence of Peru in 1924 and of the Bolivian territory in 1825 did not bring peace but discord. The pugnacity between the different factions that claimed power increased the climate of internal unrest. Marshal Sucre as president was unable to organize the state of the newly created republic of Bolivia, due to mounting political pressure.

In 1828, after an armed uprising that took place in Chuquisaca, the Peruvian army invaded Bolivia under the command of General Agustín Gamarra.

He arrived in La Paz on May 28, 1828 with orders to expel the army from Colombia, as well as to promote a new Constitution to unify the two republics.

The Peruvian army’s siege forced Sucre to resign in September of that year and leave the country. In 1829, Marshal Andrés de Santa Cruz was appointed president, a position he held for the next ten years.

Grancolombo-Peruvian War

Before the news of Gamarra’s invasion of Bolivia, Bolívar declared war on Peru. The Liberator sent troops from Colombia on June 3, 1828 to fight the Peruvian army. The Grancolombo-Peruana war lasted until 1829.

Relations between Peru and Greater Colombia became conflictive in the first years of Independence.

This was due to several reasons: first, because of the overthrow of President José de la Mar in Peru, who was installed by the Liberator before his return to Colombia; and later, by the intervention of the Peruvian army in Bolivia, to which was added Peru’s claim on Quito in Ecuador and other areas.

Internal conflicts in Peru

In 1833, with the formation of the new Peruvian Congress and the culmination of the government of Agustín Gamarra, a period of anarchy was generated in Peru.

After the Civil War in 1835, Congress recognized Luis José Obregoso as president of Peru. However, Marshal Gamarra did not recognize him, but his attempts to seize power were unsuccessful.

In 1835 Orbegoso had to face a rebellion led by General Felipe Salaverry that ended his government that same year.

Salaverry proclaimed himself president of the Republic of Peru, but Orbegoso – who continued to be supported by Santa Cruz, the president of Bolivia – requested his help and he sent troops to invade Peru.

The political bosses agreed to form this confederation to consolidate a stronger state before Chile and the rest of South America. The problem arose between them when deciding who would be the man called to lead the nascent confederation.

Gamarra himself agreed with the Peruvian – Bolivian union but not under a confederate government structure. Instead, he proposed that Bolivia be part of the Republic of Peru.


– Both Agustín Gamarra, president of Peru, and Andrés de Santa Cruz, president of Bolivia, considered that the separation of the territories had been a great mistake. Therefore, they hatched a plan to create a federation or a confederation to correct it.

– The political project to create the Peru-Bolivian Confederation also sought to strengthen the new state against Chile.

– The port of Arica, which was the main colonial port in the Charcas region, remained in the jurisdiction of Peru in the new political-territorial division, because the territory of Arica was not part of the audience of Charcas but belonged to the Viceroyalty of Peru.

– From the geographical point of view, Bolivia and Peru were two border countries that were complemented by Lake Titicaca and the Madre de Dios River, where both states exercised sovereignty.

– On the economic plane, both Peru and Bolivia were complementary economies connected by maritime routes for their trade and industry. The mining activity of both nations generated a high commercial exchange.

– Both countries had a common history. In their territories the Inca and Tiahuanaco civilizations settled. At the time of the Viceroyalty of Lima, this territory comprised the audience of Charcas, present-day Bolivia.

– Peru and Bolivia had been jointly liberated in the same War of Independence by Simón Bolívar and Marshal Antonio José de Sucre.

-Anthropologically, the Aymara peoples of Bolivia and the Quechua peoples of Peru have been considered brothers. That is, they had a common past as a people and an ideological, ethnic, and cultural affinity.


– The Peru-Bolivian Confederation generated a strong commercial rivalry between Peru and Chile. At the time, Chile enjoyed a position of commercial primacy on the continent.

– During the government of the Confederation, strong tensions were generated between it and the governments of Chile, Argentina and a part of the political and military class of Peru. The result was the war against the Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation.

– Tensions were on the rise for various reasons. Chile was demanding the repayment of the loan made to Peru during the War of Independence. In addition, there was an annoyance in the Chileans due to Marshal Santa Cruz’s financing of Ramón Freire Serrano’s expedition to overthrow the government of President José Joaquín Prieto.

– The Peru-Bolivian Confederation was dissolved after the defeat suffered by its armies in the battle of Yungay on January 20, 1839 at the hands of the United Restoration Army, made up of Chilean, Argentine and Peruvian troops loyal to Marshal Agustín Gamarra. Since then, Peru and Bolivia have definitely distanced themselves.

– Both nations began the process of delimiting their respective borders until the beginning of the Republic of Guano (Era of Guano) and the subsequent rapprochement with Chile. Decades later, in 1873, the two countries signed the Peruvian-Bolivian Defense Alliance Treaty with the purpose of protecting their mutual commercial interests.

– The Peru-Bolivian Confederation collapsed due to numerous external and internal causes. The army of these countries could not against the Chilean-Peruvian-Argentine coalition, superior in number and military power. On the other hand, Great Britain – which was an ally of Santa Cruz and his free-exchange ideas – stayed out of the conflict.

– The Confederation generated deep resentments in the southern part of Bolivia and in the north of Peru. The magnificence of Lima, once the seat of the viceroyalty, was reduced to the capital of one of the 3 regions of the Confederation. While in the south, Cuzco and Arequipa struggled to be the capital of the South-Peruvian region.

– Tacna was chosen as the capital of the Confederation, despite having a smaller population and less prestige than other of the three territories that made it up.

Prominent figures

Andrés de Santa Cruz

Peru-Bolivian Confederation

Military and politician (1792–1865) born in La Paz, Bolivia, who held the presidency of the Government Junta of Peru in 1827.

Then, between 1829 and 1839 he was president of Bolivia and between 1836 and 1839 he served as Protector of the Peru-Bolivian Confederation. Santa Cruz was promoted to the rank of Grand Marshal of Zepita by the Peruvian government.

Luis José de Orbegoso

Peru-Bolivian Confederation

Peruvian military and politician (1795–1847) of aristocratic origin. He fought in the War of Independence. He was provisional president of Peru from 1833 to 1836.

He supported the invasion of Bolivia by Andrés de Santa Cruz – which caused the war between Peru and Gran Colombia – as well as the creation of the Peru-Bolivian Confederation. He held the presidency of the North-Peruvian State during the Confederation between 1837 and 1838.

Agustín Gamarra Messía

Peru-Bolivian Confederation

Peruvian politician and military (1785 – 1841) who was twice President of Peru (1829 to 1833 and from 1839 to 1841). He could not finish his last term because he died in the battle of Ingavi, in Bolivia. He fought for many years to achieve the annexation of Bolivia to Peru.

Felipe Santiago Salaverry

Peru-Bolivian Confederation

Peruvian military and politician (1806–1836), who was president of Peru from February 1835 to February 1836. He was the youngest president of that nation and also the one who died the youngest. He rose up against President Luis José de Orbegoso and overthrew him.

It was one of the military bulwarks against the Peruvian invasion of Bolivia. Salaverry was captured and executed by the troops of the Bolivian Marshal Andrés de Santa Cruz.

Antonio jose de sucre

Peru-Bolivian Confederation

Venezuelan politician and military man (1795–1830), and hero of the independence of Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. Sucre was exalted with the title of Grand Marshal of Ayacucho for his heroism.

Antonio José de Sucre was also a diplomat, statesman and one of the most recognized heroes of America’s emancipatory struggle. He was president of Bolivia and governor of Peru, as well as general in chief of the Liberation Army of Gran Colombia and commander of the Army of the South.

Simon Bolivar

Simón Bolívar (1783–1830) was Liberator of Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Panama. He was born in Caracas (Captaincy General of Venezuela). He founded Gran Colombia and the Republic of Bolivia, he is one of the most notable heroes of American emancipation.


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