Federal Republic of Central America
|Federal Republic of Central America|
|República Federal de Centroamérica|
La Granadera (The song of the Grenadier)
|Capital||Guatemala City (Until 1834)
|-||Independence from First Mexican Empire||July 1, 1823|
|-||Disestablished||May 31, 1838|
|Currency||Central American Republic real|
|Today part of|| Costa Rica
The Federal Republic of Central America, known as the United Provinces of Central America in its first year of creation, was a sovereign state in Central America, which consisted of the territories of the former Captaincy General of Guatemala of New Spain. It existed from September 1821 to 1841, and was a republican democracy.
The coat of arms on the nation's flag from 1823–1824 referred to the federation (in Spanish) as Provincias Unidas del Centro de América ("United Provinces of the Center of America"); however, its 1824 constitution, coat of arms, and flag called it República Federal de Centroamérica / Centro América ("Federal Republic of Central America").
It is also sometimes incorrectly referred to in English as the United States of Central America. The flag was introduced to the area by Commodore Louis-Michel Aury inspired by the Argentine flag. The term United Provinces was also used in Argentina's first title Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata ("United Provinces of the River Plate"). Commodore Aury established the first independent republic in Old Providence Island (Isla de Providencia) in 1818, off the coast of Nicaragua.
The republic consisted of the present-day states of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. (Panama was part of Bolivar's Republica de Colombia in 1821, and Belize was a British colony.) In the 1830s, an additional sixth state was added – Los Altos, with its capital in Quetzaltenango – occupying parts of what are now the western highlands of Guatemala and Chiapas state in southern Mexico. Although the new nation was now independent of Spain, it had been annexed by the First Mexican Empire.
The annexation was the focus of disagreement, some seeing the Mexican constitution with its abolition of slavery and establishment of free trade as an improvement over the status quo. During the period of 1838–1840, the federation engaged in civil war by Conservatives fighting against the Liberals. Without a sustained struggle for independence to cement a sense of national identity, the various political factions were unable to overcome their ideological differences and the federation dissolved after a series of bloody conflicts.
Central American liberals had high hopes for the federal republic, which they believed would evolve into a modern, democratic nation, enriched by trade passing 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. As governor of Mexico, Vicente Filisola occupied Guatemala City after the formation of Federal Republic of Central America and was successful in annexing El Salvador in 1822, causing an uprising there. In compliance with the Mexican constitution, Filisola convened the Central American congress which forthwith declared its independence from Mexico. Filisola was not able to maintain a fighting force, and his troops were sent back to Mexico by the residents of Guatemala City who paid for their transportation.
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, perhaps owing to their continued loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church in Spain.
The federal bureaucracy in Guatemala City proved ineffectual, and fears of Guatemalan domination of the union led to protests that resulted in the relocation of the capital to San Salvador in 1831. 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.
|Guatemala||El Salvador||Honduras||Nicaragua||Costa Rica||Los Altos|
Dissolution of the Union
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 (other sources give Nicaragua's secession date as April 30). The union effectively dissolved in 1840, by which time four of its five states had declared independence. The union was officially ended only upon El Salvador's self-proclamation of the establishment of an independent republic in February 1841. Because of the chaotic nature of this period an exact date does not exist, but on May 31, 1838, the congress met to declare that the provinces were free to create their own independent republics. In reality, they were just making legal the process of disintegration that had already begun.
Later attempts at a federal union of Central American states
Various attempts were made to reunite Central America in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but none succeeded for any length of time:
- The first attempt was in 1842 by former President Francisco Morazán, who became involved in a struggle for control over Costa Rica. After taking control over the capital, Morazán announced he would create a large army to re-create the Federal Republic as the Confederation of Central America and planned to include El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, but popular feeling rapidly turned against him and a sudden revolt resulted in his arrest and execution by firing squad in September 15 of that year.
- A second attempt was made in October 1852 when El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua created a Federation of Central America (Federación de Centro América). The union lasted less than a month.
- Guatemalan President General Justo Rufino Barrios attempted to reunite the nation by force of arms in the 1880s but he died in battle near the town of Chalchuapa, El Salvador.
- 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, Honduras and Costa Rica formed a (second) Federation of Central America. The treaty establishing this federation was signed at San José, Costa Rica on January 19, 1921. The treaty stipulated for the future creation of one state of all the four signatories, under one constitution. 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 modified its flag significantly in 1848 by darkening the blue and adding a double-wide inner red band, in honor of the French tricolor.) The short-lived sixth state of Los Altos voted to be annexed by Mexico as the state of Chiapas. The small remaining Central American territory left was annexed to neighboring Guatemala.
|Guatemala||El Salvador||Honduras||Nicaragua||Costa Rica|
- History of Central America
- Gran Colombia – another local federal state that underwent a similar fate
- Peru-Bolivian Confederation
- Golden Circle (proposed country) – a proposed Caribbean federation that would have split off half of the USA
- United States of South America
- Central American Integration System
- Foster, Lynn V. (2000). A Brief History of Central America. New York: Facts on File. pp. 134–136. ISBN 0-8160-3962-3.
- "New Physical, Political, Industrial and Commercial Map of Central America and the Antilles: With a Special Map of the Possessions of the Belgian Colonization Company of Central America, the State of Guatemala". World Digital Library. 1845. Retrieved 2013-07-04.
- Minster, Christopher. "The Federal Republic of Central America (1823-1840)". Latin American History. About.com. Retrieved 2013-11-05.
- Sandoval, Victor Hugo. "Federal Republic of Central America". Monedas de Guatemala. Retrieved 2013-11-05.
- Karnes, Thomas L. (1961). The Failure of Union: Central America, 1824-1960. Durham, NC: University of North Carolina Press. p. 85.
- Text in League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 5, pp. 10-31.
- Constitutions from several attempts at Central American unification (in Spanish)
- Central America- Historical Unions and Federations
- WorldStatesmen- Guatemala
- Map of the UPCA