Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Spanish rule

In the early sixteenth century, the Spanish conquistadors ventured into ports to extend their dominion to the area. They called the land "(Provincia De Nuestro Señor Jesus Cristo, El Salvador Del Mundo)" ("Province Of Our Lord Jesus Christ, The Savior Of The World"), which was subsequently abbreviated to "El Salvador". Pedro de Alvarado sent an expedition into the region from Guatemala in 1524, but the indigenous Pipil drove them out in 1526. In 1528 he sent a second expedition, which succeeded, and the Spanish founded their first capital city in El Salvador at a place known today as Ciudad Vieja, the first site of the Villa de San Salvador, 10 km. south of Suchitoto. This capital was occupied from 1528 until 1545 when it was abandoned, and the capital city moved to where modern San Salvador is today.

Towards the end of 1811, a combination of internal and external factors motivated Central American elites to attempt to gain independence from the Spanish Crown. The most important internal factor was the desire of local elites to control the country's affairs free of involvement from Spanish authorities. The main external factors motivating the independence movement were the success of the French and American revolutions in the eighteenth century, and the weakening of the Spanish Crown's military power as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, with the resulting inability to control its colonies effectively.

On the 5th of November 1811, Salvadoran priest José Matías Delgado, rang the bells of Iglesia La Merced in San Salvador, calling for insurrection and launching the 1811 Independence Movement. This insurrection was suppressed and many of its leaders were arrested and served sentences in jail. Another insurrection was launched in 1814, and again it was suppressed. Finally, on September 15, 1821, in light of unrest in Guatemala, Spanish authorities capitulated and signed the 'Acta de Independencia' (Deed of Independence) which released all of the Captaincy of Guatemala (comprising current territories of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica and the Mexican state of Chiapas) from Spanish rule and declared its Independence.

In early 1822, the authorities of the newly independent Central American provinces, meeting in Guatemala City, voted to join the newly constituted First Mexican Empire under Agustín de Iturbide. El Salvador resisted, insisting on autonomy for the Central American countries. A Mexican military detachment marched to San Salvador and suppressed dissent, but with the fall of Iturbide on 19 March 1823, the army decamped back to Mexico. Shortly thereafter, the authorities of the provinces revoked the vote for joining Mexico, deciding instead to form a federal union of the five remaining provinces (Chiapas permanently joined Mexico at this juncture).


In 1823, the United Provinces of Central America was formed by the five Central American states under General Manuel José Arce. When this federation was dissolved in 1839, El Salvador became an independent republic. El Salvador's early history as an independent state was marked by frequent revolutions.

From 1872 to 1898, El Salvador was a prime mover in attempts to reestablish an isthmian federation. The governments of El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua formed the Greater Republic of Central America via the Pact of Amapala in 1895. Guatemala and Costa Rica considered joining the Greater Republic (which was rechristened the United States of Central America when its constitution went into effect in 1898), but neither country did so. This union, which had planned to establish its capital city at Amapala on the Golfo de Fonseca, did not survive a coup in El Salvador in 1898.

The enormous profits that coffee yielded as a monoculture export served as an impetus for the process whereby land became concentrated in the hands of an oligarchy of few families.[citation needed] A succession of presidents from the ranks of the Salvadoran oligarchy, nominally both conservative and liberal, throughout the last half of the nineteenth century generally agreed on the promotion of coffee as the predominant cash crop, on the development of infrastructure (railroads and port facilities) primarily in support of the coffee trade, on the elimination of communal landholdings to facilitate further coffee production, on the passage of anti-vagrancy laws to ensure that displaced campesinos and other rural residents provided sufficient labor for the coffee fincas (plantations), and on the suppression of rural discontent. In 1912, the national guard was created as a rural police force.

20th century

The economy was based on coffee-growing after the mid-19th century and, as the world market for indigo withered away, prospered or suffered as the world coffee price fluctuated. El Salvador president Tomas Regalado came to power by force in 1898 and his regime lasted until 1903. He reinitiated designating presidential successors. Up until 1913 El Salvador had been politically stable, but there was popular discontent as well, president Araujo was killed and there are many hypotheses for his murder.

Araujo was followed by the Melendez-Quinonez dynasty that lasted from 1913 to 1927. Pio Romero Bosque, ex-Minister of the Government, succeeded president Jorge Melendez and in 1930 he announced free elections in which Ing. Arturo Araujo came to power on March 1, 1931. His government only lasted nine months. His Labor Party lacked political and government experience and many Labor party members used government offices inefficiently.

In that year, Farabundo Martí came back from exile that was ordered by Romero Bosque, sending him to California and spending time in San Pedro Immigration Office. He was visited by some local leftists. President Romero Bosque sent him away before the upcoming 1930 presidential elections for his communist activities. President Araujo faced popular discontent as people expected economic reforms and land. Demonstrations started since the first week of his government in front of the National Palace. His Minister of War was General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez and his National Police Director Rochac, the president's brother-in-law.

A coup d'état was organized by junior officers and the first strike started in the First Regiment of Infantry across from the National Palace in downtown San Salvador and only the First Regiment of Calvary and the National Police was loyal to the president and defended him (the National Police had been paid its payroll), but later that night on December 1931, after hours of military fight and outnumbered surrendered to the military revolution.

The Directorate composed by officers had behind a shadowy figure, who is told by Thomas Anderson in his book Matanza, his name was Rodolfo Duke, a rich man and also General Martínez. The causes of the revolt are mainly supposed to be for the army discontent against president Araujo for not paying the army for some months. Araujo left the National Palace and later tried to organize to defeat the revolt, but was unable.

The U.S. Minister in El Salvador met with the Directorate and later recognized the government with Vice President Martínez who agreed to have later presidential elections. (Martínez resigned in 1934 six months before the presidential elections to be able to run for the presidency and then as the only candidate won the election ruling from 1935 to 1939 and then 1939-1943 and finally started his 4th term in 1944 but resigned in May after the General strike. Martínez said he was going to respect the Constitution which said he couldn't be reelected, but he didn't).

From December 1931, the year of the coup in which Martínez came to power, there was brutal suppression of rural resistance. The most notable event was the February 1932 Salvadoran peasant uprising, commonly referred to as La Matanza (the massacre), organized by Farabundo Martí and with leaders like Abel Cuenca, and other academic people like Alfonso Luna and Mario Zapata. Only Abel Cuenca survived, the other communists were killed by the government.