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José Rafael Carrera Turcios (24 October 1814 Guatemala City – 14 April 1865 Guatemala City) was the president of Guatemala from 1844 to 1848 and from 1851 until his death in 1865, after being appointed President for Life in 1854. During his military career and presidency, new nations in Central America were facing numerous problems: William Walker's invasions, liberal attempts to overthrow the Catholic Church and aristocrats' power, the Civil War in the United States, Mayan uprising in the east, Belize boundary dispute with England, and the wars in Mexico under Benito Juarez. This led to a rise of caudillos, a term that refers to charismatic populist leaders among the indigenous people. Many regional and national caudillos were interested in power for their own gain. Carrera was an exception as he genuinely took the interests of Guatemala's Indian majority to heart.
Backed by the Catholic Church, conservatives of the Aycinena clan led by Juan José de Aycinena y Piñol, and mestizo and indigenist peasants, he dominated politics in the first three decades of Guatemala's independence more than any other individual. He led the revolt against the liberal state government of Mariano Galvez in Guatemala, and then was instrumental in breaking up the Federal Republic of Central America that the liberals wanted. As a result, once the liberals took over power in Guatemala in 1871, Carrera's character and regime were dismissed and demonized, making him look as an illiterate who could not even write his own name and was a puppet of the aristocrats. Over the years, even Marxist writers who wanted to show how the native Guatemalans have been exploited by the elites completely ignored Carrera's interest in them and accused him of racism and being a "little king".