Back to WHKMLA Main Index . WHKMLA, Students' Papers Main Page . WHKMLA, Students' Papers, 17th Wave Index Page

An Overview Study of the Federal Republic of Central America

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Ko, Haeuk
Term Paper, AP World History Class, December 2013

I. Introduction
II. Terms
III. Creation of the United Provinces of Central America
IV. Transition from the United Provinces of Central America to the Federal Republic of Central America
V. Manuel Jose Arce's term in office
VI. Francisco Morazan's term in office
VII. Dissolution of the Federal republic of Central America
VIII. Conclusion
IX. Notes
X. Bibliography

I. Introduction
            As suggested in the title, this paper is aimed at providing an overview of the Federal Republic of Central America (FRCA). For a student who found out, during his World history class, that Latin America is the region where he possesses the least historical knowledge, writing an overview paper on the history of Latin America was an ideal method of gaining the lacking knowledge on the region. Therefore, the student decided to change his term paper topic although half of the semester was over and tried to come up with topics that might suit his purpose. Among the thirteen topics he that he was interested in, one had already been chosen by a graduate of the same school, one was deemed as a topic appropriate for a doctoral thesis, and ten were too focused on the 20th century. That is why the student chose to study the remaining topic, FRCA.

II. Terms
            FRCA is often referred to as the United Provinces of Central America (UPCA). The two terms are not identical. UPCA changed its name to the FRCA in 1824 (1). Thus the two terms cover different periods of time.
            The terms Liberals and Conservatives are used to indicate the factions that supported policies which were liberal or conservative at the time, Hence, readers should not apply their own sense of the terms liberal and conservative, which would be representative the present day understanding of what is liberal and conservative. Typically, liberals in this paper refer to the creole elite educated in political and economic ideas that were new in Europe at the time, while the conservatives often refer to the land-owning wealthy men who were more familiar with the church than the academic trend of Europe at the time.
            FRCA included the territory of modern Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. The Soconusco region that is currently a part of Mexico was included as well. Some parts of the Caribbean coast of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica were under de Facto rule of the British and were recognized by the british under the name Mosquitia. These areas were included on paper, but in reality were not controlled by FRCA. Present day Belize and Panama, although located in Central America, were at the time parts of the British Empire and Gran Columbia respectively.

III. United Provinces of Central America
            The UPCA was created in the months that followed the fall of Augustine 1st of Mexico. Even though the Spanish colonial rule was effectively over by 1821, emperor Augustin of Mexico quickly annexed Central America. When Augustin 1st was toppled in March, 18th, 1823; the elite of the regions that would soon become a part of UPCA gathered in Guatemala City to convene a National Assembly of Constituents (Asamblea Nacional Constituyente) under the guidance of Mexican military figure Vicente Filisola (2). In July, 1st, 1823; the assembly declared the creation of UPCA. Vicente Filisola was sent back to Mexico.

IV. Transition from the United Provinces of Central America to the Federal Republic of Central America
            The transition from UPCA to the FRCA took about a year. On November, 22nd, 1824; following the announcement of the Constitution of the United Provinces of Central America (Constitucion de las Provincias Unidas del Centro de America), UPCA changed its name to FRCA. FRCA retained its name until its complete dissolution in 1840.
            Around this time, the elite of Chiapas elected to abstain from joining FRCA. The representatives of Chiapas chose rather to join Mexico once again. The Soconusco region, which is presently a part of Chiapas, stayed in FRCA as a part of Guatemala.

V. Manuel Jose Arce's term in office
            In 1825, presidential elections were held. At first, Jose Cecilio del Valle, an Honduran and the candidate for the Conservative Party, with the most votes, was on the path to becoming the president. However, the congress overruled the election results and chose Manuel Jose Arce, a Salvadoran and backed by the liberals, as president. This decision was mainly due to the fact that the congress was controlled by the liberals. The liberals' expectation that Arce, a creole educated in philosophy, will support the liberal faction was natural, considering that at the time, enlightenment ideas and Laissez-faire policies were familiar to and supported by those who had the opportunity to receive higher education at universities. Moreover, the fact that Valle was an established politician who had affinity with both the liberals and the conservatives influenced the liberals into choosing Arce. The liberals believed that because Arce, despite his former career as a member of the executive triumvirate of Central America, had much less affinity with either side than Valle, would be more desperate for the liberals' support and therefor would be more willing to adhere to their will.
            However, Arce did not live up to the liberals¡¯ expectations. Rather, Arce was in near-constant conflict with the liberal faction of El Salvador and Honduras. What hurt Arce's rule even more was that even when Arce turned to the conservatives and the clergy for support, many conservatives of Guatemala disagreed with Arce's policies. Lacking support from both the liberal and conservative factions, Arce faced a civil war lasting from 1826 to 1829 (3). The civil war started in 1826 when Arce closed the Federal Congress in Guatemala City and the liberals in El Salvador and Honduras took arms in fear that they might suffer the same. At Milingo, on March, 18th, 1827; the liberal Mariano Prado, with the support of Salvadorian rebels, successfully fended off Arce from marching into El Salvador. Less than a year after the defeat, in February of 1828, Arce resigned from office. However, the remaining forces from Arce¡¯s army rallied around Manuel Arzu and continued their campaign against the rebels. The civil war effectively ended in April, 12th, 1829; when the rebel leader Francisco Morazan took control of Guatemala City.

VI. Francisco Morazan's term in office
            Francisco Morazan became the leader of FRCA through election in 1830. He focused on reform policies, especially those regarding churches. Such policies as abolishment of the parish tax and the institutionalization of the marriage register system were aimed at weakening the power of the Catholic Church. Morazan's actions can be understood to be in accordance with the liberal faction¡¯s agendas, considering that the church functioned as a hub for the conservative faction.
            In 1834, Morazan created discord between the liberals and the conservatives by moving the capital from Guatemala City to Sonsonate and later San Salvador - both cities in El Salvador. The elite of Guatemala protested against it because they did not want to lose the merit of having the capital within their borders. On the other hand, the elite of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica were concerned that El Salvador might grasp dominance over the other provinces. It was even harder for the elite of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica to accept this change because El Salvador in the past never had such dominance over Central America whereas Guatemala traditionally had such dominance since the colonial times.
            The discord had a negative effect on Morazan¡¯s campaign in the following election that happened in the same year. Morazan lost to moderate Jose Cecilio del Valle. However, Valle died on the road from his house to the capital (4). In the election that was held again due to Valle's unexpected death, Morazan won.
            Nevertheless, the discord was never truly solved and eventually resulted in Morazan¡¯s downfall. When the cholera became rampant in 1837, the clergy and the conservatives spread rumors that Morazan had spread the cholera virus (5). The accumulated tension exploded against the government. The uprisings were especially violent in the highlands of Guatemala where the ratio of Native Americans was high (6). Around this time, Rafael Carrera, a Guatemalan mestizo who received no formal education and owned a pork shop, rose to the surface of politics. Although he did not have the typical background that the elite at that time were expected to have, he possessed certain charisma and skills of speech that enabled him to capture many rebels' hearts. When he had gathered a significant number of people, he marched to Guatemala City. Even though Carrera's army was poorly armed and unorganized, people kept joining Carrera on the road. Moreover, encouraged by Carrera¡¯s actions, the conservatives started several small uprisings in different parts of FRCA.
            Eventually, Morazan was ousted. Despite Morazan and his army's superior experience in battle, they were outnumbered and could not turn the tide of the battle even after successfully quenching certain uprisings. Morazan seized victory at places such as Villa Nueva and San Pedro Perulapan (7). However, Morazan failed to suppress the opposing forces at Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Following the rebel force's victory at Tegucigalpa, the tide of the battle turned in favor of the rebels. Carrera took hold of Guatemala City on April, 13th, 1838 and convened a national assembly. Although Morazan succeeded in a last attempt at recapturing Guatemala City in early 1840, Carrera was able to oust Morazan again in March, 1840 (8). Morazan finally took flight by boat at La Libertad in in April, 1840.

VII. Dissolution of the Federal Republic of Central America
            Even as Carrera was in the process of toppling the Morazan government, FRCA began to fall apart. However, it must be noted that at this time, there existed a new province that did was not present at the creation of FRCA. Los Altos, the pacific coast region of present day Guatemala and Chiapas, had become the sixth province of FRCA. The elite of Los Altos had long petitioned for their independence from Guatemala. Their efforts date back to Spain's colonial rule when the Bourbon reforms gave many regions the hope that they might be elevated in status. Their efforts took fruit on February, 2nd, 1838; only a few weeks before FRCA began to fall apart.
            The national assembly that gathered in May, 1838 declared that each province was now free to make their own constitution. Nicaragua declared independence in May, 31st, 1838. Honduras declared independence in November, 5th, 1838. Los Altos was soon annexed to the Guatemala under Carrera¡¯s rule. The Soconusco region of Los Altos, the present day coastal region of Chiapas, was occupied by Mexico amidst the confusion.

VIII. Conclusion
            Even after the dissolution of FRCA, there existed several attempts at reunifying Central America. The Central American Common Market, established in 1960, succeeded in taking certain steps toward unification. It established a common bank system and built a highway between Guatemala and Panama. Nonetheless the tension between El Salvador and Honduras which exploded in the 1969 event called the Soccer War effectively ended the Central American Common Market for roughly two decades. Later, in 1993, the unification efforts were rekindled to form the Central American Integration System. However, most of its efforts have not yet come to full blossom and many are only prospects. Recently, the Plan Puebla-Panama was suggested in 2001 (9). However, as can be guessed from the name Puebla - a Mexican city - the plan is not focused at the unification of the regions that used to comprise FRCA but is rather aimed at an economic alliance of Central American countries with Mexico.
            FRCA was a futile but meaningful attempt at uniting the different regions of Central America. Even though the country was never free for long from internal strife, it has provided the Central American people with a common history other than that of colonial rule from Spain. As can be seen from above, Central America has not been unified into one solid country since the dissolution of FRCA and perhaps never will. Nonetheless, the vestiges of FRCA arouse in the hearts of men and women of ambition, a dream of unifying the forty million Central Americans together into one entity. Studying the history of FRCA helped to enhance this student¡¯s understanding of Latin American history greatly.

IX. Notes
(1)      Brignoli 2003, p.41
(2)      Brignoli 2003,
(3)      Pearcy 2006, p.47; Brignoli 2003, p.41
(4)      Biografias de Autores Hondurenos : Jose Cecilio de la Valle
(5)      Kang 2001 p.181; Lee 2008 p.255
(6)      Lee 2008, p.255
(7)      Brignoli 2003, p.175;
(8)      Pearcy 2006, p.48
(9)      Blouet 2010, p.388


Bibliographic Sources

Handy 1984      Handy, Jim, Gift of the Devil: A History of Guatemala, South End Press, 1984 (also an academic source)
Kang 2001      Kang, Seokyeoung, Latin American History, Daehan Textbooks, 2001 (in Korean, also an academic source)
Pearcy 2006      Pearcy, Thomas L., the History of Central America, Greenwood Press, 2006, USA (also an academic source)
WHKMLA UPCA      Central American Federation, WHKMLA,
WHKMLA Guatemala      History of Guatemala, WHKMLA,
WHKMLA Guatemala Cpt.      History of the Captaincy of Guatemala, WHKMLA,
WHKMLA Honduras      History of Honduras, WHKMLA,
WHKMLA El Salvador      History of El Salvador, WHKMLA,
WHKMLA Nicaragua      History of Nicaragua, WHKMLA,
WHKMLA Costa Rica      History of Costa Rica, WHKMLA,

Primary Sources

Valle 1821      Jose Cecilio del Valle, El Amigo de la Patria, Nov, 30th, 1821
HAC      Hispanic American Constitutions, (Constituciones Hispanoamericanas)
Constitution UPCA      Constitution of the United Provinces of Central America (Provincias Unidas del Centro de America constitucion),

Secondary Sources : Academic Sources Blouet 2010      Blouet, Brian W. & Blouet, Olwyn M., Latin America and The Caribbean: A Systematic and Regional Survey 6th edition, GGachi Guelbang, 2010 (tertiary source, in Korean)
Brignoli 2003      Brignoli, Hector P. & Hall, Carolyn, Historical Atlas of Central America, University of Oklahoma Press, 2003
Handy 1984      Handy, Jim, Gift of the Devil: A History of Guatemala, South End Press, 1984 (also a bibliographic source)
Kang 2001      Kang, SeokYeoung, Latin American History, Daehan Textbooks, 2001 (in Korean, also a bibliographic source)
Lee 2008      Lee, KangHyuk, Digest 100 : Latin American history, Garam Enterprises, 2008 (in Korean)
Pearcy 2006      Pearcy, Thomas L., the History of Central America, Greenwood Press, 2006, USA (also a bibliographic source)

Academic Sources, Titles Found, Were Not accessed
Alfaro 1980      M. Alfaro, Carlos, Historia de Costa Rica, San Jose, Libreria Trejos, 1980
Burkholder 1994      A. Burkholder, Mark & Lyman L. Johnson, Colonial Latin America. 2nd edition,; N.Y, Oxford Univ. Press, 1994
Bethell 2008      Bethell, Leslie, the Cambridge History of Latin America, Cambridge University Press, 2008
Bethell 1987      Bethell, Leslie ed, The Independence of Latin America, Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987
Beyhant 1996      Beyhant, Gustavo y Helene, America Latina III : De la independencia a la segunda guerra mundial, Madrid, Siglo XXI, 1996
Brignoli 1989      Brignoli, Hector Perez, A Brief History of Central America, Berkeley, 1989
[An early work of art history, Vasari writes biographies of contemporary artists and donors Not completely credible due to personal affinity to wealthy patron families ]
Bumgartner 1968      Bumgartner, L., Jose Cecilio del Valle of Central America, North Carolina, 1968
Cardoso 1972      H. Cardoso, F. y Faletto, Enzo, Dependencia y desarrollo en America Latina, Mexico, D.F., Siglo XXI, 1972
Carrasco 1985      Carrasco, Pedro& Cespedes, Historia de America Latina 1: America Indigena, La Conquista, Madrid, Alianza America, 1985
Carmack 1981      Carmack, Robert, Historia Social de los Quiche, Guatemala, 1981
Collado 1988a      Collado Herrera, Carmen & Dutrenit, Silvia eds, Centro America II, Mexico D.F., Editorial Nueva Imagen S.A., 1988
Collado 1988b      Collado Herrera, Carmen, Nicaragua, Mexico D.F., Alianza Editorial Mexicana S.A., 1988
Contreras 1968      Contreras, D., Una rebellion indigena en el partido de Totonicapan, Guatemala, 1968
Davis 1971      Davis, Harold E, Latin American Thought, Boston Rouge, Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1971
Dunn 1960      Dunn, H., Guatemala o las Provincias unidas de centroamerica durante 1827 a 1828, Guatemala, 1960
Dutrenit 1988      Dutrenit, Silvia, El Salvador, Mexico D.F., Editorial Nueva Imagen S.A., 1988
Facio 1949      Facio, R., Trayectoria y crisis de la federacion centroamericana, Costa Rica, 1949
Galeano 1971      Galeano, Eduardo, Las Venas abiertas de America Latina, Madrid, Siglo XXI, 1971
Gudmundson 1995      Gudmundson, Lowell & Lindo?Fuentes, Hector, Central America, 1821-1871: Liberalism before Liberal Reform, Tuscaloosa, 1995
Guillen 1988      Guillen, Diana, Costa Rica, Mexico, D.F., Editorial Nueva Imagen, S.A., 1988
Haring 1963      Haring, Clarence H, The Spanish Empire in America; N.Y., Harcourt, Brace and World Inc., 1963
Herring 1961      Herring, Hubert, A History of Latin America, N.Y., Alfred A. Knopf, 1961
Jones 1940      Jones, C.L., Guatemala, Minneapolis, 1940
Karnes 1976      Karnes, T.L, the Failure of Union: Central America; 1824-1975, Arizona, Arizona State Press, 1976
Keen 1967      Keen, Benjamin ed, Readings in Latin American Civilization: From 1492 to the Present 2nd Edition, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1967
Konetzke 1981      Konetzke, Richard, America Latina II: La Epoca Colonial, Madrid, Siglo XXI, 1981
Lapuente 1973      R. Lapuente, Manuel, Historia de Iberoamerica, Barcelona, Editorial Ramon Sopena, S.A., 1973
Lauria-Santiago 1999      Lauria-Santiago, Aldo, An Agrarian Republic: Commercial Agriculture and the Politics of Peasant Communities in El Salvador, 1823-1914, Pittsburg, 1999
McClintock 1985      McClintock, Michael, The American Connection: State Terror and Popular Resistance in Guatemala. Vol. II, London, Zed Books Ltd., 1985
McCreery 1994      McCreery, David J., Rural Guatemala, 1760-1940, Stanford, 1994
Melendez 1971      Melendez, C., Textos fundamentals de la independencia Centroamericana, Guatemala, 1971
Morris 1984      Morris, James A., Honduras, Caudillo Politics and Military Rulers, Boulder, 1984
Naylor 1967      Naylor, R., Guatemala, Indian Attitudes toward Land Tenure, Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Miami, 1967
Page 2003      Page, Melvin E. & Sonnenberg, Penny, Colonialism: an international, social, cultural and political encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, 2003
Parker 1965      Parker, Franklin D., The Central American Republic, London, Oxford Univ. Press, 1965
Polo Sifontes 1988      Polo Sifontes, Francis, Historia de Guatemala, Guatemala. C.A., Everest Guatemala, 1988
Rodriguez 1978      Rodriguez, Mario, The Cadiz Experiment in Central America 1808-1826, Berkeley, 1978
Rosset 1983      Rosset, Peter ed, The Nicaragua Reader, N.Y., Grove, 1983
Ropp 1984      Ropp, Steve C. & Morris, James A. editors, Central America: Crisis and Adaptation, Albuquerque, 1984
Stephens 1842      Stephens, J. L., Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and the Yucatan Vol. 1, London, 1842
Stone 1990      Stone, Samuel, Heritage of the Conquistadors: Ruling Class in Central America from Conquest to the Sandinistas, Lincoln, 1990
Sullivan-Gonzalez 1998      Sullivan-Gonzalez, Douglas, Piety, Power, and Politics: Religion and Nation Formation in Guatemala 1821-1871, Pittsburg, 1998
Wilgus 1963      Wilgus, A. Curtis & Raul, d¡¯Eca, Latin American history. 5th edition, N.Y., Barnes & Noble Inc., 1963
Williamson 2010      Williamson, Edwin, the Penguin History of Latin America, Penguin Books, 2010
Woodward 1976      Woodward Jr., R. L., Central America: A Nation Divided, N.Y., Oxford Univ. Press, 1976
Woodward 1993      Woodward, Ralph Lee, Rafael Carrera and the Emergence of the Republic of Guatemala 1821-71, Athens Ga., 1993
Wortman 1982      Wortman, Miles, Governement and Society in Central America 1680?1840, N.Y., 1982
Yankelevich 1988      Yankelevich, Pablo, Honduras, Mexico D.F., Alianza Editorial Mexicana S.A., 1988

Encyclopaedic Sources
EB Iturbide      Article: Agustin de Iturbide: Encyclopaedia Britannica:
EB Carrera      Article: Rafael Carrera: Encyclopaedia Britannica:
EB UPCA      Article: United Provinces of Central America: Encyclopaedia Britannica
CE RCA      Article: Reformed Church in America: The Columbia Encyclopedia, 61th edition (2013),
ByV Iturbide      Article: Augustin de Iturbide: Biografias y vidas,
CaE AmInd      Article: American Indians: The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1917 edition,
CaE Carrera      Article: Rafael Carrera: The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1917 edition,
Mediahex      Article: United provinces of Central America: Mediahex,
Wikibooks      Latin American History/ The United Provinces of Central America: Wikibooks,
GSE      Article: United Provinces of Central America: The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979),
Wikipedia Iturbide      Article: Augustin de Iturbide: Wikipedia,
Wikipedia Captaincy      Article: Captaincy General of Guatemala: Wikipedia,
Wikipedia CAG      Article: Central America - Geography: Wikipedia,
Wikipedia Chiapas      Article: Chiapas: Wikipedia,
Wikipedia CR      Article: Costa Rica: Wikipedia,
Wikipedia ES      Article: El Salvador: Wikipedia,
Wikipedia FRCA      Article: Federal Republic of Central America: Wikipedia,
Wikipedia FM      Article: Francisco Morazan: Wikipedia,
Wikipedia Gainza      Article: Gabino Gainza: Wikipedia,
Wikipedia JCV      Article: Jose Cecilio del Valle: Wikipedia,
Wikipedia Los Altos      Article: Los Altos, Central America: Wikipedia,,_Central_America
Wikipedia MJA      Article: Manuel Jose Arce: Wikipedia,
Wikipedia JRC      Article: Jose Rafael Carrera: Wikipedia,
Wikipedia Soconusco      Article: Soconusco: Wikipedia,
Wikipedia Filisola      Article: Vicente Filisola: Wikipedia,
Wik. Sp. CRFCA      Article: Constitucion de la Republica Federal de Centroamerica de 1824: Wikipedia (Spanish),
Wik. Sp. Los Altos      Article: Estado de Los Altos: Wikipedia (Spanish),
Wik. Sp. JCV      Article: Jose Cecilio del Valle: Wikipedia (Spanish),
Wik. Sp. PUCA      Article: Provincias Unidas del Centro de America: Wikipedia (Spanish)
NNDB      Article: Agustin de Iturbide: NNDB,
Lakis CR      Article: Costa Rica: Latin America Knowledge Information System,
Lakis ES      Article: El Salvador: Latin America Knowledge Information System,
Lakis Gu      Article: Guatemala: Latin America Knowledge Information System,
Lakis Ho      Article: Honduras: Latin America Knowledge Information System,
Lakis Ni      Article: Nicaragua: Latin America Knowledge Information System,
About FRCA      Article: The Federal Republic of Central America:
About RC      Article: Rafael Carrera:
h Chiapas      Article: Chiapas: history. com
Infoplease CA      Article: Costa Rica:,
Infoplease ES      Article: El Salvador:,
WHKMLA BE      Historical Atlas: British Empire - Caribbean: whkmla
BAH JCV      Biography of Jose Cecilio del Valle, Biografias de Autores Hondurenos,
FOTW      FOTW : history of the flags of Central American countries,
CATU      Article dedicated to Jose Cecilio del Valle, Central American Technological University,
Independence Day      Independence Day : Independence Day of Costa Rica,

Back to WHKMLA Main Index . WHKMLA, Students' Papers Main Page . WHKMLA, Students' Papers, 17th Wave Index Page

Impressum · Datenschutz