El Salvador a historical perspective
The information below is courtesy of wikipedia.
The history of El Salvador has been a history of struggle against conquistadors, empires, dictatorships and world powers to be free. El Salvador was one of the regions that resisted the Spanish invasion led by Pedro de Alvarado who had to fight Atlacatl and retreat several times back to Guatemala. After the independence several Spanish Creole took over the government and economy getting rid of all the land protections and benefits that the indigenous people had which caused some sectors to rise against the government in the 1800s. Anastacio Aquino, king of the Nonoualquenos, led the rebellion against abuse of power and corruption but it was repressed by the government. This repression would have repercusions in the future of El Salvador. La matanza, and all the liberation movements from the 1930s to 1980s would originate from the injustices committed by the Spanish rule, Creoles and other foreign power interventions.
Before the Spanish conquest, the area that now is El Salvador was composed of three indigenous states and several principalities. The indigenous inhabitants were the Pipils, a tribe of the nomadic people of Nahua settled down for a long time in central Mexico. The region of the east was populated and governed by the Lencas. The North zone of the Lempa Hi River was populated and governed by the Chortis, a Mayan people.
Spanish conquest and rule
The first Spanish attempt to subjugate this area failed in 1524, when Pedro de Alvarado was forced to retreat by Pipil warriors. In 1525, he returned and succeeded in bringing the district under control of the Audiencia of Mexico. It was Alvarado who named the district for El Salvador (“The Savior”) and was appointed its first governor, a position he held until his death in 1541. The area was under the authority of a short-lived Audiencia of Panama from 1538 to 1543, when most of Central America was placed under a new Audiencia of Guatemala. In 1609 the territory of the Audiencia of Guatemala was created into a captaincy general to deal with threats to the area from foreign incursions into the Caribbean. In 1786, the district of El Salvador, which previously had been broken up into many corregimientos, was transformed into an intendancy, as part of the Bourbon Reforms. This change brought economic and political unity to the area, and aided in the development of a sense of Salvadoran nationalism over the next century.
Eruption of Ilopango volcano, 1891 Independence
The first “shout of independence” in El Salvador came in 1811, at the hands of Criollo elite. Many intellectuals and merchants had grown tired of the overpowering control that Spain still had in the American colonies, and were interested in expanding their export markets to Britain and the United States. Indigenous uprisings aimed at Spanish subjugation plagued the territory at this time, and they were re-interpreted by the Republicans to serve their purpose and show popular support for independence. Thus a movement grew amongst the middle class Criollo and Mestizo classes. Ultimately, the 1811 declaration of independence failed when the governor-general of Guatemala sent troops to San Salvador in order to crush the movement. However, the momentum was not lost and many of the people involved in the 1811 movement became involved in the 1821 movement.
In 1821, El Salvador and the other Central American provinces declared their independence from Spain. When these provinces joined the First Mexican Empire in early 1822, El Salvador resisted, insisting on autonomy for the new Central American countries. Guatemalan troops sent to enforce the union were driven out of El Salvador in June 1822. El Salvador, fearing incorporation into Mexico, petitioned the United States government for statehood. But in 1823, a revolution in Mexico ousted Emperor Agustín de Iturbide, and a new Mexican congress voted to allow the Central American provinces to decide their own fate. That year, the United Provinces of Central America was formed of the five Central American states under General Manuel José Arce.
In 1832, Anastasio Aquino led an indigenous revolt against Criollos and Mestizos in Santiago Nonualco, a small town in the province of San Vicente. The source of the discontent of the indigenous people was lack of land to cultivate. The problem of land distribution has been the source of many political conflicts in Salvadoran history.
The Central American federation was dissolved in 1838 and El Salvador became an independent republic.
El Salvador in its early history was controlled in a localized manner. This form of control was aided by its geography; it had unbridged rivers that could only be crossed at fords and it lacked linking highway that could handle wheeled vehicles. Thus the “Fourteen Families” (actually many dozens of families) that have controlled El Salvador’s history were all but feudal lords. Although the constitution was amended repeatedly (in 1859, 1864, 1871, 1872, 1880, 1883, and 1886), several elements remained constant throughout. The wealthy landowners were granted super-majority power in the national legislature (for example, the 1824 constitution provided for a unicameral legislature of 70 deputies, in which 42 seats were set aside for the landowners). The president, selected from the landed elite, was also granted significant power throughout. Each of El Salvador’s 14 regional departments had a governor appointed by the president. The rapid changes in the constitution are mainly due to the attempts of various presidents to hold onto power. (For example, President Gerardo Barrios created a new constitution to extend his term limit.)
From Indigo to Coffee: Displacement
El Salvador’s landed elite depended on production of a single export crop, indigo. This led the elite to be attracted to certain lands while leaving other lands, especially those around former volcanic eruptions, to the poor subsistence farming mestizos and the Indian communes. In the middle of the 19th century, however, indigo was replaced by chemical dyes. The landed elite replaced this crop with a newly demanded product, coffee. The lands that had once been dependent for the product (indigo) were suddenly quite valuable. The elite-controlled legislature and president passed vagrancy laws that removed people from their land and the great majority of Salvadorans became landless. Their former lands were absorbed into the coffee plantations (fincas).
it] Military Dictatorships
Between 1931, the year of Gen. Maximiliano Hernández Martínez’s coup, and 1944, when he was deposed, there was brutal suppression of rural resistance. The most notable event was the 1932 Salvadoran peasant uprising headed by Farabundo Martí and the government retaliation, commonly referred to as La Matanza (the ‘slaughter’), which followed. In this ‘Matanza’, approximately 30,000 indigenous people and political opponents were murdered, imprisoned or exiled. Until 1980, all but one Salvadoran temporary president was an army officer. Periodic presidential elections were seldom free or fair.
From the 1930s to the 1970s, authoritarian governments employed political repression and limited reform to maintain power, despite the trappings of democracy. The National Conciliation Party was in power from the early 1960s until 1979. Fidel Sánchez Hernández was president from 1967 to 1972. In July 1969, El Salvador invaded Honduras in the short Football War related to the Honduran appropriation of land held by Salvadoran immigrants. During the 1970s, there was great political instability. In the 1972 presidential election, opponents of military rule united under José Napoleón Duarte, leader of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC). Amid widespread fraud, Duarte’s broad-based reform movement was defeated. Subsequent protests and an attempted coup were crushed and Duarte exiled. These events eroded hope of reform through democratic means and persuaded those opposed to the government that armed insurrection was the only way to achieve change. As a consequence of this social discontent, left-wing revolutionary groups began to gain strength.
Salvadoran Civil War
Main article: Salvadoran Civil War
In 1979 the reformist Revolutionary Government Junta took power. Both the extreme right and the extreme left now disagreed with the government and increased political violence quickly turned into a civil war. The initially poorly trained Salvadoran Armed Forces (ESAF) also engaged in repression and indiscriminate killings, the most notorious of which was the El Mozote massacre in December 1981. The United States supported the government and Cuba and other Communist states supported the insurgents now organized as the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). The Chapultepec Peace Accords marked the end of the war in 1992 and FMLN became one of the major political parties.
During the 12-year civil war, human rights violations by both the government security forces and left-wing guerrillas were rampant. The accords established a Truth Commission under UN auspices to investigate the most serious cases. The commission recommended that those identified as human rights violators be removed from all government and military posts. Thereafter, the Legislative Assembly granted amnesty for political crimes committed during the war. Among those freed as a result were the Salvadoran Armed Forces (ESAF) officers convicted in the November 1989 Jesuit murders and the FMLN ex-combatants held for the 1991 murders of two U.S. servicemen. The peace accords also established the Ad Hoc Commission to evaluate the human rights record of the ESAF officer corps.
In accordance with the peace agreements, the constitution was amended to prohibit the military from playing an internal security role except under extraordinary circumstances. Demobilization of Salvadoran military forces generally proceeded on schedule throughout the process. The Treasury Police, National Guard, and National Police were abolished, and military intelligence functions were transferred to civilian control. By 1993—nine months ahead of schedule—the military had cut personnel from a war-time high of 63,000 to the level of 32,000 required by the peace accords. By 1999, ESAF strength stood at less than 15,000, including uniformed and non-uniformed personnel, consisting of personnel in the army, navy, and air force. A purge of military officers accused of human rights abuses and corruption was completed in 1993 in compliance with the Ad Hoc Commission’s recommendations. The military’s new doctrine, professionalism, and complete withdrawal from political and economic affairs leave it one of the most respected institutions in El Salvador.
More than 35,000 eligible beneficiaries from among the former guerrillas and soldiers who fought in the war received land under the peace accord-mandated land transfer program, which ended in January 1997. The majority of them also received agricultural credits.
National Civilian Police
The civilian police force, created to replace the discredited public security forces, deployed its first officers in March 1993, and was present throughout the country by the end of 1994. The National Civilian Police (PNC) has about 16,500 officers. The United States, through the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, led international support for the PNC and the National Public Security Academy (ANSP), providing about $32 million in non-lethal equipment and training since 1992.
The Pipil’s culture was similar to that of their Aztec and Maya neighbors. Remains of the historical culture are still found at ruins such as Tazumal (near Chalchuapa), San Andrés, and Joya de Cerén (north of Colón).
The Maya peoples constitute a diverse range of the Native American people of southern Mexico and northern Central America. The overarching term “Maya” is a convenient collective designation to include the peoples of the region who share some degree of cultural and linguistic heritage; however, the term embraces many distinct populations, societies, and ethnic groups, who each have their own particular traditions, cultures, and historical identity.
There are an estimated 7 million Maya living in this area at the start of the 21st century. Ethnic Maya of Guatemala, southern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, El Salvador, and western Honduras have managed to maintain substantial remnants of their ancient cultural heritage. Some are quite integrated into the modern cultures of the nations in which they reside, while others continue a more traditional culturally distinct life, often speaking one of the Mayan languages as a primary language.
The largest populations of contemporary Maya inhabit Guatemala, Belize, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador, as well as large segments of population within the Mexican states of Yucatán, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, and Chiapas.