José Francisco Morazán Quezada (born: Tegucigalpa, October 3rd, 1792 – died: San José de Costa Rica, September 15th, 1842), was a Honduran military official and politician who ruled the Federal Republic of Central America during the turbulent period of 1830 to 1839.
He rose to fame after his victory at the Battle of La Trinidad, on November 11th, 1827. From that date until his defeat in Guatemala in 1840, Morazán dominated the political and military scene of Central America.
In the political sphere, Francisco Morazán was recognized by the members of his party as a great thinker and visionary. According to liberal writers such as Federico Hernández de León, Lorenzo Montúfar and Ramón Rosa – Morazán tried to transform Central America into a large and progressive nation; while conservative writers like Manuel Coronado Aguilar accuse him of trying to force himself upon into power for personal reasons. Yet socialist writers such as Severo Martínez Peláez suggest that, the liberals led by Morazán were the Creole landowners who had been exploited by the Guatemalan Creoles and the clergy during the colonial period of the Spanish – and, with Morazán at the helm, intended to take the power of the region for themselves. Morazán’s management as president of the Federal Republic promulgated the liberal reforms, which were aimed at taking power away from the main members of the conservative party: the Creoles residing in the New Guatemala of the Assumption and the regular orders of the Catholic Church. The reforms included: education, freedom of the press and religion amongst others. It also limited the power of the secular clergy of the Catholic Church with the abolition of tithing by the government and the separation of the State and the Church.
With these modern reforms Morazán gained powerful enemies, and his period of government was marked by bitter internal struggles between liberals and conservatives. However, through his military capacity, Morazán remained within firm power until the year 1837, when the Federal Republic broke down irrevocably. This was exploited by the regular orders of the Church and the conservative Guatemalan leaders, who joined under the leadership of Guatemalan General Rafael Carrera, and, in order to disallow the liberal Creoles to take away their privileges, they ended up dividing Central America into five separate states.
The Central American union, formed by Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, had been formed in 1823, under the presidency of the conservative Manuel J. Arce. Morazán then began his political career in the State of Honduras, under the protection of President Dionisio Herrera.
Following the rebellion of Justo Milla, which he defeated, Francisco Morazán became president of Honduras (1827) and became leader of the Central American liberals. When the Salvadoran president, Pardo, called him to his aid in the face of a Guatemalan attack, Morazán took San Salvador (1828) and then Guatemala (1829), which was also the federal capital. The main conservative leaders were banished, while a liberal regime was established and Costa Rica temporarily left the federation (from 1829 to 1831). The elections of 1830 confirmed Francisco Morazán as president of the Republic. During that period – known as the “Restoration” – it launched reforms that crashed before multiple obstacles: the particularism of the provinces, the ambitions of the military, the opposition of the Church, international pressures, financial bankruptcy, criticism to the nepotism and corruption of the ruling organisation…
In 1837 Rafael Carrera starred in a rebellion that took power in the State of Guatemala and its subsequent success produced similar sporadic bursts in the rest of the federation. At the end of Morazán’s second term (1838), the decomposition of the political system was such that no presidential elections were held and it can be said that the Central American union was dissolved. Morazán was elected president of El Salvador (1838-40) and thus launched a last attempt against Guatemala in 1840. He was defeated and went into exile in Peru. In 1842 he landed in Costa Rica, where he briefly took power, yet before he could begin the reconstruction of the Central American unit, he was captured and shot.
According to the historian Miguel Ortega, Morazán requested to be in command of the excecution escort. With his black frock opened, he displayed his chest and with both hands held up – in an unaltered voice – he gave orders – saying: “Prepare weapons! Aim!” He didn’t continue before having corrected the aim of one of the shooters before finally shouting: “Aim…!” The last syllable was extinguished by a closed discharge. The impact sent him face down. Within the smoke of gunpowder, it was seen that Morazán raised his head slightly and muttered: “I am still alive …” A second discharge ended the life of the man whom noneother than the Cuban revolutionary José Martí described as “a powerful genius, a strategist, a speaker, a true statesman, perhaps the only one that Central America has produced”. In October 1842, the governments of Central America, by now satisfied with Morazan’s dissapearance, resumed their relations with Costa Rica.
Francisco Morazán became a martyr and a symbol of the Republic of Central America. He gave his life, although unsuccessfully, in trying to preserve the union of these countries. It is also evident that his death contributed – to some extent, in each of these states becoming independent nations.
His image can be found on bills, logos, postage stamps, institutions, cities, departments, schools and parks, amongst other things that preserve his legacy. El Salvador was one of the first countries to pay tribute to Morazán. On March 15th, 1882, President Rafael Zaldívar unveiled a monument in his memory, located in Francisco Morazán Square, and, on March 14th, 1887, the National Assembly of the Republic of El Salvador replaced the name of a region as the Department of Morazán, “to perpetuate the name of the great leader of the Central American Union” . President Doroteo Vasconcelos also named in his honor the village of “San Francisco Morazán”. In Honduras, the name of the department of Tegucigalpa was changed to “Francisco Morazán” in 1943. In Guatemala, the Guatemalan city of Tocoy Tzimá became Morazán on November 15th, 1887. In Nicaragua, Puerto Morazán was founded in 1945.