Origins of Liberal Dictatorship in Central America
By Wayne M. Clegern
University Press of Colorado
Guatemala’s first successful modernizing regime – that of Justo Rufino Barrios (1873-1885) – is a historic example of Spanish American liberal dictatorship, in which the country’s elite were forced to accept modernization. Guatemala’s revolution of 1871 has been regarded as the transition point from conservatism to liberalism and to modernized institutions as well. Although Guetemalan conservatives had accepted traditional Hispanic society, including its union of church and state, their desire to increase prosperity drove them to reform.
Origins of Liberal Dictatorship in Central America: Guatemala, 1865-1873, argues that the seeds of liberalism lay in the previous Guatemalan regimes of Rafael Carrera (1840-1865), the most powerful conservative dictatorship in the nineteenth-century Central America, and especially in that of his successor, Vincente Cerna (1865-1871).
In this meticulously researched study, historian Wayne Clegern analyzes the complex relationship between traditional conservative Hispanic culture and the growing liberal faction. Clegern contends that both groups were driven to progressive reform and modernization but by conflicting paths and that the differences ignited the revolution of 1871, which placed the moderate liberal, Miguel Garcia Granados, in the presidency. Within two years, his radical junior partner, Barrios, replaced Granados and became Central America’s most powerful liberal dictator of the nineteenth century. Origins of Liberal Dictatorship in Central America examines the series of changes from Carrera to Barrios and the ideological contest these changes entailed.
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