Federal Republic of Central America

Coordinates: 14°37′N 90°31′W / 14.617°N 90.517°W / 14.617; -90.517
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  • United Provinces of Central America
  • Provincias Unidas de Centroamérica

  • Federal Republic of Central America
  • República Federal de Centroamérica
Coat of arms (1824–1841) of Central America
Coat of arms
Anthem: La Granadera
"The Song of the Grenadier"
Location of Central America
Common languagesSpanish
Demonym(s)Central American
GovernmentRevolutionary republic
• 1825–1829
Manuel José Arce (first)
• 1835–1839
Francisco Morazán (last)
Historical eraSpanish American wars of independence
• Independence from the Spanish Empire
15 September 1821
• Independence from the First Mexican Empire
1 July 1823
• Disestablished
February 1841
CurrencyCentral American real
Preceded by
Succeeded by
First Mexican Empire
Costa Rica
El Salvador
Los Altos
British Honduras
Guatemala or United States of Central America
Guatemala or United States of Central America; with the exception of the Kingdom of Mosquitia, which was a British Protectorate until 1860.
Federal Republic of Central America, 4 Escudos/Shields (1835). Struck in the San Jose, Costa Rica mint (697 were minted).[1]

The Federal Republic of Central America[2] (Spanish: República Federal de Centroamérica) was a sovereign state in Central America which existed from 1823 to 1841. Originally known as the United Provinces of Central America, the democratic republic was composed of the territories of the former Captaincy General of Guatemala of New Spain.

The Federal Republic of Central America consisted of the present-day countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, as well as parts of Belize. In the 1830s, a sixth state was added—Los Altos, with its capital in Quetzaltenango and territories that are now parts of Chiapas, Mexico (Soconusco) and the western highlands of Guatemala.

Shortly after Central America declared independence from the Spanish Empire in 1821, some of its countries were annexed by the First Mexican Empire in 1822, before again becoming independent and forming the federal republic in 1823. The federation was unstable and quickly descended into a series of civil wars, first from 1826 to 1829 and again from 1838 to 1840, with conservatives fighting against liberals, and separatists fighting to secede. These factions were unable to overcome their ideological differences and the bloody conflicts ended in the federation's dissolution in 1841.[3]


Independence 1821–1822[edit]

From the 16th century through 1821, Central America, apart from Panama, formed the Captaincy General of Guatemala within the Spanish Empire. In 1821 a congress of Central American Criollos in Guatemala City composed the Act of Independence of Central America to declare the region's independence from Spain, effective on September 15 of that year.[4] The process was bloodless with no resistance from the Spanish authorities as the Governor General Brigadier Gabino Gaínza, along with all the royal governors of the five provinces, were retained in office as executive powers pending a full transition to local rule. That date is still marked as independence day by most Central American nations.

Absorption into the Empire of Mexico, 1822–1823[edit]

Independence proved short-lived, as local law and order broke down. Driven by regional rivalries, many localities refused to accept the newly formed federal powers in Guatemala—San Salvador, Comayagua, León, and Cartago were in open revolt. On January 5, 1822, the Consultive Junta in Guatemala City voted for annexation.[5] A few weeks later Brigadier Vicente Filísola, the envoy of Emperor Agustín de Iturbide of the First Mexican Empire, arrived in Guatemala as the new ruler.[6]

The annexation was controversial, with some seeing the Mexican constitution with its abolition of slavery and establishment of free trade as an improvement over the status quo. Central American liberals in San Salvador objected to annexation and refused to accept Filísola's authority as captain general. The Mexican army was ordered by Emperor Agustín I to quell dissent.

In the case of Costa Rica, the country decided not to join the Mexican Empire as part of the resolutions upon conclusion of the Ochomogo War (April 5, 1823), where imperialists lost against Republicans in the first civil war of Costa Rica.

After Iturbide abdicated (March 19, 1823), Mexico became a republic (formally proclaimed on November 1, 1823) and offered the previously annexed Central American provinces the right to determine their own destiny. Filísola turned over his power to the hastily formed National Constituent Assembly, which comprised representatives from each of the five provinces. On July 1, 1823, the Congress of Central America declared absolute independence from Spain, Mexico, and any other foreign nation, and established a republican system of government.[6][further explanation needed]

Reconstitution of the Federal Republic 1823–1840[edit]

Manuel José Arce

The liberal-dominated Assembly elected Manuel José Arce as president but he soon turned against his own faction and dissolved the Assembly. San Salvador rose in revolt against federal authority. Honduras and Nicaragua joined the rebellion and Arce was deposed in 1829. The victors led by the Honduran Francisco Morazán took power and Morazán was proclaimed president in 1830. To appease liberal supporters, the capital was relocated from Guatemala City to San Salvador in 1831 but as Morazán's hold on power was waning the opposition regained control in the provinces.[6]

The Assembly in 1838 adjourned with the declaration that the provinces were free to rule themselves as the Federal Republic dissolved. In 1839 Morazán was exiled as rebels from Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua entered San Salvador, evicting the governing institutions that held the region together.[6]

Dissolution of the union[edit]

The union slid into civil war between 1838 and 1840.[7] Its disintegration began when Nicaragua separated from the federation on November 5, 1838, followed by Honduras and Costa Rica[8] (other sources give Nicaragua's secession date as April 30).[9] Because of the chaotic nature of this period an exact date of disestablishment does not exist, but on May 31, 1838, the Congress met to declare that the provinces were free to create their own independent republics.[9] In reality, this merely legally acknowledged the process of disintegration that had already begun.[10] The union effectively ended in 1840, by which time four of its five states had declared independence. The official end came only when El Salvador declared itself an independent republic in February 1841.

Name and emblems[edit]

The five rowed volcanos in the coat of arms of Central America was inspired by the Cordillera de Apaneca volcanic range of El Salvador, visible from the city of Sonsonate, which became the capital of the Federal Republic of Central America in 1834.

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. The flag was introduced to the area by Commodore Louis-Michel Aury and inspired by the Argentine flag. The nation also adopted the term "united provinces", used in Argentina's original name, Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata ("United Provinces of the Río de la Plata").

Successor flags[edit]

Today, all five successor nations' flags retain the old federal motif of two outer blue bands bounding an inner white stripe. (Costa Rica modified its flag significantly in 1848, darkening the blue and adding a double-wide inner red band.) The short-lived sixth state of Los Altos was reannexed by Guatemala.[citation needed]

Flag of the United Provinces of Central America, 1823–1824
Flag of the Federal Republic of Central America, 1824–1839
Member nations, 1839
Guatemala El Salvador Honduras Nicaragua Costa Rica Los Altos
Current flags
Guatemala El Salvador Honduras Nicaragua Costa Rica Chiapas

Later Central American federal unions[edit]

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. 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 1844 by former President Francisco Morazán, who became involved in a struggle for control over Costa Rica. After taking control of 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 on 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.
  • In 1856–1857 the region successfully established a military coalition to repel an invasion by the U.S. freebooter William Walker.
  • 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 (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.[11] 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 of delegates from each state.
  • In 1991 an economic and political organization called the Central American Integration System was formed with all Central American countries as well as the Dominican Republic. In addition to the historic backdrop in Central America, advocates of this latest integration effort regularly cite the European Union as a model to emulate.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cuhaj, George S., ed. (2009). Standard Catalog of World Gold Coins 1601–Present (6 ed.). Krause. p. 224. ISBN 978-1-4402-0424-1.
  2. ^ "Constitución de la República Federal de Centroamérica" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 17 December 2022.
  3. ^ Foster, Lynn V. (2000). A Brief History of Central America. New York: Facts on File. pp. 134–136. ISBN 0-8160-3962-3.
  4. ^ "Documentos de la Union Centroamericana" (PDF). Organization of American States – Foreign Trade Information System. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  5. ^ Kenyon, Gordon (1 May 1961). "Mexican Influence in Central America, 1821–1823". Hispanic American Historical Review. 41 (2). Duke University Press: 183–184. doi:10.1215/00182168-41.2.175. JSTOR 2510200. Retrieved 3 July 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d Munro, Dana G. (1918). Kinley, David (ed.). The Five Republics of Central America. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 24–34..
  7. ^ Dally, N.; Compagnie Belge de colonisation (1845). Nouvelle carte Physique, Politique, Industrielle & Commericale de l'Amérique Centrale et des Antilles: avec un plan spécial des possessions de la Compagnie Belge de Colonisation dans l'Amérique Centrale, état de Guatemala [A New Physical, Political, Industrial and Commercial Map of Central America and the Antilles: With a Special Map of the Possessions of the Belgian Colonisation Company of Central America, the State of Guatemala] (Map). 1:4,000,000. Brussels: Compagnie Belge de Colonisation.
  8. ^ Minster, Christopher. "The Federal Republic of Central America (1823–1840)". Latin American History. About.com. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  9. ^ a b Sandoval, Victor Hugo. "Federal Republic of Central America". Monedas de Guatemala. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  10. ^ Karnes, Thomas L. (1961). The Failure of Union: Central America, 1824–1960. Durham, NC: University of North Carolina Press. p. 85.
  11. ^ Text in League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 5, pp. 10–31.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

14°37′N 90°31′W / 14.617°N 90.517°W / 14.617; -90.517