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President Gerardo Barrios Letters

 File — Box: 2, Folder: 15
Identifier: Manuscripts-Collection 50-(15)

Scope and Contents

1859-1860. A collection of 63 pieces primarily of personal correspondence written by Gerardo Barrios to friend Carlos Antonio Meany, concerning various topics such as personal and family concerns, internal affairs in El Salvador, and international relations with the different countries of Central America.

The collection consists almost entirely of personal letters written and signed by Barrios himself addressed to his good friend and confidant, Carlos Antonio Meany of Guatemala, to whom he was related by marriage. There are a few copies of certain letters which Barrios thought important for Meany to read as well as a letter (Oct. 10, 1959) from Barrios' wife, Adelayda, written to Meany upon learning of the death of her aunt, his wife. The 63 letters are concentrated within a time span of a year and a half, from April 12, 1859 to November 23, 1860. Fortunately, most are written in a clear and concise style. And the damaged edges of several pages have been carefully restored.

The letters cover a wide range of subjects frankly and openly, even though some were highly confidential. Barrios' sense of humor is apparent. Throughout the letters he presents himself very candidly, taking note of his attributes as well as his flaws.

Topic range from personal and family concerns, to internal affairs in El Salvador, to international relations and intrigue between the countries of Central America. In writing of personal matters, Barrios takes great care to shield his wife from news of her aunt's death. Barrios frequently sends Meany news of the family mining business, El Salvador-grown cigars, and hostiones (oysters) with directions for cooking. Also mentioned is Barrios' ordering of a corset in order to trim his figure, and the entertaining of a young, visiting relative who is deciding upon the priesthood.

As for internal affairs, Barrios justifies his stand on a liquor tax - mentions the installment of bridges - tells of an outbreak of small pox - writes at length upon the difficulties encountered with the Capuchinos and their patron, Ortiz - speaks of his accomplishments as opposed to the mismanagement of previous administrations - and expresses his hope for the progress of El Salvador by way of establishing order (see letter July 14, 1860).

Barrios was very preoccupied with international relations. He saw himself beset by enemies, Salvadorian exiles and the governments of other Central American countries (especially Honduras and Nicaragua). Barrios continually tried to establish as firm a bond as possible with the president of Guatemala, Rafael Carrera, by entreating Meany to act as his advocate. Barrios considered Santos Guardiola of Honduras a particular enemy, and in one letter even went so far as to say that Honduras should be split between El Salvador and Guatemala. However, Barrios favored stability in the area and indicated that he would back the return of Juan Rafael Mora of Costa Rica (see letter Feb. 17, 1860). The final letter, dated Nov. 23, 1860, discusses the report of his secret agent in Nicaragua.


  • 1859-1860


Conditions Governing Access

Open to the public. No known restrictions.

Biographical or Historical Information

Gerardo Barrios (1813 - 1865), a Liberal and supporter of Central American unity, served several times as president of El Salvador. He was acting president briefly in 1858 and again from 1859 to 1860, the time encompassed in the letters of this collection. In 1861 he was elected president in his own right.


63.00 Pieces

Language of Materials

Spanish; Castilian

Arrangement Note

Folders 15a and 15b
Archon Finding Aid Title
Written by Ruth Olivera, May 1986, revised by Devin Dittfurth, August 1998.
Description rules
Other Unmapped
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

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