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Jose de Bustamante and Central American Independence

Colonial Administration in an Age of Imperial Crisis

Timothy P. Hawkins

Publication Year: 2011

Latin American independence histories of the last 150 years have tended to stereotype Captain General Bustamante, governor of the Spanish colony of Guatemala from 1811 to 1818, as a tyrannical arch-villain who personified colonial oppression. Timothy Hawkins, in contrast, examines Bustamante and his administration within the context of preservation of empire, the effort by colonial officials and partisans to maintain the integrity of the Spanish empire in spite of internal and external unrest.

Based on extensive primary research in the archives of Guatemala, Mexico, and Spain, Hawkins’s approach links the Central American experience to that of areas such as Peru, Venezuela, and Mexico, that also responded equivocally and haphazardly to rebellious uprisings against colonial rule. While conceding that Bustamante’s role in the suppression of unrest turned him into one of the more controversial figures in Latin American history, Hawkins argues that the Bustamante administration should not be seen as an isolated and perverse case of Spanish repression but as an example of a relatively successful, if short lived, campaign by Spain to preserve its empire.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Cover Page

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p. 1-1

Title Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xxviii

In contrast to the extensive scholarship devoted to the independence of most of Latin America, the bibliography of Central American independence has always been small.1 The primary reason for such neglect is that the Kingdom of Guatemala experienced a rather subdued separation from Spain in comparison with that of other colonies. ...

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1. The Creation of a Spanish Colonial Official

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pp. 1-21

José de Bustamante’s life and career spanned what was arguably the most significant six decades in Hispanic history since the first half of the sixteenth century, the momentous era that saw both the political unification of Spain and the consolidation of its vast overseas empire. ...

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2. The Kingdom of Guatemala on the Eve of Independence

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pp. 22-41

The Kingdom of Guatemala circa 1800 was no longer the depressed and isolated frontier settlement that Murdo MacLeod describes in his magisterial study Spanish Central America: A Socioeconomic History, 1520– 1720.1 Nor had Central America yet irrevocably slipped into the destructive pattern of internecine conflicts, ...

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3. The Imperial Crisis and Colonial Defense, 1798–1811

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pp. 42-79

After two and a half centuries of relative isolation, the Kingdom of Guatemala spent the second half of the eighteenth century transforming itself into a model colony of the newly energized Spanish empire. Within a generation of the start of the indigo boom in the 1760s, Central America had a viable commercial link to the Atlantic economy ...

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4. The Preservation of Empire, 1811

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pp. 80-114

Vice Admiral José de Bustamante y Guerra, named by the government of Ferdinand VII to the office of governor and captain general of the Kingdom of Guatemala and president of the royal audiencia, arrived in Guatemala City on 14 March 1811 to assume command of a colony at peace and firm in its loyalty to Spain. ...

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5. The Counterinsurgency State, 1812

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pp. 115-147

Between 1808 and 1811 the colonial administration in the Kingdom of Guatemala struggled to preserve Spanish rule on the isthmus in the face of the collapse of the Bourbon monarchy, the fear of French intervention and invasion, the questionable legitimacy of the loyalist governments in Spain, the growing sentiment for autonomy ...

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6. The Challenge of the Constitution, 1813–1814

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pp. 148-179

Despite the optimism of imperial reformers in Spain and the enthusiasm of the creole elites in Central America, the Kingdom of Guatemala was not a propitious place for political experimentation as the first full year of constitutional order began in January 1813. In concert with viceregal officials in neighboring Mexico, ...

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7. The Restoration of Absolutism, 1815–1818

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pp. 180-212

By August 1814, six years after news of the fall of the Spanish monarchy reached Central America and touched off a massive political crisis throughout the empire, the Kingdom of Guatemala found itself at peace again. As if by magic, the status quo ante bellum reigned once more as Ferdinand VII proceeded to obliterate all signs ...

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pp. 213-222

The Kingdom of Guatemala emerged from a decade of unprecedented local, regional, and imperial turmoil in the spring of 1818 with no significant changes to its political, social, and economic infrastructure. As in April 1808 a well-established, peninsular-dominated bureaucracy administered Central America for an absolutist Spanish king. ...


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pp. 223-264


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pp. 265-276


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pp. 277-283

E-ISBN-13: 9780817386184
E-ISBN-10: 0817386181
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817357108
Print-ISBN-10: 0817357106

Page Count: 313
Illustrations: Illus.
Publication Year: 2011