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CENTRAL AMERICA

history of the Central American republics has been largely a record of civil war, maladministration and financial dishonesty, is perhaps due in part to racial inferiority. In part, however, it may be explained by the absence of any tradition of good government; perhaps also by the brevity and artificiality of the evolution which converted a debased slave-population into the citizens of modern democratic states. The five divisions of “Guatemala” were temporarily incorporated in the Mexican empire during 1822, but regained their autonomy (as Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica) on the declaration of a Mexican republic, and in July 1823 combined to form the Republic of the United States of Central America. The Liberal or Federalist party, which was supreme in Honduras, found itself opposed by the Conservatives, including the clergy and former Spanish officials, who were very influential in Guatemala. A bitter and protracted struggle ensued. In 1837–1839 a Conservative rising, under Rafael Carrera, president of Guatemala, resulted in the overthrow of the Liberals, under General Francisco Morazan of Honduras; and in 1842, after a vain attempt to restore the Federal republic, Morazan was captured and shot. A fresh union of the republics (except Costa Rica) was concluded in 1842, and dissolved in 1845. The year 1850 was signalized by the conclusion, on the 19th of April, of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty (q.v.) between Great Britain and the United States, which was designed to facilitate the construction of an interoceanic canal. The history of this project is given in detail under Panama Canal. One important result of the treaty was the abandonment, in 1860, of the British protectorate over the Mosquito Coast. This event had been preceded by a decade of political disturbances. In 1850 Honduras, Salvador and Nicaragua had combined to restore federal unity; but their allied armies were defeated by the Guatemalans under Carrera. In 1856 the American adventurer, William Walker, endeavoured to usurp the government of Nicaragua; in 1860 he invaded Honduras and was captured and shot. His object was to assist the slave-holders of the United States by adding new slave-states to the Union. A further attempt to restore federal unity failed in 1885, and its promoter, Justo Rufino Barrios, president of Guatemala, lost his life. In 1895 the Greater Republic of Central America was formed by the union of Nicaragua, Salvador and Honduras; and a constitution was framed providing for the admission of Guatemala and Costa Rica; in December 1898 it was dissolved, as unsatisfactory to Salvador. On the 4th of November 1903 Panama, which had since 1863 formed part of Colombia, declared itself an autonomous republic. Its independence was immediately recognized by the United States, and shortly afterwards by the European powers. The United States also forbade the landing of any Colombian force on the territories of Panama, and thus guaranteed the security of the new state.

Bibliography.—For a general description of Central America, and especially of its physical features, the following monographs by K. Sapper are of prime importance:—In den Vulcangebieten Mittelamerikas und Westindiens (Stuttgart, 1905); Mittelamerikanische Reisen und Studien aus den Jahren 1888 bis 1900 (Brunswick, 1902), and Das nordliche Mittelamerika nebst einem Ausflug nach dem Hochland von Anahuac (Brunswick, 1897); these all contain many useful illustrations and maps. See also Central America and the West Indies, by A. H. Keane, edited by Sir C. Markham (London, 1901, 2 vols., with maps and illustrations); Central and South America, by H. W. Bates (London, 1882); The Spanish American Republics, by T. Child (London, 1892); and Expedition nach Zentral und Sudamerika, by P. Preuss (Berlin, 1901). For geology, see “The Geological History of the Isthmus of Panama and Portions of Costa Rica,” by R. T. Hill, in Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard, vol. xxviii., No. 5 (1898); and the following by K. Sapper:— “Grundzüge der physikalischen Geographic von Guatemala,” in Petermann’s Mitt. Ergänzungsheft, No. 113 (1894), “Über Gebirgsbau und Boden des nördlichen Mittelamerika,” ibid., No. 127 (1899), and “Über Gebirgsbau und Boden des südlichen Mittelamerika,” ibid., No. 151 (1905). The States of Central America, by E. G. Squier (New York, 1858), is still valuable, as are others of the numerous essays, pamphlets, &c., on Central American affairs left by this author; see the bibliography of his writings published in New York in 1876. The Bulletins of the Bureau of American Republics (Washington, from 1893) give ample information on commerce and industry. See also History of Central America, by H. Bancroft (San Francisco, 1881–1887. 3 vols.).

Archaeology of Central America

Discoveries and investigations carried on during the 19th century have thrown much light on the splendid past of Central America. The still extant ruins of great buildings, unlike anything which is known in the old world, testify to the high culture attained in pre-Columbian days by several native peoples differing greatly from one another in speech and racial affinities. As a science the archaeology of Central America has scarcely yet emerged from its infancy. Entire branches are still wholly uninvestigated. Amongst the numerous problems which await solution must still be reckoned the decipherment of the inscriptions, which hitherto has not progressed beyond the discovery of calendar systems and the relative datings involved in such systems.

For a complete survey of this ancient civilization, so far as it has been investigated, it is necessary to include with Central America, properly so called, a considerable portion of the Mexican territories south and east of the isthmus of Tehuantepec. The peoples inhabiting Yucatan, Campeche, Guatemala, Chiapas and Oaxaca present at the first view striking ethnical differences. On a linguistic basis, however, they may be united into several large groups. Thus, Yucatan and the greater part of Guatamala are inhabited by the Mayas, with whom may be included the still savage Lacantun or Lacandones. Related to these linguistically are the Tzendals in Chiapas and the Quiches and Cackchiquels in Guatemala, as well as the less important tribes of the Mam, Pokoman, Pokonchi, Tzotzil, Tzutuhil and Ixil. Between these there are patches of country in which dialects of the Mexican are spoken. In Oaxaca there is an extraordinary mixture of languages, some of which, like that of the Huave of Tehuantepec, are of quite unknown affinities; the bulk of the population, however, is composed of Mixtecs and Zapotecs with which the Mixe and Zoque on the east are connected. Mexican dialects also occur in isolated parts of Oaxaca.

Mayan Culture.—The civilization of the Mayas may well have been reared upon one more ancient, but the life of that culture of which the ruins are now visible certainly lasted no more than 500 years. The date of its extinction is unknown, but in certain places, notably Mayapan and Chichenitza, the highest development seems to be synchronous with the appearance of foreign, viz. Mexican or Nahua elements (see below). This quite distinctive local character suggests that the cities in question played a certain preponderating role, a hypothesis with which the scanty documentary evidence is in agreement. On the other hand the Mayan culture evinces an evident tendency to assimilate heterogeneous elements, obliterating racial distinctions and imposing its own dominant character over a wide area. Oaxaca, the country of the Mixtecs and Zapotecs, became, as was natural from its geographical position midway between Yucatan and Mexico, the meeting-ground where two archaeological traditions which are sharply contrasted in their original homes united.

Central American architecture is characterized by a fine feeling for construction, and the execution is at once bold and aesthetically effective. Amongst the various ruins, some of which represent the remains of entire cities,Architecture. while others are no more than groups of buildings or single buildings, certain types persistently recur. The commonest of such types are pyramids and galleries. The pyramids are occasionally built of brick, but most usually of hewn stone with a covering of finely-carved slabs. Staircases lead up to the top from one or more sides. Some pyramids are built in steps. Usually the platform on the top of a pyramid is occupied by buildings, the typical distribution of which is into two parts, viz. vestibule and sanctuary. In connexion with the pyramid there are various subsidiary structures, such as altars, pillars, and sacrificial stones, to meet the requirements of ritual and worship, besides habitations for officials and “tennis-courts” for the famous ball-game like that played by the Mexicans. The tennis-courts always run north and south, and all the buildings, almost without exception, have a definite orientation to particular points of the compass. Frequently the pyramids