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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 Venezuela liberals.

    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.


    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 collaborated.

    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.