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Biography of Francisco Morazán

José Francisco Morazán Quezada was born in Tegucigalpa on October 3, 1792 and died in San José, Costa Rica, on September 15, 1842, he was a military man and politician who governed the Federal Republic of Central America during the turbulent period from 1827 to 1842.

Francisco Morazán rose to fame after his victory in the legendary Battle of La Trinidad, on November 11, 1827. From then on, and until his death in 1842, Morazán dominated the Central American political and military scene. He was known as the Central American Paladin.

In the political sphere, Francisco Morazán was recognized as a great thinker and visionary. He tried to transform Central America into a great and progressive nation. During his administration as president of the Federal Republic, Morazán enacted liberal reforms, which included: education, freedom of the press and religion, among others. He also limited the power of the Catholic Church with the abolition of the tithe by the government and the separation of the State and the Church.

With these reforms, Morazán made powerful enemies, and his term in office was marked by bitter infighting between Liberals and Conservatives. However, through his military ability, Morazán remained firmly in power until 1837, when the Federal Republic irrevocably fractured.

This was exploited by the Church and conservative leaders, who came together under the leadership of Rafael Carrera, and, in order to protect their own interests, ended up dividing Central America into five states.

Biography of Francisco Morazán
General Francisco Morazán is to this day considered the Honduran Soldier Par Excellence.

Private life of Francisco Morazán

Early years and his education

José Francisco Morazán Quezada  was born on October 3, 1792 in  Tegucigalpa, then part of the Intendancy of Comayagua, Captaincy General of  Guatemala, during the last years of Spanish colonial rule. His parents were Eusebio Morazán Alemán and Guadalupe Quezada Borjas, both members of an upper-class Creole family dedicated to commerce and agriculture.

His grandparents were: Juan Bautista Morazán, a Corsican emigrant, and María Borjas Alvarenga. Thirteen days after his birth, Morazán was baptized in the church of San Miguel Arcángel, by Father Juan Francisco Márquez.

According to historian Ramón Rosa, Morazán “had the misfortune of being born […] in that sad time of isolation and total darkness in which Honduras  lacked schools. […] Morazán, therefore, had to learn his first letters, reading, writing, the elementary rules of Arithmetic in private schools with terrible organization and sustained with a kind of contribution made by the parents of the family».

In 1804, his parents took advantage of the opening of a Catholic school in the town of San Francisco. At the age of twelve, José Francisco was sent there to learn to write and read, and to receive instruction in mathematics and drawing. The teachings that he received were through Fray Santiago Gabrielino, appointed religious instructor of the Guatemalan priest José Antonio Murga.

In 1808, José Francisco moved with his family to Morocelí. There he worked on the land inherited by Don Eusebio Morazán. In addition, he had the opportunity to work as an employee of the mayor’s office. In 1813 the family moved back to  Tegucigalpa. Once there, Mr. Eusebio placed his son under the guardianship of León Vásquez, who taught him civil law, criminal procedure, and notary law.

At the same time, he had the opportunity to learn to read French in the library of his uncle-in-law, Dionisio de Herrera, which allowed him to become familiar with the works of Montesquieu, the social contract of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the French Revolution, the history of Europe, as well as biographies of Greek and Roman leaders. This dedication and spirit of improvement led José Francisco from time to time to stand out in his hometown, where he came to represent the interests of some people before the colonial court.

On August 7, 1820, Narciso Mallol would have Dionisio de Herrera as secretary of the Mayor’s Town Hall of Tegucigalpa  and a year later he would have the services of the young Francisco Morazán who would serve as town hall secretary and then public defender in civil and criminal proceedings.

Marriage and family

Francisco Morazán married María Josefa Lastiri in the Cathedral of Comayagua on December 30, 1825. From this marriage Adela Morazán Lastiri was born in San Salvador in 1838: Morazán’s only daughter. María Josefa belonged to one of the richest families in the province of  Honduras.

His father was the Spanish merchant Juan Miguel Lastiri who played an important role in the commercial development of  Tegucigalpa. His mother was Margarita Lozano, a member of a powerful Creole family in the city.

María Josefa was a widow who had first married the landowner Esteban Travieso, with whom she had 4 children. Upon her death, Lastiri inherited a fortune. María Josefa’s inheritance and the new circle of powerful and influential friends that emerged from this marriage helped to boost Morazán’s own business, and consequently his political projects.

Out of his marriage, Francisco Morazán fathered a son, Francisco Morazán Moncada, who was born on October 4, 1827 from the general’s relationship with Francisca de Moncada, daughter of a well-known Nicaraguan politician named Liberato Moncada. Francisco Morazán Jr. lived in the house of the Morazán-Lastiri couple, and accompanied his father in  Guatemala,  El Salvador,  Panama, Peru and finally in  Costa Rica.

After the death of his father, Francisco Morazán Moncada settled in Chinandega (Nicaragua), where he devoted himself to agriculture. He died in 1904, at the age of 77. General Morazán also had an adopted son named José Antonio Ruiz.

He was the legitimate son of Eusebio Ruiz and the Guatemalan lady Rita Zelayandía, who gave her son to General Morazán, when the boy was only 14 years old. José Antonio accompanied his adoptive father in various military actions and became a brigadier general. He died in Tegucigalpa in 1883.

Beginnings of his political and military career

The Captaincy General of Guatemala became independent from Spain in 1821. It was at this time that Francisco Morazán began to take an active part in politics. He worked in the Tegucigalpa city hall , where he served as secretary to Mayor Narciso Mallol and as public defender in court cases in civil and criminal matters, among other things.

This allowed Morazán to acquire a great knowledge of the structure and functioning of the public administration of the province. This also allowed him to come into close contact with the problems of colonial society.

On November 28, 1821, a note from General Agustín de Iturbide arrived in Guatemala suggesting that the Kingdom of Guatemala, and the Viceroyalty of Mexico, form a great empire under the Plan of Iguala and the Treaties of Córdoba.

The Provisional Advisory Board stated that this was not an immediate order to make such a determination, but rather an option; so it was necessary to explore the will and listen to the opinion of the people of Central America. With this idea, open councils were held in different parts of the Kingdom, since the new form of government had to be decided by the congress that would meet in 1822.

The issue of annexation to Mexico caused divisions within each of the provinces since some cities were in favor of it and others against it. In Honduras, for example, Comayagua  ―through its governor José Tinoco de Contreras― ruled in favor of annexation; but Tegucigalpa , the second most important city in the province opposed the idea of it. This caused Tinoco to take repressive actions against the authorities of that city.

Faced with this situation, an army of volunteers was organized in Tegucigalpa in  order to counter Tinoco’s aggressiveness and defend its independence. It was during these events that Francisco Morazán enlisted as a volunteer, serving the Tegucigalpa authorities. He was appointed as captain of one of the companies, by decision of the official leaders who organized the militias. Thus began Morazán’s military life and his fight against conservative interests.

Tegucigalpa, however, could not maintain its opposition, and was forced to recognize its annexation to Mexico on August 22, 1822. Agustín de Iturbide’s annexation to the Mexican Empire was short-lived, because he abdicated on March 19, 1823, and on July 1 of that same year, Central America proclaimed its definitive independence, and became the United Provinces of Central America.

Later, on September 28, 1824, Francisco Morazán was appointed general secretary of the government of his uncle-in-law and the first head of state of  Honduras, Dionisio Herrera. This was until 1826, when he became president of the Representative Council.

The Federal Republic

After the independence of Central America from Spain in 1821, and its subsequent absolute emancipation on July 1, 1823, the Central American nation was finally free and independent. This new nation was renamed the United Provinces of Central America, and was made up of the states of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. The following year, the Constituent Congress met in Guatemala City with the aim of deciding which would be the system of government through which the destinies of the young nation would be governed. Two different proposals were presented at the discussion table:

  • The liberals opted for a federalist government, influenced by the  Constitution of the United States  (of 1787) and that of Cádiz (of 1812). This type of government gave each State greater independence or autonomy to administer itself and create its own laws and reforms, among other things; but always under the supervision of the Federal Government, guarantor of a Constitution.
  • The Conservatives, on the other hand, favored a centralist government. Through this system, they wanted a single administration and control center. In this system, decisions and laws were adopted in the nation’s capital and applied equally to all other states.
  • After debating the two proposals, the liberals, who were in the majority, asserted this advantage and won the right to adopt the «federalist thesis», to the discontent of the conservatives.

Later, on November 22, 1824, under the motto «God, Union and Freedom» , the Constitution was approved and the nation was renamed the Federal Republic of Central America. Under the new Constitution, Manuel José Arce of the Liberal Party was elected president, who promised to transform the Central American economy and society through his liberal reforms, but within a few months Arce found himself strongly opposed by the conservatives, who, due to their social influence and enormous economic power, did not allow any kind of progress in their government programs. Convinced of his limitations, Arce ended up abandoning his government programs and decided to ally himself with the opposition party. This new position for Arce gave the Conservatives almost complete control of the federal government.

In 1826, Dr. Miguel Echarri, who for internal political reasons had been expelled from Colombia and had settled in Honduras, took the opportunity to initiate the young Francisco Morazán and Dionisio de Herrera (who served as supreme chief of Honduras) into Freemasonry.

Overthrow in Honduras of 1827

The Federal Government headed by Manuel José Arce intended to dissolve the Federal Congress, and therefore called a meeting to be held in Cojutepeque on October 10, 1826, to elect an extraordinary Congress. This measure of unconstitutional order was rejected by the Honduran head of state, Dionisio de Herrera.

Manuel José Arce dissolved the Congress and the Senate in October 1826, trying to establish a centralist or unitary system by allying himself with the Conservatives, so he was left without the support of his party, the Liberal. As a result, a conflict arose between the Federal Government and the States, pronouncing against Dionisio de Herrera and Mariano Prado, head of the State of El Salvador.

Arce came into conflict with Dionisio de Herrera so the National Assembly called for new elections in Honduras, but Herrera ignored this decree since according to the Honduran constitution his mandate expired until September 16, 1827. Arce decided to expel to Herrera for these reasons, but under the pretext of protecting the tobacco plantations in Los Llanos (Santa Rosa de Copán), owned by the federal government. Arce commissioned Lieutenant General Justo Milla to execute the coup d’état, who on April 9, 1827 and under the command of 200 men, seized Comayagua —the state capital—, captured Herrera and sent him to a prison in Guatemala.

While Milla was busy consolidating power in Comayagua, Morazán escaped from federal troops. He left the besieged capital in the company of colonels Remigio Díaz and José Antonio Márquez, with the purpose of obtaining reinforcements in Tegucigalpa. His plan was to return and liberate the state capital. Upon his return from Tegucigalpa, he and his 300-man army stationed themselves at the La Maradiaga ranch, where they engaged Milla’s forces on April 29, 1827. Following the battle, Milla seized power in Honduras (May 10 listen)) and Morazán fled to Choluteca. Later he traveled to Ojojona, where he was reunited with his family in June. There he was imprisoned for 23 days and transferred toTegucigalpa by order of Commander Ramón de Anguiano.

He was released on bail and went to La Unión (El Salvador) in June 1827, intending to emigrate to Mexico. In this town, he met Mariano Vidaurre, a special envoy from El Salvador in Nicaragua. Vidaurre convinced Morazán that, in that country, he could find the military support he needed to expel Milla from Honduran territory. Francisco Morazán moved to the city of León (Nicaragua) on September 15, where he met with the commander of arms of the State of Nicaragua, Colonel José Anacleto Ordóñez known as Cleto Ordóñez. For Morazán, the meeting bore fruit, as the Nicaraguan leader provided him with weapons and a contingent of 135 men. These militiamen were joined by the troops of Colonel Zepeda from El Salvador, and some columns of Honduran volunteers in Choluteca (Honduras).

Provisional Head of State of Honduras

Morazán headed with his troops to southern Honduras, reaching Choluteca in October 1827. When Justo Milla discovered Morazán’s presence, he quickly moved his troops to Tegucigalpa, where he established his headquarters. For his part, Morazán went to Sabanagrande. At 9 am on November 11, Morazán and his men faced the army of Colonel Justo Milla, in the memorable Battle of La Trinidad.

After five hours of intense fighting, Milla’s federal troops were crushed by Morazán’s men. Milla and some of his officers survived and fled the battlefield. Following this victory, Morazán marched to Comayagua where he made his triumphal entry on November 26. The next day he convened the Representative Council, which appointed him provisional head of state, and appointed Diego Vigil as deputy head.

He sent peacekeeping columns to the north coast and border towns, and put down an uprising in Opoteca. On June 28, 1828 he deposited the head of state in Vigil, to participate in the Central American civil war.

Central American Civil War

After his victory at ‘La Trinidad’, Morazán emerged as the leader of the liberal movement and became recognized for his military skills throughout Central America. For these reasons, he received calls for help from the Liberals in El Salvador. As in Honduras, Salvadorans opposed the new congressmen and other elected government officials by decree issued on October 10, 1826. Salvadorans demanded the reinstatement of the old political leaders, but President Manuel Arce argued that this measure was necessary to restore constitutional order.

In March 1827 the government of El Salvador responded by military force. Salvadoran troops marched towards Guatemala with the intention of taking the capital of the Republic and lowering the president from his chair. But President Arce himself took command of his federal troops and defeated the Salvadorans at dawn on March 23 in Arrazola. The Salvadoran division dispersed and the chiefs fled. The camp was littered with corpses, prisoners, weapons, ammunition, and luggage. After these events, President Arce ordered 2,000 federal troops under General Manuel de Arzú to occupy El Salvador. This event marked the beginning of the civil war.

Meanwhile in Honduras, Francisco Morazán accepted the challenge proposed by the Salvadorans. He handed over command to Diego Vigil as the new Honduran head of state and went to Texiguat, where he prepared and organized his troops for the Salvadoran military campaign. In June 1828, Morazán went to El Salvador with a force of 1400 men. This group of militants was made up of small groups of Hondurans, Nicaraguans, and Salvadorans who brought their own tools of war. They also had the support of the Indians who served as infantry. Some volunteers followed their liberal convictions, others worked for a political leader, others simply hoped to get something in return for their efforts after the war was over.

While the Salvadoran army engaged federal forces in San Salvador, Morazán positioned himself in the eastern part of the state. On July 6, Morazán defeated Colonel Vicente Domínguez’s troops at the El Gualcho hacienda. In his memoirs, Morazán describes the battle as follows:

At 12 o’clock at night I undertook my march for this purpose, but the rain did not allow me to double the day, and I was forced to wait, at the Hacienda de Gualcho, for the weather to improve… At three in the morning, the The water ceased, I had two companies of hunters stationed on the height overlooking the hacienda, to the left… At five o’clock I learned the position that they (the enemy) occupied… I could not go back under these circumstances… It was no longer possible to continue the march , without serious danger, through an immense plain and in the very presence of the opponents. The least I could defend myself in the hacienda, located under a height of more than 200 feet that in the form of a semicircle dominates the main building, cut off at the opposite end with an inaccessible river that serves as a moat. It was, then, It was necessary to accept the battle with all the advantages that the enemy had achieved… I made the hunters advance on the enemy to stop their movement, because, knowing how critical my position was, I was marching on them at attack pace. Meanwhile, the force climbed a steep and narrow path, the fire was broken at half a rifle shot, which then became general. But 175 inexperienced soldiers made the repeated attacks of the entire bulk of the enemy impotent for a quarter of an hour… The enthusiasm that the heroism of these brave Hondurans produced in all the soldiers exceeded the number of opponents. When the action became general on both sides, our right wing was forced back. And occupied the light artillery that supported it; but the reserve, then acting on that side, reestablished our line.

Memoirs of Francisco Morazan

Morazán kept fighting around San Miguel, defeating every platoon sent by General Arzú from San Salvador. This motivated Arzú to leave Colonel Montúfar in charge of San Salvador and to take care of Morazán personally. When the liberal leader became aware of Arzú’s movements, he left for Honduras to recruit more troops, joining the Militia of Écija. On September 20, General Arzú was near the Lempa River with 500 men searching for Morazán, when he learned that his forces had capitulated at Mejicanos and San Salvador.

Meanwhile, Morazán left for El Salvador with an army of 600 men, and stationed himself in Goascorán on October 2, 1828. General Arzú feigning illness returned to Guatemala, leaving his troops under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Antonio de Aycinena. The colonel and his troops were marching towards Honduran territory, when they were intercepted by Morazán’s men in San Antonio. On October 9, Aycinena was forced to surrender. With the capitulation of San Antonio, El Salvador was finally free of federal troops. On October 23, General Morazán made his triumphal entry into the Plaza de San Salvador. He returned to Honduras because of news of an uprising in Olancho, where he addressed a proclamation to its inhabitants on November 22, 1828. He then marched on Ahuachapán, to organize the army with a view to liberating Guatemalan territory and restoring constitutional order.

Battles and dictatorship in Guatemala

On January 1, 1829, Morazán set up a barracks in Ahuachapán and did everything possible to organize a large army, which he called the Allied Army Protector of the Law. He asked the government of El Salvador to provide him with 4,000 men, but he had to settle for 2,000. When he was ready to act in January 1829, he sent a division under Colonel Juan Prem to enter Guatemalan territory and take control of Chiquimula. The order was carried out by Prem despite the resistance offered by the enemy. Shortly thereafter, Morazán deployed the Ecija militia near Guatemala City under the command of Colonel Gutiérrez to force the enemy out of their trenches and cause his troops to desert. Meanwhile, Colonel Domínguez, who had left Guatemala City with six hundred foot soldiers to attack Prem, learned of Gutiérrez’s small force. Dominguez changed his plans and Gutierrez went after him.

Meanwhile, the people of Antigua Guatemala organized against the Guatemalan government and placed the department of Sacatepéquez under the protection of General Morazán. This hastened Morazán’s invasion of Guatemala, who stationed his men in the town of Pínula, near the capital city. Military operations in the capital began with small skirmishes in front of government fortifications. On February 15 one of Morazán’s largest divisions, under the command of Cayetano de la Cerda, was defeated at Mixco by federal troops.

Due to this defeat, Morazán lifted the siege of the city and concentrated his forces in Antigua. A division of federal troops had followed him from the capital under the command of Colonel Pacheco, in the direction of Sumpango and El Tejar with the purpose of attacking him in Antigua. But Pacheco extended his forces, leaving some of them in Sumpango. When he arrived in San Miguelito on March 6, with a smaller army, he was defeated by General Morazán. This incident once again raised the morale of Morazán’s men. After the victory of San Miguelito, the Morazán army made up of the Ecija militiamen increased with the union of Guatemalan volunteers in their ranks. On March 15, Morazán and his army were on their way to occupy their previous positions, he was intercepted by Colonel Prado’s federal troops at the Las Charcas ranch. Morazán, with a superior position, crushed Prado’s army. The battlefield was littered with corpses, prisoners and weapons. Later, Morazán with the écija militia mobilized to recover his old positions in Pínula and Aceytuno, and lay siege to Guatemala City again.

General Verveer, Minister Plenipotentiary of the King of the Netherlands before the Federation of Central America, tried to mediate between the State Government and Morazán, but they could not reach an agreement. Military operations continued with great success for the allied army. On April 12, the head of state of Guatemala, Mariano de Aycinena y Piñol, leader of the powerful Clan Aycinena, capitulated and the next day the Central Plaza was occupied by Morazán’s troops. Immediately afterwards, President Arce, Mariano Aycinena, Mariano Beltranena, and all the officials who had had any role in the war, were sent to prison. After these events, General Morazán expelled the most important ecclesiastics and all the members of the Clan Aycinena – that is, the members of the conservative party – and led the country dictatorially, until Senator Juan Barrundia took office on the 25th. June 1829.

Second term in Honduras

On March 5, 1829, Morazán and Diego Vigil were appointed head and deputy head of state by the Honduran Legislative Assembly. That same month, on the recommendation of the government, Morazán bought and moved from Guatemala the first printing press in Honduras, installed in the San Francisco barracks under the direction of the Nicaraguan Cayetano Castro. This was released with a proclamation to the department of Olancho by Morazán, to prevent them from turning against him, dated December 4, 1829, the same in which he assumed the position of head of state after his return. to Honduras. On December 24 he left the government in the hands of Juan Ángel Arias to undertake the pacification of Olancho, which ended with the signing of an agreement on January 21, 1830, where the Olanchanos undertook to lend obedience to the Government of Honduras.

On February 19 he defeated an insurrection in Opoteca and resumed the head of state on April 22. During this mandate he founded the first official newspaper in Honduras, La Gaceta del Gobierno. In June he won the elections for President of the Federal Republic of Central America; same month in which he sent Dionisio de Herrera to pacify Nicaragua. Morazán resigned as head of Honduras on July 28, which was assumed the following day by the deputy head of state, Diego Vigil.

Federation Presidency

Period 1830-1834

Francisco Morazán won the popular vote in the 1830 presidential election, in which he had the moderate José Cecilio del Valle as his opponent. The new president took office on September 16 of the same year. In his inaugural address, he stated:

«The sovereign People commands me to place myself in the most dangerous of their destinies. I must obey and fulfill the solemn oath that I have just taken. I offer to uphold the Federal Constitution that I have defended as a soldier and as a citizen.”

With Francisco Morazán as president and with his support for the governors, the Liberals had consolidated power. In this way, the new president and his allies placed themselves in an unbeatable position to implement his reforms, which were inspired by the philosophy of the Enlightenment. Through these, the president would try to dismantle in Central America what he considered to be archaic institutions inherited from the colonial era since they had only contributed to backwardness in the region. According to traveler John Lloyd Stephens , General Morazán wished for his people a society based on universal education, religious freedom, and social and political equality.

In 1831, Morazán and Governor Mariano Gálvez turned Guatemala into a political laboratory. The construction of schools and highways was supervised, free trade policies were enacted; foreign capital and immigrants were invited; secular marriage, divorce, and free speech were allowed; public lands were made available for cochineal expansion; the Church was separated from the State; tithes were abolished; freedom of religion was proclaimed; ecclesiastical property was confiscated, religious orders were suppressed, and the control it had over education was withdrawn from the Catholic Church, among other policies.

With the implementation of these revolutionary measures, Morazán became -according to the writer Adalberto Santana- the first president of Latin America who applied a liberal thought to his administration. This dealt a severe blow to the criollos of Guatemala City, but more importantly it stripped the regular clergy of their privileges and reduced their power.

According to writer Maria Wilhelmine Williams: «The immediate reasons for the different enactments varied. Some laws were intended to protect the status of the clergy… Others aimed to help recover the public treasury, and, at the same time, sweep away aristocratic privilege; while other legislation – especially the latest ones – was enacted to punish opposition to previous events and intrigues against the government”, when Francisco Morazán came to power.

At that time, Morazán ordered the apprehension and expulsion of Archbishop Ramón Casaus y Torres, effective on the night of July 10, 1829, as well as 289 friars, members of the Dominican, Franciscan and Recoleta orders, since they were under suspicion of oppose independence. Casaus y Torres traveled from Guatemala to Omoa guarded by General Nicolás Raoul and on the back of a mule, where members of the Betlemita and Mercedaria orders were waiting for him on two sailboats for his transfer to Havana. They were not captured or reprimanded for not participating in politics. For his part, Casaus y Torres reported to the King of Spain on his political conduct in Central America, as if the archbishop of Guatemala. It would have been a charge of the Spanish Crown and not of the Holy See. Consequently, King Ferdinand VII granted him a pension of 3,000 pesos, and soon after he was named Archbishop of Havana until 1845.

During the civil war, religious leaders had used their influence against General Morazán and the liberal party. They had also opposed reforms, particularly those to do with universal education, which the Liberals were determined to implement at any cost.

In March 1832, another conflict broke out in El Salvador. The head of state José María Cornejo had rebelled against some federal decrees, forcing President Morazán to act immediately. As Commander-in-Chief, he led the federal troops that marched to El Salvador, where they defeated Chief Cornejo’s army on March 14, 1832. On the 28th of the same month, Morazán had occupied San Salvador. From then on, rumors began about the need to reform the Constitution.

Period 1835-1839

In 1834, at the request of Governor Mariano Gálvez, General Morazán moved the capital of the Federal Republic to Sonsonate and later to San Salvador. The same year, the first four years of Francisco Morazán presidency had ended. According to the 1824 constitution, new elections had to be held in order to choose the next president.

The moderate conservative José Cecilio del Valle presented himself as the opposition candidate of incumbent President Francisco Morazán. For this reason, the general deposited the presidency in Gregorio Salazar, so that the Federal Congress could verify the impartiality of the election.

When all the votes were counted, José Cecilio del Valle defeated Francisco Morazán. The results of the federal elections demonstrated strong popular opposition to the liberal reforms. Valle, however, died before taking office. Most historians agree that if Valle had not died, he could have created a government of conciliation between the opposition forces (Liberals and Conservatives). Due to these facts, on June 2, the Federal Congress called for a new election which was won by Francisco Morazán. On February 14, 1835, he was sworn in as president for a second term in Guatemala City.

End of the Federation

In February 1837, a series of dramatic events took place in Central America, which ignited a revolution which culminated in the end of the Federation. A cholera epidemic hit the state of Guatemala, leaving approximately one thousand dead and three thousand infected with the bacteria. The epidemic hit the poor and indigenous in the highlands of the state especially hard and spread rapidly. The government of Mariano Gálvez, hoping to alleviate the situation, sent the available doctors, nurses, and medical students and the remedies for distribution; but these measures were of little help, because the Indians continued to die.

At the time cholera broke out, the Indians of the Mita district, influenced by their priests, were furious at the trial-by-jury system (incomprehensible to them) that Chief Gálvez had introduced. The church saw all this as an opportunity to deal a blow to the liberal government of Gálvez, as local priests spread the rumor that the government had poisoned the rivers and streams with the purpose of annihilating the indigenous population. As proof of this, they showed the Indians a recent grant of territory in Verapaz that had been made to a British colonization company.

The unrestrained indigenous people repudiated their alleged murderers. With cholera spreading, they took up arms, killed white people and liberals, burned their houses, and prepared to face the Gálvez government who sent an army to try to stop the revolt. But the army’s measures were so repressive that they made things worse. In June, Santa Rosa de Mita rose up in arms and a new leader named Rafael Carrera y Turcios emerged from the town of Mataquescuintla. The young Carrera was illiterate, but cunning and charismatic. He had also been a pig farmer turned highway robber, but whom the rebels wanted as their leader.

The priests announced to the natives that Carrera was their guardian angel, who had descended from heaven to take revenge on heretics, liberals, and foreigners, and to restore their ancient domain. They devised various tricks to make the Indians believe this illusion, which were heralded as miracles. Among them, a letter was thrown from the roof of one of the churches, in the midst of a vast congregation of indigenous people. This letter supposedly came from the Virgin Mary, who commissioned Carrera to lead a revolt against the government.

In the end, ignorance, the power of the Church, the bitter infighting between conservatives and liberals, and the search for personal glory, were the main reasons for the dissolution of the Federation.

Under cries of «Long live religion!» and «Death to foreigners!» Carrera and his forces launched a war against the government. Encouraged by these events, the Conservatives joined the revolt. Meanwhile, the government of Mariano Gálvez requested military aid from General Morazán.

By the time Morazán arrived in Guatemala City, Gálvez had already left the head of state. The group in power gave him full powers to confront Rafael Carrera, they also offered him the presidency for life, but Morazán rejected this offer, because it was against his liberal principles. Morazán then called on Carrera to lay down his arms, but the rebel leader objected. Carrera was defeated and persecuted by Morazán on several occasions, thus managing to pacify the state. But the general was never able to apprehend the indigenous leader, as he simply retreated into the mountains and returned to occupy key positions as soon as Morazán’s troops left the state of Guatemala.

By 1838 Morazán presided over a dying federation. Congress tried to revive the Federal Government by giving it control of its customs revenues. But Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica opposed it and used this excuse to leave the Union. The Federation was dead. On February 1, 1839, Morazán had completed his second term as constitutional president, Congress had been dissolved, and there was no legal basis to name his successor. In the end, ignorance, the power of the Church, the bitter infighting between conservatives and liberals, and the search for personal glory, were the main reasons for the dissolution of the Federation.

Head of State of El Salvador

After completing his second term as President of the Federal Republic, Morazán was left without political or military power. On July 13, 1839, however, the general was elected head of state of El Salvador. When Rafael Carrera and the Guatemalan conservatives became aware of his new role, they decided to declare war on El Salvador. The general had become the very personification of the Federation, he was the body and soul of the Constitution of 1824, and to eliminate him meant to end any idea or hope that had remained of the Federation.

For that reason, his enemies did not want him to be in command of that nation, nor of any other Central American state, and they promised to defeat him. On July 24, 1839, Nicaragua and Guatemala entered into a treaty of alliance against Morazán’s government in El Salvador. Later, on August 24 of the same year, Guatemalan leader Rafael Carrera y Turcios would call Salvadorans to popular insurrection against his president. These calls provoked some uprisings, which were put down without much effort by the government.

Unsuccessful internally, the general’s enemies formed an army made up of Honduran and Nicaraguan troops. On September 18, 1839, Morazán was in El Salvador to prevent the advance of the hosts of Francisco Ferrera, but a mutiny occurred in San Salvador and the plaza was controlled by Pedro León Velásquez; The rebels sent a message to the general in which they threatened to kill his wife, his son Francisco, and the newborn Adela if he did not capitulate, but Morazán responded with these memorable words:

The hostages that my enemies have are sacred to me and speak very loudly to my heart, but I am Head of State and I must attack passing over the corpses of my children; else I will not survive such a terrible misfortune.

Memoirs of Francisco Morazan

However, Morazán managed to retake San Salvador, while León Velásquez surrendered unconditionally and withdrew from the threats against the general’s family, who also spared his life.

On September 25, Morazán triumphed at the Battle of San Pedro Perulapán, in which he only needed 600 Salvadorans to defeat the more than 2,000 men commanded by Generals Francisco Ferrera, Nicolás de Espinosa, and Manuel Quijano y García. After the defeat, the humiliated generals and their troops fled to neighboring states, leaving behind more than three hundred dead.

On March 18, 1840, Morazán made one last attempt to restore the Union. He gathered about 1,300 men and with them he marched to Guatemala. Once positioned, Morazán marched from the south, attacking Carrera’s men located in the capital. But Carrera had set him up, for he had taken most of his own force out of the capital, leaving only a small, highly visible garrison inside. In this way Morazán and his men finished off the bait, but then found themselves assaulted from all directions by Carrera’s forces of some 5,000 men. It was a battle notorious for its savagery and revealed the ruthless side of Carrera, whose men chanted «Salve Regina», and shouted «Viva Carrera!» and «Death to Morazán!»

The next morning, Morazán was running low on ammunition. He then ordered an increase in fire from three corners of the plaza, in order to attract attention, while he and some of his officers barely managed to escape with their lives towards El Salvador. Carrera’s victory was decisive. On April 4, 1840, before a meeting of notables, Morazán declared his resignation and his resolution to leave the country, since he did not want to cause more problems for the Salvadoran people.

Exile to Peru

On April 8, 1840, General Francisco Morazán went into exile. He set out from the port of La Libertad (El Salvador), aboard the schooner Izalco accompanied by 30 of his closest friends and war veterans. Upon arrival in Puerto Caldera (Costa Rica) he requested asylum for 23 of his officers, which was granted. Seven of them continued with the trip to South America in his company. Morazán arrived in Chiriquí, and then went to David, Panama, where his family was waiting for him. While in this town, Morazán was informed by his friends about the terrible persecutions suffered by his supporters at the hands of Rafael Carrera and other liberal leaders in Central America.

Outraged by these events and by the chain of insults and slander against him by some members of the press, Morazán wrote and published his famous Manifesto of David dated July 16, 1841. In this manifesto Morazán attacks the servile whom he accuses of being «mean men» and abusers of the most sacred rights of the people. He also reminds them that they opposed the independence of Central America, and sacrificed freedom by joining Iturbide’s empire. He, therefore, lets them know that Central America is not his homeland, but the homeland of those who made «the cry of independence resound throughout the Kingdom of Guatemala… and felt electrified with the sacred fire of freedom.»

Morazán was still in David when he received calls from his liberal colleagues in Costa Rica. Braulio Carrillo, governor of that state, had restricted individual liberties, limited freedom of the press, and had repealed the Political Constitution of 1825, which was replaced by a new constitutional charter, called the «Law of Bases and Guarantees,» which declared, in its articles 1 and 2, that the head of state of Costa Rica was «elected by the people» (article 1) and that he was «immovable» (article 2), which his enemies converted into «for life», calling him then «dictator» over and over again.

On the other hand, Carrillo had also declared Costa Rica a free and independent state. Despite these facts, Morazán wanted to stay away from the political affairs of Central America, and continued his journey to Peru. Once in Lima, he received an invitation from Marshal Agustín Gamarra to command a Peruvian division, at a time when his country was at war with Chile. However Morazán refused, because he found this war to be very confusing. For more than twelve years, the dissensions between the Republics of Peru and Bolivia – in which the States of Chile and Colombia were involved – gave rise to a series of wars with reciprocal successes and failures, which caused disastrous stages of chaos between all parties that were belligerent.

In Peru, Morazán was fortunate to find good friends with whom he shared the same ideals. Among these were Generals José Rufino Echenique and Pedro Pablo Bermúdez. Around 1841, the British began to intervene in the Mosquitia territory, located between Honduras and Nicaragua. This event prompted Morazán to end his self-imposed exile in Peru, and he decided that it was time to return to Central America because he considered it a «duty» and an «irresistible national feeling» not only for him, but for everyone. those who have a heart for their country. With the financial backing of General Pedro Bermúdez, he left El Callao at the end of December 1841 aboard the ship El Cruzador. On that trip he was accompanied by General José Trinidad Cabañas, José Miguel Saravia, and five other officers. He and his companions made stops in Guayaquil, Ecuador and Chiriquí, Panama, where he had the opportunity to meet his family once more, before returning to Central America.

Supreme Chief of Costa Rica

Defeated by General Carrera, Morazán left El Salvador and went to take refuge in the Panamanian town of David (Chiriquí), which at that time was part of Colombia. Based there, Morazán conceived, at the insinuation of Carrillo’s enemies, the idea of invading Costa Rica. The opposition to Carrillo was really a minority, but his strength lay in the request for foreign aid that they made. Costa Rica, although he was not particularly interested in it, served him for his expansionist purposes in the rest of Central America, in addition to the fact that it could provide him with men, weapons and money, since returning to Central America and confronting Carrera again was one of his objectives.

On April 7 and without any mishap, the Morazán fleet, which was made up of five ships, landed in the port of Caldera, Costa Rica, but his departure was not undertaken until the 9th of the same month. “Carrillo issued a decree in which he ordered the entire army to gather for the defense of the State against the foreign enemy”, his defense plan contemplated a group of men in charge of the Salvadoran Vicente Villaseñor, who with his betrayal, would truncate said defense project . «Carrillo did not want bloodshed, so he thought of talking to Morazán (…) Carrillo failed in his invitation to Morazán. The invading general had already arranged a meeting and not precisely with the Costa Rican president, but with Villaseñor, who would hand over the forces that had been placed under his command », thus he and Vicente Villaseñor signed the Pact of El Jocote.

The agreement provided for the integration of a single military body, the convening of a National Constituent Assembly, the expulsion of Braulio Carrillo and other members of his administration, and the installation of a provisional government under the command of Francisco Morazán. «Carrillo carefully read the treacherous pact. He knew that he could stand up to Morazán’s forces, but also that a wave of blood would be unleashed. If Morazán and Villaseñor didn’t care about that, he was deeply worried about it. He thought that if he was the person under discussion he would step aside, he would leave the country, he would sacrifice his work (…) Carrillo agreed to give his approval to the pact, after some modifications ». On April 13, 1842, Morazán’s forces entered the city of San José, «an hour later Carrillo began banishing him» to El Salvador.

Morazán’s first act was to open the doors of the state to Costa Rican and Central American political refugees. In addition, the new ruler dedicated himself to repealing some of the laws issued at the time of Carrillo and dedicated himself to other reforms. He also summoned a Constituent Assembly which appointed him supreme head of the State of Costa Rica.

Upon arrival at Puerto Caldera, «Morazán brought with him a document known as the Caldera Proclamation; in this he offered the Costa Ricans to return freedom to Costa Rica and proclaimed war against Carrillo, whom he called a tyrant, despot, ignorant and bloodthirsty”, qualifications that “Morazán forgot that he was no less creditor of these epithets, as it did not take long painfully experienced by the people to whom he promised to restore freedom.

By the month of September 1842, Morazán had already lost most of the initial support that had brought him to power in Costa Rica. His presence in Costa Rica had aroused great fear in the rest of the Central American states: Guatemala declared Costa Rica an enemy country; El Salvador broke off relations, and Honduras and Nicaragua ignored the Morazán government. The four states were organized in the so-called «Confederation of Guatemala», a military union against Costa Rica in which they agreed to «help each other and make common cause in case the independence of all and any of them is attacked.» To this was also added that on July 29, 1842, Morazán, in a long manifesto, communicated to the Costa Ricans his intention to rebuild the Central American Union by force of arms.

Death of Francisco Morazan

On September 11, 1842, a popular movement against the Morazán government broke out in Alajuela. Four hundred men led by the Portuguese Antonio Pinto Soares. Given these events, Morazán and his men managed to repel the attacks and withdrew into the headquarters. From there they confronted the insurgents who, according to the historian Montúfar, numbered a thousand men.

The fight continued fierce and tenacious. As the conflict was unfavorable to the besieged, Chaplain José Castro proposed a capitulation to Morazán guaranteeing his life, but he refused. After 88 hours of fighting, Morazán and his closest collaborators decided to break the siege. General José Trinidad Cabañas with 30 men made possible the withdrawal of Morazán and the officers close to him towards Cartago.

However, the insurrection had spread to that place and Morazán had to request help from his supposed friend Pedro Mayorga, however, he betrayed him and provided facilities for Morazán’s enemies to capture him along with generals Vicente Villaseñor, Saravia and other officers. General Villaseñor tried to commit suicide with a dagger and was seriously injured. He fell to the ground covered in blood but survived. General Saravia died after suffering a terrible seizure.

Subsequently, a «mockery trial» was held, in which Morazán and Villaseñor were sentenced to death by the self-constituted new authorities. According to historian William Wells: «The junta that issued this barbaric resolution was composed of Antonio Pinto (made Commander General at the time), Father Blanco, the infamous Doctor Castillo, and two Spaniards named Benavidez and Farrufo.»

After these events, the condemned were transferred to the firing squad located in the central square of the city. Before carrying out the act of execution, Morazán dictated his will to his son, Francisco, from him. In this, the general stipulated that his death was a «murder» and also declared: «I have no enemies, nor do I carry the slightest grudge against my murderers, I forgive them and wish them the greatest possible good.» Later they offered him a chair and he refused it. To General Villaseñor, who was sitting unconscious and under the effect of a sedative, Morazán said: «Dear friend, posterity will do us justice» and crossed himself.

According to the historian Miguel Ortega, Morazán asked for the command of the escort, he opened his black frock coat, uncovered his chest with both hands and with an unaltered voice – like someone giving orders at a military parade – he commanded: “Prepare weapons! Aim!» He then corrected the aim of one of the shooters and finally yelled, “Aim! It was…!». The last syllable was muffled by a closed discharge. Villaseñor received the impact of the weights in the back and fell flat on his face. Through the gunpowder smoke, it was seen that Morazán raised his head slightly and muttered: «I’m still alive…». A second discharge ended the life of the man whom José Martí described as «a powerful genius, a strategist, an orator, a true statesman, perhaps the only one that Central America has produced.» In October 1842, the governments of Central America, Costa Rica.

In 1848, the government of José María Castro sent Morazán’s remains to El Salvador, fulfilling one of his last wishes.

Legacy of Francisco Morazan

Francisco Morazán became a martyr and a symbol of the Republic of Central America. He gave his life, albeit unsuccessfully, trying to preserve the union of these countries. It is also evident that his death contributed, to a certain extent, to the fact that each of these nations are now independent countries.

His image can be found on bills, logos, postage stamps, institutions, cities, departments, schools and parks, among other things that preserve his legacy. El Salvador was one of the first countries to pay tribute to Morazán. On March 15, 1882, President Rafael Zaldívar unveiled a monument in his memory, located in Plaza Francisco Morazán, and, on March 14, 1887, the National Assembly of the Republic of El Salvador replaced the name of the Department of Gotera by Department of Morazán, «to perpetuate the name of the great leader of the Central American Union.» President Doroteo Vasconcelos also named the village «San» Francisco Morazán in his honor. In Honduras, the name of the Tegucigalpa department was changed to Francisco Morazán in the year 1943. In Guatemala, the Guatemalan city of Tocoy Tzimá became Morazán on November 15, 1887. In Nicaragua, Puerto Morazán was founded in 1945.

In the political arena, the idea of integration remains in the minds of many Central Americans. For example, the Central American Parliament (Parlacen) is a political institution dedicated to the integration of the Central American countries, which represents a modern version of the historical Federal Republic of Central America, although without Costa Rica, but which includes Panama and the Dominican Republic. In the past several unsuccessful attempts have been made to re-establish the Union (1851, 1886 and 1921).

Morazán’s legacy is also present in the arts. The first registered work in El Salvador is entitled Latragedia de Morazán, written by Francisco Díaz (1812-1845), which is a dramatization of the life of the president of Central America. Likewise, in Honduras, the play by Luis Andrés Zúñiga Portillo called Los conspiradores (1916) was staged, which was a historical drama that honors the virtues of Francisco Morazán. In his book Canto general, Pablo Neruda also pays homage to the «liberal caudillo» with a poem to Central America. Statues and busts of Francisco Morazán can be found in Chile, Panama, El Salvador, United States, Spain, Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, among others.

October 3 – Soldier’s Day

In the year 1942  , to commemorate the merit of the homeland and the heroic defenders of the nation, the  Honduran National Congress  declared by  decree No. 49 , the anniversary of the birth of General Morazán as  Honduran Soldier’s Day  for being a duty of the State  » pay homage to the memory of the illustrious citizens who sacrificed their lives for the Homeland” , as the Honduran hero did.

Decree of the Day of the Honduran Soldier and Birth of Francisco Morazán

October 3



WHEREAS:  That the institution of arms constitutes the sustaining foundation of nations, and that in our country it is represented by the Honduran soldier;

WHEREAS:  It is a duty of the State to pay homage to the memory of the illustrious citizens who sacrificed their lives for the Homeland, who, like General Francisco Morazán, died to support the Union of Central America;

WHEREAS:  That the Honduran hero General Francisco Morazán is an unsurpassed model of honor, self-sacrifice and sacrifice,


Article 1 –  Declare «Day of the Honduran Soldier», on October 3, anniversary of the birth of General «Francisco Morazán».

Article 2 –  This Decree will take effect from the day of its promulgation.

Given in Tegucigalpa, DC, in the Sessions Hall, on February 5, 1942.

(f) Plutarco Muñoz, President. (f) Vicente Cáceres, Secretary. (f) Fernando Zepeda, Secretary.

To the Executive Power

Therefore: Run.

Tegucigalpa, DC, February 5, 1942.

The Secretary of State in the Offices of War, Navy and Aviation.

(f) Juan Manuel Galvez.


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