Gran Colombia and the United Provinces of Central America
These were the two biggest examples of agglomeration of colonial
administrative/ district into countries. Why did new republics adopt the boundaries that
they did? They used the colonial administrative districts but viceroyalty boundary was
adopted in only one case. Actually some combination of administration districts became
boundaries. These occurred between centers of population unless someone wanted change,
usually involving the discovery of something valuable.
Gran Colombia was the work of Simón Bolívar. He dominated the
Cucuta Congress which incorporated Venezuela, New Granada (Colombia), and Ecuador but they
did not want to be one nation. Venezuelans did not like Bogotá being the capital. Quito
wanted no connection with the other two but had to because of Bolívar’s armies being
present. While Bolívar was in the south, Francisco de Santander (his vice president) ran
Gran Colombia. Santander was a civilian and a Colombian. He was a man of law who believed
in civilian, constitutional government.
There was regionalism among the three areas but also strong
regionalism in what is now present-day Colombia. Popayán was very conservative. Santander
was a liberal head; Bolívar was conservative.
Bolívar returned to Colombia and set up a dictatorship. In his
youth, Bolívar had enlightenment ideas but his experiences from 1810-1826 changed his
views to republican monarchy. His final political ideas were embodied in his Final
Constitution of Bolivia. In it, he created a life presidency plus a host of institutions
that would guarantee that only a very small oligarchy would rule. Bolívar also alienated
What did he accomplish? He showed how difficult it was to set up
governments; he gained independence for a very large territory. He also engaged in a
number of quarrels over the Church’s role, what kind of government should exist, the
role of the military in politics. Local leaders began taking over. Gran Colombia was too
grand, too diverse, and, thus, too difficult to rule.
CENTRAL AMERICAN FEDERATION
The wars and atrocities in Gran Colombia embittered people but there
was none of this in Central America. It became independent because the rest of Latin
America did. Conservatives went for independence because conservatives could stay in power
as opposed to liberals. Allied with Mexico which had been the core of New Spain to which
the central American countries belonged. Mexican conservatives aided them. Agustín.
Iturbide sent a general with 600 troops to insure the connection with Mexico When Iturbide
was overthrown in Mexico, the Conservatives created the United Provinces of Central
America, five provinces with their capital in Guatemala. Iturbide’s general
Even in such a small area, there were internal conflicts and no
communication system worthy of holding the country together. Its resources were small. The
first president was liberal but an oligarch. He was also a federalist. The liberals had a
lot of anti-clericalism which alienated conservatives.
The 1827 civil war won by liberals, but liberal government didn't
last very long. There were all kinds of problems including a cholera epidemic which the
conservative blamed on the liberals. Out of all this emerged Rafael Carrera, an illiterate
but strong caudillo. Became President of Guatemala. It is difficult to determine when the
UPCA broke up; the individual countries drifted apart.