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Beyond Displacement

Campesinos, Refugees, and Collective Action in the Salvadoran Civil War

Molly Todd

Publication Year: 2010

During the civil war that wracked El Salvador from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s, the Salvadoran military tried to stamp out dissidence and insurgency through an aggressive campaign of crop-burning, kidnapping, rape, killing, torture, and gruesome bodily mutilations. Even as human rights violations drew world attention, repression and war displaced more than a quarter of El Salvador’s population, both inside the country and beyond its borders. Beyond Displacement examines how the peasant campesinos of war-torn northern El Salvador responded to violence by taking to the hills. Molly Todd demonstrates that their flight was not hasty and chaotic, but was a deliberate strategy that grew out of a longer history of collective organization, mobilization, and self-defense.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiii

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xv-xviii

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Introduction: A People without History

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pp. 3-14

In February 1982 a leading Honduran newspaper published an editorial cartoon depicting a Salvadoran refugee camp. In the center of the drawing, a male “refugee” kicks back in the shade of a palm tree. He sports a scruffy beard, a contented smile, and hefty boots. On the sand next to him rest a pistol, a rifle, and a bomb. ...

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1. Remapping the Tierra Olvidada

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pp. 15-49

El Salvador is an agrarian society. Generations of inhabitants of the region, as well as outside observers, have been able to agree on this. What has proven more difficult to define is the role of the campesino in that society. For the most part, characterizations of Salvadoran rural folk—both indigenous and ladino—have long been coarse. ...

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2. Organizing Flight: The Guinda System

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pp. 50-81

María C. was in her early twenties when the Salvadoran armed forces adopted a counterinsurgency strategy known as tierra arrasada (scorched earth). She was married and had several children, one of whom was an infant girl. One day in 1979, la Guardia—El Salvador’s National Guard—attacked María’s village in northeastern Chalatenango province. ...

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3. Internationalizing La Guinda

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pp. 82-111

Gladis G. remembers exactly when and how the civil war arrived at her hometown of LaHacienda in northern Chalatenango, El Salvador. It was mid-December 1979. The Salvadoran Army and National Guard, along with paramilitaries from ORDEN, began forcefully dislodging people from nearby villages. About four hundred campesinos from these villages descended on Gladis’s town of La Hacienda ...

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4. The Politics of Exile

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pp. 112-137

On 25 November 1987 retired Honduran army colonel Abrah

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5. Salvadorans to the Soul: Citizen Refugees and La Lucha

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pp. 138-164

A new trend emerged in the refugee camps of Honduras by 1982: the Salvadoran campesinos’ self-documentation or the recording of thoughts and opinions about themselves, their experiences, and their goals and objectives. As previous chapters illustrated, many Salvadorans who eventually fled to Honduras had participated in consciousnessraising initiatives prior to flight: agricultural cooperatives, mutual aid groups, community councils ...

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6. (Re)Writing National History from Exile

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pp. 165-189

“Most Excellent Madame Minister of Public Education,” began a 25 July 1987 letter from the Salvadoran refugees to the Honduran minister Elisa Valle Martínez de Pauveti. The letter continued, “We have been informed that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has designated additional budget funds to the area of education in our camps. These funds would be used to increase the number of certified teachers for the children in our camps. Although we are always interested in improving our children’s education ...

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pp. 190-220

On 9 April 1986, representatives of the Honduran and Salvadoran governments and the UNHCR met in San José, Costa Rica. On the agenda for the day was the issue of repatriation, the return to El Salvador of the more than twenty thousand Salvadoran campesinos who had been living in refugee camps in Honduras for years—some of them for more than half a decade. This particular meeting was historic ...

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Conclusion: Campesinos, Collective Organization, and Social Change

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pp. 221-227

In March 2009, Salvadorans went to the polls to elect a new president. The winner: Mauricio Funes of the FMLN. Although FMLN candidates had consistently won local and departmental elections since its transformation into a political party with the end of the war in 1992, these elections were historic in that they marked the first time the FMLN had won the presidency. For seventeen years of peacetime ...


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pp. 229-261


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pp. 263-276


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pp. 277-286

E-ISBN-13: 9780299250034
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299250041

Page Count: 286
Publication Year: 2010