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Mariano Gálvez


Mariano Gálvez

José Felipe Mariano Gálvez (born ca. 1794, died March 29, 1862, Mexico) was a jurist and Liberal politician in Guatemala. For two consecutive terms from August 28, 1831 to March 3, 1838 he was chief of state of the State of Guatemala, within the Federal Republic of Central America.

Background and early career

Born in the 1790s (some historians give the date August 29, 1790, others May 26, 1794), Gálvez was a foundling left in a basket at the house of Fray Toribio Carvajal. Carvajal gave the child in adoption to the family of Gertrudis Gálvez, one of the wealthiest families of the time, and he received their name. He dedicated himself to study, first at the convent school in Guatemala City and then in the law school at the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala. He received a doctorate on December 16, 1819.

In the city council of Guatemala City he introduced the motion to end the war between Guatemala and El Salvador. He served as a private counselor to Gabino Gaínza during his administration of the State of Guatemala, and it is probably due to his influence that the latter did not strenuously oppose the popular movement for liberty. After independence, Gálvez favored annexation of Guatemala to Mexico. When the first federal Congress of Central America met in Guatemala in 1825, he was one of the deputies, and he became president of the Congress. In the civil war of 1826, Gálvez took part with the Federalists and headed a revolutionary movement against the Unitarian government, which, though promptly suppressed, hastened the invasion of Guatemala by federalist Francisco Morazán. Gálvez joined Morazán's forces in Ahuachapán.

As chief of state of Guatemala

Gálvez was elected chief of state in 1831, during a period of turmoil that made governing difficult. He promoted major innovations in all aspects of the administration. He is credited with improving public instruction and making it independent of the Church, fostering science and the arts, eliminating religious festivals as holidays, founding the National Library and the National Museum, promoting respect for the laws and the rights of citizens, guaranteeing freedom of the press and freedom of thought, establishing civil marriage and divorce, respecting freedom of association and promulgating the Livingston Code (penal code of Louisiana), against much opposition. He also initiated judicial reform, reorganized municipal government and established a general head tax.

Among his major errors was a contract made with a private Englishman on August 6, 1834. The contract provided that the territories of Izabal, las Verapaces, Petén and Belize would be colonized within twenty years, but this proved impossible.

In February 1835 he was reelected far a second term, during which the Asiatic cholera afflicted the country. The reactionary and clerical party persuaded the uneducated people of the interior that the disease was caused by the poisoning of the springs by order of the government. Peasant revolts began in 1837. Gálvez asked the National Assembly to transfer the capital of the Federation from Guatemala City to El Salvador.

His major opponents were Colonel Manuel Montúfar and Juan de Dios Mayorga. José Francisco Barrundia and Pedro Molina, who had been his friends, came to oppose him in the later years of his government.

En 1838, Antigua Guatemala, Chiquimula and Salamá withdrew recognition of his government, and in February of that year Rafael Carrera's revolutionary forces entered Guatemala City, obliging Gálvez to relinquish power and flee to Mexico. In Mexico he acquired a great reputation as a lawyer.


Gálvez died on March 29, 1862 in Mexico and was buried in the Cemetery of San Fernando. In 1925 his remains were repatriated and today they rest in the school of law in Guatemala City.

Universidad Mariano Gálvez de Guatemala, founded in 1966 in Guatemala City, is named after him.

External links

  • (Spanish) Short biography
  • (Spanish) Short biography
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