Latin-American History/The United Provinces of Central America

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Politics[edit]

Central American liberals had high hopes for the federal republic, which they believed would evolve into a modern, democratic nation, enriched by trade crossing through it between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. These aspirations are reflected in the emblems of the federal republic: The flag shows a white band between two blue stripes, representing the land between two oceans. The coat of arms shows five mountains (one for each state) between two oceans, surmounted by a Phrygian cap, the emblem of the French Revolution. In practice, however, the federation faced insurmountable problems. The liberal democratic project was strongly opposed by conservative factions allied with the Roman Catholic clergy and the wealthy landowners. Transportation and communication routes between the states were extremely deficient. The bulk of the population lacked any sense of commitment towards the broader federation. The federal bureaucracy in Guatemala City proved ineffectual. Wars soon broke out between various factions both in the federation and within individual states. The poverty and extreme political instability of the region prevented the construction of an inter-oceanic canal (see Nicaragua Canal and Panama Canal), from which Central America could have obtained considerable economic benefits.

Presidents[edit]

1823 – 1825 : José Cecilo del Valle 1825 – 1829 : Manuel José Arce 1829 – 1830 : José Francisco Barrundia (interim president after Arce's resignation) 1830 – 1839 : Francisco Morazán (continued as chief of state of the disintegrating republic until 1840)

Dissolution of the Union[edit]

The union dissolved in civil war between 1838 and 1840. Its disintegration began when Nicaragua separated from the federation on November 5, 1838, followed by Honduras and Costa Rica. The union effectively dissolved in 1840, by which time four of its five states had declared independence. The union was only officially ended upon El Salvador's self-proclamation of the establishment of an independent republic in February 1841.

Various attempts were made to reunite Central America in the 19th century, but none succeeded for any length of time: The first attempt was in 1842 by former President Morazán, who was quickly captured and executed. The abortive attempt aimed to restore the union as the Confederation of Central America and included El Salvador, Guatemala (which withdrew early), Honduras, and Nicaragua. This first attempt lasted until 1844.

A second attempt was made and lasted from October to November 1852 when El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua created a Federation of Central America (Federación de Centro América). Guatemalan President Justo Rufino Barrios attempted to reunite the nation by force of arms in the 1880s and was killed in the process like his 1842 predecessor. A third union of Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador as the Greater Republic of Central America or "República Mayor de Centroamérica" lasted from 1896 to 1898.

The latest attempt occurred between June 1921 and January 1922 when El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras formed a (second) Federation of Central America. This second Federation was nearly moribund from the start having only a Provisional Federal Council made up of delegates from each state.

Despite the failure of a lasting political union, the sense of shared history and the hope for eventual reunification persist in the nations formerly in the union. In 1856–1857 the region successfully established a military coalition to repel an invasion by U.S. adventurer William Walker. Today, all five nations fly flags that retain the old federal motif of two outer blue bands bounding an inner white stripe. (Costa Rica, traditionally the least committed of the five to regional integration, modified its flag significantly in 1848 by darkening the blue and adding a double-wide inner red band, in honor of the French tricolor).