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The rebellion of Mita: Eastern Guatemala in 1837

Ann F Jefferson, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study is a social history of the rural mulattoes/ladinos of the District of Mita in eastern Guatemala who rebelled against the Liberal government headed by Mariano Gálvez in Guatemala City in June of 1837. Known as the Carrera movement or the War of the Mountain, this popular uprising began with scattered revolts precipitated by an outbreak of cholera, but soon became a full-scale rebellion that articulated a set of demands and eventually spread across the state of Guatemala and beyond. While the importance of this rebellion in the political history of Central America is widely recognized, this is the first attempt to focus on the ethnicity and social position of the protagonists, to relate rural social structure and the patron-client system to the rebellion, and to link the everyday concerns of this rural population with their political actions. The methodology combines anthropological techniques with chronological history. The early chapters provide a structural analysis of the geography of the area, settlement patterns, households, the economy, and affective life to create a picture of a society that differed in important ways from that of the urban Liberals. The last chapter shows how liberal policies designed to create a new polity based on Enlightenment principles and a free-trade economy antagonized the local population and exacerbated long-standing differences between the urban power structure and rural groups. The Liberals' decision to end banditry on the Camino Real and the methods they pursued to accomplish this goal emerge as the definitive step in the polarization process. The rebels' first engagement with government troops took place in Santa Rosa and was led by local cattle ranchers Teodoro and Benito Mexia. This study finds that a peasant elite, typified by the “mulatto” Teodoro Mexia, played the critical role in catalyzing the rebellion by forging alienated sectors of the local population into a strong regional alliance and by drawing on their substantial resources to fund the war.

Subject Area

Cultural anthropology|Latin American history|Ethnic studies

Recommended Citation

Jefferson, Ann F, "The rebellion of Mita: Eastern Guatemala in 1837" (2000). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9988800.