Mendieta, Salvador (1882–1958)

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Mendieta, Salvador (1882–1958)

Salvador Mendieta (b. 24 March 1882; d. 28 May 1958), Nicaraguan literary figure and Central American unionist leader. Born in Diriamba to a well-liked, hard-working merchant family, Mendieta grew up to become an ardent Central American unionist. Alejo Mendieta was committed to securing a good education for his sons and, when health problems threatened to intervene, sent young Salvador to Guatemala to finish primary school. He completed his baccalaureate in 1896 with a thesis entitled "The Constituents and the Federal Constituent Assembly of 1824." His doctoral thesis in law, titled "Organization of Executive Power in Central America" (Honduras, 1900) further underscores Mendieta's early commitment to the idea of union.

Mendieta's early activities were not confined to the classroom. In 1895 he organized the Minerva Society, a literary-scientific salon with marked unionist sentiments. In 1899 he cofounded another discussion group, El Derecho, which sponsored a journal of the same name. That same year Mendieta ambitiously declared the existence of the Central American Unionist Party, in response to political upheavals throughout the isthmus. He quickly aroused the animosity of Guatemalan dictator Manuel Estrada Cabrera, his lifelong nemesis, who then expelled Mendieta to Honduras in 1900. Nevertheless, the determined young man refused to be dissuaded and set about extending the Unionist Party to other Central American countries.

Mendieta established a newspaper, Diario Centroamericano, in Managua, which led President José Santos Zelaya to imprison Mendieta in 1903. During the first decade of the twentieth century, Mendieta traveled throughout the isthmus and began to write some of his most important works: Páginas de Unión (1902), La nacionalidad y el Partido Unionista Centroamericano (1905), Partido Unionista Centroamericano (1911), and Cómo estamos y qué debemos hacer (1911). Mendieta's most famous and enduring work was La enfermedad de Centro América (1906–1930), in which he focused on the obstacles to Central American development. Mendieta pointed to the lack of education, poor health and hygiene, unequal distribution of wealth and power, and the generally low level of public consciousness as the roots of the isthmus's infirmities.

Mendieta's ideas of union and social justice did not endear him to the oligarchical political elites of Central America, and he found it difficult to get his masterwork published. He traveled to Europe in search of support and finally reached an agreement with Maucci in Barcelona. Back in Nicaragua, Mendieta served as rector of the Universidad Nacional, but he resigned in protest of his inability to effect needed reforms. Seriously ill with a liver ailment, Mendieta nonetheless continued to head the Unionist Party, for which efforts he was sentenced to jail in 1955 by Anastasio Somoza. Fleeing on horseback, the aging Mendieta escaped Somoza's secret police and lived in San Salvador until his death.

See alsoCentral America .


Thomas Karnes, The Failure of Union: Central America, 1824–1975 (1976).

Juan Manuel Mendoza, Salvador Mendieta (1930).

Warren H. Mory, Salvador Mendieta: Escritor y apóstol de la unión centroamericana (1971).

                                          Karen Racine

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Mendieta, Salvador (1882–1958)

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