Maximiliano Hernández Martínez

Maximiliano Hernández Martínez (21 October 1882 – 15 May 1966) was a Salvadoran military officer and politician who served as president of El Salvador from 4 December 1931 to 28 August 1934 in an provisional capacity and again in an official capacity from 1 March 1935 to his resignation on 9 May 1944. Martínez was the leader of El Salvador during most of World War II.

Maximiliano Hernández Martínez
A black-and-white upper-body photograph of Maximiliano Hernández Martínez in early- to mid-20th century military dress uniform facing slightly to the right
27th President of El Salvador
In office
1 March 1935 – 9 May 1944
Preceded byAndrés Ignacio Menéndez
Succeeded byAndrés Ignacio Menéndez
In office
4 December 1931 – 28 August 1934
Provisional President
Preceded byCivic Directory
Succeeded byAndrés Ignacio Menéndez
21st Vice President of El Salvador
In office
1 March 1931 – 28 August 1934
PresidentArturo Araujo
Himself (provisional)
Preceded byGustavo Vides
Succeeded byManuel Adriano Vilanova
9th Minister of War, the Navy, and Aviation
In office
1 March 1931 – 1 December 1931
PresidentArturo Araujo
Preceded byPío Romero Bosque
Succeeded bySalvador López Rochac
Personal details
Born(1882-10-21)21 October 1882
San Matías, El Salvador
Died15 May 1966(1966-05-15) (aged 83)
Jamastrán, Honduras
Manner of deathAssassination (stab wounds)
Political partyNational Pro Patria Party
SpouseConcepción Monteagudo
Alma materPolytechnic School [es]
University of El Salvador
OccupationMilitary officer, politician
Military service
Allegiance El Salvador
Branch/serviceSalvadoran Army
RankBrigadier general

Martínez began his military career in the Salvadoran Army attending the Polytechnic School [es] of Guatemala and attained the rank of brigadier general by 1919. He ran for president during the 1931 presidential election, however, he withdrew his candidacy and endorsed Labor Party candidate Arturo Araujo who selected Martínez to serve as his vice president and later minister of defense. After the Salvadoran military overthrew Araujo in December 1931, the Civic Directory (the military junta established by the coup plotters) named Martínez as the country's provisional president, however, his presidency was not internationally recognized by the United States and other Central American countries until January 1934. The 1931 coup and Martínez's succession to the presidency allowed for the rise of a series of military dictatorships which held on to power in El Salvador until 1979.

Martínez served as president of El Salvador for more than 12 years, making him the longest serving president in Salvadoran history, and his presidency is sometimes referred to as the Martinato. In January 1932, shortly after assuming the presidency, Martínez crushed a communist and indigenous rebellion; the mass killings committed by the Salvadoran military police following the rebellion's suppression have since been referred to as La Matanza (Spanish for "The Massacre") and resulted in the deaths of between 10,000 and 40,000 peasants. Martínez ruled El Salvador as a totalitarian one-party state led by the National Pro Patria Party, a political party he established in 1933 to support his 1935 presidential election campaign. He won the 1935, 1939, and 1944 presidential elections uncontested and won every vote. Martínez established the Central Reserve Bank and engaged in infrastructure projects such as building the Pan-American Highway in El Salvador, building the Cuscatlán Bridge in central El Salvador, and inaugurated the Estadio Nacional Flor Blanca which held the 1935 Central American and Caribbean Games. The Salvadoran economy almost exclusively relied on coffee production and exports during Martínez's presidency, particularly to Germany and the United States. El Salvador joined the Allied powers of World War II and declared war on Germany, Italy, and Japan in December 1941. Following an attempted coup in April 1944 and massive civil unrest following the execution of the coup's leaders, Martínez resigned as president in May 1944 and he and his family fled the country. In 1966, Martínez was killed in exile at his home in Honduras by his taxi driver following a labor dispute.

Martínez remains a controversial figure in El Salvador. Martínez was a fascist and admired European dictators such as Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. He had personal sympathies to the Axis powers and many of his government officials during the lead up to World War II held Nazi sympathies, however, they were later purged from government after El Salvador joined the war on the side of the Allies. Martínez was a theosophist, believed in the occult, and held a series of religious and personal beliefs which many considered to be unorthodox. During the Salvadoran Civil War (1979–1992), a death squad named after him claimed responsibility for the assassinations of several left-wing politicians.

Early life edit

Martínez's military identification card at the Military Museum of El Salvador [es]

Maximiliano Hernández Martínez was born on 21 October 1882 in San Matías, El Salvador. His parents were Raymundo Hernández and Petronila Martínez. Martínez[a] he earned his bachelor's degree in San Salvador, El Salvador's capital city, after which, he enrolled in the Polytechnic School [es] of Guatemala where he earned the rank of sub-lieutenant. He returned to El Salvador and at the Jurisprudence and Social Sciences Faculty at the University of El Salvador, however, he abandoned his studies in favor of pursuing a military career.[4]

Martínez was promoted to the rank of lieutenant on 17 November 1903; to captain on 23 August 1906; to captain major that same year during the Third Totoposte War against Guatemala, where he fought under former Salvadoran president and Brigadier General Tomás Regalado; to lieutenant colonel on 6 May 1909; and to colonel on 15 June 1914.[4] The Legislative Assembly promoted Martínez to the rank of brigadier general on 14 July 1919, and President Jorge Meléndez officially sanctioned his promotion on 17 September.[5] Martínez was later employed as a professor at the Captain General Gerardo Barrios Military School[6] and held various positions within the army.[7]

1931 election and vice presidency edit

El Salvador was scheduled to have presidential elections in 1931, however, as every election prior to then had had a pre-designated winner, President Pío Romero Bosque's decision in Spring 1930 to hold free and fair elections in 1931 led to numerous candidates registering presidential campaigns;[8] Bosque did not endorse any candidate.[9] Martínez was among one of those candidates, resigning his position as second inspector general of the army on 28 May 1930 in order to run for president. Martínez attempted to rally popular support by taking socialist political positions.[10] His campaign was supported by the National Republican Party, a minor political party.[11]

Arturo Araujo, under whom Martínez served as vice president and minister of defense

Ultimately, after receiving little support, Martínez withdrew his presidential candidacy and supported Arturo Araujo of the Labor Party, expecting that Araujo would award him the vice presidency.[12] The National Republican Party withdrew its support for Martínez after his withdrawal and endorsement of Araujo.[11] During the election, Araujo won 106,777 votes (46.7 percent), however, he did not win an outright majority of the votes cast[13] and Martínez's endorsement likely did not sway many voters.[1] As per the constitution of El Salvador, the Legislative Assembly convened on 12 February 1931 to select a president; the legislature unanimously voted in favor of declaring Araujo the election's winner after he promised to reimburse the campaign costs for two other presidential candidates—Alberto Gómez Zárate and Enrique Córdova—in order to satisfy them and their supporters in the legislature.[14]

Araujo did select Martínez to be his vice president,[12] in part because he believed that Martínez would support his policies[1] and in part in order to ensure the army's loyalty.[15] Additionally, Araujo selected Martínez on the condition that he would marry Araujo's mistress, Concepción "Concha" Monteagudo.[1] Araujo and Martínez both assumed office on 1 March.[4] In addition to the vice presidency, Araujo also appointed Martínez to serve as Minister of War, the Navy, and Aviation (minister of defense) and appointed Brigadier General Andrés Ignacio Menéndez to serve as Martínez's deputy.[16] Upon assuming office, Martínez purged military leadership and promoted officers loyal to both himself and the government.[17] Ongoing economic problems caused by the Great Depression and the unrest which followed persisted through Araujo's presidency leading to Martínez using his position of minister of defense to quell protests.[15] While suppressing anti-government protests, Martínez led a group of military officers on their own protest against Araujo's government in June 1931 demanding he repeal the "red code" law which allowed the president to try and execute military officers for attempting a coup, as Bosque had done in 1927, and demanded that he reinstates the military's "right to insurrection"; Araujo rejected their demands.[18]

Rise to power edit

1931 coup and appointment as president edit

In late-1931, Araujo attempted to reduce the military's budget in order to improve the government's financial situation, however, the army's officers refused to comply with Araujo's proposed budget cut.[19] Additionally, Araujo's government had failed to pay the military's officers and enlisted men for several months, and on 1 December 1931, Araujo removed Martínez as minister of defense questioning his loyalty and replaced him with Salvador López Rochac, his brother-in-law.[18] On 2 December, due to the government's failure to pay the military's wages[20] and Martínez's removal,[18] a group of junior officers overthrew Araujo and forced him to flee the country to Guatemala,[20] and arrested many of the army's senior officers,[19] including Martínez himself.[21]

The Civic Directory of December 1931; Martínez is the 6th from the left.

The coup leaders established the Civic Directory, and two of its officers—Colonel Osmín Aguirre y Salinas (who replaced López Rochac as minister of defense) and Colonel Joaquín Valdés—assumed the role of co-chairmen of the Civic Directory;[19] the entire Civic Directory itself consisted of twelve military officers from the army, the air force, and the National Guard.[22] The Civic Directory approached Martínez and offered to install him as president of El Salvador, which Martínez accepted.[23] On 4 December, the Civic Directory dissolved itself, declared that Araujo had abandoned the presidency, and officially appointed Martínez to serve as the country's provisional president[3][22] while he was still serving as vice president.[4][24] Although Martínez consolidated his power as provisional president,[25] he did not restore himself as minister of defense, instead, appointing Valdés to the office.[23][24] Martínez also appointed Brigadier General Salvador Castaneda Castro as minister of government, promotion, agriculture, labor, sanitation, and charity; Colonel José Asencio Menéndez as sub-secretary of war, the navy, and aviation; Doctor Arturo Ramón Ávila as sub-secretary of foreign relations and justice; Pedro Salvador Fonseca as sub-secretary of finance, public credit, industry, and commerce; and Doctor Benjamín Orozco as sub-secretary of public instruction.[24]

Martínez's role in the coup remains unclear; his supporters claimed that the Civic Directory simply appointed him as provisional president in accordance with the constitution in the event that the president left the country, while his opponents claimed that Martínez organized the coup himself.[25] United States ambassador to El Salvador Charles B. Curtis believed that the organizers of the coup installed Martínez as a figurehead in order to legitimize the coup and continue exerting power.[26] Joaquín Castro Canizales [es], a Salvadoran poet and journalist, told American historian Thomas P. Anderson that Martínez had no advanced knowledge that the coup would occur but that he did know that many military officers were dissatisfied with Araujo's government.[21] Brigadier General Salvador Peña Trejo stated that Martínez knew that the military was plotting something but that he did not know any exact details. He further added that Martínez took advantage of the coup in order to assume the presidency.[23] Meanwhile, in a 1968 interview, Araujo himself stated that "it was General Martínez who secretly directed the move which brought him to power [...] I do not believe that other members of the my government, honorable men, were involved". Contemporary Salvadoran leftists also believed that Martínez organized the coup.[27] The Estrella Roja newspaper of the Communist Party of El Salvador praised the coup as "heroic and necessary" but also voiced concern that Martínez would not be able to solve the country's economic crisis.[28]

International recognition edit

The Legislative Assembly confirmed Martínez as president of El Salvador in 1932[29] and designated him to serve the remainder of Araujo's term which would end in 1935.[30] On 8 June 1932, Martínez confirmed that he would stay in office until 1935 after having reportedly receiving 2,600 petitions containing thousands of signatures which requested that he do so in April 1932.[31] Although Martínez's government was recognized by the Legislative Assembly, his government did not receive recognition from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, or the United States due to terms of the 1923 Central American Treaty of Peace and Amity;[32][33] article 2 of the treaty stipulated that all its signatories[b] would not recognize governments which assumed power through undemocratic means such as via a coup d'état.[34][35]

In September 1932, Martínez's government received formal recognition from the France, Italy, and the United Kingdom.[36][37] Martínez denounced the 1923 treaty on 26 December 1932, three days after Costa Rica had done the same. Costa Rica recognized Martínez's government on 3 January 1934,[38] as did Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua on 24 January.[39][40] The United States recognized Martínez's government on 26 January after all the signatories of the 1923 treaty had recognized his government.[41]

Presidency edit

La Matanza edit

Martínez's manifesto regarding the rebellion published in the Diario Oficial government newspaper

Araujo's government had scheduled municipal and legislative elections for 15 December 1931, however, after his overthrow, the military postponed the elections to be held from 3 to 5 January and 10 to 12 January 1932, respectively, promised that the elections would be free and fair, and allowed all political parties to participate, including the Communist Party,[42] however, elections where the Communist Party won had their results were suspended by the government.[43] In the subsequent legislative election, after early results indicated a Communist Party victory in the department of San Salvador, official results published on 21 January announced that three non-communists had won the department's three legislative seats.[44] Violence between the National Guard, communists, and civilians persisted throughout the both the municipal and legislative election processes.[45] The government ultimately canceled the results of both elections.[46]

The results of the municipal elections led to the Communist Party believing that it could no longer come to power through democratic means;[47] according to communist Abel Cuenca, the party began plotting a rebellion against Martínez's government on 9 January,[48] and communist Ismael Hernández believed that the United States would support the rebellion, confusing it for a pro-Araujo counterrevolution.[49] A delegation of Communist Party leaders met Valdés and threatened to launch a rebellion unless the government made "substantial contributions to the welfare of the peasants"; the government rejected the communists' demands.[50] The government arrested communist leaders Farabundo Martí, Mario Zapata, and Alfonso Luna in San Salvador on 19 January,[51] but their arrests were not made public until the following day.[52]

On 22 January 1932, thousands of peasants led by Francisco Sánchez [es] in western El Salvador—armed with sticks, machetes, and "poor quality" firearms—launched a rebellion against Martínez's government.[53] Pipils (a group of indigenous Salvadorans) led by Feliciano Ama joined the communist rebels as they were sympathetic to their ideology and believed that victory was assured.[54] Communist and Pipil rebels attacked and captured the towns and cities of Colón, Jayaque, Juayúa, Izalco, Nahuizalco, Salcoatitán, Sonzacate, Tacuba, Teotepeque;[51][55] in the process, the rebels killed various politicians, military officers, and landowners; looted and destroyed various buildings; and attempted to severe military communications from the captured towns to the cities of Ahuachapán, Santa Ana, and Sonsonate.[56] The initial rebellion resulted in the deaths of around fifty to seventy rebels, five soldiers, and ten police officers.[57][58] Brigadier General José Tomás Calderón estimated that there were in total around 70,000 to 80,000 rebels.[59]

Dead bodies of people killed by the army during La Matanza

On 23 January 1932, Martínez published a manifesto regarding the rebellion in the Diario Oficial, the government's official newspaper. In the manifesto, he stated that it was necessary to "suffocate [the rebels] with a strong hand" ("sofocarlos con mano fuerte") and promised to restore peace and constitutional order.[60] The following day, the government declared martial law and the army was mobilized to crush the rebellion.[61] By 25 January, the rebellion had been suppressed and the army regained control of all the towns captured by the rebels.[62] After the rebellion had been completely suppressed, the army began reprisals against peasants in western El Salvador, especially targeting the Pipil.[63] The indiscriminate killing of civilians continued until mid-February 1932 once the government determined that the region had been sufficiently "pacified".[64] As the killings disproportionately affected the Pipil population, some scholars have referred to the event as an ethnocide or a genocide.[65][66][67][68]

Many of the rebellions leaders were executed during the government's mass killings: Sánchez was executed by firing squad on 25 January 1932;[69] Ama was lynched on 28 January;[70] Martí, Zapata, and Luna were executed by firing squad on 1 February following a show trial.[71] In total, between 10,000 and 40,000 people were killed by the military,[72] and the event has since become known as La Matanza (Spanish for "The Massacre").[73][74] As resolution of the conflict, the Legislative Assembly issued Legislative Decree No. 121 on 11 July, which granted unconditional amnesty to anyone who committed crimes of any nature in order to "restore order, repress, persecute, punish and capture those accused of the crime of rebellion of this year" ("restablecimiento del orden, represión, persecución, castigo y captura de los sindicados en el delito derebelión").[75]

Martínez's government had knowledge that the rebellion was going to occur as plans regarding it were discovered on 18 January,[52] and on 21 January, the government had instructed newspapers to report that a rebellion would occur the following day.[76] Cuenca believed that Martínez intentionally allowed the rebellion to happen; he theorized that by preventing social and political change from occurring, Martínez provoked the rebellion into occurring, believing that it was doomed to fail.[77] Mauricio de la Selva, a Salvadoran poet and communist, expanded on the theory, believing that Martínez wanted to forcefully crush the communist rebellion in order to win over the United States' recognition of his government and to portray himself as the "champion of anti-communism".[78][79] Doctor Alejandro D. Marroquín argued that Martínez actually feared a pro-Araujo rebellion more than the communist rebellion, and that by crushing the communist rebellion, he would deprive Araujo of rebels to support his own counterrevolution.[80]

Economic policies edit

Upon assuming office, Martínez's government assumed control over the country's economy in an attempt to mitigate the situation which ultimately resulted in Araujo's overthrow. In January 1932, Martínez appointed Miguel Tomás Molina as his minister of finance in an effort to establish confidence in the country's financial stability and integrity. Martínez's government then proceeded to make large budget reductions in anticipation of reduced government revenue. The government also reduced interest rates by 40 percent and granted extensions to individuals who were unable to repay their loans.[81]

Arabica coffee, of which production and exports composed most of the Salvadoran economy throughout Martínez's presidency

On 23 February 1932, the Salvadoran government suspended payments on a 1922 loan from American and British lenders, in part due to Martínez's frustration of not receiving recognition from the United States shortly after he assumed power.[82] After renegotiations in 1932 and 1936, the government resumed its payment of its 1922 loan, however, the government continued to suspend payments of the loan in 1933 for political reasons and again from 1937 to 1946 due to a fall in coffee prices;[83] the loan was fully paid off in 1960.[84] In June 1937, Martínez announced the implementation of the "Martínez Doctrine" to the Legislative Assembly which held that "the government [will] never again contract new loans", and his quote was commemorated on a bronze plaque inside the Legislative Assembly building.[85] The "Martínez Doctrine" was temporarily suspended in December 1941 during World War II in order for El Salvador to benefit from the Lend-Lease Act which was promoted by the United States.[86]

On 12 March 1932, Martínez implemented the Moratory Law which suspended the government's payments of all public and private domestic debts; he passed the law in order to support coffee companies—such as the Salvadoran Coffee Company—which were struggling from the collapse in coffee prices.[7][87] Throughout Martínez's presidency, the Salvadoran economy almost entirely relied on coffee production and exports (specifically Arabica coffee).[88] From 1929 to 1936, Germany was the largest importer of Salvadoran coffee, however, after the implementation of the "Foreigners' Special Accounts for Inland Payments" policy in Germany to collect debts owed to it by foreign countries, the United States became the largest importer of Salvadoran coffee as the Salvadoran government sough a more financially beneficial trading partner. El Salvador also benefited from free-trade agreements implemented by United States Secretary of State Cordell Hull;[89] in 1937, El Salvador and the United States signed the Commercial Agreement of 1937 which granted El Salvador tariff exemptions on coffee exports.[90] From 1940 to 1944, coffee composed 98 percent of all Salvadoran exports to the United States.[91] Although El Salvador's exports to Germany decreased in 1936, its imports from Germany significantly increased from 1935 to 1937.[92]

Martínez (center) at the inauguration of the Cuscatlán Bridge in 1942

On 30 June 1932, Martínez's government began constructing the 300 kilometers (190 mi) of the Pan-American Highway which would span the country from east to west.[7] He inaugurated the Estadio Nacional Flor Blanca (now known as the Estadio Jorge "El Mágico" González) in San Salvador on 1 March 1935; the stadium hosted the 3rd Central American and Caribbean Games which began on 16 March.[93] In 1942, Martínez inaugurated the Cuscatlán Bridge which crossed the Lempa River in central El Salvador.[94]

Martínez established the Central Reserve Bank on 19 June 1934[95] in order to monopolize the right to issue currency, taking away that right from El Salvador's three largest private banks: the Salvadoran Bank, the Commercial Agricultural Bank, and the Western Bank.[87][96] Martínez consulted for advice from the Bank of England when establishing the Central Reserve Bank, and the bank pegged the Salvadoran colón at 2.5 colones to the United States dollar,[87] and the colón maintained that exchange rate for over 40 years. The bank began issuing currency on 31 August.[95] On 8 January 1935, Martínez established Mortgage Bank to completely replace the country's three largest private banks' ability to offer loans to coffee companies.[87][95] He also established the Rural Credit Box to give credits to rural peasants.[7]

Elections and constitutional changes edit

In June 1933, Martínez announced his intention to be elected as president of El Salvador in the upcoming 1935 presidential election and established the National Pro Patria Party (officially the "National Party of the Fatherland") to promote his presidential campaign.[97] He had previously established a network of informants known as the National Pro Patria Legion,[98] with the informants themselves known as ojeras (Spanish for "ears"),[99] within the military, police, and intelligence agencies in February 1932. The informants spied and monitored individuals for potential political dissidence, including members of his own government;[100] in 1937, the National Pro Patria Legion was later renamed to the Civic Guards.[98] In 1941, Martínez later promoted the formation of militias within the National Pro Patria Party.[101] The National Pro Patria Party was the only legal political party in El Salvador and all politicians to elected or appointed offices had to be members of the party.[102][103]

Martínez resigned as president and vice president on 28 August 1934[4] after seeking permission from the Legislative Assembly to focus on his presidential campaign; he was succeeded by Menéndez in a provisional capacity. Menéndez had been appointed by Martínez as his minister of defense[104][105] and was on of Martínez's closest allies.[106] During the election, Martínez won all 329,555 votes cast[107] as he ran unopposed.[108] Martínez was inaugurated for his second term on 1 March 1935.[4]

In August 1938, Martínez announced his intention to seek re-election to a third term as president. Several government officials, such as Molina, Brigadier General Manuel Castaneda, Doctor Maximiliano Brannon (sub-secretary of finance), and Augustín Alfaro (chief audit officer) resigned their positions in protest of Martínez's announcement, accusing him of continuismo.[c] They eventually joined the political opposition.[110] Some military officers—led by Colonel Ascencio Menéndez, Colonel Felipe Calderón, and Lieutenant René Glower Valdivieso—began plotting to overthrow Martínez, however, the government discovered the plot in January 1939 and arrested its leaders; they were later exiled to Mexico together with other opposition leaders.[111]

Martínez repealed the Salvadoran constitution of 1886,[110] and the Legislative Assembly ratified a new constitution on 1 March 1939.[112] Although Martínez's 1939 constitution prohibited re-election like the 1886 constitution, it explicitly granted Martínez an exemption to seek re-election, however, it did prevent his immediate and extended family from running for office and succeeding him.[68] The same day the new constitution was ratified, rather than being re-elected through a popular vote, the Legislative Assembly voted to re-elect Martínez to serve a five-year term.[106] Another new constitution was ratified on 1 March 1944 to allow him to be re-elected for a fourth term;[113] that same day, like in 1939, the Legislative Assembly re-elected him to a fourth term rather than being re-elected through the popular vote.[106] Martínez was the last president in Salvadoran history to be re-elected[68] until incumbent President Nayib Bukele won re-election in the 2024 presidential election.[114]

Social policies edit

In 1932, Martínez revoked the autonomy granted to the University of El Salvador, putting it under direct government control. His action led to students and professors to protest the decision, and in 1934, the government restored the university's autonomy.[115] Martínez revoked the university's autonomy again in 1938 resulting in students going on strike and refusing to attend classes.[111] These protests were suppressed by 1939 without major resistance and students eventually returned to the university.[112]

In 1934, Martínez implemented laws which discriminated against Arabic, Chinese, and Indian minorities in the country;[115][116] more discriminatory laws were implemented in 1939 restricting what activities Arabic, Chinese, and Lebanese minorities could participate in and where they could work.[112] More laws which discriminated against Arabs and Chinese minorities were implemented in 1943.[94] Blacks were also forbidden from entering the country.[116]

The Salvadoran constitution of 1939 implemented several new laws and restrictions on civil liberties. The constitution prohibited the possession of firearms, explosives, and bullets; the consumption of alcoholic beverages and tobacco; and the usage of matches and all types of fossil fuel. The constitution also allowed the government to expropriate private property without prior notice to build new highways or for military purposes. It also mandated a government monopoly over all radio broadcasting in the country.[112] Other laws not in the constitution also prohibited several civil liberties. Games involving playing cards, die, ribbons, and thimbles were banned, as were wheel of fortune, roulette, and all games involving luck or random chance. Playing billiards was permitted, but children, students, and servants were forbidden from playing, and laborers were not allowed to play during weekdays unless it was after 6 p.m.[117] The usage of machines in the manufacture of shoes and other types of clothing was banned in an effort to promote the learning of trades.[112]

Ideology and foreign affairs edit

In May 1937, Frank P. Corrigan, the United States ambassador to El Salvador, wrote a letter to Hull stating that Martínez had "gained the approval of the greater part of the people", allowed for "free expression of opinion if he considers it well intentioned and not subversive", and believed that Martínez had not become a dictator in an "opprobrious sense".[118] His opinion of Martínez changed after he began openly praising the works of totalitarian governments in Europe and told Hall to work to discourage the "beginning of a Dictatorship" in El Salvador.[119] In mid-1938, Fay Allen Des Portes, the United States ambassador to Guatemala, told Hull that he had received reports that Martínez had "turned Fascist in the letter and the spirit".[110] After Castaneda had left Martínez's government in 1939, he accused Martínez of being the most "anti-democratic" leader in the Americas and that he had shifted the economy in favor of "Nazi-Fascist Imperialism".[92]

Martínez in 1940

Martínez personally admired fascism and was a Salvadoran nationalist.[120] He also believed that corporatism was the ideal system of government which should be implemented in El Salvador.[121] Martínez sought to emulate the economic success of European dictators such as Adolf Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy;[122] he compared himself to Hitler and Mussolini, believing that the three of them all saved their countries from communism.[123] Martínez permitted Spanish priests with fascist sympathies to instruct school children and teach them how to perform the Roman salute.[124] In 1936, Martínez's government was among one of the first to recognize Francisco Franco as the legitimate ruler of Spain during the Spanish Civil War,[121] even before Germany and Italy had done so.[125] Martínez also recognized the independence of Manchukuo, a Japanese puppet state controlling territory in northeastern China.[126] Martínez was personally sympathetic to the Axis powers.[127]

In 1938, the Salvadoran Air Force purchased four Caproni bombers from Italy, with the coffee making up part of the payment. The air force initially attempted to purchase the bombers from North American Aviation, but the company refused to accept coffee as payment. Italy sent El Salvador a flight instructor to train new pilots,[128] and additionally, El Salvador sent four pilots to Italy to receive training at the Turin Academy of War. Martínez also purchased thirty-two 75 mm guns from Italy.[129]

Martínez appointed several Nazi sympathizers to some prominent government and military positions.[130] Upon establishing the Mortgage Bank, Martínez appointed German banker Baron Wilhelm von Hundelhausen as the bank's manager and Héctor Herrera, one of Hundelhausen's acquaintances, as the bank's president.[131] Commander W. R. Phillips, a United States military attaché in the Panama Canal Zone, believed that Hundelhausen was promoting Nazi Party meetings in El Salvador and was supporting the Salvadoran government in the hope that it would overthrow the Honduran government, annex the country, and eventually unify Central America under Martínez. Phillips also accused Hundelhausen of being responsible for the spread of pro-German propaganda pamphlets and newspaper advertisements in El Salvador.[132] On 24 April 1938, Martínez appointed German Major General Eberhardt Bohnstedt to serve as the director of the Captain General Gerardo Barrios Military School, an instructor, and a military advisor.[133] Colonel Juan Merino, the director of the National Guard, and various other Salvadoran military officers also held Nazi sympathies.[134] Newspaper such as Diario co Latino, El Diario de Hoy, and La Prensa Gráfica were censored, not only for publishing messages critical of Martínez's government, but also for publishing anti-Axis messages; many journalists were also exiled from the country.[127]

World War II edit

Diario de Occidente reporting on El Salvador's declaration of war on Japan

Despite Martínez's personal sympathies to fascism, he continued to reiterate his commitment to democracy, his opposition to totalitarianism, and his support for the United States.[135] Beginning in 1940, he began to crackdown on Nazi activity in El Salvador[136] and even suppressed a fascist demonstration based on the Italian Blackshirts on 10 June 1940, the day that Italy joined World War II on the side of the Axis powers.[137] Although Martínez and many of his government officials supported fascist ideals, the majority of the Salvadoran population did not.[138] In September 1939, both Hundelhausen and Bohnstedt resigned from their positions due to open public opposition to their appointments.[139]

After the outbreak of World War II, Salvadoran exports to Germany diminished significantly, pushing El Salvador to forming closer economic ties with the United States.[138] In 1940, the United States sent military advisors to El Salvador to inspect the state of the armed forces,[140] and on 27 March 1941, Martínez appointed American Lieutenant Colonel Robert L. Christian to serve as director of the Captain General Gerardo Barrios Military School. Christian was succeeded by American Lieutenant Colonel Rufus E. Byers on 21 May 1943.[141] Ultimately, on 8 December 1941 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, El Salvador declared war on Japan, followed by declarations of war on both Germany and Italy on 12 December.[142]

In 1942, Martínez dismissed all ministers who held Nazi sympathies.[94] He also ordered the arrests of several German, Japanese, and Italian nationals in El Salvador and interned them at the National Police headquarters.[143] El Salvador sent laborers to the Panama Canal Zone to maintain the Panama Canal, however, it did not send any soldiers to directly fight the Axis powers.[144] Although Martínez aligned El Salvador with the Allied powers, he privately hoped that the Axis powers would win the war.[145]

Fall from power edit

Palm Sunday Coup edit

The Palm Sunday Coup attempt

From 1935 to 1939, five coup attempts were devised to overthrow Martínez, however, three were discovered before they could be executed and the other two were crushed during the attempt.[99] In August 1943, some opposition politicians, military officers, and anti-fascist activists began plotting to overthrow Martínez, however, several of the plotters were arrested in late-1943. Shortly afterwards, Ernesto Interiano was killed by the police during an attempted assassination of Martínez in a lone wolf attack.[94]

On Palm Sunday, 2 April 1944, the 1st and 5th Infantry Divisions and the 2nd Artillery Regiment launched an attempted coup against Martínez's government, and the coup was led by some military officers and politicians who plotted the foiled 1943 coup attempt.[146] The rebel military factions occupied strategic locations in San Salvador and in other major cities and took control of the air force and the YSP radio station.[147] The National Police, the National Guard, and the remainder of the armed forces remained loyal to Martínez, and the coup eventually failed due to a lack of leadership[146] and the rebels' failure to capture Martínez.[147]

On 4 April 1944, many of the coup's leaders were given several criminal charges for their roles in the attempted coup. Eleven of those charged were ultimately executed by firing squad on 10 April. A further six leaders were executed on 12 April, and three more were executed on 27 April.[146][147] Other leaders who evaded capture fled the country or took refuge in foreign embassies.[146]

Strike of Fallen Arms edit

The execution of various military officers and politicians following the attempted Palm Sunday Coup eventually became martyrs for students and other of Martínez's opponents.[148] On 28 April 1944, students at the University of El Salvador and doctors from hospitals in San Salvador declared that they would go on strike to protest the executions until Martínez's government resigned.[149][150] They were later joined by postgraduate, high school, and primary school students.[149] In the ensuing protests, soldiers killed over 100 students leading to workers, bankers, business owners, and professors joining their protest and declaring a general strike to cripple the country's economy.[150][148]

On 7 May 1944, the police killed José Wright, a United States citizen.[149] After the United States ambassador to El Salvador demanded to know the circumstances surrounding Wright's death,[151] Rodolfo Morales, the minister of governance, resigned. The ambassador eventually began to call for Martínez's resignation.[149] On 8 May, Martínez announced his intention to resign as president, which he did on 9 May;[147] Menéndez succeeded Martínez as president in a provisional capacity.[104][152]

Exile and death edit

On 11 May 1944, two days after issuing his resignation, Martínez and his family fled El Salvador to Guatemala[149][150] with the assistance of Martínez's brother, Guadeloupe. Afterwards, Martínez and his family moved to Honduras;[153] Martínez never returned to El Salvador.[152] On 15 May 1966, Martínez was stabbed seventeen times by his taxi driver, Cipriano Morales, in his kitchen in Hacienda Jamastrán, Honduras.[153] Morales killed Martínez over a labor dispute,[152] however, police initially suspected that robbery was the primary motive.[154]

Personal life edit

Family edit

A bust of Martínez in San Matías, Martínez's hometown

Martínez married Concepción Monteagudo as a part of a condition to become Araujo's vice president[1] and the couple had eight children: Alberto, Carmen, Esperanza, Marina, Eduardo, Rosa, Gloria, and Maximiliano. Martínez's uncle, Guadalupe Martínez, had helped him enroll into college.[4]

Religious and personal beliefs edit

Martínez was a theosophist and a freemason.[155][156][157] He believed in spiritualism,[29][108] the occult,[108][158] and regularly performed seances at his home.[17] In April 1944, when Luis Chávez y González, the archbishop of San Salvador, asked Martínez to stop the executions of revolutionaries "in the name of God", Martínez responded by telling Chávez "I am God in El Salvador".[159] Martínez converted to Catholicism late into his life at the insistence of his wife.[160]

Martínez became a vegetarian at the age of 40 and only drank water. He believed that sunlight cast through colored bottles could cure illnesses.[161] When a smallpox epidemic broke out in San Salvador, Martínez ordered the hanging of colored lights in the city in an effort to cure the epidemic.[29] When his youngest son became ill with appendicitis, he refused to allow a surgeon to operate on him, instead, Martínez believed that water in blue bottles hit by sunlight would cure the appendicitis; his son eventually died to the appendicitis.[159][161] Martínez earned a reputation of being a witch doctor for selling remedies which supposedly cured various conditions and circumstances.[161][162] When a group of Americans offered to donate rubber sandals to barefoot Salvadoran schoolchildren, Martínez told them that "It is good for children to go barefoot. That way they better receive the beneficial effluvia of the planet, the vibrations of the Earth. Plants and animals do not wear shoes."[126] Martínez believed in reincarnation;[161][162] during a publicly broadcast lecture at the University of El Salvador on his theosophist beliefs, he stated that "It is a greater crime to kill an ant than a man because when the man dies he becomes reincarnated, while the ant dies definitively".[159] He continued believing many of his beliefs and practicing many of his habits for the rest of his life.[163]

Martínez's detractors nicknamed him "El Brujo" (Spanish for "The Witch" or "The Sorcerer") for his beliefs.[17][161][164]

Legacy edit

A 1940s caricature of Martínez sitting on a pile of skulls

Martínez was the longest serving president in Salvadoran history,[29] being in office for over 12 years.[106] His presidency is sometimes referred to as the Martinato.[165] Martínez was the first of a series of military dictators who held power in El Salvador until the 1979 coup d'état.[166][167][168]

Martínez remains a controversial figure in El Salvador. As early as 1948, some history textbooks used in Salvadoran high schools described Martínez's government as a "Nazilike [sic] dictatorship".[169] Jorge Lardé y Larín, a Salvadoran historian and professor at the Captain General Gerardo Barrios Military School, criticized Martínez and his government in his published works and emphasized that he was not a hero.[170] Many Salvadoran conservatives criticized Martínez's use of force against protestors in April and May 1944, but they also "might have cared little" about the mass killings during La Matanza.[171] During the 1950s, the Salvadoran military dictatorship which succeeded Martínez often ignored the events of La Matanza as a whole up until the Cuban Revolution brought Fidel Castro to power in Cuba, after which the government and pro-government newspapers began to promote La Matanza in anti-communist propaganda throughout the 1960s and 1970s.[172] In 2004, the website for the Salvadoran military listed Martínez as one of El Salvador's most important military heroes.[173]

During the Salvadoran Civil War of 1979 to 1992, a far-right death squad named the "Anti-Communist Alliance of El Salvador of the Glorious Maximiliano Hernández Martínez Brigade" after Martínez himself operated within the country.[174] The group claimed responsibility for the assassinations of various Christian Democrat and Marxist politicians,[175] the assassinations of six Revolutionary Democratic Front leaders in 1980, and other similar killings in 1983.[174] Major Roberto D'Aubuisson, who founded and coordinated multiple death squads during the civil war,[176] led the group at one point, and the Central Intelligence Agency alleged that the death squad had connections to the Nationalist Republican Alliance political party which D'Aubuisson founded.[177]

Awards and decorations edit

During his presidency, Martínez was bestowed the title "Benefactor of the Fatherland" ("Benefactor de la Patria").[4] Instead of styling himself as "Mr. President" ("señor Presidente"), he style himself as "Master and Leader" ("Maestro y Líder").[178] Martínez was also awarded the Order of the Quetzal by Guatemala and the Order of the Illustrious Dragon by Manchukuo.[4]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ Maximiliano Hernández Martínez is commonly referred to in El Salvador as General "Martínez" (using his maternal surname) rather than General "Hernández" (using his paternal surname),[1][2] but he is sometimes referred to as General "Hernández Martínez" (using both of his surnames).[3]
  2. ^ The signatories of the 1923 Central American Treaty of Peace and Amity included Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.[34]
  3. ^ Continuismo is the practice of incumbent democratically-elected leaders attempting to extend one's term in office beyond legal limitations and restrictions such as through introducing constitutional amendments and abolishing term limits.[109]

References edit

Citations edit

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  3. ^ a b Bernal Ramírez & Quijano de Batres 2009, p. 109.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Casa Presidencial (c).
  5. ^ Diario Oficial 1919, p. 1,761.
  6. ^ Grieb 1971b, p. 153.
  7. ^ a b c d La Prensa Gráfica 2004.
  8. ^ Anderson 1971, p. 41.
  9. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, p. 80.
  10. ^ Anderson 1971, p. 42.
  11. ^ a b Ching 1997, p. 367.
  12. ^ a b Astilla 1976, p. 34.
  13. ^ Nohlen 2005, p. 287.
  14. ^ Astilla 1976, p. 35.
  15. ^ a b Grieb 1971b, p. 154.
  16. ^ Diario Oficial 1931a, p. 449.
  17. ^ a b c Anderson 1971, p. 51.
  18. ^ a b c Gould & Lauria Santiago 2008, p. 139.
  19. ^ a b c Grieb 1971b, pp. 154–155.
  20. ^ a b Astilla 1976, pp. 40–41.
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  22. ^ a b Casa Presidencial (a).
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  24. ^ a b c Diario Oficial 1931b, p. 2,345.
  25. ^ a b Astilla 1976, p. 40.
  26. ^ Grieb 1971b, p. 155.
  27. ^ Anderson 1971, p. 61.
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  30. ^ Bernal Ramírez & Quijano de Batres 2009, p. 112.
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  41. ^ Woolsey 1934, pp. 325–326.
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  48. ^ Anderson 1971, p. 86.
  49. ^ Anderson 1971, p. 92.
  50. ^ Anderson 1971, pp. 91–92.
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  53. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, p. 82.
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  55. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, pp. 29 & 32.
  56. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, pp. 29–32.
  57. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, p. 33.
  58. ^ Anderson 1971, p. 136.
  59. ^ Keogh 1982, p. 13.
  60. ^ Diario Oficial 1932, p. 121.
  61. ^ Grieb & 1971b 163.
  62. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, p. 37.
  63. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, pp. 37 & 62.
  64. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, p. 38.
  65. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, pp. 62–63 & 246.
  66. ^ Diario co Latino 2005, p. 5.
  67. ^ Payés 2007.
  68. ^ a b c Rauda Zablah 2023.
  69. ^ Anderson 1971, p. 126.
  70. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, pp. 59 & 351.
  71. ^ Anderson 1971, pp. 87–88.
  72. ^ Tulchin & Bland 1992, p. 167.
  73. ^ Beverly 1982, p. 59.
  74. ^ Bosch 1999, p. 7.
  75. ^ Cuéllar Martínez 2004, p. 1,087.
  76. ^ Anderson 1971, p. 94.
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  78. ^ Anderson 1971, p. 85.
  79. ^ Astilla 1976, p. 72.
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  93. ^ Arteaga 2019.
  94. ^ a b c d Luna 1969, p. 52.
  95. ^ a b c Bernal Ramírez & Quijano de Batres 2009, p. 129.
  96. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, p. 83.
  97. ^ Lauria Santiago & Binford 2004, pp. 59–60.
  98. ^ a b Holden 2004, p. 63.
  99. ^ a b Lauria Santiago & Binford 2004, p. 69.
  100. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, p. 215.
  101. ^ Bernal Ramírez & Quijano de Batres 2009, p. 120.
  102. ^ Lauria Santiago & Binford 2004, p. 60.
  103. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, pp. 82–83.
  104. ^ a b Casa Presidencial (b).
  105. ^ Luna 1969, pp. 50 & 97.
  106. ^ a b c d Bernal Ramírez & Quijano de Batres 2009, p. 119.
  107. ^ Lauria Santiago & Binford 2004, p. 68.
  108. ^ a b c Anderson 1971, p. 151.
  109. ^ Baturo & Elgie 2019, p. 79.
  110. ^ a b c Astilla 1976, p. 148.
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  112. ^ a b c d e Luna 1969, p. 51.
  113. ^ Luna 1969, pp. 52–53 & 93.
  114. ^ Castillo Vado 2024.
  115. ^ a b Luna 1969, p. 49.
  116. ^ a b Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, p. 281.
  117. ^ Bernal Ramírez & Quijano de Batres 2009, p. 138.
  118. ^ Astilla 1976, pp. 146.
  119. ^ Astilla 1976, pp. 147.
  120. ^ Astilla 1976, pp. 151 & 169.
  121. ^ a b Astilla 1976, p. 151.
  122. ^ Astilla 1976, pp. 150–152.
  123. ^ Astilla 1976, p. 150.
  124. ^ Astilla 1976, p. 159.
  125. ^ Luna 1969, p. 50.
  126. ^ a b Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, p. 282.
  127. ^ a b Astilla 1976, pp. 166–167.
  128. ^ Astilla 1976, pp. 155–157.
  129. ^ Astilla 1976, p. 158.
  130. ^ Astilla 1976, p. 162.
  131. ^ Astilla 1976, pp. 162–163.
  132. ^ Astilla 1976, pp. 163–164.
  133. ^ Astilla 1976, p. 161.
  134. ^ Astilla 1976, p. 165–166.
  135. ^ Astilla 1976, pp. 169–171.
  136. ^ Astilla 1976, p. 169.
  137. ^ Astilla 1976, p. 167.
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  139. ^ Astilla 1976, p. 168.
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  141. ^ Astilla 1976, p. 181.
  142. ^ Astilla 1976, p. 184.
  143. ^ Astilla 1976, p. 188.
  144. ^ Astilla 1976, pp. 188–189.
  145. ^ Astilla 1976, p. 191.
  146. ^ a b c d Luna 1969, p. 53.
  147. ^ a b c d Bernal Ramírez & Quijano de Batres 2009, p. 121.
  148. ^ a b Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, p. 84.
  149. ^ a b c d e Luna 1969, p. 54.
  150. ^ a b c Astilla 1976, p. 196.
  151. ^ Bernal Ramírez & Quijano de Batres 2009, p. 125.
  152. ^ a b c Anderson 1971, p. 152.
  153. ^ a b Bernal Ramírez & Quijano de Batres 2009, p. 123.
  154. ^ The New York Times 1966, p. 12.
  155. ^ Beverley 1982, p. 59.
  156. ^ Anderson 1971, pp. 42 & 50.
  157. ^ Astilla 1976, pp. 43 & 160.
  158. ^ Astilla 1976, p. 160.
  159. ^ a b c Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, p. 283.
  160. ^ Astilla 1976, pp. 43–44.
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  162. ^ a b Anderson 1971, pp. 50–51.
  163. ^ Luna 1969, p. 98.
  164. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, p. 63.
  165. ^ Bernal Ramírez & Quijano de Batres 2009, p. 127.
  166. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Lara Martínez 2007, pp. 2 & 82.
  167. ^ Bosch 1999, pp. 6–8.
  168. ^ Ching 1997, p. 357.
  169. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Laura Martínez 2007, p. 232.
  170. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Laura Martínez 2007, p. 233.
  171. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Laura Martínez 2007, pp. 232–233.
  172. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Laura Martínez 2007, pp. 234–236.
  173. ^ Lindo Fuentes, Ching & Laura Martínez 2007, pp. 241 & 377.
  174. ^ a b Central Intelligence Agency 1984, p. 23.
  175. ^ Haggerty 1990, p. 235.
  176. ^ Central Intelligence Agency 1984, p. 15.
  177. ^ Central Intelligence Agency 1984, p. 17 & 23.
  178. ^ Luna 1969, p. 97.

Bibliography edit

Books edit

Journals edit

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Political offices
Preceded by Minister of War, the Navy, and Aviation of El Salvador
Succeeded by
Preceded by Vice President of El Salvador
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of El Salvador
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of El Salvador
Succeeded by