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Es Bueno Ser El Rey: Top 5 Latin American Monarchs

By Jack Tomas

We tend to think of monarchies as a European thing. While that’s generally true, we’ve had some monarchies in Latin America too. Some of them were colonial and others were homegrown, but they were always wacky and ended badly. In the years in which the countries of Latin America arose as independent nations, monarchies were on the way out as a whole. However, the idea of a divinely enabled absolute ruler still held some appeal in certain quarters. There are no real kings in Latin America today, but we can look at these five Latino monarchs and wonder what our lives would have been like if their kingdoms had not fallen.

King Oriele-Antoine I, of Araucania and Patagonia

In 1860, the Mapuche Indians that live in the southern part of South America were looking to achieve sovereignty from Argentina and Chile. They knew that in order to get recognition they would have to get the attention of the international community. They also knew they’d have better luck if they guy representing them was white. That’s where Oriele-Antoine de Tounens came into the picture. He was a mentally unstable Frenchman who sympathized with the plight of the Mapuche and was elected as their king. He tried for several years to garner international support for Mapuche independence, but was repeatedly thwarted by Argentina and Chile. They repeatedly captured, imprisoned, exiled, and eventually had him committed to an asylum. His descendant Prince Philipe works for the rights of the Mapuche from France, though he makes no claims on the throne…because he’s not nuts.

Emperor Pedro II of Brazil

In 1815, Prince Joao of Portugal raised Brazil’s status from a colony to a kingdom. When he ascended the throne, he left his son Pedro I as acting regent. A year later he decided that Brazil didn’t need to be it’s own kingdom and moved to turn it back to a colony. But Pedro liked being king, (because it’s good to be the king), and he broke off from Portugal. His son Pedro II, was one of the longest reigning monarchs in history. Pedro II was a modern gent and he pulled Brazil into the 19th century building roads, railroads, and making Brazil a modern industrialized nation. After 58 years as emperor, the Brazilians decided that they wanted to give democracy a shot, so Pedro let a coup d’etat happen and went into exile. How was he going to fight it? He would have shattered a hip.

Augustin I, Emperor Of Mexico

The 19th century was a weird transitional time for governments. People wanted democracy, but were afraid to not have a king. So, when Mexico gained its independence from Spain, there were many conservatives in Mexico that wanted a king of their own. But who? The country was being run in the interim by a military junta led by one of the great generals of the war of independence, Agustin de Iturbide. Though he wasn’t of noble blood, they figured he’d do in a pinch. So, in 1822 they crowned him Augustin I, Emperor of Mexico. At that time Mexico ran from Oregon to Panama, including all of what is today the southwestern and western United States and most of Central America. His reign only lasted a year as Mexico’s rock star general-dictator Santa Ana decided they didn’t need an emperor after all. Augustin was later executed as an enemy of the state. Poor Augustin. He just wanted to be emperor of most of North America, is that so much to ask?

Maximilian I, Emperor of Mexico

Augustin wasn’t the last emperor of Mexico, though. France took control of Mexico in the years after Augustin’s fall and monarchist sentiments still ran high among the upper classes. So, French Emperor Napoleon III installed young Maximilian on the throne as the Emperor of Mexico. Maximilian and his wife Charlotte didn’t have any children, so they adopted Augustin’s grand kids as their heirs. Maximilian was a decent guy who was liberally minded for the time and genuinely tried to improve the lot of the poor of Mexico. Unfortunately, he was naive, ineffectual, and not too smart. That’s what centuries of inbreeding will do to you. The Americans started supplying arms to the pro-democracy forces of Benito Juarez to get rid of ol’ Maxi. The inevitable happened and Maximilian was deposed and executed. Thus one of the greatest beards of all time faded into eternity.

Hector Williams, Wihta Tara of the Miskito

There are a lot of tribal groups left in Latin America with king-like chiefs, but few are as organized as Hector Williams. He is a member of the Miskito people, who held semi-autonomous control over their lands in Nicaragua while the British and Americans were running the show. In the last few decades, they’ve seen their little kingdom taken over by the Nicaraguan government. They hate them some Daniel Ortega, and many of the Miskito fought against the Sandinistas during civil war in the 80’s. In 2009, Hector officially declared the Miskito autonomous and no longer under Ortega’s control. Ortega and his mustache laughed an evil laugh at this. Hector is appealing to the U.N. and seeking recognition from the international community of an independent state ruled by him. Who knows, we might not have seen the end of monarchy in Latin Americas.

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