Jul 162018
 

Today is an extremely important anniversary in the history of the struggle for independence from Spanish rule in South America. On this date in 1809 Pedro Domingo Murillo initiated an uprising in La Paz against the Spanish, which formally marked the beginning of the liberation of South America from Spain. In a speech to the people on this day he said that the Bolivian revolution was igniting a lamp that nobody would be able to extinguish. A similar uprising occurred in the city of Sucre simultaneously. This event is known as El Primer Grito Libertario de América (The First American Cry for Liberty).

The timing was, of course, critical: Spain was occupied with the Napoleonic Wars. In 1808, Napoleon had installed his brother, Joseph, as king of Spain (where he was deeply unpopular), triggering a major revolt of Spanish forces, who joined with Britain in the Peninsular War. The Peninsular War overlaps with what the Spanish-speaking world calls La Guerra de la Independencia Española (Spanish War of Independence), which began with the Dos de Mayo Uprising on 2nd May 1808 and ended on 17th April 1814. The French occupation destroyed the Spanish administration, which fragmented into quarrelling provincial juntas. As such, Spain was not in a strong position to fight rebels in South America, yet was still very much dependent on resources from the colonies. Nonetheless, there were royalist Spanish forces garrisoned throughout South America, and the fight for independence was no cake walk.

Although Spain maintained a tight hold on La Paz, communication between South America and Spain took months or longer by sea. At the turn of the 19th century, unrest against Spanish control was widespread among both indigenous populations and Spanish descendants born in South America (criollos). In 1781, for a total of six months, a group of Aymara people laid siege to La Paz. Under the leadership of Tupac Katari, they destroyed churches and government property. Thirty years later indigenous peoples conducted a two-month siege against La Paz. Meanwhile, criollos and mestizos in La Paz were chafing against government from Madrid.

Pedro Domingo Murillo was born in La Paz in 1757. His father, Juan Ciriaco Murillo, was from one of the city’s elite families, whereas his mother Mary Ascencia Carasco was of indigenous stock. Juan Ciriaco was ordained as a Catholic priest soon after Pedro’s birth (rules concerning celibacy were quite different at the time). Juan took charge of Pedro’s early education. It is thought Pedro first attended the Colegio Seminario de San Carlos, in La Paz, and then studied law at St Francis Xavier University of Chuquisaca (later renamed Sucre), but left before completing his studies. By age 21, he had married Olmedo Manuel de la Concha in Potosí, the high-altitude silver mining city at the foot of Cerro de Potosí. By age 24 he had two children, and had moved to Irupana. When Túpac Amaru began his rebellion in 1781 Murillo distinguished himself in the militia and was appointed lieutenant. Subsequently his father died, and he got into a long and complicated legal dispute with his father’s sister over the disposal of the inheritance, which was substantial. Because Murillo forged a number of documents, and claimed he had law license (which he did not), he was held in contempt of court and had to flee the authorities. He was finally pardoned in early 1789, and began working in mining.

As early as 1805, groups, of which Murillo was a member, had begun conspiring against the Spanish government, in the wake of Napoleon’s inroads into Spain, the overthrow of king Charles and refusal to accept his son Ferdinand as king. However, the conspiracy was discovered, and the conspirators were brought to trial. The Upper Peru regional government in Chuquisaca, the Real Audiencia of Charcas, became increasingly uneasy about these rebellions, as well as the loyalties of the local governor. Supported by the faculty of St Francis Xavier University of Chuquisaca, they deposed the governor and formed a junta on 25th May 1809.  A self-determination movement kicked off with the incessant ringing of the bell of the St Francis Xavier Basilica in Chuquisaca (nowadays Sucre). Meanwhile, Murillo was plotting back in La Paz, leading to outright rebellion on 16th July. At a self-appointed Junta Tuitiva (“protecting junta”) there a few days later, Murillo demanded the complete secession of upper Peru from the Spanish Empire.

To suppress what had become a serious insurrection, royalist troops were dispatched, some from the Viceroyalty of Peru and others from Buenos Aires. Though some regiments comprising indigenous people refused to intervene against a patriotic movement, the uprising was suppressed. Murillo had to flee, but was captured. He was hanged, along with others, on 29th January 1810, when he made the following statement:

Compatriots, I die, but tyrants won’t be able to extinguish the torch I ignited. Long live freedom!

In 1825, after the decisive victory of the republicans at Ayacucho over the Spanish army in the course of the Spanish American wars of independence, the city’s full name was changed to La Paz de Ayacucho (The Peace of Ayacucho).

Every 16th July in La Paz, the local populace honors the patriotic deeds of 1809. A regional celebration begins when the various national and local authorities collaborate to light the Torch of Liberty at what is called the house of the martyr. There follows a parade through central La Paz known as the “Parade of Torches” celebrating Murillo’s famous declaration.

Perhaps the most suitable Bolivian dish to honor Murillo is fricasé, a traditional soup/stew featuring pork, hominy, chuño, onion, garlic, and spices. Fricasé is a popular dish in Bolivia, and is often sold and eaten in the morning (sometimes as a hangover cure). Good luck finding all the right ingredients if you don’t live in South America. Chuño  is a freeze-dried potato product traditionally made by the Quechua and Aymara communities of Bolivia and Peru, and is known in various countries of South America, including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru.

To make it is a five-day process, involving exposing a frost-resistant variety of potatoes to the very low night temperatures of the Andean Altiplano, freezing them, and subsequently exposing them to the intense sunlight of the day. The word comes from Quechua ch’uñu, meaning ‘frozen or wrinkled potato.’ Some people substitute regular potatoes, but this is frowned upon. The aji pepper, or yellow pepper, is a very hot chile commonly used in Bolivian cooking, and hard find elsewhere. Fricasé is usually served with llajua (or llajwa) a spicy sauce prepared from locoto chiles and tomatoes along with quirquiña (Bolivian coriander) and other local spices according to taste. Ideally you should also have a crispy marraqueta (Bolivian bread) to soak up the broth. Preparation of this dish is not complicated, but it is a rigmarole (as you will see from the recipe). It is one of my favorites.

Fricasé

Ingredients:

2 lb pork ribs or chops, cut in large pieces
½ cup aji amarillo  (see below)
12 black or white chuño (black is preferable)
¼ cup bread crumbs
1 can white hominy
5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp dry oregano
salt
4 cups broth

Instructions

Scrub the chuño and soak them in water overnight.

Rub the aji amarillo into the pork. Heat the broth to near boiling and add the pork, garlic, salt, cumin Simmer for around 90 minutes, or until tender.

Simmer the chuño in a separate pot for about 20 minutes or until tender. Set aside.

Add the oregano and bread crumbs to the pork and continue to simmer for 10 minutes,  then add the cooked chuño and hominy and warm through. Serve in deep bowls with llajua (recipe below) on the side, and marraqueta.

It is common in Bolivia to put the chuño and hominy in the soup bowl first and then pour the fricasé on top, rather than cooking everything together. Cook’s choice.

Serves 4

Aji Amarillo

1 medium red onion, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
2 cups yellow chile sauce (see below)
1 cup beef broth
2 tbs canola oil

Instructions

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add the yellow sauce, cumin, broth, and salt, and simmer until the sauce thickens.

Extra can be frozen for later use.

Yellow Chile Sauce

Ingredients

12 dried aji peppers
2 cups water

Instructions

Cut the heads off the dry yellow peppers and remove the stems. Put them in a pot of boiling water and let them boil for about 30 minutes. When the skins start to get loose remove the peppers from the hot water and plunge them in cold water. Remove the skins. You can also remove the seeds if you want the sauce less spicy. Put the peppers and 2 cups of water in a blender and blend for about 2 min until very smooth.

Llajwa

Ingredients

2 large jalapenos, minced
2 large tomatoes diced finely
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 tbsp red onion, peeled and minced finely
salt

Instructions

Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly with salt to taste.

Aug 062015
 

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On this date in 1825 Bolivia (then Upper Peru) formally declared independence from Spain. I’ll try to tease out the important threads in the drive for independence in Bolivia, although the freedom of South America from Spain is a really tangled skein, with regions fighting alongside one another some of the time and turning against one another at others (not to mention factionalism and numerous divisive issues). This is one small thread.

The invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in 1807-08 by Napoleon Bonaparte’s forces proved critical to the independence struggle in South America as a whole. The overthrow of the Bourbon Dynasty and the placement of Joseph Bonaparte on the Spanish throne tested the loyalty of the local elites in Upper Peru, who were suddenly confronted with several conflicting authorities. Most remained loyal to Spain. Taking a wait-and-see attitude, they supported the Junta Central in Spain, a government in the name of the abdicated Bourbon king, Ferdinand VII. Some liberals eagerly welcomed the reforms of colonial rule promised by Joseph Bonaparte. Others supported the claims of Carlota, Ferdinand’s sister, who governed Brazil with her husband, Prince Regent John of Portugal. Finally, a number of radical criollos (persons of pure Spanish descent born in the New World) wanted independence for Upper Peru. Pedro Domingo Murillo led an 1809 revolt in La Paz, claiming an independent state in Upper Peru.

This conflict of authority resulted in a local power struggle in Upper Peru between 1808 and 1810 and constituted the first phase of the efforts to achieve independence. In 1808 the president of the Audiencia (appellate court), Ramón García León de Pizarro, demanded affiliation with the Junta Central. The conservative judges of the Audiencia were influenced, however, by their autocratic royalist loyalties and refused to recognize the authority of the junta because they saw it as a product of a popular rebellion. On May 25, 1809, tensions grew when radical criollos, also refusing to recognize the junta because they wanted independence, took to the streets. This revolt, one of the first in Latin America, was soon put down by the authorities.

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On July 16, 1809, Pedro Domingo Murillo led another revolt by criollos and mestizos (those of mixed European and Indian ancestry) in La Paz and proclaimed an independent state in Upper Peru in the name of Ferdinand VII. The loyalty to Ferdinand was a pretense used to legitimize the independence movement. By November 1809, the cities of Cochabamba, Oruro, and Potosí had joined Murillo. Although the revolt was put down by royalist forces sent to La Paz by the viceroy of Peru and to Chuquisaca by the viceroy of Río de La Plata, Upper Peru was never again completely controlled by Spain.

During the following seven years, Upper Peru became the battleground for forces of the independent Argentine Republic and royalist troops from Peru. Although the royalists repulsed four Argentine invasions, guerrillas controlled most of the countryside, where they formed six major republiquetas, or zones of insurrection. In these zones, local patriotism would eventually develop into the fight for independence.

By 1817 Upper Peru was relatively quiet and under the control of Lima. After 1820 the Conservative Party criollos supported General Pedro Antonio de Olañeta, a Charcas native, who refused to accept the measures by the Spanish Cortes (legislature) to conciliate the colonies after the liberal revolution in Spain. Olañeta, convinced that these measures threatened royal authority, refused to join the royalist forces or the rebel armies under the command of Simón Bolívar and Antonio José de Sucre y Alcalá. Olañeta did not relinquish his command even after the Peruvian royalists included him and his forces in the capitulation agreement following their defeat in the Battle of Ayacucho in 1824, the final battle of the wars of independence in Latin America. Olañeta continued a quixotic war until Sucre’s forces defeated his forces, and he was killed by his own men on April 1, 1825, in a battle that effectively ended Spanish rule in Upper Peru.

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In 1825 Bolívar (http://www.bookofdaystales.com/simon-bolivar/), first president of what became known as Bolivia, transferred authority over Upper Peru to his lieutenant, Sucre (1825–28), who called a constituent assembly in Chuquisaca to determine the future of the region. Almost all delegates wanted an independent Upper Peru and rejected attachment to Argentina or Peru. On August 6, 1825, the assembly adopted a declaration of independence. Five days later, the assembly, hoping to placate Bolívar’s reservations about the independence of Upper Peru, resolved to name the new nation after him.

Bolivia’s national cuisine is much like that of most of South America with many Bolivian dishes similar to those of other nations. Saltiñas, for example, are baked empanadas with a different name (an Argentine one). Chanka de pollo is a well-known Bolivian chicken soup that blends European and indigenous influences, and is very popular in cold Andean winters. It is named for the Chanka people who were dominant before the rise of the Inca. It has a base of chicken and chicken broth combined with potatoes, broad beans, and green onions. It can be made in numerous ways. Pictured is a version I made for dinner today. It is common to use peeled, diced potatoes but here I used small, unpeeled ones.

DSC_0821a

Chanka de Pollo

Cover a jointed chicken with rich chicken stock in a large saucepan. Add green onions cut into 1 inch lengths. Bring slowly to a simmer and cook, partly covered, for 30 minutes. Add potatoes and shucked broad beans and cook for another 30 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces, shred the meat, and return it to the stock. The soup should be packed with chicken and vegetables, not thin and watery. Serve very hot in deep bowls.