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General José Francisco Morazán Quezada was a Central American statesman, lawyer, orator, and general born in Tegucigalpamarker, Hondurasmarker, in 1792; he was executed as a traitor in San Josemarker, Costa Ricamarker, 15 September 1842. He was also the leader of the Liberal Party: President of the Federal Republic of Central America (1830–1834; 1835–1839); Head of state of Hondurasmarker (1827–1830), Guatemalamarker (1829), El Salvadormarker (1839–1840) and dictator of Costa Ricamarker (1842).

General Francisco Morazán is considered one of the most important military leaders in the history of Central America. From his overwhelming victory, against the forces of president Arce, directed by colonel Justo Milla in 1827, to the invasion of Costa Rica in 1842, Morazán proved himself to be an excellent military strategist.

For more than a decade, Morazán dominated the political and military scene of Central America. Recognized as a great visionary, thinker, and politician, Francisco Morazán tried to transform Central America into a progressive nation by means of his liberal reforms. But the boldness of these changes for the times led to 1837 a revolution in Guatemala that culminated in the fall of the Federal Republic of Central America.

In the end, Morazán was betrayed by his own liberal ideology. His ideas did not materialize because much of the Central American people abandoned the liberal cause. This played in favor of the Conservative leaders who, in order to protect their own interests, ended up dividing Central America into five small nations.


José Francisco Morazán Quezada was born in the Village of San Miguel of Tegucigalpamarker, Hondurasmarker, then part of the Spanishmarker colony of New Spain on October 3, 1792. On October 16 of the same year, he was baptized in the church of Our Lady of the same place. Son of Eusebio Morazán Alemán, and Guadalupe Quezada Borjas, and grandson of immigrant Gian Batista Morazini members of the upper-class colonial. Gian Batista arrived in Hondurasmarker in 1760 from the island of Corsicamarker.

Francisco Morazán had a brother and two sisters: Benito, Marcelina, and Cesarea Morazán. While, Francisco chose politics and the army; his brother Benito chose an ecclesiastic career. The wife of Francisco Morazán was the lady Maria Josefa Lastiri. The General married Maria on December 30, 1825 in the city of Comayaguamarker .They had a daughter whom they named Adela. Outside of this marriage Morazán had two sons: José Antonio and Francisco.

All those who knew Morazan describe him as a tall man, physically strong, intellectually gifted, self-disciplined, and at times controversial. He used all his attributes to fight against all of those he considered enemies of his ideal and of the 'Great Country'. In March 1840, in the small town of Ahuachapanmarker (El Salvador), Francisco Morazán was met by John Lloyd Stephens. In volume two of his book, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapasmarker, and Yucatanmarker, Stephens describes a meeting with Morazán:


Francisco Morazán was for the most part a self-educated man, he completed elementary school with the help of Fray José Antonio Murga, later on Morazán, mastered the French language. This allowed him to acquire a great knowledge of the French revolution, Montesquieu, and the social contract of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The young Morazán Quezada, also familiarized himself deeply with the War of Independence in Spain, the history of Europe in his diverse phases, as well as the biographies of the Greek and Roman leaders. In the military field, Morazán did not have a formal preparation, all he knew was in a theoretical way, through the battles fought by Napoleon Bonaparte and other warriors.

When Central America declared its independence, Morazán was preparing himself in matters of public service in Tegucigalpa. The future commander was employed at the town hall of that town as assistant of the mayor, Narciso Mayol. There, he performed as secretary of the mayor, defender of office in judicial cases of civil and criminal matters, among other things. This allowed Francisco Morazán to become very knowledgeable about the structure and functioning of the public administration of the province.

When the top authorities of Guatemala ran the official bulletin declaring their independence from Spain in 1821, the news was met with great joy in Honduras. But immediately thereafter arose the idea of the annexation of Central America to Mexicomarker. Comayagua and its governing manager José Tinoco de Contreras supported this idea, but Tegucigalpa's people and authorities were against it.

For this reason, Tinoco decided to take repressive actions against the authorities of Tegucigalpa. Before this situation, a volunteer army was organized in Tegucigalpa, in order to resist the aggressiveness of Tinoco. At the same time, the authorities of Tegucigalpa, were requesting reinforcements from Captain general of Guatemala Gabino Gaínza and nearby places like Olanchomarker and Cantarranas and Texiguat.

It was during these events, that Francisco Morazán enlisted as a volunteer. He quickly proved to be a real asset and was promoted to captain of one of the companies, by decision of the official chiefs who organized the militias. In spite of Tegucigalpa's opposition, Honduras and the rest of the Central American states were annexed by the Mexican empire of Agustín de Itubide on January 5, 1822.

During the time of the annexation to Mexico, little is known of what Francisco Morazán did. Some historical documents locate him in a meeting in 1823 that supported the Constituent Assembly of Central America as part of the commission that passed the bases of the electoral power of the new republic. Later, on September 28, 1824, Francisco Morazán was nominated a General Secretary of the government of his uncle and the first Head of state of Honduras, Dionisio de Herrera.

The Federal Republic

After the independence of Central America of Spain in 1821 and its later separation from the Mexican Empire on July 1, 1823, this nation was finally set free. Within the euphoria of independence in Central America, the new country was named the United Provinces of Central America and was comprised of the states of Guatemalamarker, Hondurasmarker, El Salvadormarker, Nicaraguamarker and Costa Ricamarker.

In the following year, the Constituent Congress of Central America met in Guatemala Citymarker, in which the objective was to decide which system of government would be adopted for the young nation. On the table of debates, two different proposals emerged: the members of the Liberal Party wanted a federalist government, similar to that of the United Statesmarker of 1789. This type of government would provide every state significant autonomy of self-administration, freedom to create its own laws and reforms, among other things, but always, under the supervision of the federal government, keeper of the constitution.

The Conservatives on the other hand, wanted a centralist government. In this system, the decisions and laws etc. adopted in the capital of the nation, apply equally to all the other states. After debating two proposals, the liberals who were the majority in Congress made their advantage be felt and gained the right to adopt the 'Federalist' thesis before the dissatisfaction of the Conservatives. Later, on November 22, 1824, under the motto: "God, Union, Liberty", the constitution was approved, and the nation was renamed: Federal Republic of Central America.

Under the new constitution Manuel José Arce of the Liberal Party was elected president. He promised to transform the economy and Central American society through his liberal reforms. Within a few months, Arce met opposition from the country's Conservatives. The Conservatives, who had the greatest social influence and enormous economic power, did not allow him to advance his social programs. Once Arce recognized his limitations he abandoned his party and programs and allied himself with the Conservatives, giving them near-complete control of the federal government. As result of this, a civil war that would last until 1829 exploded in Central America.

His rise to power

On January 19, 1827 by order of Central America's president Manuel José Arce, colonel Justo Milla, left Guatemala citymarker with a force of more than 200 federal troops, and installed his barracks next to the city of Comayaguamarker. From there, Milla threw a military offensive against the Head of state of Hondurasmarker; Dionisio de Herrera on May 10, 1827.

It is here that Francisco Morazán, at the head of the troops of the Honduran state, first appeared on the political and military scene of Central America. The captain of that time, Morazán resisted the federal troops, but was taken prisoner in Ojojona. Meanwhile, Justo Milla managed to overthrow Herrera, taking him prisoner and sending him to Guatemala. Milla then took office as Head of state of Hondurasmarker.

While Milla was busy consolidating power in Comayaguamarker, Morazán managed to escape from the Federal Army, and just as he was on the verge of going away to Mexicomarker, the Liberals convinced him to stay in order to take control of an armed group established in Leonmarker, Nicaraguamarker with the intention of liberating Honduras. Francisco Morazán accepted the challenge, and with these men he confronted Justo Milla's troops on November 11, 1827 near Sabanagrande, Hondurasmarker. Here, Morazan gives them a crushing defeat during the famous " Battle of La Trinidad ". After his euphoric victory, Francisco Morazán and his troops left for Comayaguamarker, where on November 27 he made a triumphal entry of the city and occupied the headquarters of the state of Honduras.

The victory in 'La Trinidad', was Francisco Morazán's window to a reputation as a military genius. It also allowed the 'General' to consolidate himself as leader of the liberals in Central American. For these reasons, the new Head of State of Hondurasmarker, received calls of help from El Salvadormarker. This state had also been occupied by the Central Americans Federal Forces by order of Manuel José Arce, who intended to protect the interests of the landowners and 'conservative' merchants in that country.


In 1830, Morazán was elected president of Central America in a general election which brought the Liberal party to power into the Federal Republic. Morazán enacted many reforms, including freedom of speech, the press, and religion, equality of people of all classes before the law, and trial by jury. All of this was objected to, with extreme prejudice, by the Conservatives wishing to maintain the old class system. The separation of Church and State, including allowing secular marriage and divorce and an end to government enforced tithing, made most all of the clergy an enemy of Morazán and his Liberals. General Morazán was further vilified when he ordered the clergy out of the country, and told them never to return or face certain death.

In 1834, Morazán oversaw the moving of the Central American Federal Capital from Guatemala Citymarker to San Salvadormarker. Morazán was re-elected President in 1835.

In Guatemalamarker, Rafael Carrera, an illiterate but shrewd and charismatic swineherd turned highwayman, pledged a vendetta against Morazán and the Federal government after undisciplined Federal soldiers killed his wife during a battle (neither side would take prisoners). Local Conservative factions, wishing to retain the old Spanish Roman Catholic system of caste titles and privileges, would prejudice the naive Carrera towards their own agenda. By 1838, Carrera, with the use of fanaticism of religion to urge on his hordes, became de facto ruler of much of Guatemala. Carrera's battle cry was "¡Viva la religión y muerte a los extranjeros!" (Long live religion and death to foreigners). Morazán repeatedly chased Carrera's forces out of cities and towns, but Carrera would simply retreat to the mountains and retake the places as soon as Morazán's army left.

The prolonged personal vendetta of the young Carrera against Morazán, who was twice his age, inspired other Conservatives to revolt, and soon Central America was at civil war. Rafael Carrera's existence was consumed by the defeat of Morazán, as he knew of nothing else.

In 1839, Morazán's second term as President of Central America ended and the civil war in several regions prevented a general national election. However Morazán was elected president of El Salvador, and continued as acting interim Head of State of Central America -- which by then consisted only of El Salvador, Costa Rica, Los Altos (a state in what is now western Guatemala) and eastern Chiapasmarker) and a few scattered communities elsewhere. Los Altos joined the Federal Union as the sixth state, but Carrera while possessed with an irate fury, had its government executed and forcibly annexed it to Guatemala. In the confusion, Mexicomarker took control of the surrounding areas as the illiterate Carrera knew nothing of borders or boundaries comprising Los Altos. Also, it was during Carrera's dictatorship that Belizemarker expanded its borders when he signed a treaty with the British. The treaty is now considered null and void by Guatemala since the British breached the contract. Guatemala refuses to recognize its borders and Rafael Carrera has never been forgiven for this act.

Bust of Morazán at San Pedro Perulapán
The Battle of San Pedro Perulapán occurred at San Pedro Perulapánmarker on September 25, 1839, in which Morazán with 800 Salvadorans defeated 2,000 Honduran and Nicaraguanmarker forces. A belltower in the town still has the bell whose toll announced the victory of the Salvadorans. The parish church contains an image of Saint Peter that still has the bullet hole it received during this battle.


In late spring 1840, Carrera's forces routed Morazán's smaller forces, and as a result Morazán went into exile in Colombiamarker (in what is now Panamamarker). While in the city of David he wrote his manifesto "Al Pueblo de Centro America". In this literary work he explains in detail the reasons why the Union had failed. He focuses his tirade against Carrera and the Conservative factions for failing to understand, and thus undermining, what he was trying to accomplish.

In 1842, he invaded Costa Rica and joined forces with General Vicente Villaseñor, opposed to local leader Braulio Carrillo, who had formally left the Central American Union, and declared himself ruler for life. Morazán succeeded in ousting Carrillo, after the treason of General Villaseñor, who in command of the costarican forces reached an agreement with the local President, and was proclaimed dictator of Costa Rica, which he intended to use as a base to reunite Central America. After he decreed that able-bodied male Costa Ricans would be subject to compulsory service in the new Central American armed forces, Costa Ricans quickly turned against Morazán because they did not agreed to be reunited to Central America. He was deposed and then executed in San Josémarker for his crimes on the anniversary of Central American independence, September 15. His last words were to General Villaseñor: "La posteridad nos hara justicia" (Posterity shall do us justice.) Today Morazan is remembered by Honduran for his commitment to Central American Unity, and Villaseñor is still an obscure traitor.

Upon learning of death by firing squad of the declared church's enemy, the bishops ordered the bells of all the churches in Central America to ring until they became unhinged, so that everybody would celebrate Morazán's execution.His wish to be buried in El Salvador was honored more than ten years after his death where his remains were received with military honours and placed in a mausoleum in the "Cementerio de los Ilustres" of San Salvador.


Central American liberals still honor the memory of Francisco Morazán, who is also regarded as a national hero in Honduras. His name is inevitably brought up every time the question of a possible union of Central America is raised, as both are now synonymous with one another. Attempts have been made to restore the union, but it remains only his dream because of the many problems of Central American countries; such as the recent coup d'etat in Honduras.

Two Central American countries have departments named after him: Francisco Morazán Departmentmarker in Honduras and Morazán Department in El Salvador. Another remnant of the Central American Union is the Salvadoran department of La Unión. Its name was derived from the port established in the Gulf of Fonseca, Puerto de la Unión de Centroamérica, which was meant to serve the member countries. There is also a fairly large park named after Morazán in San José, Costa Rica. Very important roads have been named after him in different cities such as "Bulevar Morazán" in the Honduran cities of San Pedro Sulamarker and Tegucigalpamarker and in San Salvadormarker.

Statue controversy

Uruguayanmarker writer Eduardo Galeano wrote in his work Open Veins of Latin America that Morazán's statue, which rises in the Central Square of Tegucigalpa, was not actually of Morazán, but instead of French marshall Michel Ney. According to him, the statue was bought at a flea market, because the persons entrusted to buy it spent the money in binges.

Later, the writer had to rectify, saying that his declarations were coming from writings that fell down in his hands. On having repeated his admiration for Morazán, Galeano emphasized that the real heroes "are not alive in the marble and the bronze, but in the land and in its people". Galeano also said that the unionist thought of Morazán lives and is born every day, and that the union for which Morazán fought is a "hanging task" of the Latin American countries.

The writer and member of "Instituto Morazanico", miguel Calix Suazo has clearly explained that the statue was a special order because it has the federal shield of the Central American Republic. The shield of the volcanoes may be found on the buttons of Morazan's military coat, on the horse's saddle, and on the breast of the horse as well. There could not exist the possibility that someone like Marshall Ney, a Frenchman, would have any association with these symbols.

Similar concepts on the same statue, also were expressed in the past by Gabriel García Márquez, Nobel Prize for Literature. "The monument to general Francisco Morazán erected in the biggest square of Tegucigalpa, is actually a statue of the Marshall Nay" the writer of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' said.

See also



Morazán, Laurel sin Ocaso Volumen II, by Miguel R. OrtegaCentral America and Mexico, by Alcee Fortier, John Rose FicklenIncidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, by John Lloyd Stephens

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