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Delgado, José Matías (1767–1832)

Delgado, José Matías (1767–1832)

José Matías Delgado (b. 24 February 1767; d. 12 November 1832), Salvadoran cleric and leader of the independence movement. Born in the provincial capital of San Salvador, Father Delgado became a champion of the Kingdom of Guatemala's independence from Spain and his province's separation from the overbearing influence of neighboring Guatemala. Trained in canon law and jurisprudence at the University of San Carlos in Guatemala, Delgado was part of a generation of discontented creoles who passed through the university in these years. The Enlightenment ideas he learned at San Carlos and his provincial resentments of both Spanish and Guatemalan control over his native Salvador quickly bore fruit. Delgado, Manuel José Arce, and other Salvadorans organized the uprising of 1811, in which they planned to seize the Spanish magistrate, the armory, and the treasury and gain independence. The conspiracy failed, as did a similar revolt in Nicaragua, in the face of strong royalist military action. The repression following these conspiracies helped to postpone independence for another decade but could not quell the unrest that was their root cause.

Delgado soon went to Guatemala to contact other independence activists and begin agitating for the establishment of a separate bishopric for El Salvador. By 1821 he was again in the thick of political intrigue. With many of the leading Liberals of the day, such as José Cecilio del Valle, Pedro Molina, and José Francisco Barrundia, Delgado played an instrumental role in convincing Captain-General Gabino Gáinza to declare Central America's independence from Spain on 15 September 1821.

After the collapse of the Mexican Empire, Central America gained its independence in its own right, and Father Delgado presided over the assembly that promulgated the first constitution of the independent United Provinces of Central America in July of 1823. With union came the reward for Salvador's help in the cause of independence, the formation of a new bishopric of El Salvador in 1825, with Delgado as the first bishop. Seven years later he died while witnessing the bloodshed of the internecine fighting that would plague the former Kingdom of Guatemala for generations to come.

See alsoCentral America, Independence of .


Ramón López Jiménez, José Matías Delgado y De León, su personalidad, su obra y su destino: Un ensayo histórico (1962).

José Salvador Guandique, Presbítero y doctor José Matías Delgado: Ensayo histórico (1962).

Rudolfo Barón Castro, José Matías Delgado y el movimiento insurgente de 1811 (1962).

Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr., Central America: A Nation Divided, 2d ed. (1985), esp. pp. 92-95.

Additional Bibliography

Meléndez Chaverri, Carlos. José Matías Delgado, prócer centroamericano. San Salvador: Dirección de Publicaciones e Impresos, Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y el Arte, 2000.

                                      Todd Little-Siebold

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