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Revista Interamericana de Bibliografía (RIB)
Número: 1-4
Título: 1997
Sección: Artículos / Articles


Central to the continuing Conservative/Liberal polemic over Central American unity is Francisco Morazán (1792-1842). Morazán fulfilled late nineteenth century Liberals need for a founding father symbol who would legitimize and rally support for Liberal caudillo schemes to unify the region (these schemes numbered twenty-eight by 19421 ). The purpose of this paper is to trace what historiographic evidence suggests: the conscious development of an “Arthurian” mystique of Francisco Morazán. By developing this issue this paper offers perspective on two other issues surrounding Morazán: his responsibility for disunion and his relationship to British economic and political intrusion on the isthmus.

Additionally, this paper traces the development of the Morazán myth from its inception beginning with Lorenzo Montúfar and the 1892 Morazán centennial, to the latest interpretation of this myth. The anti-Morazán rebuttals and an analysis of recent attempts to de-mythologize Morazán are also a focus of this paper.

A short synopsis of Morazán’s life aids in following the historiographic discussion. Morazán’s grandfather was an Italian merchant who married into a distinguished criollo family network during the Bourbon Reform. During the struggle for independence, this family network contained both the moderate leader Cecilio del Valle and his nephew, Honduran Liberal leader Dionisio Herrera. Thus Morazán was a junior member of the family which led the nationalist Honduran elite to challenge Guatemala’s Aycinena “family” in their bid for Central American hegemony. Born in Tegucigalpa, 1792, Morazán was still an undistinguished Honduran official when civil war erupted between United Provinces President Manuel Arce and Liberal opponents in 1826. Amateurish and untried, militia Lieutenant Morazán nevertheless rallied the beleaguered Liberal forces to a series of spectacular victories that culminated with the final triumph at Guatemala City in April, 1829. Elected president in 1830, Morazán headed a Liberal experiment in education, ecclesiastical, judicial, and land reform. However, Morazán spent much of his presidency suppressing continued and numerous revolts; ended finally by Rafael Carrera’s major 1837 uprising that led to Morazán’s exile in 1840. Morazán made one more attempt to reunify Central America, an attempt that ended in his execution on September 15, 1842, coincidentally the anniversary of Central American independence.

Written shortly after his death, the first historical accounts of Morazán were criticisms by contemporaries Manuel Montúfar y Coronado, Alejandro Marure, and Miguel García Granados. Although the accounts by Marure and García Granados were not written expressly as propaganda, all three works were used by the Conservative regime of Rafael Carrera to denigrate Morazán’s hero image. All three produced the negative image which the later Morazán myth had to overcome.

The most critical, most widely used, and most important of the three earliest accounts is the Memorias de Jalapa, written by a Conservative opponent of Morazán, Manuel Montúfar y Coronado.2 Although he recognized Morazán’s military talent, Montúfar y Coronado Morazán ridiculed Morazán as a typical revolutionary demagogue: a mediocrity whom “chance carried to glory.”3 According to the author, Morazán’s victories were either overblown by publicity or were the product of his subordinates. Montúfar y Coronado concluded that if Morazán had added to his natural talents of cold calculation and self-interest a conciliatory attitude to his opponents, he might have healed the nation.4 García Granados agrees with Montúfar y Coronado, stating the failure of union rested greatly on Morazán’s wasting the conciliatory spirit existing after his 1829 triumph. At that auspicious moment, even Guatemalans were willing to give a new (and victorious) national leader a chance.5

To counter the version of Montúfar y Coronado, the Guatemalan government of Mariano Gálvez commissioned Alejandro Marure to write a history of the United Provinces in 1834.6 Due to the changing political climate, however, Marure was only able to publish first of three planned volumes of the Bosquejo Histórico de Centroamérica. However, by the time it came out in 1837, he was disenchanted with what he perceived as Morazán’s predilections for military adventures instead of administration. This became obvious in the Efémerides, Marure’s chronicle of political events after 1828, in which Marure criticized Morazán’s leaving Guatemala after every campaign against Carrera. Marure felt Guatemala would have been better served if Morazán had stayed to deal with the state’s political problems.7

The last of the three contemporary accounts was that of Miguel García Granados (1809-1878). The author belonged to an illustrious Andalusian family that made a fortune in colonial Guatemala.8 García Granados’ Memorias covers the years 1811 to 1839, and characterized Morazán as having courage, natural leadership (don de mando), and energy. Unfortunately, according to the author, these were not matched with equal military or political talent. García Granados agreed with Montúfar y Coronado, and believed that the failure of union rested greatly on Morazán’s vengefulness in 1829. García Granados maintained that instead of expropriating property and exiling Conservative leaders, Morazán should have taken advantage of the potential for reconciliation existing at the beginning of his regime. At that auspicious moment, even Guatemalans were willing to give a new (and victorious) national leader a chance.9

By 1871, the historical image of Morazán was one of an inexperienced mediocrity whose personal shortcomings had prevented Central American unification. Montúfar y Coronado expressed the prevailing verdict: “the political ground of Central America was not yet ready for the seed of heroes.”10 It was this dismal image that Lorenzo Montúfar set out to transform in his works.

After the 1871 Liberal revolution in Guatemala, President Justo Rufino Barrios commissioned Lorenzo Montúfar y Rivera Maestre to write the Reseña Histórica de Centroamérica, a partisan defense of Morazán and the United Provinces Liberal regime. Montúfar admired historian von Ranke’s method of making “history as it really was” promote partisan national unification. Imitating von Ranke, Montúfar adroitly selected “objective” facts to back up his theme: Morazán was the founder of Central America’s nationalism, centered in a Liberal agenda. Montúfar indicates his bias in the work’s dedication to Barrios, described as the destroyer of the “fatal regime” of the Guatemalan Conservatives. Additionally, Montúfar presents the historical figures as actors on a stage, playing out representations of larger forces. Because of his success in setting the agenda for later debate on Liberalism and regional identity, later Liberal and Conservative authors would follow Montúfar’s method, including his plot and subjective attitude.11

Montúfar first had to discredit earlier commentaries, which he described as “presenting the Serviles as angels who form celestial choruses, and the Liberals as a society of incompetents.”12 Montúfar countered critical descriptions of Morazán by introducing newspaper reports and positive first-hand accounts of his hero by John L. Stephens and E. G. Squier, both United States diplomats, and of Nicolás Raoul, a Napoleonic veteran who served Morazán to his career’s end.13

However, Montúfar’s most successful witness was Morazán himself. Notable is the “Memoria de David,” Morazán’s stirring defense of his resistance to the legitimate President of the United Provinces, Manual Arce. Written in exile, in 1841, the “Memoria” equated the Arce regime to the then current coalition of the Aycinena oligarchy and the British protectorate over Central America. The “Memoria” was also the rationalization of Morazán’s 1841 return to Central America, ostensively to fight British imperialism. By highlighting the “Memoria de David” in his biography, Montúfar legitimized the violent takeover of Barrios, and made Morazán into the first Central American anti-imperialist. Finally, Morazán’s self-assured descriptions of his victories allowed Central Americans to temporarily forget the current political malaise by recalling past glory.14

The first three volumes of the Reseña Histórica cover the United Provinces (1823-1842). They treat the civil war between the Liberals and Conservatives (1826-1829), the Liberal federal experiment between 1830 and 1838, and the final dissolution of union by 1840. Morazán is the central figure, and Montúfar here presents the first full narration of Morazán’s career. Volume three ends with a description of Morazán’s betrayal and execution, which equated the hero with the sun: “As the moment in which the sun disappeared below the horizon, the light that guides the free since the victory at Trinidad Hill disappeared.” Here, Montúfar artfully inspires hope, for as the sun will surely rise again on the morrow over La Trinidad, a unifier like Morazán will rise again over Central America.15

Montúfar thus supplies in the Reseña Histórica the basic Morazán image that has not essentially changed in the present. Montúfar and later writers supply the answer. Montúfar builds this image in his comparisons of Morazán to Washington, Lincoln, Bolívar, San Martín, Hidalgo, and Juárez. That is, Montúfar desires to build a national identity for a united Central America upon revolutionary legends, similar to the identity built for Mexico by Carlos María Bustamante, and for Argentina by Bartolomé Mitre. The successors to Montúfar only add elements which increase Morazán’s founding father image.

Montúfar completed his work in time for the 1892 centennial of Morazán’s birth, which symbolized a new desire for regional development and unity. An early manifestation of this desire occurred in 1848, when El Salvador buried the remains of Morazán with honors. In 1882, the “La Juventud” Society, the literary society that was the “intellectual wellspring” of Salvadorean Positivism, presented a sixtieth anniversary celebration of Central American Independence with an honorarium and a statue in a plaza newly-dedicated to Morazán in the capital city, San Salvador. In the same year, to commemorate its first anniversary, the Honduran Liberal regime of Marco Aurelio Soto dedicated the nation’s first Morazán statue “to immortalize the greatest of ideas: national union of Central America.” In 1899 Guatemalan college students formed the “El Derecho” society, which in the 1920’s would evolve into the Central American Unionist Party. Throughout this time, the region’s new Positivist governments tried several attempts at military unification.16

In the midst of this came the centennial celebration, which symbolized the long campaign to rejuvenate Morazán’s image. Central America’s most illustrious writers took the centennial opportunity to complete the deification of Morazán as the symbol of unity and development, already begun in the Reseña Histórica.

Lorenzo Montúfar himself led this campaign, and for the centennial prepared a collection of thirty-two historical eulogies. In these, Montúfar reinforced the Reseña’s image of Morazán as the first anti-imperialist martyr against Anglo encroachment. Montúfar even claimed that the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850, whose purpose was to supposedly assure protection of the region from European designs, was the final legacy of Morazán. Montúfar also rationalized Morazán’s hostile incursions into Guatemala: “as Garibaldi had to storm Rome to complete the union of greater Italy, so Morazán had to take Guatemala City in 1829 to unify Central America.”17

The greatest centennial celebrations were commissioned by the Guatemalan Unionist Movement. This was a cover organization for President Reyno Barrios, who like his earlier namesake harbored desires to unite Central America.18

The highlight of the centennial was the unveiling of Morazán’s statue in Guatemala City on October 3, 1892, Morazán’s birthday. Later collected as the commemorative volume El Centenario del General Francisco Morazán, speeches and poems by the leaders of a new intellectual movement dedicated to progress and unity accompanied the unveiling. The eulogies pointed out that Morazán was born “in an era in which the whole world was prolific with great men,” and that Morazán’s victories made him the “most formidable gladiator” of Central American nationalism.19

However, the centennial works that most contributed to the Morazán myth were biographies. Written by writers from all Central American countries, these works identified Morazán with regional unity. They followed the format of the Reseña Histórica, but added information which finally turned Morazán into a larger-than-life myth, forever identifying isthmian unification with Liberalism.

The centennial biography by Honduran Ramón Rosa was a major step in Morazán’s deification. Rosa validated Morazán’s growing association with Napoleon (a popular Latin symbol) by falsely stating his ancestry was Corsican. Rosa was the first to state the existence of an Honduran political dynastic succession consisting of Cecilio del Valle, Dionisio Herrera, and Francisco Morazán. Dionisio Herrera married Morazán’s cousin. In Guatemala City, Herrera was the student of Father Goicoechea and Herrera’s cousin, Cecilio del Valle, both intellectual fathers of Central American nationalism. According to Rosa, Herrera carried the spirit of the Enlightenment and French Revolution back to Tegucigalpa, a city of “high ideas and men of enthusiasm,” amongst whom figured his protege, Morazán. For Rosa, Morazán was the native son voice crying out in the wilderness, prophesying an era of Central American development and political unity Rosa saw imminent in his time.20

Part of the desire of Rosa’s generation to deify Morazán was his self-proclaimed anti-imperialism. Rosa, like Montúfar, helped oust the filibusterer William Walker from Nicaragua. Rosa therefore urged for Morazán’s Memorias to be taught in schools as “patriotic catechism.” Throughout his work, Rosa even equated Morazán with Jesús in his role as moral example and as national saviour.21

Another centennial biography, the Vida de Morazán by Rafael Reyes, emphasized Morazán’s military triumphs. According to Reyes, these victories justified traveler John Lloyd Stephen’s description of Morazán as Central America’s greatest man.22

Eduardo Martínez López’s Biografía del General Francisco Morazán, claims to contain heretofore “unknown and unedited” primary sources, although his book essentially copies the Reseña Histórica. Martínez López blames Arce for the 1820’s civil war, having stolen the presidency from the “great man,” José del Valle, the only one who could have successfully led the new nation. The author exaggerated Morazán’s youth to present him as a precocious backwater genius. Further, in the authors description of the first Morazán presidential term, “high-minded” men, the “most illustrious” in the country, surround President Morazán to give the explicit impression of a Liberal “Camelot.”23

The final centennial work, by Joaquín Rodas, openly attempted to create a national myth: “Crusade of Morazán.” This myth, according to the author, would inspire the re-union of Central America.24 Even the chapter headings echo those of Medieval heroic and religious epics. Thus “Epopeya” (Epic Poem) narrates Morazán’s military campaigns; “Tragedia” treats Morazán’s defeat, exile, and execution; and “Apoteosis” (Deification) describes the centennial celebration as the start of a rejuvinated unification crusade. The last chapter, “Juicio Final,” is the favorable comparison between Morazán and Napoleon made by Morazán’s French general Raoul.

By the close of the Morazán Centennial, Central America’s Positivism intellectuals had successfully built a legendary founding father in Morazán. This legend promoted similarities between other nationalist heroes, particularly England’s King Arthur and France’s Napoleón Bonaparte. Like Arthur, Morazán rose miraculously from obscurity to lead a “round table” of the most illustrious and idealistic civic personages. However, Morazán was constantly in search of a permanent Camelot, as regional jealousies delayed establishment of a Federal District. Like Arthur, Morazán is felled by the forces of traditional superstition and regional rivalry; and similar to Napoleon, Morazán is invincible until his Waterloo of Guatemala in 1840. Morazán created his own version of Napoleon’s “Immortals:” the Texiguat Volunteer Cazadores (light infantry). They followed Morazán to exile and to his fatal return to fight foreign encroachment.

The myth even used the same gimmick as the current Disney portrayal of young Arther: time travel. Centennialist author Martínez López claimed the teenage Morazán drew his federalist notions from reading Alexis De Toqueville’s Democracy in America in the library of his patron, Dionisio Herrera. However, Herrera did not possess his library until 1819, when Morazán was twenty-seven. Furthermore, Democracy in America‘s first publication was in 1835, and could not have reached Central America until 1836, when Morazán’s federalist experiment was in its nadir. However fallacious the myth, its success is evident because every Central American unification plan since the Centennial is done in the name of Morazán.25

Even before the centennial efforts, the Reseña Histórica started to effect Morazán’s historical representation. Hubert Howe Bancroft strengthened Montúfar’s Liberal canon of Morazán by using it in his History of Central America. This became the leading nineteenth century work on independent Central America.26 Even Mary Wilhelmine Williams, whose 1920 article conflicted with the then dominant view that the Conservatives were responsible for the Union’s breakup, agrees with the Liberal canon that Morazán was “the greatest man Central America knew.”27

As shown by historian William Griffith, since the interpretation of Morazán by Montúfar and the Centennialists, no new interpretation or set of issues developed until the last few years. Central American and foreign works echoed the Centennial interpretation of Morazán, using Montúfar’s format and concentrating on the heroe’s military campaigns. Most post-Centennial works were polemical, had little intellectual argument, and lacked documentation.28 However, inspired by the centennial of Morazán’s death in 1942, notable works showed the continued evolution of the Morazán myth kept pace with the needs and evolution of Liberal doctrine.

Two of these centennial works, often referred to by later Liberal Morazán biographies, were used to bolster the Guatemalan democratic revolution in 1944. These books, by Jorge Jiménez Solis and Ángel Zúñiga Huetes, put the final touches on the Liberal Morazán myth.29

Jorge Jiménez Solis refutes the charge that Morazán was a typical uninspired clerk before his military career. According to the author, Morazán rose to prominence through pluck and self-education. Young Morazán was the “heart of the Herrera administration,” ready to spring into the breach when his leader was imprisoned following the capitulation of Comayagua to the invading Conservatives in 1827.30

Ángel Zúñiga Huetes’ work crowns the Morazán myth. Through modern scholarship, Zúñiga accurately fixes Morazán’s genealogy as Roman, not Corsican, and modifies important details of the hero’s life.31 The last part of the work chronicles the rehabilitation of Morazán’s image and its significance, and thus serves as an update of Roda’s 1892 centennial work.32 Zúñiga also claims the burning of Herrera’s library by the Inquisition is one source of Morazán’s strident anti-clericalism.33

Consonant with the “Spiritual Socialism” of Guatemala’s revolutionary president Arévalo, Zúñiga argues laissez-faire was not central to Morazán’s personal philosophy. Instead, claims Zúñiga, Morazán’s programs were meant to socially aid the whole populace. Zúñiga’s last chapter, “The Hero,” identifies Morazán with Thomas Carlyle’s deified national hero: what Odin and Thor are to the Norse, Morazán is to Central America.

The last Morazán tribute for the 1942 centennial was a short radio address by noted Mexican author Luís Chávez Orozco. He hailed Morazán’s laws of free press and of religious freedom as the inspiration for Mexico’s bourgeois revolution, and Chávez Orozco concluded salvation from fascism abroad and caudillism at home depended on present-day Latin America emulating heroes such as Morazán.34

Before the latest series of Morazanica, which occurred in the 1992 bicentennial of his birth, a few works were written that merit mention. Carlos Ferro did an interesting but unscholarly comparison of Morazán with San Martín; while Ricardo Dueñas van Severen claims that Napoleón’s example was the major impetus for Morazán’s anticlericalism and military affinity.35

Miquel R. Ortega and Longino Becerra wrote two tributes in time for the 1992 bicentennial. The work by Ortega is definitely the more impressive, being scholarly and well-documented. Although favorable to Morazán, Ortega makes an attempt at objectivity. The work’s unique aspect is its backwards chronology: the author tries the literary devise of Morazán retracing his life the night before execution in an attempt to find his fatal mistakes.36 Most notably, Becerra’s Marxist thesis is that Morazán is the leader of an anti-feudal, pro-democratic bourgeois revolutionary tradition, which the author traces to the proletariat uprising on Bastille Day, July 14, 1789. Ironically, Becerra sees the factions promoting Morazán as a national hero as diametrically opposed to his point of view, deriding them as a “Thermidorian reaction.”37

In contrast to the Liberal tradition, the anti-Morazán authors are few. Additionally, they never developed a clear negative image of Morazán to match the hero myth of Montúfar and the Centennialists. The forcefulness of the Liberal’s imposing their interpretation of Morazán as the symbol of regional unity and a past glory so in contrast to Central America’s present malaise helped tip public opinion their way.38 Yet, the Conservative forces started immediately to counter the Liberal interpretation of Morazán. Their main arguments have not changed since Montúfar y Coronado. Their major additions are that the Liberals, especially Lorenzo Montúfar, exaggerate the record and selectively use documentation to create a false myth to serve their political agenda.

Manuel Cobo Batres, an opponent of Lorenzo Montúfar, complained of Liberal attempts to brainwash an entire Guatemalan generation by making the Reseña Histórica mandatory reading as school texts.39

In the same period, Mencos Franco challenged Lorenzo Montúfar on the Reseña Histórica’s interpretation of Morazán. Mencos first accused Montúfar of exaggeration and destroying documents. Morazán was the champion of a provincial oligarchy which rebeled against the duly elected government of Arce. Mencos Franco portrays Morazán’s 1829 expulsion of the clergy as sacrilegious, treacherous, and splitting the nation.40

The rebuttals to the Liberal interpretation which follow Mencos Franco are, similar to their Liberal counterparts, shallow, subjective, and not documented. One exception is Ricardo Fernández Guardia’s Las verdaderas causas de la caída y muerte de General Francisco Morazán, written for the 1942 Centennial. It discusses the effects of Morazán’s desperate reunification gamble on the internal politics of Guardia’s Costa Rica. Guardia criticizes Morazán for being oppressive. For example, Guardia states that Morazán forced loans on citizens to finance his campaign and executed dissidents. He repeats the myth that Morazán ordered the execution of a Carrera relative and afterwards had his head fried in oil and publicly exhibited on a pike.

Although unscholarly, the most influential contemporary Conservative rebuttal to the Liberal myth is by Clemente Marroquín Rojas. Marroquín Rojas was the popular and anti-military Guatemala City mayor who was Montenegro’s Vice-presidential running-mate.41 The main thesis of Carrera y Morazán is that although well-meaning, Morazán’s efforts at forcing European-style political and economic development left Central America in ruins after a ten-year regime of constant conflict. Rafael Carrera, in contrast, left Guatemala strong and prosperous after twenty-two years of peace. Marroquín Rojas essentially concludes Central America is not a natural political unity: “no one, including Morazán, could have succeeded in making it so.”42

In a polemical style matching that of Lorenzo Montúfar, Marroquín Rojas reverses the entire Liberal myth. He suggests that Dionisio Herrera was a dictator representing a provincial oligarchy. Additionally, the author upholds Arce and not Morazán as the true opponent of separatism. According to Marroquín Rojas, instead of a round table of the “high minded,” Morazán surrounded himself with an incompetent, corrupt administration that didn’t produce a balanced budget in seven years. The author further maintains that Morazán imposed governors on the Central American states he could control. Any who challenged his sway were deposed, like Cornejo and San Martín of El Salvador. Even those who were deemed potential rivals were manipulated out of office. For example, Pedro Molino and Antonio Rivera Cabezas, the two predecessors to Mariano Gálvez as Guatemala’s governor, were dismissed due to technicalities, but really due to their strong personalities. The author therefore states “Morazán was more audacious than even the Liberals’ claim for Arce.”43

One of the best documented biographies is that published under the pseudonym “M. del Apartado.” This was said to be the unpublished memoirs of a nineteenth century Conservative. It contains almost 600 pages, one hundred and ten short chapters, divided into three sections: biography, background aspects (such as Morazán’s philosophy), and a documents section.44

Similar to the Liberal authors, Apartado claims objectivity. He states “it would be easier to write a book making Morazán a heroic symbol, but it is more challenging to attempt a portrayal historically accurate, with his faults as well as his glories.”45 However, Apartado thereafter indulges in all the old Conservative criticisms of treachery against Arce. For example, he violated the 1829 Guatemala City truce, and he ruled with a clique of sycophants. The difference is that copying Montúfar’s work, Apartado presents the documentation to back up his charges in each chapter.

The arguments of each side are summed up as follows. To the Liberals, Morazán is the embodiment of regional unity. Only Morazán had the charisma to gather the initial group of Liberal greats into his government. This in turn launched a Liberal “Camelot,” the only achievement in an otherwise dismal decade for Latin American Liberal forces. Only Conservative conspiracy, British intrusion, and Liberal tendency for disunity caused its downfall. According to the Liberal argument, rather than blame Morazán for dissolving the union, he should be praised for giving it a ten year extension.

The Conservative rebuttal goes back to the only recorded eyewitnesses. Morazán was initially a mediocre representative of provincial Liberal elites who overturned the only legitimate United Provinces government. Morazán presided over a hasty, unrealistic attempt to force a foreign ideology on Central America. Morazán’s initial chance for unity was destroyed by his own inability to govern or to include opponents in the process of healing the country. Occasionally, but with little force, Conservatives include Morazán in the condemnation usually reserved for Guatemalan governor Gálvez. They suggest Morazán sold the country to British commercial interests.

Any objective verdict on the role of Morazán, faulting the scarcity of Central American objectivity, would be found in foreign scholarship. Initially, United States historians followed the Liberal interpretation, but recently an era of de-constructing the Latin American Liberal myths include those surrounding Morazán.

The Liberal myth influenced not only Bancroft and Williams, but also Chamberlain, who wrote the only full Morazán biography in English. He describes Morazán as a “destructive comet across the Central American sky,” and quotes John L. Stephens’ opinion that the United Provinces’ downfall was due to caudillo loyalty supplanting national identity, a situation in which Morazán’s own personality cult had a considerable part.46

After studying new data, it is evident that the succeeding era of scholarship became disenchanted with the Liberal Morazán hagiography. Recently, however, an era of de-constructing myths include those surrounding Morazán. Mario Rodríguez’s Palmerstonian Diplomat explains how Morazán’s limitations in great part caused Chatfield to finally side with Carrera. E. Bradford Burns, in Poverty of Progress, showed Morazán ignoring peasant “folk” interests in his plans for progress. Ralph Lee Woodward’s Rafael Carrera and the Emergence of the Republic of Guatemala is an expanded interpretation of Applied Enlightenment, a series of articles dealing with the United Provinces.47 This new interpretation of the United Provinces was headed by Tulane’s William Griffith. He reinvestigated the major crack in the Morazán myth, ignored by the Conservatives: Morazán’s relationship with British business. Perhaps this is due to the successful Liberal campaign to paint the Aycinena “family” as the epitome of collaboration with the British.

In the introduction to “The Personal Archive of Francisco Morazán,” William Griffith maintains that the documents show Morazán had controversial dealings with the British. This figured in an international scandal and two provincial revolts.48 Morazán was jealous of state governors who, unlike himself, had wealth to match their positions.49 Therefore, in 1831, Morazán became the business partner of Marshall Bennett, who Central America already knew as its most disreputable foreign businessman.50

Despite this, Morazán in 1835 sublet to Bennett the mahogany concession for most of the Honduran Atlantic coast, which Morazán himself obtained surreptitiously.51 In 1833, Bennett’s relationship with the president helped him gain exclusive rights to most of Guatemala’s mahogony assets. Morazán further attempted to procure a similar contract for Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast cutting rights. Together, Bennett and Morazán nearly obtained the mahogany cutting concession for all Central America, which would have rivaled in value the Pacific coast indigo and cochineal assets of Morazán’s political opponents, the Aycinena family.

Because many of the United Province’s natural resources were already controlled by British interests, Central Americans saw the Morazán administration as a “minion of colonial imperialism,” which fueled both the Espinosa revolt of 1836 and the Carrera revolt of 1837. Bennett’s monopoly also spurred opponents to seek a rival claim from the “king” of the Honduran Moskito Coast. This ended in Britain seizing the Honduran Roatan Islands and the Nicaraguan port of San Juan del Norte.

It is yet to be proven whether Morazán was a conscious sellout to British interests, but the evidence from his personal archives jeopardizes Morazán’s image as a selfless anti-imperialist champion.52 Rather his call for free competition should be understood “within a context so restricted as to exclude himself.”53 Morazán’s personal archives show relatives dominated the president’s business arrangements and government appointments.54 The effect Morazán’s mahogony affair had on the United Provinces’ disintegration is questionable, yet it doubtlessly encouraged internal resentment and external interference, and thereby compromises his image as a self-sacrificing patriot.55

What was the final influence of Montúfar’s Morazán myth? The myth helped deflect from Morazán’s embarrassing business arrangements. It gave Liberal caudillos and other unionists such as Salvador Mendieta a symbol of legitimacy. However, Morazán is still the only Central American symbol of unity, as Thomas Karnes aptly observes:

No man, then or since, came so close to being a Central American... for good or for evil, Francisco Morazán represents to the five republics today the dream of Central American confederation, and reference in the press to any new plan will invariably recall the ‘ideal of Morazán,’ even if the writer does not favor it.56

The proof of this assertion is that Morazán has become folk myth. In the isolated borderlands of Honduras and Nicaragua, ninety-year old vaqueros brag to credulous neighbors of fighting under Liberal anti-imperialist Francisco Morazán and his successor: Augusto C. Sandino.