Latin American wars

Major International Wars

Compared to other major regions of the world, Latin America has suffered very few large-scale international conflicts. (Civil wars and guerrilla insurgencies are another matter.) There is a considerable body of social science literature suggesting that warfare has a "make or break" effect on the political cohesion of nation-states. That is, as Charles Tilly (1975, p. 42) put it, "War made the state and the state made war." Thus, one might infer that the low occurrence of warfare in Latin American history might explain the relative weakness of state authority in most of those countries.

Below are listed the major international armed conflicts that took place in Latin America after independence from Spain, which in nearly all cases was between 1816 and 1826. Minor border conflicts are not listed. The first country listed under the "combatants" column is the aggressor or instigator of the conflict.

War Years Combatants Outcome
Texas War 1835-1836 Texas vs. Mexico Texas became an independent republic.
Chilean War 1838 Chile vs. Peru-Bolivia Confederation Peru and Bolivia were forced to split apart.
Mexican-American War 1846-1848 United States vs. Mexico U.S. annexed Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, etc.
War of the Triple Alliance 1864-1870 Paraguay vs. Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil Paraguay lost land to Argentina and Brazil.
War of the Pacific 1879-1883 Chile vs. Peru & Bolivia Chile annexed Bolivia's sea coast and much Peruvian land.
Chaco War 1932-1935 Bolivia vs. Paraguay Bolivia was forced to cede much land to Paraguay.
Peru-Ecuador War 1941 Peru vs. Ecuador Ecuador was forced to recognize Peru's territorial claims.
Soccer War 1969 El Salvador vs. Honduras OAS mediation; no major gains for either country.
Falklands/Malvinas War 1982 Argentina vs. Great Britain Argentine occupation forces were forced to withdrew.

Civil Wars and major insurgencies

(under construction)

Country Years Issues Outcome
Peru 1894 Civil war "Aristocratic republic"
Mexico 1910-1920 Peasant rights; nationalism Land reform, statist PRI regime
Nicaragua 1925-1933? Sandino's rebellion against U.S. .
Costa Rica 1944 Civil war Pluralistic (social) democracy
Colombia 1965-date . .
Bolivia 1965-1967 . .
Nicaragua 1977-1990 Peasant & worker rights; nationalism .
El Salvador 1979-1993 . .
Argentina 1971-1983 Terrorism, "Dirty War" against leftists economic collapse
Uruguay 1972-1984 Terrorism, "Dirty War" against Tupamarus economic collapse
Chile 1973-1987 "Dirty War" against leftists .
Peru 1980-1992 Terrorism, "Dirty War" against leftists .
etc. . . .