Federal Republic of Central America

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  • United Provinces of Central America
  • Provincias Unidas de Centroamérica

  • Federal Republic of Central America
  • República Federal de Centroamérica
Escudo de la Republica Federal de Centro America.svg
Coat of arms
Anthem:  La Granadera
"The Song of the Grenadier"
United Provinces of Central America (orthographic projection).svg
Common languages Spanish
Demonym(s) Central American
Government Federated revolutionary republic
Manuel José Arce (first)
Francisco Morazán (last)
Historical era Spanish American wars of independence
 Independence from the Spanish Empire
15 September 1821
 Independence from the First Mexican Empire
1 July 1823
February 1841
Currency Central American real
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Bandera del Primer Imperio Mexicano.svg First Mexican Empire
Costa Rica Flag of Costa Rica (1838-1840).svg
El Salvador Flag of El Salvador (1839-1865).svg
Guatemala Flag of Guatemala (1838-1843).svg
Honduras Flag of Honduras (1839-1866).svg
Nicaragua Flag of Nicaragua (1839-1858).svg
Los Altos Flag of the State of Los Altos.svg
Guatemala or United States of Central America; with exception of the Kingdom of Mosquitia, which was a British Protectorate until 1860. Guatemala or United States of Central America.jpg
Guatemala or United States of Central America; with 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). Federal Republic of Central America 1835 4 Real.jpg
Federal Republic of Central America, 4 Escudos/Shields (1835). Struck in the San Jose, Costa Rica mint (697 were minted).

The Federal Republic of Central America [2] (Spanish: República Federal de Centroamérica) was a sovereign state south of Mexico 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.


Central America consisted of the present-day southern Mexican state of Chiapas, [3] the 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; it occupied parts of what are now Chiapas 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 and then Central America formed the federal republic in 1823. From 1838 to 1840, the federation descended into civil war, with conservatives fighting against liberals, and separatists fighting to secede. These factions were unable to overcome their ideological differences and the federation was dissolved after a series of bloody conflicts. [4]


Independence 1821–1822

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. [5] 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

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. [6] 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. [7]

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. [7] [ further explanation needed ]

Reconstitution of the Federal Republic 1823–1840

Manuel Jose Arce Manuel J. Arce.jpg
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. [7]

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. [7]

Dissolution of the union

In practice, the Federation faced insurmountable problems, and the union slid into civil war between 1838 and 1840. [8] Its disintegration began when Nicaragua separated from the federation on November 5, 1838, followed by Honduras and Costa Rica [9] (other sources give Nicaragua's secession date as April 30). [10] 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. [10] In reality, this merely legally acknowledged the process of disintegration that had already begun. [11] 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

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. Salcoatitan, El Salvador - panoramio (9).jpg
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 River Plate").

Successor flags

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 United Provinces of Central America.svg
Flag of the Federal Republic of Central America, 1824–1839
Flag of the Federal Republic of Central America.svg
Member nations, 1839
Flag of Guatemala (1838-1843).svg Flag of El Salvador (1839-1865).svg Flag of Honduras (1839-1866).svg Flag of Nicaragua (1839-1858).svg Flag of Costa Rica (1838-1840).svg Flag of Los Altos.svg
Guatemala El Salvador Honduras Nicaragua Costa Rica Los Altos
Current flags
Flag of Guatemala.svg Flag of El Salvador.svg Flag of Honduras.svg Flag of Nicaragua.svg Flag of Costa Rica.svg Flag of Chiapas.svg
Guatemala El Salvador Honduras Nicaragua Costa Rica Chiapas

Later Central American federal unions

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:

See also

Related Research Articles

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  12. Text in League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 5, pp. 10–31.

Further reading

Coordinates: 14°37′N90°31′W / 14.617°N 90.517°W / 14.617; -90.517