The most recent of the Latin American Monograph Series is a brief study of Justo Rufino Barrios’ efforts to restore the Federation of Central America. Born in 1835, Barrios early became a member of the Guatemalan Liberals seeking an end to decades of Conservative dictatorship. He was the military chief of the junta which took office by rebellion in 1871. Barrios was elected President of Guatemala the next year and remained in office until his death in 1885.

As Central America’s Liberal strongman of that era, he consistently led the confederation movement. His first attempt, in 1876, was by diplomatic means, and it was terminated by typical Central American squabbling. Then, as his reform program strengthened him in Guatemala, he prepared for a federation by force. On February 28, 1885, he proclaimed the reestablishment of the Central American Union and called upon the citizens of all of the five republics to join him. While many Central Americans favored his scheme, others were afraid, and the governments of El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica mobilized against an expected invasion. Barrios attacked El Salvador and was killed in battle only a few days later, leaving no heir to his plans.

According to the author Barrios might have succeeded if the President of El Salvador had “moved to his side.” But he did not, and that is the story of Central American Federation. Martz has relied heavily on well-known sources such as Burgess’ biography of Barrios. He provides more detail than can readily be found, but offers standard interpretations.