Francisco Morazán day (also known as Soldiers Day in Honduras) is celebrated throughout the country on October 3rd of every year as an official Honduras Holiday in the memory of Francisco Morazan Quesada who was the President of Central America as well as the country of Honduras.
He was born in Honduras, and hence Francisco Morazan day is celebrated with official government events as well as parades put on by many schools for the public to enjoy. Morazan is known for his idealistic views and his attempts to enact them. He was also a person who struggled to maintain the unity of the nation when it was involved in a civil war, but he didn’t succeed in his attempt. He was an able military leader and known for his skillful tactics by which he quashed a revolt brewing in south Tegucigalpa. He served two terms as the President of Central America.
He is a national hero here in Honduras. Honduras celebrates, on the 3rd of October, the birth anniversary of Francisco Morazán, a popular Honduran leader who was born in the year 1792. All educational institutions, government offices and even businesses remain closed on October 3rd of every year, throughout the country. There are provinces, streets and parks in Honduras, which are named after Morazán to honor him as well as his image is on the local Honduran currency.
Francisco Morazán became a martyr and a symbol of the Republic of Central America. He gave his life however unsuccessfully, attempting to preserve the ‘Union’. Now, more than one hundred and sixty years after his death, Central America is still plagued by power struggles, corruption, and poverty. More often than not, the five republics have emulated Carrera than Morazán; but the dream of The Great Central American Country is still alive. His image can be found in currency, logos, and stamps. Institutions, cities, departments, schools, and parks among other things bear Morazán’s name, in order to preserve his legacy.
El Salvador was among the first countries to pay tribute to Morazán. On March 14, 1887. The National Assembly of the Republic of El Salvador replaced the name of the department of “Gotera” with “Morazán”. So as “to perpetuate the name of the great leader of the Central American Union”. In 1943, Honduras renamed the Tegucigalpa department, Francisco Morazán. On Novembre 15, 1887 the town of Tocoy Tzimá became ‘Morazán’ in Guatemala. In 1945, Port Morazán was founded in Nicaragua.
Costa Rica, the country that he invaded and where he died honored him with a park in the center of its capital San Jose. However in this country the legacy of Morazan is completely the opposite of what he would have wanted. The fear of getting dragged into Central American affairs that brought Morazan down is still a constant in the country. Immediately after Morazan’s adventure it became the first country to formally end its relation with the Central American Federation. Today it is not a member of any political integration organism of Central America, like its Parliament or Court, and has even rejected the symbolic step of using a common design for its passport covers. Costa Rica’s refusal has given birth then to the CA-4 concept, where Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua (Central America) have taken bigger steps towards integration.
José Francisco Morazán Quezada was born on October 3, 1792, in Tegucigalpa (then in the Captaincy General of Guatemala, now the capital of Honduras) during the waning years of Spanish colonial rule to Eusebio Morazán Alemán and Guadalupe Quezada Borjas, both members of an upper-class Creole family dedicated to trade and agriculture. His grandparents were Juan Bautista Morazán (a Corsican immigrant) and María Borjas Alvarenga. Thirteen days after his birth Morazán was baptized at San Miguel Arcángel church, by father Juan Francisco Márquez.
Francisco Morazán was for the most part, a self-educated man. According to historian Ramon Rosa; he “had the misfortune of being born … in that sad era of isolation and total darkness in which Honduras lacked schools; therefore Morazan had to learn in private schools with an awful organization and sustained by parents’ contributions.” In 1804, his parents took advantage of the opening of a Catholic school in the village of San Francisco. At the age of twelve, José Francisco was sent there to learn to write and read, and to receive instruction in mathematics and drawing. The teachings he received were through Friar Santiago Gabrielino, appointed religious instructor to the Guatemalan priest José Antonio Murga.
In 1808 Francisco Morazán and his family moved to Morocelí where they worked the fields inherited by Mr Eusebio. In addition, young José Francisco also engaged in helping the town’s mayor with his clerk duties. On 1813 the family moved back to Tegucigalpa. Once there, Mr. Eusebio placed his son under the tutorship of Leon Vasquez who taught him civil law, criminal procedure and Notaries.
Francisco now had access to a library where he learned French, which in turn, allowed him to familiarize himself with the works of Montesquieu, the social contract of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the French Revolution, the history of Europe, as well as the biographies of the Greek and Roman leaders. This dedication and spirit of improvement took Francisco to occasionally excel in his hometown, where he even represented the interest of some people before the colonial courts.
Francisco Morazán married María Josefa Lastiri in the Cathedral of Comayagua on December 30, 1825. They had one daughter, Adela Morazán Lastiri, born in San Salvador in 1838. Lastiri belonged to one of the wealthiest families in province of Honduras. Her father was the Spanish trader Juan Miguel Lastiri, who played an important part in the commercial development of Tegucigalpa. Her mother was Margarita Lozano, member of a powerful Creole family in the city.
María Josefa was a widow who had first married the landowner Esteban Travieso, with whom she had 4 children. Upon his death, she inherited a fortune. Her fortune and the new circle of powerful and influential friends, that came out of this marriage only enhanced Morazán’s own business, and thus his political and military projects.
Outside his marriage, Francisco Morazán fathered a son, Francisco Morazán Moncada, who was born on October 4, 1827 to Francisca Moncada, daughter of a well known Nicaraguan politician named Liberato Moncada. Francisco Morazán Junior lived in the Morazán-Lastiri home and accompanied his father in Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Peru and finally in Costa Rica, where his father was executed. After the death of his father, Francisco Morazán Moncada settled in Chinandega, Nicaragua where he devoted himself to farming. He died in 1904 at age 77.
Morazán also had an adoptive son named José Antonio Ruiz. He was the legitimate son of Eusebio Ruiz and the Guatemalan lady Rita Zelayandía, who handed her son to General Morazán when he was 14 years old. José Antonio accompanied his adoptive father on military actions and became a Brigadier General. He died in Tegucigalpa in 1883.
Central American Federation (1824–38) comprised the republics of Central America—Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. United under a captaincy general in Spanish colonial times, they gained independence in 1821 and were briefly annexed to the Mexican empire formed by Agustín de Iturbide. On July 1, 1823, these nations regained their independence, and joined together in a loose federal state.
Francisco Morazán won the popular vote of the 1830 presidential election, against the conservative challenger José del Valle. He was inaugurated on September 16. In his inaugural speech he declared: “The sovereign people send me, to place myself, in the most dangerous of their destinies. I must obey and fulfill, the solemn oath that I have just rendered. I offer, to uphold the Federal Constitution, which I defended as a soldier and as a citizen.
In 1834 at the request of Governor, Mariano Galvez, the General moved the capital city to Sonsonate and later to San Salvador. The same year, the first four years of Francisco Morazán’s presidency had ended. According to the constitution, elections needed to be held in order to elect the next president of the Republic. Moderate, José Cecilio del Valle ran against the incumbent president; for this reason, General Francisco Morazán deposited the presidency on General Gregorio Salazar, so the federal congress could verify the fairness of the election.
When all the votes were counted, José del Valle had defeated Francisco Morazán. The Federal elections showed strong popular opposition to liberal reforms. Valle, however, died before taking office. On June 2, the Federal Congress called for new elections, which were won by Francisco Morazán. On February 14, 1835. General Morazán, was sworn as president for a second term.
After Francisco Morazán’s second term as President of the Federal Republic ended, he was left without political or military power. On July 13, 1839, however, the general was elected Chief of State of El Salvador. When Rafael Carrera and the Guatemalan conservatives learned about Morazán’s new role, they declared war on El Salvador. Francisco Morazán personified the ‘Old Federation’ itself and for that reason alone they vowed to defeat him. On July 24, Guatemala and Nicaragua signed a treaty of alliance against Morazán’s Government. Carrera then called the Salvadorian people to rise against their government. These calls resulted in small uprisings within El Salvador, but they were quickly put down and without much effort by Morazán.
When Carrera’s attempt failed, Morazán’s enemies formed an army of Nicaraguan and Honduran troops. On September 25, 1839, these forces invaded El Salvador and faced Morazán’s army during the Battle of San Pedro Perulapán. The General only needed 600 Salvadorans to defeat 2,000 men commanded by Generals Francisco Ferrera, Nicolás de Espinosa, and Manuel Quijano. After their defeat, the humiliated generals and their troops fled to neighboring states, leaving behind over three hundred dead.
On March 18, 1840 Morazán made a last attempt to restore the ‘Union’. He gathered what he thought, were enough Salvadorean forces to face Carrera and with them marched to Guatemala. Once positioned, Morazán moved in from the south, striking towards the capital. Carrera then pulled most of his own force out of the capital, leaving only a small, very visible garrison inside. Morazán jumped in, slaughtered much of the bait, then found himself assaulted from all directions by Carrera’s main force of about 5,000 men.
It was a battle which became notorious for its savagery and revealed the ruthless side of Carrera. whose Indians sang Salve Regina, and shouted “Long Live Carrera!”, “Death to Morazán!” By the next morning, it was Morazán who was running out of ammunition. He then ordered an increase in fire from three corners of the plaza, in order to attract attention, while he himself slipped out through the fourth corner of the plaza with a small escort, to escape back to El Salvador.
This time, the General didn’t have the support of the common people he needed it, as he had in 1830. The ‘Liberal Reforms’ hadn’t produce enough of good results for the people to believe, but rather, they resented some of them as it was the case with the Livingston Code, the system of taxation, among others. As for the ‘Liberals’, they were too busy fighting among themselves that even former liberal president, José Francisco Barrundia had joined Rafael Carrera. Morazán’s defeat was so decisive that on March 27, he deposited the headquarters of the State in the hands of director José Antonio Canas and directed a proclamation to the people of El Salvador. Morazán, did not want to cause any more problems to the Salvadoreans. With Francisco Morazán’s final defeat, the hopes of a Central American federation vanished.
On April 8, 1840, General Francisco Morazán took the road of exile. He left from the port of La Libertad, El Salvador, and embarked on the schooner Izalco accompanied by 30 of his closest friends and war veterans. He stopped in Costa Rica where he sought and got political asylum for most of his companions. Seven of them continued the journey to South America with him. Morazán landed at Chiriquí Province, then he moved on to David where his family awaited him. While in David, Morazán was informed by his friends about the fierce persecutions suffered by his supporters at the hands of Rafael Carrea and other Central American leaders. Outraged by this and by the chain of insults and slander against him by some members of the press, he wrote and published his famous ‘Manifest of David’ dated July 16, 1841.
In South America (Peru), Morazán was fortunate to find good friends with whom he shared the same ideals. These included Generals José Rufino Echenique and Pedro Bermudez. Around 1841, the English began to intervene in the Mosquito territory, located between Honduras and Nicaragua. This event prompted Morazán to end his self-imposed Peruvian exile, and he decided that it was time to return to Central America. With the financial backing of General Pedro Bermudez, he departed from Callao on board the “Crusader” in late December 1841. On that trip he was accompanied by General Cabañas and Saravia, and five other officers. He and his companions made stops in Guayaquil, Ecuador and Chiriqui where he had the chance to meet with his family before returning to Central America.
On January 15, 1841, Morazán arrived in El Salvador. He made himself available to the Central American leaders for the common defense against the British intervention. On February 16, 1842, he told his countrymen that his return was a “duty” and a “irresistible national sentiment”, not only for him but for all “those who have a heart for their homeland.” But his offers were rejected, nonetheless.
After this episode, he put forth a plan to overthrow Costa Rican head of State Braulio Carrillo. Carrillo was a reformer, responsible for the expansion of coffee production in Costa Rica and who had taken the first steps towards ending Costa Rica’s political links with Central America,
In La Union, El Salvador, Morazán hired three boats. He then travelled to Acajutla, San Salvador and Sonsonate where he was able to reactivate the local forces. From Acajutla, he left for the island of Martin Perez, located on the Gulf of Fonseca. There he organized a military contingent of about 500 men. On April 7 and without any mishap, Morazán’s fleet of five vessels landed at Port of Caldera in Costa Rica.
Morazán avoided an armed confrontation with the forces sent by Carrillo. Through negotiations, in which he offered Villaseñor higher positions onces the Federation was restored, he got him to betray his government. They signed “The Jocote Accord”. This agreement provided for the integration of a single military body, the convening of a National Constituent Assembly, the ousting of Braulio Carrillo and other members of his administration, and the installation of a provisional government under the command of Francisco Morazán. On April 13, 1842, Morazán’s forces entered the city of San José.
Thereafter Chief Carrillo was forced to accept the treaty. He approved it only when some modifications were added. He then turned the government over to Morazán and left the country. Morazán’s first act was to open the doors of the state to Costa Rican and Central American political refugees. He then abolished the laws that Carrillo had imposed limiting trade and property, restored individual and political rights, devoted himself to urgent reforms, and convened the Constituent Assembly, which appointed him Supreme Chief of the Costa Rican State.
On September 11, 1842, a popular movement opposed to Morazán erupted in San José. Led by Portuguese General Antonio Pinto Soares, 400 men attacked Morazán’s guard of 40 Salvadoreans. Morazán and his men managed to repel the attacks and retreat to their headquarters. The fighting continued bloody and relentless, and the insurgents increased to 1000, while the besieged diminished. Chaplain José Castro then proposed a capitulation to Morazán ensuring his life, but he refused. After 88 hours of fighting, Morazán and his closest collaborators resolved to break the siege. General José Cabañas with 30 men held the retreat, which made it possible for the others to flee towards Cartago.
But the insurrection had spread there too, so Morazán turned for help to his friend, Pedro Mayorga. But Mayorga betrayed him, and turned him over to his enemies along with generals, Vicente Villaseñor, José Saravia and José Trinidad Cabañas. Saravia committed suicide, Villaseñor attempted the same but survived. Subsequently, Morazán and Vicente Villaseñor were sentenced to death. On September 15, Morazán and Villaseñor were transferred to the central plaza in San José.
Before his execution, Morazán dictated his famous will to his son, Francisco. In it, he calls his death “murder” and declares, “I do not have enemies, nor the smaller resentment I take to the grave against my murderers, I forgive them and wish them the greatest good.” When he was done, a chair was offered to him but he refused it. Seated next to him was Gen. Villaseñor, sedated and almost unconscious. Morazán then said, “Dear friend, posterity will do us justice” and crossed himself. A few minutes later, Morazán himself commanded the firing squad that ended his life and that of Villaseñor.
With his death, the nation lost a man described by José Martí as “a powerful genius, a strategist, a speaker, a true statesman, perhaps the only one Central America has ever produced”. In 1848, the government of José María Castro sent Morazán’s remains to El Salvador, fulfilling one of his last wishes.