Herrera, Carlos (1856–1930)

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Herrera, Carlos (1856–1930)

Carlos Herrera (b. 1856; d. 6 July 1930), interim president of Guatemala. Herrera assumed the Guatemalan presidency as leader of the Guatemalan Unionist Party on 8 April 1920 after the removal of the nation's longest reigning dictator, Manuel Estrada Cabrera. A member of one of Guatemala's premier families, and the owner of large sugar and coffee plantations, Herrera supposedly possessed no strong political ambitions. But in the wake of Estrada Cabrera's ouster, he acknowledged the nation's need for a fair and competent interim leader. Herrera was considered by his peers to be a cultured and learned gentleman. Of distinguished seventeenth-century Spanish heritage, he was widely respected for his qualities of honesty, incorruptibility, and administrative prowess.

After only twenty months in office, however, political instability and a severe economic crisis had overwhelmed Herrera's ill-prepared Unionist government. On the evening of 5 December 1921 a group of senior army officers headed by generals José María Orellana, José María Lima, and Miguel Larrave entered the residence of the president and demanded his resignation. He promptly complied with their request.

Although a member of the coffee elite himself, Herrera chose to govern in a manner that often disregarded the concerns of the dominant political and economic sector of the country. Although willing to suppress peasant unrest as severely as previous Liberal regimes, he occasionally permitted the lower classes to voice their concerns. Because of this, coffee growers, merchants, army officers, and some urban professionals were convinced that his administration jeopardized their interests and so they acted to undermine his authority.

See alsoCoffee Industry; Guatemala, Political Parties: Unionist Party.


Joseph A. Pitti, "Jorge Ubico and Guatemalan Politics in the 1920's" (Ph.D. diss., University of New Mexico, 1975).

Wade Kit, "The Unionist Experiment in Guatemala, 1920–1921: Conciliation, Disintegration, and the Liberal Junta," in Americas (July 1993).

Additional Bibliography

Valle Pérez, Hernán del. Carlos Herrera: Primer presidente democrático del siglo XX. Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción: Fundación Pantaleón, 2003.

Yashar, Deborah J. Demanding Democracy: Reform and Reaction in Costa Rica and Guatemala, 1870s–1950s. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997.

                                            Wade A. Kit

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Herrera, Carlos (1856–1930)

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