Irish Role in Chilean Independence – New Joint Issue

Irish Role in Chilean Independence – New Joint Issue

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On 28 October, 2010, An Post and the Chilean Post Office, CorreosChile issued stamps to commemorate the bicentenary of the beginning of the struggle for Chilean Independence. The stamps honour two men with Irish backgrounds, who played a crucial role in the quest for Chile’s liberation – Bernardo O’Higgins and John MacKenna.

The stamps and first day cover were designed by Ger Garland.

Bernardo O’Higgins is regarded as the Liberator of Chile. Born in Chile, Bernardo was the son of Ambrose O’Higgins, a Spanish officer of Irish origin who became Governor of Chile. The battle for Chilean Independence began in 1810 and by January 1817, the Royalist forces loyal to Spain were defeated and in 1818, Chile’s independence from Spain was proclaimed. Bernardo became the country’s first head of state, Director Supremo of Chile. However, his economic and social reforms were met with opposition and in 1823 he was forced to resign and went into exile in Lima, Peru, where he died in 1842.

John MacKenna was born in 1771. In 1787 he joined the Irish Brigade of the Spanish army. He sailed for Peru in 1796, and in Lima, the viceroy, Ambrose O’Higgins, appointed MacKenna Governor of Osorno. In 1809, MacKenna married Josefina Vicuna y Larrain, a Chilean woman with revolutionary connections. Bernardo O’Higgins appointed him as one of the key officers to fight the Spanish army of General Antonio Pareja. In 1811 he became Governor of Valparaiso. After a coup d’etat he was banished to the Argentine province of Mendoza. He died in Buenos Aires in 1814.

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