Original Photograph of Rafael Carrera, President of Guatemala
Guatemala: c. 1862.
Very good. Rare carte-de-visite (CDV) photograph, 6 x 10 cm, of Guatemalan President Rafael Carrera, with the backstamp of itinerant American photographer William C. Buchanan, one of the first photographers to work in Guatemala. Carrera (1814-1865) was one of the most powerful figures in nineteenth century Central America. A mestizo with no formal education, he served in the military, where he developed strong conservative beliefs and rose rapidly through the ranks. With the support of the peasantry and the lower clergy (who opposed the anti-clerical liberal government), he captured Guatemala City in 1838 and seized power. In 1840, he established himself as dictator and withdrew Guatemala from the United Provinces of Central America, proclaiming it an independent republic. Recalling the Jesuits, he re-established the Roman Catholic Church in 1852. In 1854 he abolished elections and became President for Life. Under Carrera, adventurers from Nicaragua led by William Walker were repulsed, two attempts by Mexico to annex Guatemala were thwarted, and the territorial expansion of British Honduras was limited. He intruded frequently into the affairs of neighboring nations in behalf of their conservative forces. Although Carrera was crude and brutal, the clergy and upper classes appreciated his regime for its stability, respect for property, and support of the church. The country made some economic progress under his rule, becoming a major coffee exporter. Guatemala also attained a measure of ethnic equality under Carrera’s leadership, which included appointing Indians and mestizos to political and military positions (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica). Because of the limited number of photographers operating in Central America during Carrera's lifetime, photographs of him are quite scarce. William C. Buchanan first traveled to Central America in 1853, working as a portraitist in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. In early 1854, he opened a studio in Guatemala City, and for several months worked in partnership with another American photographer, William Fitzgibbon. He appears to have left the city for Mexico late that year, and his whereabouts are unknown until 1859, when returned Guatemala City, remaining through 1865.