Montúfar, Lorenzo (1823–1898)

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Montúfar, Lorenzo (1823–1898)

Lorenzo Montúfar (b. 11 March 1823; d. 21 May 1898), Guatemalan author, diplomat, educator, and government minister. Montúfar was the quintessential nineteenth-century Central American liberal. Deeply committed to isthmian union, anticlericalism, and the modernization of education and the law, and a proponent of constitutional government, he nevertheless supported authoritarian rule when it served his purposes. Son of Sergeant-Major (later General) Rafael Montúfar y Coronado, and nephew of Colonel Manuel Montúfar y Coronado, the author of Memorias para la historia de la revolución de Centro-América (Memorias de Jalapa), Lorenzo Montúfar received the standard, church-dominated education available to members of the elite at the time and was graduated with a law degree in 1845. Anticlerical writings and active opposition to the dictator Rafael Carrera, however, quickly forced him into exile in Costa Rica.

In what became his second home, Montúfar practiced law and served in various government positions and in the university. Drawn back to Guatemala following the Liberal Revolution of 1871, he held ministerial posts and the rectorate of the University of San Carlos. In 1876, as a member of the Constituent Assembly, he made his famous defense of dictatorship, successfully recommending that rather than create a document the caudillo would violate, and thus weaken respect for the law, the assembly should allow Justo Rufino Barrios four more years of unfettered rule.

In 1878 Montúfar began his most influential scholarly work, the seven-volume Reseña histórica de Centro-América (1878–1887), which offered a spirited argument for Central American unification and a defense of Liberal rule. Montúfar held the post of minister of foreign affairs from 1877 to 1881 and served as special envoy to Washington, D.C., but broke with Barrios over the question of Guatemala's boundary claims against Mexico and again went into exile in Costa Rica. A brief return in 1885 provoked a confrontation with the church and expulsion, but Montúfar soon returned and ended his public career in 1891 as the unsuccessful Liberal Party candidate for president.

See alsoGuatemala .


Robert Claxton, "Lorenzo Montúfar: Central American Liberal" (Ph.D. diss., Tulane University, 1970).

Lorenzo Montúfar, Reseña histórica de Centro-América, 7 vols. (1878–1887), and Memorias autobiográficas (1888).

Additional Bibliography

Clegern, Wayne M. Origins of Liberal Dictatorship in Central America: Guatemala, 1865–1873. Niwot, CO: University Press of Colorado, 1994.

Santacruz Noriega, José. Barrios, dictador: Gobierno del general J. Ruffino Barrios. Guatemala: Tipografia Nacional, 1996.

                                        David McCreery

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Montúfar, Lorenzo (1823–1898)

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