Beta Chapter of Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity Inc

The oldest existing Latino fraternity

Don Bernardo O'Higgins

Don Bernardo O'Higgins The leader of Chile's first independent government and a brilliant soldier, Bernardo O'Higgins led the Chilean patriots in their battle for independence. A reformer and an idealist, he was the first national leader in the Americas to abolish black slavery.

O'Higgins was the first national leader in the Americas to abolish black slavery

O'Higgins was born on Aug. 20, 1778, in Chillan, Chile. His father was Spain's governor for Chile and viceroy for Peru. In 1790, O'Higgins went to Peru to study, staying until he was 16, when his father sent him to Europe. In Spain, O'Higgins met Jose de San Martin, later the liberator of Argentina.

In 1802, O'Higgins returned to Chile to manage property left him by his father. He joined the militia and rose to the rank of Colonel. When Chile rebelled against Spain's in 1810, he offered his services and eventually helped drive the Spaniards out of Chile. When a new Spanish force invaded Chile, he was made commander of the revolutionary army but was defeated at the battle of Rancagua in 1814.

O'Higgins, with the other Chilean patriots, fled to Argentina. In 1817, under O'Higgins, these men came back to win Chacabuco and Maipu, the battles that secured Chilean independence. Chile's provisional government asked O'Higgins to rule the country as Supreme Director. During his rule, which lasted for six years, he instituted a number of reforms and also helped San Martin build forces to fight Spain in Peru.

O'Higgins' liberal policies did not suit the Chilean aristocrats. As a result, he was forced to resign in 1823. Peru offered him asylum, and O'Higgins went there to spend the rest of his life as an exile, way from his heartcause—the country he had worked so hard to free. Don Bernardo O'Higgins died several years later on Oct. 24, 1842.