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The United Provinces of Central America, also known as the Federal Republic of Central America and the United Provinces of America, was one of the multistate unions of the Americas during the 19th century. With the rise of several powerful states including the United States of America and the Empire of Brazil, the Federal Republic of Central America, also known as the United States of Central America would maintain its faithful union and become one of Latin America’s prominent regional powers.
The nation would owe its genesis to the Mayan Empire and later the New Spain Viceroyalty that succeeded it. The modern Spanish-speaking Central American state came with the Royal Audiencia of Guatemala in 1542, as a part of New Spain. The state, which would a Capitancy General in 1609, would receive a considerable degree of self autonomy and self administrations, whilst being a Dominion of the Spanish Empire. The Hapsburg and later Bourbon Kings of Spain would continue to build the autonomous nature of Central America from the rest of the Viceroyalty.
But despite its autonomous nature, Guatemala, along with the rest of New Spain would be embroiled in a War of Independence from Spain that would last for the next eleven years. In 1811, following the removal of King Ferdinand VII of Spain from the throne, a series of insurrectionists, looking for greater autonomy or outright independence from Guatemala set off a rebellion in the city of San Salvador. The rebellion would spread throughout the region that would make up El Salvador State, and would last into the end of the year. The movement and later movement in the future Nicaragua State would prove unsuccessful for the most part.
Despite these rebellions, it would eventually side with Mexico and join it in when the nation became independent as the Mexican Empire in 1821. But shortly thereafter, a Popular Assembly met in Guatemala City, declared itself independent. On September 21, 1821, the Deed of the Declaration of Independence was signed, making Central America the masters of their own destiny.
The Early Years and Threats of Dissolution
Central American Liberals had high hopes for their new state, seeking to use the country as a major trading point between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but their idealism was marred with problems, threats from Mexican Imperials, seeking to bring the Republic to the fold continued until the fall of Augustin I de Itrubide in 1823. The Liberals were also blocked at every turn by the Conservatives, which were supported by the majority of the people as well as the Catholic Church. Plus fears of the government dominated by Guatemala led to the Capital temporarily moving to San Salvador. (and it would remain as the judicial and legislative capital of Central America until the Central American Civil War.)
During the period between 1836 and 1840, the Republic passed several constitutional reforms, which included new voting laws and enfranchisement as well as changes to the upperhouse voting system so that the people would vote on who could go. While this move served to turn the people against the conservatives, many felt that it was not enough to change the pro-conservative populace away from them.
Central American Civil War
On January 2, 1842, Nicaragua seceded from the Union, followed shortly thereafter by Costa Rica and Honduras. The Liberal government struggled over how to respond to that, while some of the Jingoistic officers began clamoring for war. It was on January 28, when El Salvador seceded to form its own republic that the President, Jose Venancio Requena officially declared war on the seceding nations and sent their armies to crush the dissenters.
However, there was dissent in the National Army, as Federal troops, declaring themselves the National Army of El Salvador seceded and occupied various towns along the border between Los Altos Province and Guatemala Province, making them a direct threat to the Capital of Guatemala City. This culminated in the Battle of Quetzaltenango in February 7, 1842. Six thousand Federal troops led by General Juan Soto fought against the Salvadorian rebels engaged in Los Altos. The Salvadorians, outnumbered two to one fought bravely against insurmountable odds. In the end, however, the Salvadorian National Army was routed, harassed by local militia across the Los Altos province for the rest of the year. El Salvador and Honduras was left defenseless and by the end of 1842 were brought back into the union.
Nicaragua was the next separatist nation to conquer, but the Nicaraguans managed to form an army to counter the threat, and the Central American Army had for much of the start of 1843, suffered a series of defeats against the Nicaraguan Army. The worst case being the First Battle of Leon, where a smaller force of 2,200 troops and militia defeated a force of 2500 regulars, with substantial casualties in the front. However on March, Central American troops moved down with a larger army to attack the Nicaraguan Army in the Second Battle of Leon. The result was the complete annihilation of the Nicaraguan Military, though it would take the rest of 1844, to pacify the remainder of the country. Costa Rica, having seen its neighbors fall one by one, appealed to the United States for aid, but the President of the United States, James K. Polk was already supporting the Central Americans, albeit explicitly. By the fall of 1844, despite the opposition arguing to intervene in favor of Costa Rica, the Federal Republic would accept the separatist’s surrender. The Union was brought back together once more.
Population Boom and Industrialization
Over the course of the next 15 years immigrants seeking a better life would flock to Central America where they would work in factories. Most of the populace were from Europe, mainly from the Two Sicilies and Poland. By 1860, 1 in 3 people living in Central America were immigrants.
Most of these immigrants would come to the country looking to escape persecution from absolute monarchies in Austria, Germany and Russia, and some from the UK and France who were persecuted against such as the Irish. While they competed with native born Central Americans for jobs. The Liberal government, replaced with a coalition Nationalist and Conservative government in subsequent elections would help to continue immigrants orientation to the United States of Central America.