The Republic of Guatemala: Stitching Together a New Country
In the eighteenth century, Guatemala named a kingdom from Chiapas to Costa Rica. By the 1840s it was a republic of much smaller territory, struggling to integrate diverse regions and communities into a stable whole. Always distant from silver capitalism, Guatemalan merchants prospered in the eighteenth century by exporting indigo from regions that would break away to become El Salvador; in the nineteenth century growers and traders turned to cochineal, a red dye earlier monopolized by Mixtecs in Oaxaca, Mexico. Never prospering in global trades before 1870, Guatemalans negotiated relations among Hispanic traders, landlords, and officials in the capital, indigenous communities that ruled production and political life in the Western Highlands, and mixed (ladino) growers who found earnings in cochineal after independence. After experimenting with liberalism in the 1830s, a fragile integration set in under strongman Rafael Carrera by the 1840s, defining a nation still searching for prosperity while struggling with ethnic differences.