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The Federation of Central America (Spanish: Federación de Centro América) is a federal constitutional republic in southern North America. It is bordered to the north and south by United States. The Central American Federation consists of five Central American republics of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It was dissolved between 1838 and 1884, but eventually reunified again by the Guatemalan forces under General Jose Ramon Almanhaz in 1884. The capital of the Central American Federation is San Salvador.
Following Christopher Columbus's discovery of the Americas for Spain in 1492, the Spanish sent numerous expeditions to the region, and they began their conquest of Maya lands in 1519. During those expeditions, Spanish contact resulted in an epidemic that devastated native populations. Hernán Cortés, who had led the Spanish conquest of Mexico, granted a permit to Captain Gonzalo de Alvarado and his brother, Pedro de Alvarado, to conquer the land that today belongs to the republics of Guatemala and El Salvador.
In 1540, Spain established the Captaincy General of Guatemala, which extended from southern Mexico to Costa Rica, and thus encompassed most of today's area of the Central American Federation. This lasted nearly three centuries, until a rebellion (which followed closely on the heels of the Mexican War of Independence) in 1821.
On February 24, 1821, General Agustín de Iturbide proclaimed in the town of Iguala, Mexico, the Independence of Mexico under terms that commonly known as the Plan of Iguala that had three primary premises: establishment of Roman Catholicism, political independence from Spain and constitutional equality for all social and ethnic groups in the new order, summarized as "Religion, Independence and Unity" ("Religión, Independencia y Unión"). Political developments in Mexico caused considerable concern in Central America.
Chiapas, one of the provinces of the Captaincy General proclaimed its independence and adopted the Plan of Iguala on September 8, 1821, followed by El Salvador on September 10 and Guatemala on September 15. Today, the latter date is celebrated as the Federal Independence Day of Central America.
The Interim Consultative Board for the Government of Central America was installed with representatives from all of the provinces, with the approval from so the Captain General, it was governed the provinces of the Captaincy General of Guatemala until a Constitutional Congress was established. Gainza was named the Supreme Power of all provinces. On September 18, 1821, Captain General Gainza communicated to the Regent of Mexico, General Agustin de Iturbide, that the Provinces of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, by popular vote, had proclaimed their independence from Spain.
First Republic era
In 1823, the nation of Central America was formed. It was intended to be a federal republic modeled after the United States of America. It was provisionally known as "The United Provinces of Central America," while the final name according to the Constitution of 1824 was "The Federal Republic of Central America."
The Central American nation consisted of the states of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. In the 1830s, an additional state was added, Los Altos, with its capital in Quetzaltenango, occupying parts of what is now the western highlands of Guatemala and part of Chiapas (now part of Mexico), but this state was reincorporated into Guatemala and Mexico respectively in 1840.
Central American liberals had high hopes for the federal republic, which they believed would evolve into a modern, democratic nation, enriched by trade passing through it between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. However, the liberal democratic project was strongly opposed by conservative factions allied with the Roman Catholic clergy and the wealthy landowners. Transportation and communication routes between the states were extremely deficient. The bulk of the population lacked any sense of commitment towards the broader federation, perhaps owing to their continued loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church in Spain.
The federal bureaucracy in Guatemala City proved ineffectual, and fears of Guatemalan domination of the union led to protests that resulted in the relocation of the capital to San Salvador in 1831. Wars soon broke out between various factions both in the federation and within individual states.
The union dissolved in civil war between 1838 and 1840. Its disintegration began when Nicaragua separated from the federation on November 5, 1838, followed by Honduras and Costa Rica. The union effectively dissolved in 1840, by which time four of its five states had declared independence. The union was officially ended only upon El Salvador's self-proclamation of the establishment of an independent republic in February 1841. Because of the chaotic nature of this period, an exact date does not exist but on May 31, 1838, the congress met to declare that the provinces were free to create their own independent republics.
The plan to launch a unification campaign of all Central American republics revived following the election of Jose Pedro Almanhaz as president of Guatemala on 1882. Almanhaz was a veteran of Italian War of Independence and impressed by the Italian Republican army under a revolutionary, Giuseppe Garibaldi, that had been fought alongside him at that war.
The Central American Unification Campaign started when Guatemalan Expeditionary Forces invaded El Salvador in November 17, 1883. In February 1, 1884, Almanhaz forces advanced to Honduras and successfully captured Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, made Honduran forces retreated to Olancho in central Honduras. Almanhaz then appointed a young officer, Manuel Esperanza, to replace him, leading the Guatemalan forces advanced toward Nicaragua while Almanhaz himself remained in Tegucigalpa, convened a new Federal Congress of Central America.
A Federal Congress was convened in February 26, 1884 and attended by delegates from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, while Costa Rica was absent from the meeting. The Congress was dubbed by most delegates as "the congress of shouting and booing", due to lengthy debates between delegates and the intensive persuasion from Almanhaz as president of the congress to other delegates to accept and sign the Pact of Federation that would unite Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica under one centralized and less federated government. In the case of Costa Rica's absence from the congress, Almanhaz famously declared, "Costa Rica's act of absence from attending the Congress shall only be answered by a Guatemala's act of war!"
The Central American Federation flag hoisted by Guatemalan army in front of Honduran Legislative Palace in March 1, 1884 and Almanhaz elected as the provisional President of the Federal Council of Central America. Almanhaz declared all republican constitutions to be null and void and would provisionally be replaced by the Pact of Federation which became the supreme law of all Central American republics. In March 31, 1884, the Central American Expeditionary Forces was formed by Federal Council of Central America and comprise of the soldiers from all republics' armies with Almanhaz as its commander-in-chief.
Almanhaz's forces attacked Alajuela, eastern Costa Rica, in April 30, 1884 and launched a siege to San Jose in May 7, 1884. Despite successfully conquered northern part of the country, Almanhaz's forces failed to advance to San Jose after an intensive resistance from the Costa Rican army.
After a ten-day siege, the Costa Rican army finally retreated from San Jose to Cartago in May 17, 1884. The Federation flag hoisted at the top of Costa Rican Assembly building. From the balcony of Assembly building, Pedro Almanhaz declared the Costa Rican constitution ceased to exist and Costa Rica now being under the direct control of the Federal Congress. The provisional Costa Rican junta was set up by Almanhaz in April 29, 1884 with Fernando Xavier de Heredia as its governor.