In 1808, Napoleon invaded Spain and Portugal, deposing the Spanish king Ferdinand VII and forcing the Portuguese royal family into exile in Brazil. With legitimate royal authority now in disarray, Latin Americans were forced to take action.
Alarmed by the social radicalism of the Hidalgo-Morelos rebellion, creole landowners, with the support of the Church, raised an army and crushed the insurgency. Later, that alliance of clergy and creole elites brought Mexico to a more socially controlled independence of 1821.
Simon Bolivar and Jose San Martin required the support of the people, not just the creole elite, if they were to prevail against Spanish forces. This was no easy task, since many whites and mestizos saw themselves as Spanish and because great differences of race, culture, and wealth separated the Americanos. Nationalist leaders made efforts to mobilize people of color into the struggle with promises of freedom, the end of legal restrictions, and social advancement. In the end, few promises were kept and the lower classes benefitted very little from independence. Despite several failed efforts to unite the various Spanish colonies, a United States of Latin America never emerged.