Meléndez Family

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Meléndez Family

Meléndez family, a Salvadoran family that held the presidency for three consecutive terms (1913–1927) during the period known as the Meléndez-Quiñónez dynasty era. The Meléndez presidents' fourteen-year occupancy of the nation's highest office is the most obvious example of the restrictive, elitist nature of Salvadoran politics. The Meléndez clan was part of the original Salvadoran landowning oligarchy dating from the early nineteenth century. Originally producers of indigo, they were among the first to grow coffee on a large scale.

President Carlos Meléndez (b. 1 February 1861; d. 8 October 1918) took office in 1913 following the assassination of Manuel Araujo. He had made many trips to the United States and wished to promote industrialization and the diversification of El Salvador's agrarian economy into henequen and cotton. However, his tenure in office is most notable for two policies: his decision to keep El Salvador neutral in World War I, despite heavy pressure from the United States, and his claim to the Gulf of Fonseca as a condominium territory. The latter resulted in the issuing of the so-called Meléndez Doctrine, which challenged Nicaragua's right to grant the United States a naval base in the Gulf of Fonseca as stipulated by the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty of 1913. Meléndez took his case to the Central American Court of Justice in 1914 and won a judgment in his favor.

Carlos Meléndez passed the presidency to his younger brother Jorge (b. 15 April 1871; d. 22 November 1953) when his health failed in 1918. Jorge ruled for four turbulent years punctuated by military uprisings, urban labor protests, and demonstrations in San Salvador. Of these, the most serious were a February 1922 revolt of students at the Military Polytechnic School and a popular demonstration in December of that same year which was put down by the army and police. Jorge Meléndez continued his brother's program of modernization by opening the first airport, announcing a campaign to eradicate illiteracy, and creating a monetary commission. However, Jorge Meléndez is remembered also for his increased usage of the Liga Roja (Red League), a shadowy paramilitary group designed to thwart labor organization.

The Meléndez's brother-in-law Alfonso Quiñones Molina was president from 1923 to 1927 and continued the same form of elite-dominated politics as his predecessors. The Meléndez-Quiñónez dynasty governed El Salvador during a crucial period in its modern history. In the 1980s, their descendant, Jorge Antonio Meléndez, fought with the People's Revolutionary Army (ERP) as part of the FMLN-FDR coalition against the government.

See alsoEl Salvador .


Manuel Beltrand, ed., Orientaciones económicas del Señor Presidente Meléndez (1917).

Salvador Rodríguez González, El Golfo de Fonseca y el Tratado, Bryan-Chamorro; La doctrina Meléndez (1917).

Carlos Meléndez, Relations Between the United States of America and El Salvador (1918).

María Leistenschneider and Freddy Leistenschneider, Gobernantes de El Salvador (1980).

Tommie Sue Montgomery, Revolution in El Salvador (1982).

Additional Bibliography

Castellanos, Juan Mario. El Salvador, 1930–1960: Antecedentes históricos de la guerra civil. San Salvador: Dirección de Publicaciones e Impresos, 2002.

Holden, Robert H. Armies Without Nations: Public Violence and State Formation in Central America, 1921–1960. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Martínez Peñate, Oscar. El Salvador, Diccionario: Personajes, hechos históricos, geografía e instituciones. San Salvador: Editorial Nuevo Enfoque, 2004.

                                           Karen Racine