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Joaquín Zavala Solís Collection

Identifier: Manuscripts-Collection 57

Scope and Contents

1879-1886. Nine copybooks of correspondence by Joaquin Zavala, President of Nicaragua, 1879-1883, with transcriptions by Manuel I. Lopez Alonso. Also 141 letters to Zavala. Material on interoceanic canal, expulsion of Jesuits, uprising of Matagalpa Indians, Instituto de Occidente at León, railroads, telegraph, domestic and foreign relations with Central America, Colombia, U.S., France, and Great Britain. 8.7 linear feet. The record of Zavala's voluminous correspondence while president, which he recorded in the nine extant bound copybooks (Copiadores de cartas) included in this collection, provides a wealth of information on the political history of Nicaragua of the time. While the copybooks themselves are very fragile, some faded and disintegrating beyond legilibility, a major part between the years 1880 and 1882 has been transcribed by Jesuit scholar Manuel Ignacio Perez Alonso. There are ten folders of these typewritten transcriptions. Each typewritten page is identified as to the volumes and page or pages to which it corresponds. There are some errors or discrepancies in identification which have been noted. Some 141 original letters written to Zavala during his presidency complement the copybooks. The entire collection than of copybooks, transcription, and letters constitute and invaluable source of primary material for the student of Nicaraguan history. Written during a period when Nicaragua was modernizing and developing, the copybooks together with the transcriptions cover a wide range of topics and are addressed to a wide number of recipients, from the presidents of other nations to the leaders of a local Indian community. Except for volume I, each volume has an index of correspondents. See the complet index of correspondents on pages 8-18 of this guide, extracted from the indices of the copybooks. The copybooks are concerned with the canal treaty which was to have resulted in an interoceanic canal across Nicaragua (Folders 5 and 10) and with the events including an Indian uprising in Matagalpa which led to the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1881 (Folders 4 to 9). The installation of telegraph lines and the construction of railroads and bridges, the tobacco market, use of forest land, the Instituto de Occidente in Leon and its background are also items frequently mentioned. Besides the intricacies of domestic government including elections, appointments and church and state relations, foreign affairs relating to other Central American countries, Colombia and Mexico are prominently treated. Zavala's personal life especially in regard to the health and welfare of family members occupies many pages. Although there are no transcriptions for Vol. V, Pages 99-359 (except for pages 114-115), most of the original is legible, as are pages 414-461 which also lack transcriptions. The personal letters written to Zavala are from men whose names begin with letters G (Enrique Guzmán) to M (Santiago Morales) only, thus leading to the assumption that perhaps two thirds of the correspondence has been lost. Of the 141 letters preserved, 51 are from one person, José de Macías, who figures prominently in the copybooks. Topics tie in with the topics on the copybooks in most cases. However, the letters of Fernando Guzmán, Gustavo Guzmán, Roberto Lacayo and José de Marcoleta are sent from Europe, notably from Paris, and reflect Nicargua's diplomatic and foreign relations in this area. A letter in English from William L. Merry in San Franciso concerns the proposed canal. There is one unidentified photograph (4½" x 6½") of a woman, found among the transcriptions (Folder 2). It has been placed in Box 8, Folder 13.


  • 1879-1886


Conditions Governing Access

Limited access to the public.  Original materials rated as "poor condition" are restricted because of their extreme fragile condition.

Biographical or Historical Information

General Joaquin Zavala Solis was president of Nicaragua from 1789-1883 and again in 1893. He held other important government and diplomatic posts in the latter part of the 19th century. An active and strong president with an interest in education and the fine arts, he not only expelled the Jesuits from Nicaragua, but also played a key role in bringing about the Zavala-Frelinghuysen canal treaty with the United States. As quoted by Harvey K. Meyer in The Historical Dictionary of Nicaragua (The Scarecrow Press, Inc. Metuchen, N.J. 1972) Zavala "typified the highest in Nicaragua culture".

Note written by


8.70 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

Spanish; Castilian

Arrangement Note

8 Hollinger boxes Box 1 Volume I, Copiador de cartas Box 2 Volumes II and III, Copiador de cartas Box 3 Volumes IV and V, Copiador de cartas Box 4 Volumes VI and VII, Copiador de cartas Box 5 Volumes VIII and IX, Copiador de cartas Box 6 Transcriptions, folders 1-5 Box 7 Transcriptions, folders 6-10 Box 8 Letters Please consult the print finding aid for an index of correspondents; and the indices at the end of each copybook for the exact pages of the letters.
Joaquín Zavala Solís Collection
Manuscript Collection 57, Manuscripts, The Latin American Library, Tulane University
Ruth Olivera, January 1985
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Latin American Library at Tulane Repository

7001 Freret Street
Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, 4th floor
Tulane University
New Orleans Louisiana 70118 US
(504) 865-5681