Biography of José María Montealegre Fernández (1815-1887)

Politician and Costa Rican doctor born in San José de Costa Rica on March 19, 1815 and died in San José (California) on September 26, 1887. He/She was President of Costa Rica on two occasions, 1859-1860 and 1860-1863.

It was the first Costa Rican who studied medicine in Europe, particularly in England where he/she graduated as a surgeon. It could afford their studies abroad thanks to the family fortune, which was based on large coffee plantations and grain export business. After his studies he/she returned to Costa Rica and quickly became interested in the political life of their country, in which noted for his social work in favour of the destitute.

After the Presidency of the Congress, he/she was elected President of the Republic in 1859, when the military maximum white and Lorenzo Salazar gave a coup against the Government of Juan Rafael Mora Porras. A month later, he/she cracked down harshly the revolt headed by the deposed Mora, who was shot by a ruling of a Council of war on 30 September 1860. The following year, elections were called and Montealegre was the winner, so it was designated as constitutional President for the period 1860-1863.

Despite their efforts to disassociate itself from the military leadership had given him power, his Government was heavily influenced by the colonels maximum white and Lorenzo Salazar and coffee large landowners of the country. All this led to a strong political instability. In 1859, Montealegre, convened a constituent Assembly that drafted the liberal Constitution of December of that year. Inter alia, such Constitution dropped the presidential period from 6 to 3 years and re-election was prohibited. During his tenure he/she filled administration and public finances and introduced the postage stamp.

At the end of his term in 1863 he/she proposed as a candidate for Mr. Jesús Jiménez, that he/she was elected by a large majority. Montealegre retreated to San Francisco (California), where he/she lived, dedicated to his profession, until his death. His mortal remains were brought to Costa Rica in December 1978 and deposited in the mausoleum of former Presidents.