Rafael Carrera
José Rafael Carrera Turcios (24 October 1814 Guatemala City
Guatemala City
Guatemala City , is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Guatemala and Central America...

 – 14 April 1865 Guatemala City) was the ruler of Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

 from 1844 to 1848 and from 1851 until his death in 1865. During his military career and presidency, the new nations in Central America faced numerous problems. This led to a rise of caudillos, a term that refers to charismatic populist leaders among the indigenous people. Many regional and national caudillos were interested in power for their own gain. Carrera was an exception as he genuinely took the interests of Guatemala's Indian majority to heart. Backed by the Church, conservatives, and land owners, he dominated politics in the first five decades of Guatemala's independence more than any other individual. He led the revolt against the federal government and was instrumental in breaking up the United Provinces of Central America (Provincias Unidas del Centroamérica).

Early life

Rafael Carrera was born on October 24, 1814 in Candelaria barrio of Guatemala City towards the end of the Spanish colonial period. He was of humble origin, a mestizo
Mestizo is a term traditionally used in Latin America, Philippines and Spain for people of mixed European and Native American heritage or descent...

 and illiterate. He first worked as an farmhand. He enlisted in the army during the civil war, which lasted from 1826-1829. He left the army in 1835, moved to Mataquescuintla, married Petrona Alvarez and worked as a swineherd
A swineherd is a person who looks after pigs. The term has fallen out of popular use in favour of pig farmer.-Swineherds in literature:* Hans Christian Andersen wrote a Fairy tale called, "The Swineherd"....


Rise to Power

In the 1830s Rafael Carrera pledged a vendetta
A feud , referred to in more extreme cases as a blood feud, vendetta, faida, or private war, is a long-running argument or fight between parties—often groups of people, especially families or clans. Feuds begin because one party perceives itself to have been attacked, insulted or wronged by another...

 against Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

n president Francisco Morazán
Francisco Morazán
General Francisco Morazán was a Honduran general and a politician who ruled several Central American states at different times during the turbulent period from 1827 to 1842. He rose to prominence at the legendary Battle of La Trinidad on November 11, 1827...

 and the Federal government after undisciplined Federal soldiers killed some of his relatives. By 1837, rural masses expressed numerous grievances against the liberal government. Inexperienced in republican politics, the liberal leaders didn't foresee the power of popular resistance and refused to change course. A cholera epidemic added to the frustration over grievances, led to panic, and helped Carrera rally the peasants into a continuous military resistance. Strongly supported by the Church, Carrera became de facto ruler on much of Guatemala and led a large uprising of Indians in eastern and southern Guatemala. The movement was strongly conservative and eager to restore many of the colonial institutions and traditions that the liberals had abandoned. Morazán repeatedly chased Carrera's forces out of cities and towns, but Carrera's followers would retake places as soon as Morazán's army left. For almost a decade, he was content being a military commander and enjoyed the respect of his followers.

First Presidency

Rafael Carrera was elected president in 1844. In 1847, Guatemala asserted itself as an independent republic. One year later, as result of pressure by pro-federation liberals who accused Carrera of neglecting the interests of the people he had defended ten years before, Carrera was briefly driven into exile. Back in Guatemala City within a few months, he was commander-in-chief, backed by military and political support of the Indian communities from the densely populated western highlands. During the first presidency from 1844 to 1848, he brought the country back from excessive conservatism to a traditional climate and restored relations with the Church in Rome.

Second Presidency

In 1850, a Constituent Assembly published Guatemala's first constitution and named Carrera its president. In 1852, he restored relations between Guatemala with Rome. In 1854, he was declared "supreme and perpetual leader of the nation" for life with the power to choose his successor. He was in that position until he died on April 14, 1865. While he pursued some measures to set up a foundation for economic prosperity to please the conservative landowners, military challenges at home and in a three-year war with Honduras
Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was previously known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize...

, El Salvador
El Salvador
El Salvador or simply Salvador is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country's capital city and largest city is San Salvador; Santa Ana and San Miguel are also important cultural and commercial centers in the country and in all of Central America...

, and Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean...

 dominated his presidency. His rivalry with Gerardo Barrios
Gerardo Barrios
Gerardo Barrios , was President of El Salvador 12 March 1859 - 26 October 1863.Barrios was a liberal and supported the unity of Central America. He served as president of El Salvador several times - in 1858, from 1859 to 1860 and again from 1861...

, President of El Salvador, resulted in open war in 1863. At Coatepeque
Coatepeque may refer to either of the following geographical locations:*El Salvador**Coatepeque, Santa Ana**Coatepeque Caldera*Guatemala**Coatepeque, Quetzaltenango...

 the Guatemalans suffered a severe defeat, which was followed by a truce. Honduras now joined with El Salvador, and Nicaragua and Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica , officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a multilingual, multiethnic and multicultural country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east....

 with Guatemala. The contest was finally settled in favor of Carrera, who besieged and occupied San Salvador and made himself dominant also in Honduras and Nicaragua. He continued to act in concert with the Clerical Party, and tried to maintain friendly relations with the European governments. Before his death, Carrera nominated a general, Vicente Cerna Sandoval
Vicente Cerna Sandoval
Vicente Cerna Sandoval was president of Guatemala from 24 May 1865 to 29 June 1871....

, as his successor.


Carrera didn't significantly enhance the life of rural Indians, but he delayed the destruction of their culture that characterized the liberals' capitalist developments. Carrera's regime established the foundations of all following government including "economic control by unified elites, the military as the Latinos' means of social mobility, and even the alienation of Indian land and labor." His success was the result of his military brilliance, charisma, and his ability to quickly identify core issues problems. His rule may have been arbitrary and severe, but not more so that of other Latin American leaders. The Pope awarded Carrera the Order of St. Gregory in 1854, and one year after his death, his face was put on coins with the title “Founder of the Republic of Guatemala.”

External links

  • History of Guatemala
    History of Guatemala
    The history of Guatemala begins with the arrival of the first human settlers as early as 12,000 BC or even 18,000 BC. Civilization developed and flourished during the Pre-Columbian era with little to no contact with cultures from outside of Mesoamerica...

  • History of Central America
    History of Central America
    The history of Central America is the study of the past of the region known as Central America.- Before European contact :In pre-Columbian times, most of modern Central America was part of the Mesoamerican civilization. The Native American societies of Mesoamerica occupied the land ranging from...

  • Biography of Rafael Carrera

Further reading

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.