Barrundia, José Francisco (1787–1854)

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Barrundia, José Francisco (1787–1854)

José Francisco Barrundia (b. 12 May 1787; d. 4 August 1854), proponent of Central American independence, ideological leader of the radical liberals during the early national period. The son of prominent Guatemalan creoles Martín Barrundia and Teresa Cepeda y Coronado, Barrundia was a brilliant lawyer, orator, and writer. Educated in Guatemala, he was among the intellectual elite of the late colonial period. In 1811 he translated John Milton's Paradise Lost and several classical Italian works into Spanish.

As a regidor (alderman) on the Guatemala City Council, Barrundia revealed his liberal political views. He participated in the ill-fated Belén Conspiracy of 1813 but escaped capture and a death sentence by hiding from the police of Captain General José Bustamante y Guerra for the next five years. As a member of the Tertulia Patriótica, along with José María Castilla, Pedro Molina, Manuel Montúfar, Marcial Zebadúa, and José Beteta, he plotted Guatemalan independence. He also joined with Molina in editing the pro-independence newspapers El Editor Constitucional and El Genio de la Libertad. When Barrundia opposed annexation to Mexico, Captain General Vicente Filísola branded him a terrorist and "dangerous subject." Upon the separation of Central America from Mexico in 1823, Barrundia served on the Council of Government (1823–1825) and was a coauthor of the Constitution of 1824. In 1825 he was elected as the first vice president of the United Provinces of Central America but refused the office.

Barrundia's erudite writings in periodicals, several of which he edited, made him one of the most influential liberals of his era. His strident, uncompromising liberalism made him appear arrogant to some, but he was foremost among the so-called exaltados, or fiebres, of the early national period. He served briefly as president of the United Provinces (26 June 1829–16 September 1830), but it was in the legislatures of both Central America and Guatemala that his leadership was most prominent. In the election of 1830, Francisco Morazán defeated him for the presidency of Central America, but the speech Barrundia delivered in turning over the office of president to Morazán was eloquent and gracious. He was elected governor of Guatemala in the same year, but he refused that office, preferring to remain in the legislature. His essays and other political writings formed a major part of the liberal polemic in Guatemala for the first thirty years of independence.

Under Governor Mariano Gálvez (1831–1838) Barrundia served as minister of education, and he was also the major advocate for Guatemala's 1836 adoption of Louisiana's Livingston Codes of penal law, which he translated from English. Division among the liberals led him to oppose Gálvez in 1837 and collaborate briefly with Rafael Carrera, the peasant guerrilla leader, to bring down Gálvez's government in 1838. He was unable to control the rebel caudillo, however, and spent much of the remainder of his life in exile, actively conspiring to overthrow the Conservative Carrera. He played a prominent part in the brief Liberal Revolution of 1848 in Guatemala but was once more forced into exile.

Barrundia spent his last years in Washington, where he served from 1852 until his death (in New York) as the Honduran minister to the United States. He was the leading ideologue and champion of the liberal cause in Central America and a strong supporter of Francisco Morazán and Central American union.

See alsoGuatemala .


David Vela, Barrundia ante el espejo de su tiempo, 2 vols. (1956–1957), is the standard work on Barrundia. In English, Mario Rodríguez, The Cádiz Experiment in Central America, 1808 to 1826 (1978), and A Palmer-stonian Diplomat in Central America (1964), both contain insight on Barrundia's career, as does Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr., Rafael Carrera and the Emergence of the Republic of Guatemala, 1821–1871 (1993).

                              Ralph Lee Woodward Jr.

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Barrundia, José Francisco (1787–1854)

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