Jose Matias Delgado, Rafael Carrera, Sonsonate, Central American independence, trans-Atlantic trade
Salvadoransí resentment of Guatemala strengthened when European wars restricted trans-Atlantic trade after 1793 and contributed to a downturn in Salvadoran indigo exports. By the time Spainís control over its colonies weakened as a result of these wars, San Salvador had become a center of liberal opinion, where Creoles advocated greater political and economic freedom from Spanish rule. In 1811 a Salvadoran priest, Jose Matias Delgado, led a rebellion of Creoles, the first open expression of Salvadoran sympathy for independence from Spain. Conservative forces from Guatemala, which remained loyal to Spain, ruthlessly crushed this uprising, increasing Salvadoran hostility.
Central American independence from Spain came suddenly and without a struggle. In September 1821 a council of leaders in Guatemala decided to accept the Plan of Iguala, which created an independent Mexican Empire under the Creole General Agustin de Iturbide. That month Creoles in San Salvador issued their own declaration of independence from Spain. They did not want to remain dominated by Guatemala or to join Iturbideís empire.
Civil war resulted. Led by Manuel Jose Arce, Salvadoran forces defeated a Guatemalan army and consolidated control over El Salvador. Then, in 1823, a Guatemalan-Mexican army under Mexican General Vicente Filisola captured San Salvador. Arce fled to the United States. In the meantime, however, Iturbideís government in Mexico fell, and Filisola allowed the Central Americans to convene a congress.
The congress declared absolute Central American independence on July 1, 1823, and formed the United Provinces of Central America, a loose federation of the five Central American states that promised each a high degree of sovereignty. But upper-class Central Americans were divided by regional rivalries and split between liberal and conservative factions, which disagreed over political, economic, and religious policies. Liberals generally sought to limit the role of the Catholic clergy and promote capitalism, while conservatives favored the traditional power structure, controlled by large landowners and a powerful church.
Under the federationís liberal republican constitution of 1824, Arce won a hotly contested and disputed election to become the first Central American president in 1825. But Arce alienated his Salvadoran supporters when he failed to separate El Salvador from the Catholic diocese of Guatemala, another symbol of El Salvadorís subordinate status to the capital of Guatemala City. Arce increasingly found himself forced into alliance with Guatemalan conservatives against both Salvadoran and Guatemalan liberals, and he finally resigned. Guatemalan conservatives then took over the federal government, leading to renewed civil war from 1827 to 1829. Although all the states became involved to some degree, the fighting occurred mainly between Guatemala and El Salvador. Liberal forces won the war in 1829, and their leader, Honduran General Francisco Morazan, became the new federal president in 1830. El Salvador regained a prominent role in the Central American federation, whose capital was moved in 1834 to Sonsonate, in western El Salvador, and in 1835 to San Salvador.
However, the federationís liberal government faced continued challenges. As part of Morazanís economic policies, the government took land from Native Americans, other rural groups, and the church and turned it over to private landowners. When some of these projects threatened the Pipil way of life, these native people rebelled in 1833. Morazan defeated them, but his weakened forces then faced a rural uprising in Guatemala, led by Rafael Carrera, who overthrew the liberal Guatemalan government. Carrera then routed Morazan in battle at Guatemala City in March 1840, and the federation collapsed.
Although El Salvador became nominally independent after 1840, it was dominated by the conservative Carrera, who ruled Guatemala until 1865. Military leaders installed by Carrera often controlled El Salvador, which did not formally declare itself a sovereign republic until 1856.
In 1856 and 1857 Salvadoran troops joined other Central American forces to drive a U.S. adventurer, William Walker, out of Nicaragua, where he had taken power. The commander of the Salvadoran forces in that struggle, General Gerardo Barrios, served as provisional president of El Salvador in 1858 and again in 1859 and 1860. After becoming president in 1861, Barrios launched liberal economic reforms, encouraging coffee production through land grants and tax cuts, and tried to limit the role of the Catholic clergy by requiring priests to pledge obedience to the state. This brought him into conflict with Carrera, who invaded El Salvador and eventually defeated Barrios, installing a more conservative president, Francisco Duenas.
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