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Dividing the Isthmus

Central American Transnational Histories, Literatures, and Cultures

By Ana Patricia Rodríguez

Publication Year: 2009

In 1899, the United Fruit Company (UFCO) was officially incorporated in Boston, Massachusetts, beginning an era of economic, diplomatic, and military interventions in Central America. This event marked the inception of the struggle for economic, political, and cultural autonomy in Central America as well as an era of homegrown inequities, injustices, and impunities to which Central Americans have responded in creative and critical ways. This juncture also set the conditions for the creation of the Transisthmus—a material, cultural, and symbolic site of vast intersections of people, products, and narratives. Taking 1899 as her point of departure, Ana Patricia Rodríguez offers a comprehensive, comparative, and meticulously researched book covering more than one hundred years, between 1899 and 2007, of modern cultural and literary production and modern empire-building in Central America. She examines the grand narratives of (anti)imperialism, revolution, subalternity, globalization, impunity, transnational migration, and diaspora, as well as other discursive, historical, and material configurations of the region beyond its geophysical and political confines. Focusing in particular on how the material productions and symbolic tropes of cacao, coffee, indigo, bananas, canals, waste, and transmigrant labor have shaped the transisthmian cultural and literary imaginaries, Rodríguez develops new methodological approaches for studying cultural production in Central America and its diasporas. Monumental in scope and relentlessly impassioned, this work offers new critical readings of Central American narratives and contributes to the growing field of Central American studies.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xvi

The writing of this book has been an exciting voyage of discovery, taking me to literary and real spaces that I never would have known had I not been granted the opportunity to do graduate work at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). ...

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Introduction: Central American Transisthmian Histories, Literatures, and Cultures

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pp. 1-18

In my classes on Central American literatures, cultures, and histories, I often begin by giving students cutout pieces representing Central American countries and asking them to (re)construct mappings of the geographic isthmus. Often Belize and Panama fall off the map, Guatemala topples over a ragged strip of land, El Salvador acquires an Atlantic coast, Honduras borders Mexico, ...

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CHAPTER 1. Costa Rican Grounds and the Founding of the Coffee Republics

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pp. 19-43

When the National Theater first opened its doors in San Jos

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CHAPTER 2. Nations Divided: U.S. Intervention, Banana Enclaves, and the Panama Canal

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pp. 44-75

Between 1930 and the 1960s a corpus of political literature representing and contesting the production of bananas gained wide currency across Central America. The transisthmian literature associated with banana production included Joaquín Beleño’s Flor de banana (Banana Flower) (1962), Miguel Ángel Asturias’s trilogy Viento fuerte (Strong Wind) (1950), El papa verde (The Green Pope) (1954), ...

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CHAPTER 3. The Power of Indigo: Testimonio, Historiography, and Revolution in Cuzcatl

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pp. 76-102

In the 1970s and 1980s, armed conflict swept through most of Central America, hitting Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador especially hard. Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, and Belize did not escape the violence but served, at various times, as refugee camps, relocation centers, and military bases for the countries at war. ...

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CHAPTER 4. K’atun Turning in Greater Guatemala: Trauma, Impunity, and Diaspora

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pp. 103-128

The novel Cuzcatlán donde bate la mar del sur ends with an imaginary act of reparation, as Pedro Martínez, a soldier in the Salvadoran National Guard, is at last brought before a people’s tribunal to face charges of war crimes against the Salvadoran people. Unbeknownst to Martínez, his niece, Lucía—a leftist revolutionary—is a member of the tribunal. ...

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CHAPTER 5. The War at Home: Latina/o Solidarity and Central American Immigration

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pp. 129-166

During the 1980s, the so-called Lost Decade of Latin America, also known as the Decade of the Hispanic in the United States,1 U.S. military and economic aid to Central America reached an annual average of $612 million and $130.2 million, respectively, at the height of the civil wars (Dunkerley 1994, 145). ...

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CHAPTER 6. “Departamento 15”: Salvadoran Transnational Migration and Narration

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pp. 167-194

The political, economic, and demographic crises in the isthmus during the 1980s and 1990s forced many Central Americans to relocate permanently throughout the Americas, Europe, Australia, Canada, and elsewhere. Many people never returned to the isthmus but became part of an expansive Central American diaspora. ...

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CHAPTER 7. Wasted Opportunities: Central America after the Revolutions

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pp. 195-222

The passing of the twentieth century provided Central Americans in and outside the geographic isthmus with the opportunity not only to examine their condition after decades of armed conflict and destruction but also to begin a political, economic, and social reconstruction of their societies. ...

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EPILOGUE. Weathering the Storm: Central America in the Twenty-first Century

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pp. 223-236

In the aftermath of the civil wars of the 1980s, the institutionalization of peace in the 1990s, and the ratification of the Dominican Republic–Central American Free Trade Agreement on July 28, 2005, by the U.S. Congress and its final approval by the Costa Rican government on October 7, 2007, Central American literary and cultural production remains key to the (discursive) reconstruction of the isthmus. ...


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pp. 237-252

Works Cited

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pp. 253-278


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pp. 279-291

E-ISBN-13: 9780292793729
E-ISBN-10: 0292793723
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292719095
Print-ISBN-10: 0292719094

Page Count: 309
Illustrations: 4 halftones
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 318247340
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Dividing the Isthmus

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Subject Headings

  • Central American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Central America -- History.
  • Central America -- Civilization.
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