Gender, Violence, and Disillusionment in Postwar El Salvador
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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This book has taken me some time. In the process of assembling it I have been inspired, pushed, challenged, and supported by mentors, colleagues, family,and friends. While time has changed the questions I pose, the stories I weave,and the analysis I develop, what has remained constant is my deep respect for the men, women, and children of repopulated communities in Chalatenango...
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CAST OF CHARACTERS
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From late afternoon until evening on most days, a group of men kneel, squat, and sit as they play cards and gamble a bit of their money in front of a family-run store (tienda) which also serves as a bus stop. Some smoke Salvadoran cigarettes, some drink community-produced grain alcohol, and there is a lot of talk amidst the thumping of the cards onto the cement floor. Their mothers, sisters, and wives are home finishing up the day’s labors, after which they, too, visit neighbors, chat and gossip at other nearby tiendas, or watch Mexican soap operas...
1. Entangled Aftermaths
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Postwar El Salvador is defined by what I term the entangled aftermaths of war and displacement, aftermaths that have produced postwar deception and disillusionment. I use the metaphor of entanglement to theorize postwar lives as enmeshed, ensnared, confused, and intertwined yet deeply involved.1It is in this material, physical, and internal space that Chalatecos live with their embodied trauma and speak for a generation lost to war and for the next generation social- ized through it. In this enmeshing people reflect upon the lies of revolution and...
2. Histories of Violence/Histories of Organizing
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Scholarship on El Salvador—historical, sociological, comparative, feminist, and ethnographic—has exploded over the last decade, contributing to our understanding of the formation of regional social, political, and economic relation-ships of power through time. An attention to historical processes provides a window into the multiple factors that shape and are shaped by the broadly...
3. Rank-and-File History
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The young priest Padre José, the son of peasants from Ojos de Agua, traveled throughout Chalatenango’s rural communities in a small white jeep.1 Usually dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, he put on only a white cloak tied with a simple length of twine to hold mass in churches still half rebuilt, some with benches, some without benches, or sometimes under trees. He celebrated first communions with children dressed in white and led in other ritual celebrations. After a year of attending these different events by Padre José, who was trained in and...
NGO War Stories
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On July 23, 1993, after my first long stretch in El Rancho, I met with Daysi to update her on my experiences and observations. I remember the rush of that after- noon vividly. I was in awe of the CORDES director. I wanted her input and, yes, approval. I can still feel the intimacy encircling the two of us as I sat beside Daysi watching her multitask: comment on the situation I described, tell me her narrative of survival, and edit yet another grant proposal...
4. NGOs in the Postwar Period
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The ride to El Rancho felt bumpier than usual as I held onto Walter. I was thankful for the motorcycle ride, and thankful that the bike had not broken down in the rain, forcing us to wait for the less-than-frequent sound of a pickup truck to stop and give us a ride back to the capital city. Walter dropped me off and introduced me to Rodolfo, another CORDES técnico, slightly older and specializing in cattle projects. While Walter headed for the women’s chicken coop to organize...
Stitching Wounds and Frying Chicken
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It was supposed to snow on the evening of the thirteenth of January, and I was hoping for enough snowfall to arguably keep me home. I had that familiar eve-of- bus-ride-to-Chalatenango feeling—anxious, looking for excuses to visit NGO offices in the capital rather than travel to El Rancho and traverse the Troncal del Norte. Only this was the New Jersey Transit bus system, and I was leaving from New York City. Why the nerves? I decided upon another route and took the train instead. It...
5. Not Revolutionary Enough?
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The road was hilly and winding, and the air cool. I sat in the back of an old but cared for Nissan truck, this one with cushions and seatbelts—a luxury vehicle by El Rancho standards. Chico and Chayo were seated up front and offered to show me the landscape. I learned early that tagging along and getting a lay of the land would be a critical aspect of my fieldwork methodology. For Chalatecos war was everyday and rooted in territory. To rebuild the region involved not only the backbreaking physical labor of erecting homes, clearing land, starting anew, but...
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It was breezy that night in Las Vueltas. The air held nostalgia. Residents from communities across the municipality, farther away than El Rancho, had arrived for FMLN municipal elections. Local party representatives were to be elected to represent the municipality at the departmental political party level. It was also a night to remember, to see old friends, former neighbors, and kin. For the making of politics, I argue, is an embodied historic and social process. As we approached the town hall, the rich smell of coffee and tamales reached the...
6. Cardboard Democracy
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Imagine a typical CORDES training session funded through international development dollars. It is the dry season and thirty-five women are in a stiflingly hot room. No fan, no air circulation. Road repair noise—jackhammers, whistles,concrete cracking, shovels smacking—enters through two small windows and echoes inside, increasing the volume of women’s voices and the intermittent...
Aftermaths of Solidarity
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7. Conning Revolutionaries
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In December 1996, bus number 125travels on the Troncal del Norte, the “high-way” from San Salvador to Chalatenango. Along the way, the landscape is densely populated, with house after house lining the road and very little green in between. The bus passes by key cities and towns such as Apopa, Guazapa,Aguilares, and El Paraíso. At each stop, lasting about one minute, venders sell...
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8. The Postwar Highway
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Seven-year-old Miguel with his broad grin and electrified blond hair was the first person I saw through the bus window as I approached the rural community of El Rancho on a hot, late morning in November 1996.1 He was racing along the cracked cement road, dragging a deflated red balloon on a string, hoping to catch some air. Miguel was dangerously and nearly underfoot of the aging, unsteady, local bus making its second trip from the rural capital city of Chalatenango to El Rancho. Despite what at the time I understood as so many “lacks,” he wore an...
Epilogue: Amor Lejos, Amor de Pendejos
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Writing in 2007, Veena Das, ethnographer-philosopher, locates her project on violence in the everyday. In Life and Words,she juxtaposes different moments, kinds, and narratives of violence through time and in doing so theorizes violence not as the fantastic but rather as the ordinary. This book has been inspired by Das’s reflections and, in particular, by the ways in which she structures her questions. She writes, “I ask whether a different picture of victims and survivors is possible in which time is not frozen but is allowed to do its work”...
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Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 7 photographs, 3 maps
Publication Year: 2011