Independence Day – P.A.K.iS.tan

August 14

We are convinced there can be no peace and progress in India if we, the Muslims are duped into a Hindu dominated federation in which we cannot be the masters of our own destiny and captains of our own souls.

Choudhary Rahmat Ali

Choudhary Rahmat Ali was not the leader of a nation, a war hero, a politician, or a prince’s son. But his contribution to the world over 60 years ago can be seen clearly on any map of the world.

He was born in Punjab in 1897 in what was then British India. He was a graduate student at Cambridge University in England during the 1930s, a turbulent decade in his homeland. Muslims in British India saw the winds of change approaching as Indian leaders of both religions pushed for independence from the British Empire. Muslims were concerned about being a minority in a Hindu nation.

In January 1933, Rahmat Ali wrote a booklet, “Now or Never,” in which he laid out the concerns of 30 million Muslims and non-Hindus in the region. He described India not as a country, but as a continent, too diverse to be simplified and categorized as a Hindu nation.

He proposed that the Muslim territories of Punjab, Afghan (Northwest Frontier Province), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan be accorded “national status, as distinct from the other inhabitants of India” and be granted “a separate Federal Constitution on religious, social, and historical grounds.”

His proposal was not a new one. But he did suggest a name for the separate nation. Taking the first initials of four provinces–Punjab, Afghan, Kashmir, and Sind–and the end of Baluchistan, he created the name “PAKiStan.” The name also had another meaning: in Urdu pak means “pure” and stan means land.

Rahmat Ali provided an all-encompassing name for a diverse, amorphous group of 30 million people previously known to the outside world as ‘Indians’; the name Pakistan resonated both with the Muslims of India and the non-Urdu speaking world. The name and the idea of a separate Pakistan stuck.

India-Pakistan partition (red = conflict areas)
India-Pakistan partition (red = conflict areas)

On August 14, 1947 the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two separate nations: the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan.

In terms of speed and sheer numbers, the mass migration that followed the partition has no equal in human history.

In a matter of months, over 7 million Muslims living in the newly-independent nation of India moved to the new nation of Pakistan, located in two separate parts, east and west of India. (East Pakistan is now Bangladesh). Meanwhile, another 7 million, Hindus and Sikhs, moved from those areas into the new nation of India. Violence between Muslims and Hindus escalated. There are no precise statistics, but it is believed about half a million people died during the migration, from bloody conflicts and from the dire living conditions that neither nation was prepared to combat.

Today is Independence Day in Pakistan, a time of celebration, but also of remembrance.

Pakistan itself became the subject of partition in 1971. The Bengali-dominated eastern-half of the country, known as East Pakistan, broke away to become what is now Bangladesh.

Even without Bangladesh, by population Pakistan is the 6th largest nation in the world.

Chad Independence Day

August 11


Chad was one of 9 African nations to gain independence in August of 1960:

August 1, 1960 – Benin
August 3, 1960 – Niger
August 5, 1960 – Burkina Faso
August 7, 1960 – Cote d’Ivorie
August 11, 1960 – Chad
August 13, 1960 – Central African Republic
August 15, 1960 – Congo, Dem. Rep. of the
August 17, 1960 – Gabon
Sept. 22, 1960 – Mali

Apparently odd-numbered days are much better days to win sovereignty. Mali, being the rebel of the bunch.


Chad gets its name from the Lake on its western border, which provides water for 20 million people in Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Chad means “lake” so essentially it’s “Lake Lake.”

6,000 years ago Lake Chad covered 150,000 square miles. 50 years ago—when Chad won its independence from France—the lake had shrunk to 10,000 square miles. Now, because of climate change and increased human usage (including irrigation), it’s down to only 500 square miles and disappearing fast. And as you can see from the video, waterfront property is getting harder and harder to find.

Watch Lake Chad disappear in real (sped-up) time! (1963-present)


On the landlocked country’s western border, the heat is on to determine who controls the precious water rights to the shrinking pool. Meanwhile, Chad’s eastern border is home to over a quarter million refugees from the Darfur region, due to the war that has ravaged west Sudan since 2003.

According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Chad is the 7th most corrupt country in the world. Chad may rank near the bottom of the Human Development Index, but it’s rich in history. In 2002, scientists in Chad unearthed the oldest known hominid skull fossil, dating back some 7 million years.

Toumai, the 7M year-old skull
Toumai, the 7M year-old skull

Ecuador National Day – the “Grito” of Quito

August 10


Today is Ecuador’s National Day, and the event it celebrates is considered the first cry for independence in Latin America. It took place in Quito, Ecuador, on August 10, 1809.

South America’s “Primer Grito de la Independencia” (first shout for independence) was ironically a show of fidelity to Spain. On the other side of the Atlantic, Napoleon of France had invaded Spain and installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte on the Spanish throne in 1808.

When the news spread to South America, the criollos (Spanish descendants born in the New World) initially called for independence as a show of support. On August 10, 1809, they declared their unity behind the former King Ferdinand of Spain and they refused to recognize the legitimacy of officials appointed by the Bonaparte government. Over the next several years, several similar “gritos” would be issued by Latin American assemblies all the way from Mexico to Argentina.

But when the Spanish regained control of their own country, and turned their attention back to South America, the criollos who had been fighting for their freedom had no intention of turning back.

Independence however would be a long time coming. The Wars of Independence from Spain raged throughout South America for over a decade.

With support from the armies of Simón Bolivar and José de San Martín, Ecuador’s national hero Antonio José de Sucre eventually liberated the Quito region from Spanish forces in 1822. The final Battle of Pichincha, fought atop the slopes of a towering volcano overlooking Quito, took place on May 24 of that year.

Antonio José de Sucre

In the end, the long struggle worked out, and all told, the Ecuadorians would get not just one, but four annual holidays out of the War of Independence: today’s holiday, Independence of Guayaquil (October 9, 1820), Independence of Cuenca (November 3, 1820), and the Battle of Pichincha (May 24, 1822).

Even though the region was liberated, Ecuador’s own independence as a sovereign nation wouldn’t come for another eight years, during which Quito and the surrounding provinces were considered part of Bolivar’s “Gran Colombia.” The three southern provinces of Gran Colombia became “Ecuador”—so named because it straddles the equator—in 1830.

Independence Day – Burkina Faso

August 5

Do you do the Ouagadougou?

It’s not the craziest new dance sensation sweeping the nation (though it should be). No, Ouagadougou [pronounced ‘wa-ga-du-gu’] means “place where people get honor and respect.” It was named so by Naba Wubri, a 15th century warrior, but we have the French to thank for its cruel and unusual orthography.

The French captured this capital city and home to the Mossi people in 1896, completing their colonization of the area known as French West Africa. Over the next 50 years the territory merged with and separated from other French territories in West Africa, including Senegal, Nigeria, and the Cote d’Iviore.

In 1958 the self-governing Republic of Upper Volta (today’s Burkina Faso) was formed. President Maurice Yaméogo declared the country’s full independence from France on this day (August 5) in 1960.


Independence Day in Burkino Faso falls just one day after the nation’s Revolution Day, celebrated on August 4.

On August 4, 1983, reformist Thomas Sankara took the reigns of the country, with the help of ally Captain Blaise Compaore, and changed the country’s name from Upper Volta’s to Burkina Faso. It means “land of the men of integrity.”

In its short history as a sovereign nation, Burkina Faso has observed the anniversaries of numerous “Revolution Days”.

Between January 3, 1966 (the coup in which the first president, Yaméogo, was ousted) and October 15, 1987 (Burkina Faso’s last putsch to date), the country had a coup every few years. In 1987, Blaise Campaore overthrew his former ally Thomas Sankara four years after he helped to make him President.

Though implicated in Sankara’s assassination, Compaore has remained president for over 20 years.

Evidently, Campaore knows how to do the Ouagadougou.


1987 Coup

Political Reform in Francophone Africa – by Clark & Gardinier

Independence Day – Peru

July 28

Jose de San Martín had liberated the Rio de la Plata (Argentina), marched his army across the Andes, and defeated the Spanish in Chile before turning his attention to the north, to Peru—Spain’s most tenacious stronghold on the continent. In Chile he created a navy from scratch in order to attack Peru by sea.

At that moment, San Martín’s newly independent homeland of Argentina was emerged in civil war; yet he felt if he used his army to intervene in Argentina it would only lead to more destruction. Before debarking from Valpasairo, Chile, he issued his proclamation to his countrymen in Argentina on his reasons for continuing to Peru, rather than returning to his homeland to support one warring faction over another:

Provinces of the Rio de la Plata: This proclamation will be my last response to my calumniators: I can do no more than to risk my life and my honor for the sake of my native land. Whatever may be my lot in the campaign of Peru, I shall demonstrate that ever since I returned to my native land, her independence has been my constant thought, and that never had I entertained any ambition other than to merit the hatred of the ungrateful and the esteem of the virtuous.

Upon reaching Peru, he was interviewed by an Englishman, Captain Basil Hall, who paraphrased the General as saying that the war in Peru was “not a war of conquest or glory, but entirely of opinion; it was a war of new and liberal principles against prejudice, bigotry, and tyranny.

San Martin crosses the Andes
San Martin Crosses the Andes

San Martín said he had no territorial ambitions in Peru, or even to wish them independence if the people were not for it.

All that I wish is, that this country should be managed by itself, and by itself alone. As to the manner in which it is to be governed, that belongs not at all to me. I propose simply to give the people the means of declaring themselves independent, and of establishing a suitable form of government; after which I shall consider that I have done enough, and leave them.

A year later, on this day in 1821, the General stood in the great square in Lima, unfurled the new flag of independent Peru, and announced:

From this moment, Peru is free and independent, by the general wish of the people, and by the justice of her cause, which may God defend. Viva la patria! Viva la libertad! Viva la independencia!

The General was made Protector of Peru, but Spanish forces continued to battle San Martín’s troops, and Peruvian independence was far from assured. General Simón Bolívar, who had defeated the Spanish in Gran Colombia (today’s Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador), entered Peru from the north. The two great Liberators of South America met in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on July 26, 1822, to discuss the fate of the continent.

Much has been written about, and hardly anything is known about, what happened between Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín at their only meeting. There were no witnesses other than the two men themselves. But after the interview, San Martín–true to his word–resigned his position as Protector and returned to Argentina, leaving Bolívar to defeat the Spanish in Peru.

San Martin and Simon Bolivar

San Martín’s wife died the following year. Distraught by her death and the civil wars wreaking havoc in Argentina, José de San Martín took his daughter Mercedes and moved to France, where he lived until his death in 1850.

Jose de San Martin
Jose de San Martin

Bolívar was deigned Dictator of Peru in 1824, the same year he drove out the Spanish for good. The southern part of Peru became Bolivia in his honor.

Spain officially recognized Peru’s independence in 1879.

Emancipation of South America – William Pilling

Rise of the Spanish-American Republics as told in the Lives of their Liberators – William Spence Robertson

Colombia – Independence Day

July 20

Colombia has two Independence Days…

Colombia declared its independence from Spain on this day (July 20) in 1810. Back then the country had to wait nine years to see its dream come to fruition—Spain finally met defeat on August 7, 1819 at the Battle of Boyacá—but now Colombians need only wait two weeks after Independence Day for August 7th to roll around, so they can celebrate all over again.

Colombia is home to the second largest Spanish speaking population in the world after Mexico. Colombia produces 12% of all the world’s coffee, and 95% of the world’s emeralds. It’s the size of France, Spain and Portugal put together, and it’s the only South American nation with coasts on both the Atlantic and Pacific.

Despite being one of the three most bio-diverse countries on the planet, Colombia has had to work hard to combat its dangerous image on the nightly news.

Independence – Argentina

July 9

In the two decades between 1804 and 1824 the Spain lost an area of land in Latin America nearly 20 times its own size.

One of Spain’s largest provinces was Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata, which encompassed what is now Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The Rio de la Plata (River of Silver) is the widest estuary in the world, forming the border between Argentina and Uruguay. Like the river, Argentina itself is named for the precious metal once so prevalent on its shores. Tierra Argentina is Latin for “Land of Silver”.

As Spain pushed French invaders out of its own borders, liberadores Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín sought to do the same to the Spanish in South America.Bolívar fought the Spanish in the north of the continent while San Martín gathered and led the rebel armies in the south. Between 1813 and 1824 SanMartín’s armies repelled royalist forces from Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Ecuador. He became known as the liberator of Chile, the Protector of Peru, and the national hero of Argentina, which honors him with his own holiday on August 17, the anniversary of his death.

San Martin crosses the Andes
San Martin crosses the Andes

Argentina’s national day doesn’t celebrate one of San Martín’s decisive battles, but the adoption of the 1816 Acta de Independencia by the Congress at Tucuman. After Napoleon’s exile to Elba in 1814, the Spanish were able to turn their full attention to the rebelling colonies overseas. In the Spring of 1816 representatives from towns throughout the Rio de la Plata gathered in San Miguel de Tucuman to discuss their political fate. Tucuman in Northern Argentina was chosen for its central location and also to downplay the resentment other territories felt toward the centralist, urban Buenos Aires. The Congress met in the home of the Bazan family, now the Casa Historica de la Independencia museum.

Casa de Tucuman
Casa de Tuchman

The Congress was unable to come up with a satisfactory answer for what form a future government would take. But on July 9, when the question of Independence arose…

“At once, animated by a holy love of justice, each and every delegate successively announced his spontaneous decision in favor of the independence of the country, signing in consequence the following declaration.

“We, the representatives of the United Provinces of South America, assembled in a general congress, invoking the God who presides over the universe, in the name and by the authority of the people whom we represent, and proclaiming to heaven and to all nations and peoples of the earth the justice of our intentions, declare solemnly to the world that the unanimous wish of these provinces is to sever the oppressive bonds which connect them with the kings of Spain, to recover the rights of which were deprived, and to assume the exalted position of a nation free and independent of Ferdinand VII, of his successors and of the metropolis of Spain.

San Martín pledged to support the Acta de Independencia the following month. He marched his troops over the Andes, joined forces with the Chileans, and defeated the Spanish forces there in 1818, effectively ending Spanish occupation in the southern half of South America.

America Is a Cancer

July 4

Born on July 4, 1776, America is—zodialogically speaking—a cancer. And had our forefathers been more astrologically attuned, our national symbol might have been the New England crab. Fortunately we settled on an eagle (though the turkey was a serious contender).

As everyone knows, the members of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia declared the 13 colonies of North America to be free and independent states in 1776, on that historic date, July 2nd.

That’s right, two days ago. You’re late for the party. You should have barbecued those hot dogs Friday. So what the heck were the forefathers doing between July 2 and July 4?

On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote his wife Abigail:

“Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony ‘that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States… (Letters of Members of the Continental Congress)

…The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival…It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this time forward forever more.” (American Historical Review)

Adams was two days off. The event that spawned his great anniversary Festival was yet to come.

On July 3 and 4 the Congress debated the language of the formal document declaring the reasons for the break, to be sent to England. They agreed on the final draft on July 4th, the date inscribed at the top.

Thomas Jefferson

The task of penning the document had fallen to a young Virginian named Thomas Jefferson. According to Adams…

Mr. Jefferson had been now about a Year a Member of Congress, but had attended his Duty in the House but a very small part of the time and when there had never spoken in public: and during the whole Time I satt with him in Congress, I never heard him utter three Sentences together. The most of a Speech he ever made in my hearing was a gross insult on Religion, in one or two Sentences, for which I gave him immediately the Reprehension, which he richly merited. (Diary and Autobiography of John Adams)

For all Jefferson’s fame, it has not been lost on historians that his Declaration of Independence bears much in common with the beginning of George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights, adopted by that state just one month earlier:

I. That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

Nor was it lost on Jefferson himself that the birth certificate of the nation was fraught with contradiction. Most notably, that despite acknowledging the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, and self-evident equality of all men, it made no effort to defend these rights among a large segment of the population currently being denied them. At least not in the final draft. Jefferson writes that prior to approval of the Declaration, the original clause…

…reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa, was struck out in compliance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who on the contrary still wished to continue it. Our Northern brethren also I believe felt a little tender under these censures; for tho’ their people have very few slaves themselves yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others. (The Social Science Review, 1865)

The nation would have to wait nearly a hundred years to begin enforcing its own credo.

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress signed the Declaration and shipped it off to King George III.

Actually, no. Congress President John Hancock sent two copies of the Declaration to King George on July 5, 1776, printed with only his own name and that of Secretary Charles Thomson’s. But the Declaration wasn’t signed by the full Congress until August 2, and those names weren’t made public knowledge until the following year.

Today the Declaration of Independence is remembered as a whiny list of petty greivances scribbled by a band of traitors with absolutely no legitimate legal authority. Or, at least that’s how it might be remembered today had the insurrection been less successful.

As it is, we’ll wish this cancer a Happy 235th.

[In 1989 a man purchased a $4 painting at a flea market because he liked the frame. When he removed the picture, he found an original 1776 Dunlap Broadside Declaration of Independence print. It was appraised as one of the 3 best preserved of the 25 known to exist, and last sold in 2000 for $8 million.

So today, Americans, enjoy your hot dogs, your fireworks, and your independence, and maybe check out that flea market you’ve been eyeing…]

Text of Declaration of Independence

History of Declaration of Independence

8 Works of Art Found Accidentally

Epitaph: Apparently John Adams did have a soft spot for July 4 after all. Both he and Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, the country’s 50th birthday.