Beyond Displacement: Campesinos, Refugees, and Collective by Molly Todd

By Molly Todd

During the civil warfare that wracked El Salvador from the mid-1970s to the early Nineties, the Salvadoran army attempted to stamp out dissidence and insurgency via an competitive crusade of crop-burning, kidnapping, rape, killing, torture, and ugly physically mutilations. while human rights violations drew international realization, repression and struggle displaced greater than 1 / 4 of El Salvador’s inhabitants, either contained in the state and past its borders. Beyond Displacement examines how the peasant campesinos of war-torn northern El Salvador answered to violence by way of taking to the hills. Molly Todd demonstrates that their flight was once no longer hasty and chaotic, yet used to be a planned method that grew out of an extended historical past of collective association, mobilization, and self-defense.

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Long-standing conflicts between El Salvador and Honduras further blurred the boundaries; indeed, the two republics had never agreed on an official borderline. Land and title disputes in the region dated back to the colonial 28 Remapping the Tierra Olvidada period, in fact, and, although Salvadoran and Honduran officials cycled through multiple negotiations from the 1860s onward, a final resolution proved difficult to strike. Tensions erupted into overt hostilities in the 1960s, followed by more than a decade of cold war during which the two nations had no diplomatic relations and representatives of the Organization of American States oversaw the demilitarized territory in dispute.

During the 1910s mining companies in central Honduras hired great numbers of foreigners, and the banana enclave of the North Coast actively recruited foreign workers, particularly Salvadorans, between 1895 and the mid-1950s. According to some estimates, Salvadorans comprised 10 percent of the labor force in Honduras as early as the 1920s. Even after 1954 when, in the wake of a series of agricultural labor strikes, legislation excluded foreign nationals from plantation jobs, Salvadorans continued to be prominent; well into the 1960s, some 30 percent of workers on Honduran banana plantations were from El Salvador, and the estimated three hundred thousand Salvadorans residing in Honduras at the time represented more than 12 percent of the total population of the country.

Campesinos who participated in the Joya de Cerén reform project attended trainings, acquired new skills, and developed a collective work ethic. They then put their new consciousness and skills to the test by petitioning the government for additional benefits such as access to credit and land purchase rights. As will become evident, clear parallels exist between the Joya de Cerén project and community development programs carried out elsewhere in the country in later years. Another approach that Salvadoran officials adopted to address the agrarian crisis was the promotion of cooperatives.

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