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date: 06 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

El Salvador stands out as exceptional in the history of modern Latin America for some tragic reasons: its duration of military rule (1931–1979), the scale of its government-ordered mass execution of citizens (1932), and its distinctly brutal civil conflict (1980–1992). These episodes, and many others like them, are the consequence of modern El Salvador’s history as a deeply divided society. This division has its origins in a racially charged ethnic differentiation coming out of the colonial era, which then survived into the twentieth century as conflict between ethnically homogenous classes. Consequently, shared concepts of the public good have been all too rare. Instead, rivaling stakeholders have defined politics as a zero-sum game, such that any sacrifice on one group’s part is seen inherently as an advantage for a rival. In general, El Salvador has been a place where authoritarian conservatives have won the day, meaning the people who wish to maintain their privilege and preserve the status quo have successfully done so, but not without facing significant challenges and having to grant some concessions along the way.

Keywords: El Salvador, history, indigenous peoples, ethnicity, gender, civil war, coffee, authoritarianism, military governance, social reform

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