El Salvador History - History

El Salvador History - History

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The indigenous people of El Salvador resisted the coming of the Spanish in 1524. But it took another three hundred years for them to finally throw off the yoke of Spain, becoming first a jurisdiction of Mexico, and then a member of the United Provinces of Central America. in 1840, after a bloody civil war, El Salvador achieved independence as a republic. Coffee was the mainstay of the country's economy from about 1860 and the country structured its laws such that a coffee oligarchy was created. A reform candidate who won election in 1931 was dismissed by the military which set off a revolt that killed perhaps 20,000 citizens, mostly peasants. But from that period until the 1970s, the country experienced political stability. But in 1979, a military-led coup overthrew the government and a civil war was unleashed that lasted for over 12 years and caused over 70,000 deaths. Peace was officially restored by treaty in 1992.

United States calls situation in El Salvador a communist plot

The U.S. government releases a report detailing how the “insurgency in El Salvador has been progressively transformed into a textbook case of indirect armed aggression by communist powers.” The report was another step indicating that the new administration of Ronald Reagan was prepared to take strong measures against what it perceived to be the communist threat to Central America.

When the Reagan administration took office in 1981, it faced two particularly serious problems in Central America. In Nicaragua, the Reagan administration was worried about the Sandinista regime, a leftist government that took power in 1979 after the fall of long-time dictator Anastacio Somoza. In El Salvador, the administration was concerned about a growing civil war between government forces and leftist rebels. Brutal violence on the part of the Salvadoran military—offenses that included the 1980 rape and murder of four U.S. missionaries—had caused the Jimmy Carter administration to cut off aid to the country.

In both nations, Reagan officials were convinced that the Soviet Union was the catalyst for the troubles. To address the situation in Nicaragua, the Reagan administration began to covertly assist the so-called Contras-rebel forces that opposed the Sandinista regime and were based primarily in Honduras and Costa Rica. For El Salvador, the February 19 report was the first volley. The State Department memorandum indicated that the “political direction, organization and arming of the Salvadoran insurgency is coordinated and heavily influenced by Cuba with the active support of the Soviet Union, East Germany, Vietnam and other communist states.” It thereupon provided a 𠇌hronology” of the communist involvement in El Salvador.


Quiñónez–Meléndez dynasty Edit

Dr. Manuel Enrique Araujo Rodríguez became President of El Salvador on 1 March 1911. [8] He was president until his assassination on 9 February 1913 by farmers. [9] He was succeeded by Carlos Meléndez Ramirez who served as acting president until 29 August 1914 when he was succeeded by Alfonso Quiñónez Molina. [10] [11]

Meléndez Ramirez and Quiñónez Molina established a political dynasty under the National Democratic Party (PDN) which lasted from 1913 until 1931. [12] Meléndez Ramirez was president from 1 March 1915 until his resignation on 21 December 1918. [10] He later died on 8 October 1919 in New York City. [13] Meléndez Ramirez was succeeded by Quiñónez Molina until his younger brother, Jorge Meléndez Ramirez, was elected President. [11] Meléndez Ramirez was president from 1 March 1919 until 1 March 1923 when he was succeeded by Quiñónez Molina who remained in power until 1 March 1927. [11] [14] Quiñónez Molina's Vice President, Pío Romero Bosque, succeeded him on 1 March 1927. [15]

Unlike his predecessors, Romero Bosque did not appoint a successor and held El Salvador's first free election. [16] [17] In the election, Labor Party (PL) candidate Arturo Araujo Fajardo, a relative of Araujo Rodríguez, won 46.65 percent of the vote and became president on 1 March 1931, ending the Quiñónez–Meléndez dynasty and the PDN's grip on power. [17] [18] Araujo Fajardo's vice president was Brigadier General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez of the National Republican Party. [17]

Economic crisis Edit

Araujo Fajardo became president during a severe economic crisis due to the effects of the Great Depression. [16] From 1871 to 1927, El Salvador was called a "coffee republic" due to its heavy reliance on coffee exports to sustain its economy. [19] However, because of the Great Depression, coffee prices fell 54 percent and the Salvadoran economy was unable to sustain itself. [16] Because of the economic crisis, wages fell, food supplies became limited, and living conditions worsened. [16] The crisis caused peasant unrest across western El Salvador, and as a result, Araujo Fajardo appointed Hernández Martínez to be the country's Minister of National Defense. [20] [21] Araujo Fajardo attempted to implement a tax reform to combat the economic crisis, however, resistance from wealthy landowners caused the reforms to fail. [17]

Araujo Fajardo cut expenditures to the military and refused to pay its soldiers which caused anger within the military. [17] [21] The military moved to overthrow Araujo Fajardo and on 2 December 1931, the Army overthrew his government at 10 pm local time. [17] [21] [22] The coup was a watershed moment in Salvadoran history since it began the nearly 48 year long military dictatorship of the country. [23]

The military established the Civic Directory, a junta composed of military officers, to govern the country on 2 December 1931. [24] The directory was co-chaired by Colonels Osmín Aguirre y Salinas and Joaquín Valdés. [17] [24] The directory was dissolved on 4 December and power was transferred to Hernández Martínez who assumed dictatorial powers as acting president. [17] [24] [25] Hernández Martínez promised to hold a legislative election in January 1932, but when the Communist Party won many municipalities, he canceled the election results. [7] [26] Further elections were also canceled. [27] The elections did, however, give the government a list of communist party members. [2] The list allowed the government to arrest prominent communist leaders on 18 January 1932. [28]

The communist party believed that democracy had failed them, [29] and communists and peasants across the country, led by Farabundo Martí, Feliciano Ama, Mario Zapata, and Alfonso Luna. [30] Peasants rose up on 22 January 1932 in Ahuachapán, Santa Tecla, and Sonsonate, killing at most 100 people in the uprising. [31] Hernández Martínez responded by sending the military to crush the revolt. [32] In Hernández Martínez's crackdown, around 10,000 to 40,000 peasants were killed. [2] [7] [28] The event is known as La Matanza, "the Massacre," in El Salvador. [28] The Constitutional Assembly issued Legislative Decree No. 121 on July 11, 1932, which granted unconditional amnesty to anyone who committed crimes of any nature during La Matanza in order to "restore order, repress, persecute, punish and capture those accused of the crime of rebellion of this year." [33]

Because of the 1923 Central American Treaty of Peace and Amity, the United States refused to recognize Hernández Martínez's government's legitimacy. [34] The US only recognized his government after the events of La Matanza. [35] Hernández Martínez eventually denounced El Salvador's membership of the treaty on 26 December 1932. [35] [36] [37]

Hernández Martínez helped El Salvador's financial situation improve during his presidency. On 23 February 1932, Hernández Martínez suspended payment on foreign debt, and again on 1 January 1938, but the debt was eventually paid off in 1938. [38] The Central Reserve Bank of El Salvador was established during his administration on 19 June 1934 to help stabilize the colón, the national currency. [39] He appointed Luis Alfaro Durán as president of the Central Bank. [39] Hernández Martínez established Social Improvement, a welfare program to support poor peasants in July 1932. [40]

The Hernández Martínez regime sought to maintain the image of democratic legitimacy in the nation. Hernández Martínez won the 1935, 1939, and 1944 presidential elections under the banner of the National Pro Patria Party (PNPP). [18] [40] His party also won legislative elections in 1936, 1939, and 1944, however, for both the legislative and presidential elections, he was the only candidate, the PNPP was the only legal political party, and election results were sometimes not publicized. [18] [41]

World War II Edit

Hernández Martínez was personally sympathetic to Nazi Germany and Italy. [40] He appointed Wehrmacht General Eberhardt Bohnstedt as the director of the Military School. [42] [43] The Salvadoran Air Force purchased aircraft from Italy in 1938 for US$39,000 with some of the payment being made with coffee. [44] Minister of National Defense Andrés Ignacio Menéndez attempted to purchase planes from the United States but North American Aviation refused to accept coffee as a percentage of the payment. [44] El Salvador was one of the first nations to recognize the Nationalists under Francisco Franco as the legitimate government of Spain in 1936. [45] [46] El Salvador was also the first country after Japan to recognize the independence of Manchukuo. [47] [48]

Some Salvadorans supported the Axis as on 10 June 1940, the day Italy joined the Second World War, 300 men dressed like the Italian Blackshirts marched in the streets of San Salvador in support of Italy, however, the government suppressed the march. [49] The government fully supported the Allies on 8 December 1941 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. [40] [50] [51] El Salvador declared war on Japan on 8 December and then later Germany and Italy on 12 December. [50] The government arrested German, Italian, and Japanese nationals and seized their land. [52] El Salvador never provided soldiers to directly fight in the war but it did send workers to maintain the Panama Canal. [53] During the war, George Mandel and Colonel José Castellanos Contreras saved 40,000 Jews from Central Europe, mostly from Hungary, by providing them false Salvadoran passports and political asylum. [54]

In 1944, he held an election and elected himself to a third term as president. [18] [40] The move angered many politicians, military officers, bankers, and businessmen since it overtly violated the constitution. [55] On 2 April 1944, Palm Sunday, pro-Axis military officers attempted a coup against Hernández Martínez. [55] The 1st Infantry Regiment and the 2nd Artillery Regiment rose up in San Salvador and Santa Ana and seized the national radio station, took control of the Air Force, and captured the Santa Ana police station. [56] Hernández Martínez was able to take control of the situation and ordered military units still loyal to put down the uprising which was accomplished by 3 April. [56] Reprisals lasted for two weeks, martial law was declared, and a national curfew was established. [56]

Civilians wanted to remove Hernández Martínez from power and so on 2 May 1944, students took to the streets of San Salvador in the Strike of Fallen Arms to force his resignation. [56] [57] The students engaged in non-violence to oppose the government. [57] On 7 May, the police shot and killed José Wright Alcaine, a 17-year-old who was a US citizen, which put pressure on Hernández Martínez to resign. [57] [58] Hernández Martínez resigned on 9 May and left for exile in Guatemala. [55] [56] [57] Menéndez replaced Hernández Martínez as acting president and accepted the protestors' demands for amnesty for political prisoners, freedom of the press, and new general elections. [55] [57] [59] His term in office was short-lived as he was overthrown in a military coup d'état on 20 October 1944 and replaced by Aguirre y Salinas. [55] [60] Aguirre y Salinas held the promised elections in January 1945. [18] [55] He was accused of rigging the election in favor of a candidate he supported and the election resulted in Brigadier General Salvador Castaneda Castro becoming president with 99.70% of the vote. [18] [55] [61] [62] Castaneda Castro was deposed in a coup d'état on 14 December 1948 by young military officers. [55] [63] [64] The coup, known as the Major's Coup, forced all Salvadoran military officers above the rank of lieutenant colonel to resign. [64] [65] The young officers established the Revolutionary Council of Government which governed the country until Major Óscar Osorio Hernández, the chairman of the Revolutionary Council of Government, was elected President in 1950. [18] [65] [66]

Osorio Hernández ran under the banner of the Revolutionary Party of Democratic Unification (PRUD). [18] He became President of El Salvador on 14 September 1950 under a new constitution. [64] [65] [67] Osorio Hernández's policies supported economic development, agricultural reform, and social security programs, although policies like agrarian reform were not implemented as to not alienate wealthy landlords and oligarchs. [68]

Osorio Hernández was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel José María Lemus López on 14 September 1956 following the 1956 presidential election. [69] In the election, Roberto Edmundo Cannessa of the National Action Party, his primary and most popular opponent, was disqualified by the Central Electoral Council a month before the election which led to his landslide victory. [68] In office, he granted amnesty to many political prisoners and exiled politicians. [68] He also repealed several repressive laws instituted by his predecessors. [68] Following the Cuban Revolution in 1959, students in El Salvador were influenced by the nationalistic and revolutionary movement of Fidel Castro which led to protests for a truly democratic system to be implemented in the country. [68] In response, Lemus López abandoned his reforms and cracked down on freedom of expression and arrested political opponents. [68] Lemus López's turn to authoritarianism caused the military to turn against him and he was overthrown on 26 October 1960. [69] [70] [71]

The military established the Junta of Government and was led by Lieutenant Colonel Miguel Ángel Castillo. [70] [71] Fabio Castillo Figueroa, one of the three civilian members of the junta, had pro-Castro views who was seen as a potential threat by the military. [71] The military overthrew the junta and replaced it with another junta, the Civic-Military Directory. [70] Lieutenant Colonel Julio Adalberto Rivera Carballo served as the chairman of the new junta and promised new elections for 1962. [70] [71]

The junta was dissolved on 25 January 1962 and an independent politician, Eusebio Rodolfo Cordón Cea, was appointed as Provisional President. [72] During the 1962 presidential election, the newly formed National Conciliation Party (PCN) ran unopposed and its candidate, Rivera Carballo, won 100% of the vote. [18] He became president on 1 July 1962 under a new constitution. [73]

Although only the PCN had a candidate in the 1962 presidential election, other parties had formed and ran in the 1961 legislative election but gained no seats. [18] The most prominent opposition party was the Christian Democratic Party (PDC). [70] [74] The party formed in 1960 and had broad support from the middle class. [70] The party came under attack from both the political left and right, with the left believing the party would uphold the capitalist economic system and increase wealth gaps while the right saw the party as a socialist reactionary movement that threatened their wealth and power. [70] The party, under Abraham Rodríguez Portillo and Roberto Lara Velado, believed Christian democracy was the best path forward for El Salvador's modernization. [70] The party's ideology was inspired by Pope Leo XIII's Rerum novarum and from the works of Pope John XXIII and French philosopher Jacques Maritain. [70] The party was also inspired from other Christian democratic movements in Chile and Venezuela. [70]

Rivera Carballo got El Salvador involved in US President John F. Kennedy's Alliance for Progress, an initiative to improve relations between Latin America and the United States through economic cooperation. [75] [76] He supported the implementation of agrarian reform but it was never actually implemented. [77] He established the National Security Agency of El Salvador (ANSESAL) in 1965. [78] It served as the national intelligence agency of the country and it oversaw the operations of the National Democratic Organization (ORDEN), a group of paramilitaries that killed peasants, rigged elections, and intimidated voters. [3] [4] [79]

Rivera Carballo instituted electoral reforms by allowed opposition political parties to run in presidential elections and compete in legislative elections. [77] Previously, whichever party won the most votes in a certain department, that party won all seats and all representation for that department, but under his reforms, seats and representatives were elected proportional to how many votes a party got. [77] The reform allowed the PDC to gain 14 seats and the Renovating Action Party (PAR) won 6 seats in the Constitutional Assembly in the 1964 legislative elections. [18] [77] In the election, José Napoleón Duarte Fuentes, a prominent PDC politician, was elected as Mayor of San Salvador. [77]

The PCN maintained its control on power with United States support and through the country's continued economic growth. [77] In the 1967 presidential election, the PCN won with 54.37% of the vote with the PDC's nominee, Rodríguez Portillo, coming in second place with 21.62%. [18] [80] Fidel Sánchez Hernández of the PCN became president on 1 July 1967. [81]

Football War Edit

In the late 1960s, around 300,000 Salvadorans migrated to Honduras, many of whom entered the country illegally. [5] [82] On 3 October 1963, Oswaldo López Arellano overthrew President Ramón Villeda Morales of Honduras and established a military dictatorship. [82] During López Arellano's regime, the Honduran economy staggered and he blamed the country's economic issues on the Salvadoran immigrants who were stealing Honduran jobs. [82]

During the 1970 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Honduras and El Salvador competed in separate groups for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) qualifications, Honduras was in Group 3 and El Salvador was in Group 4, both winning their respective groups. [83] [5] The met each other in the semifinals. [83] [5] Honduras won the first match in Tegucigalpa 1–0 on 8 June 1969. [5] Salvador won the second match in San Salvador 3–0 on 15 June. [5] Both matches witnessed violence from fans on both sides. [5] [82] During the second match, the Salvadorans raised a dirty rag instead of the Honduran flag. [5] One of the players of the Honduran team, Enrique Cardona, reportedly stated, "We're awfully lucky that we lost. Otherwise we wouldn't be alive today." [5] The loss caused Honduran civilians to attack Salvadoran immigrants. [84] Salvadorans were murdered, assaulted, and had their homes burned, forcing 17,000 to flee back to El Salvador. [5] [84] The Salvadorans called the attacks on the Salvadorans a massacre. [84]

A third match was held in Mexico City on 26 June to decide who would go on to the final round against Haiti. [5] [84] The Salvadorans defeated the Honduras 3–2 in extra time and the Salvadoran team advanced to the finals. [5] The defeat caused further attacks against the Salvadoran immigrants and led to a migrant crisis in El Salvador since the government was unable to provide housing for all the refugees coming from Honduras. [84]

Due to the ongoing crisis, El Salvador severed diplomatic ties with Honduras on 26 June and declared war on 14 July 1969. [5] [82] [84] [85] The Salvadoran Air Force attacked the Toncontín International Airport to disable the Honduran Air Force and the Salvadoran Army launched a two prong invasion following two major roads connecting the two countries. [5] After two days, the Honduran Air Force began attacking Salvadoran air bases in Chalatenango and La Unión, halting the Salvadoran advance. [5] After four days of fighting, the Organization of American States (OAS) negotiated a cease fire on 18 July. [5] El Salvador withdrew its troops on 2 August and the OAS promised to guarantee the safety of the Salvadorans in Honduras. [5] Around 2,000 people, most of whom were civilians, were killed during the war. [86]

Initially, Salvadoran politics were united against Honduras, but the Communist Party and the left eventually turned against the war and continued to oppose the government. [86] [87] The war also caused the Salvadoran economy to stagnate and many refugees overcrowded the country. [7] [86]

Political and social tensions Edit

The refugees coming from Honduras to El Salvador received little to no aid or support from the Salvadoran government. [5] To the refugees, now living in poverty, left-wing groups such as the United Front for Revolutionary Action (FUAR), Unified Popular Action Front (FAPU), and Christian Federation of Salvadoran Peasants (FECCAS) seemed as the only opportunity to raise themselves our of poverty. [7] As a result, left-wing militant organizations grew in size and numbers and continued to gain more support among the poor population. [7] The increased support led to an increase in left-wing terrorist actions against the government. [88]

The PDC gained more support from the refugees as well. [7] The PDC advocated for land and agrarian reform to gain the support of the voter base. [86] The refugees coming from Honduras had no land to farm like they had in Honduras so they overwhelmingly supported the PDC. [86] In January 1970, the government established the National Agrarian Reform Congress to begin implementing agrarian reforms that were demanded for by the people. [86] The congress consisted of members that were from the government, the opposition, labor groups, and businesses. [89]

The PDC lost 3 seats in the Constitutional Assembly in the 1970 legislative elections while the PCN gained 7 seats. [18] [89] The election was claimed to have been rigged by the PCN to ensure they would gain seats and retain a majority. [18] [89] In 1972, the PDC joined forced with two other political parties, the National Revolutionary Movement (MRN) and the Nationalist Democratic Union (UDN), to run in the 1972 presidential and legislative elections under the banner of the National Opposing Union (UNO). [18] [90] [91] Colonel Arturo Armando Molina Barraza was the candidate of the PCN while Duarte Fuentes was the PDC candidate. [90] The Central Election Board stated that Duarte Fuentes had won by 9,000 votes with 327,000 votes compared to Molina Barraza's 318,000, but the PCN called for a recount. [90] [92] A recount was conducted and the statement was changed and it declared that Molina Barraza won by 10,000 votes. [93] The final result was that Molina Barraza won 43.42% of the vote while Duarte Fuentes won 42.14%. [18] Duarte Fuentes and Guillermo Manuel Ungo Revelo, his running mate, petitioned for a second recount but the petition was denied. [90] UNO also lost 9 seats in the 1972 legislative election while the PCN gained 5 more seats. [18]

On 25 March 1972, a group of young left-leaning military officers called the Military Youth attempted a coup d'état against Sánchez Hernández to prevent Molina Barraza from becoming president. [90] The officers were led by Colonel Benjamin Mejía and their goal was to establish a revolutionary junta and establish Duarte Fuentes as president. [90] The coup plotters captured Sánchez Hernández and the National Palace. [90] Duarte Fuentes announced his support for the coup and the coup plotters called for garrisons to support the coup, however, the Air Force attacked the National Palace and garrisons engaged the revolutionaries. [94] [95] By 26 March, the coup was over and 200 were killed. [95] Sánchez Hernández retook power and Duarte Fuentes was arrested. [94] He was initially sentenced to death but it was commuted to torture and he was exiled to Venezuela. [94] [95]

Molina Barraza took office on 1 July 1972. [96] On 19 July, he had tanks attack the University of El Salvador. [97] Around 800 were arrested and another 15 were exiled to Nicaragua. [97] He closed the university for two years to "eliminate the opposition." [97] Molina Barraza attempted to institute land reform in 1976 but it only increased political unrest since the reforms redistributed little to no land to the peasants. [98] [99]

UNO selected Ernesto Antonio Claramount Roseville as its candidate for the 1977 presidential election while the PCN selected brigadier general and incumbent Minister of National Defense Carlos Humberto Romero Mena as its nominee. [100] Romero Mena was declared to have the election with 67.30% of the vote while according to witnesses, Claramount Roseville actually won with 75% of the vote. [93] Romero Mena assumed office on 1 July 1977. [101]

When the Nicaraguan Revolution began in 1978, Romero Mena grew concerned that the revolution would spread to El Salvador. [6] He attempted to begin negotiation with the opposition to ensure that did not happen, but his attempt emboldened opposition forces who took to the streets of San Salvador to strike in March 1979. [6] Romero Mena cracked down on the strikes and ordered his soldiers to fire live ammunition into the crowds to end the strike. [6] The event was broadcast in the United States and Europe which resulted in Costa Rica, Japan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and West Germany closing their respective embassies in El Salvador. [6]

President Anastasio Somoza Debayle of Nicaragua was finally deposed by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in September 1979 which caused alarm among young military officers in the Salvadoran Army. [102] The Military Youth, led by Colonels Adolfo Arnoldo Majano Ramos and Jaime Abdul Gutiérrez Avendaño staged a coup d'état against Romero Mena on 15 October 1979 with the support of the United States. [103] [104] [105] Romero Mena fled for exile in Guatemala, as did Federico Castillo Yanes, the Minister of National Defense. [20] [106] [107] [108]

On 18 October 1979, the military established the Revolutionary Government Junta. [6] [109] The junta was composed of five men: Colonels Majano Ramos and Gutiérrez Avendaño, Ungo Revelo, Mario Antonio Andino Gómez, the former president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of El Salvador (CCIES), and Román Mayorga Quirós, a member of the Central American University. [7] [110] [111] [112]

The coup of October 1979 marked the end of the military regime of El Salvador and many mark is as the start of the Salvadoran Civil War. [1] The civil war lasted until 1992 with the signing of the Chapultepec Peace Accords. [1] [113]

El Salvador Culture

Religion in El Salvador

The majority (75%) of Salvadorans are Roman Catholic. A growing number (around 21%) are Protestant with Evangelical churches gaining influence.

Social Conventions in El Salvador

Visitors should not point their finger or their foot at anyone. First names should not be used to address someone unless invited to do so. Casual wear is acceptable. Men and women who already know each other greet with a kiss on the cheek, otherwise a handshake is always offered as a greeting. Siesta is still a tradition from around 1200-1400, although most shops and restaurants remain open.

Photography: Sensitive (eg military) areas should not be photographed.

El Salvador

8000 B.C. The Paleo-Indian peoples inhabited El Salvador as far back as 10,000 years ago. Their cave paintings can still be viewed in two towns in Morazán, Corinto and Cacaopera.

2000 B.C. The first known advanced Mesoamerican civilation in current-day El Salvador were the Olmecs.

11th Century A.D. The nomadic Pipils migrated from Mexico to El Salvador where they began an agrarian lifestyle that resembled the Mayans. They named their new home "Custacatlan" translating to "Land of the Jewels." They farmed the land cooperatively, growing chiles, papayas, beans, indigo, pumpkins, corn, avocados, guavas, tobacoo, elderberries, cotton, maguey, and henequen.

1524 Pedro de Alvarado and his brother, Diego invaded Cuzcatlan sparking the Spanish invasion. The Spainish massacred the Pipils and seized their land, destroying their temples and gods in the process. The remaining Pipil population was forced into slavery, and many women were sexually assulted and forced to bear children for the invaders.

1524-1539 The Pipils quickly changed tactics from welcoming the mysterious and malintentioned Spaniards to actively working towards driving them away. Though they lacked weapons that rivaled the Spanish artillery, the Pipils managed to resist the conquistadors for fifteen years.

1541 Pedro de Alvarado, the first governor of El Salvador died. He was responsible for naming the country after Jesus Christ, "The Savior."

1538-1541 When most of Central America was placed under a new Audencia of Guatemala, the area of El Salvador became controlled by the Audiencia of Panama for five years.

1700s Agriculture thrived in the 1700s, with indigo leading as the number-one export. The colony's agriculture and wealth was controlled by 'The fourteen families', a small group of landowning elite who enslaved indigenous people and Africans to work the land.

1811 A revolt was organized by Father Jose Matias Delgado, but it was swiftly subdued.

1821 The desire for independence was not lost on the Salvadoran people, and on September 15th they won independence from Spain, along with the rest of the Central American colonies. El Salvador initially joined Mexico after the win.

1823 El Salvador withdrew and formed the Federal Republic of Central America after withstanding Mexico's troops. A new constitution written by Father Jose Matias Delgado and Manuel Jose Arce was elected president.

1841 Even though Independence Day is still celebrated on September 15th, El Salvador left the federation, which collapsed with in a year of their departure.

1859-1863 President Gerardo Barrios introduces coffee growing, after indigo was replaced by chemical dyes, marking an important beginning in El Salvador's agricultural history and also the continuation of oligarchical rule.

1895 General Tomás Regalado was elected president in 1895 and collected 6,000 hectares of coffee plantations. Following his term for the next 31 years, "coffee barons" served as presidents.

1920s The Salvadoran government severely repressed efforts made by the poor majority to remedy social and economic injustices by unionizing the coffee industry.

1929 Coffee prices collapsed as a result of the US stock market crash leading to even more difficult circumstances of the working class, especially the indigenous Salvadorans.

1931-1944 Capitalizing on the discontent caused by the coffee price collapse, Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez lead a coup beginning his dictatorship, which lasted until 1944 and resulted in chronic political unrest.

1932 In January, founder of the Central American Socialist Party, Augustin Farabundo Martí, led an uprising of peasants and indigenous people. 30,000 people were killed as a result of the military's response of systematically killing anyone who had supported the revolt, or who looked or sounded indigenous. This horrific event became known as la Mantanza, or the Massacre. Martí was killed by a firing squad after being arrested.

Early 1960's Before the 1960’s, Salvadoran farmers grew small amounts of sugarcane for personal consumption. The sugarcane economy grew in early 1960, as the amount of land dedicated to sugarcane grew 43%, resulting in a 114% increase in sugar products.

1980 Mono-crop culture, which would persist for decades, was initiated by a group of landholders.

1980 The assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and election of Jose Napoleon Duarte as president sparked the civil war. It would last for 12 years.

1981 From December 11-13, 1981, members of the US-trained Atlaccatl Battalion massacred nearly 1,000 people –– 533 children, 220 men and 200 women –– trapped them in the local church and houses to shoot them en masse. The military still maintains that the masacre was a confrontation with the guerillas.

1992 The 12-year civil war ended. The death toll was 75,000 and 8,000 people went missing during that time.

1994 The nations agriculture industry was changed forever when the Salvadoran government signed the 'Free-Trade Agreement'. Foreign multi-national corporations tore into El Salvador, which was still recovering from civil war.

1999 Sugar cane became the most important crop, second to coffee, producing 5.5 million tons in 1999. Cane production grew 30% between 2001 to 2011 and the price per pound increased from .08 to .25.

2001 In January and February of 2001, two massive earthquakes struck El Salvador. January's earthquake was a 7.6 on the Richter scale and was the most powerful quake to hit Central America in 20 years.

2014 Almost 95 percent of crops were lost when rains did not come.

2015 The Family Agriculture Program was created by the El Salvadoran Ministry Agriculture. This revitalized small-scale agriculture by granting the opportunity to plant corn and bean seeds across the country to 560,000 small farm families resulting in the highest ever production of corn seed supply.

2015 In 2015, the Alianza Cacao was formed to help create incomes for cacao growing families. They received $25 million in funding.

2016 The president of El Salvador announced its very first state of emergency due to severe drought caused by El Niño patterns, climate change. It has affected the majority population, especially farmers.

2018 In October 2018, Archbishop Oscar Romero was canonized by Pope Francis as a saint.

2018 El Salvadorans are among the thousands of people in the migration caravan fleeing their country from gang violence, sexual violence and poverty.

El Salvador Recent History

Since El Salvador is the smallest but most populated republic among the republics of Central America, and being the neighboring Honduras poorest in manpower, many Salvadoran laborers crossed the border to go to work in Honduran territory.

According to Abbreviationfinder, an acronym site which also features history of El Salvador, there were numerous border incidents whereby Salvadorian troops invaded Honduras in July 1969 and bombed towns and villages. The OAS immediately intervened, forcing the two countries to return to legality. This bloody but brief conflict went down in history as the “football war”, due to a football game played between two teams from the two countries However, it was evident that football was not at all the core of the matter, but the economic crisis always present in the two territories.

In February 1972, another government candidate won the election, Colonel A .A. Molina. Various protests raised by the left coalition resulted in a coup in March, headed by JN Duarte, which however was unsuccessful.

On July 30, 1976 Salvador and Honduras signed an agreement for the creation of a semi-militarized zone on the borders between the two countries. The subsequent elections of 1974 took place in compliance with the Constitution and those of 1977 instead, won by the government candidate CH Romero Mena, were abundantly challenged by the opposition, with assassinations and kidnappings of foreign diplomats, so it was necessary to proclaim martial law ( May 1979). In September the same year, D. Romero, brother of the president, was assassinated and the president was deposed on 15 October.

This coup, however, had the merit of closing, after 50 years, the undisputed domination of the military and the government passed into the hands of a mixed junta, which included the leader of the MNR, (Movimiento Nacional Revolucionario), G. Ungo and also the Christian Democrat JN Duarte, already in exile since 1972, was able to return home.

But soon the riots caused by the opposing interests of the political factions began again and bloody events such as the assassination of the Archbishop of San Salvador took place OA Romero y Galdamez.

In March 1980, meanwhile, Duarte had also joined the government, which caused the split of the left wing of his party. The 5 parties that made up the guerrilla front constituted the FDR (Democratic Revolucionario) and in opposition to the armed forces and right-wing extremist groups, caused a bloody civil war.

From 1981 the United States began important support, not only military but also economic, to Salvador. In 1982 a Constituent Assembly was elected, whose president became R. Daubuisson Arrieta, but the provisional presidency of the republic, also under US pressure, was entrusted to the independent A. Magana Borja.

In 1983 a new Constitution was passed which decreed the direct election of the head of state every 5 years and the
National Assembly every 3 years.

In March 1984 there were presidential and legislative elections in 1985. The former led to the presidency of Duarte, the latter strengthened his party, the PDC.
The Duarte administration continued, despite its attempts to pacify and improve, to take place in the midst of the civil war, the increase in foreign debt, the worsening of all sectors of the economy, given the continuous opposition from the conservatives and the military, who with the constant help of the United States had acquired a strong and well-trained contingent.
And in this chaos, Duarte’s actions fell heavily, so much so that in the legislative elections of 1988 he had very few seats and the presidential ones saw victorious A F. Cristiani Burkard, of “Alianza Republicana Nacionalista”.

The guerrillas intensified and multiple terrorist actions had to be recorded. Until in 1990, with the regularization of many of the disagreements existing in the world, the UN, with its fruitful intercession, managed to open a pacification process in the country. Due to a particular UN intercession, presided over by Secretary General J. Perez de Cuellar at that time, a radical military reform took place in Salvador, whereby the former guerrillas were fully integrated into the political system.

And on January 16, 1992, under the aegis of the new UN Secretary General, B.Boutros Ghali, a peace agreement was signed in Mexico City. The official ceremony to sanction this national agreement was celebrated in San Salvador on December 15, 1992. The end of the war immediately paid off as there was an improvement on the economic level, with the continuation of the policy, already initiated by Christians, of privatizations, cuts in public spending, liberalization of prices and imports, and incentives for the influx of foreign capital.

In politics there were immediately better relations with neighboring states.
The 1994 elections were won by moderate A. Calderon Sol, who based his economic and social policy on the model of that of Christians.

In March 1995, the center-left Democratic Party was formed by some dissidents from other political organizations. In the following May, Calderon Sol was forced to agree with this party in order to obtain approval to increase the value added tax by 13%. But the same formation then nullified the pact when the law that provided, inter alia, the proposed school reform was opposed.

Calderon, in compliance with the provisions of the International Monetary Fund, had tried to apply a liberal policy more suitable for the development of the country. But he had not met the favor of the people who, in fact, expressed themselves with many demonstrations of contrast.

Furthermore, in October 1996, a judicial affair ended, activated for the assassination of F. Manzanares Mojaraz, member of the F. Marti Front for National Liberation. In this circumstance, the existence of a strong “social purification movement” had come to light, precisely within the police force, already known for the many political killings carried out.
The United Nations, which had begun a mission for the stability of pacification in the country, postponed until July 1997 any other intervention to achieve the goal and the mission, therefore, ended fruitlessly.

Calderon also attempted to moralize the country hit by a strong upsurge in crime. And for this he had proposed extending the death penalty to kidnappers and rapists. But despite his efforts, he was not rewarded for the policies of March 1997 when he saw the votes in favor of his party taper much, while his rivals won many more.

With a minority situation, Calderon had to withdraw his proposal and barely managed to continue the privatization of the National Telecommunications Administration. The Nationalist Republican Alliance wanted to improve its fortunes by electing the ex-president Cristiani in October 1997. And this aim was partially achieved when F. Flores, his candidate, won the presidential election in 1999.

But the laws of March 2000 were almost entirely the prerogative of the Front F. Marti of National Liberation whose ex-guerrillas adepts also won the administrative ones.

Recent Central American History

In 1932, a loose alliance of rural, indigenous peasants and urban, ladino (mixed race) communists revolted because they were unhappy with the elite landowners’ control of the coffee economy. In a country the size of Massachusetts, land ownership was tightly concentrated into a few families, and these elites used coercive methods to compel the labor of indigenous people and poor ladinos. Economic and social reforms through the electoral process appeared possible in 1931, but visions of change ended with General Maximiliano Martinez’ overthrow of the first democratically elected government in El Salvador’s history. Thus, in response to Martinez’ coup, the peasants and communists executed a poorly organized revolt that resulted in one of El Salvador’s defining historical moments. Though the 1932 revolt lasted a mere three days and killed about 100 people, General Martinez responded by ordering a military repression that beat back the revolutionaries but then continued into the countryside in a quasi-genocidal campaign that slaughtered thousands to tens of thousands of indigenous people not involved in the Revolution in what has come to be known as La Matanza (The Massacre). The military repression left an indelible mark on the nation’s conscience, and it worked to consolidate power into the hands of the military for the foreseeable future. This conflict in 1932 formed the fault lines along which the two armies fought in the Civil War about five decades later.

Authoritarian military dictatorships governed El Salvador from 1932-1979, the longest consecutive stretch of military rule in Latin American history, a region notorious for such governments. These years leading up to the Salvadoran Civil War can be characterized by a tense military-elite alliance that kept the concentration of wealth into the hands of the powerful while trying to institute enough reform for the lower classes to avert general insurrection. These reforms were ultimately not enough to avoid Civil War, and the country, like its neighbors Guatemala and Nicaragua, spiraled into violence.

During the Civil War, hundred of thousands (millions?) fled the violence, with many of these refugees ending up in Los Angeles. There, witnesses of unbridled violence in their home country came into contact with the already established network of gangs in Southern California, one of which was MS-13. Young boys became involved in violent crime, were arrested, put in prisons where gangs flourished, then deported to El Salvador in the early 1990s, around the same time the Civil War was entering a peace process. Due to deportation laws in the United States, the US was not required to tell El Salvador’s government the criminal record of the deportees that were being released back into the war-torn country, and they didn’t. Thus, in the wreckage of post-Civil War society, MS-13 took root and drastically expanded its’ influence across El Salvador.

MS-13, Barrio-18, and other gangs have had a pervasive presence across El Salvador in the 21st century. In recent years, El Salvador has become known worldwide for excessive murder and violence, especially in the capital city San Salvador, which had the highest murder rate in the world per capita in (insert years). In order to address the gangs in the 2000s, El Salvador’s government turned to Mano Dura (Firm Hand) policies that used state force to battle gang members and arrest the leaders. Mano Dura enforcement increased violence in its’ efforts to eradicate the gangs, and though the state was able to imprison many of MS-13’s leaders, the existing body of evidence suggests that imprisonment has done little to hinder the erratic nature of MS-13 and may have even helped to better centralize the leadership’s lines of communication from the prisons. In 2014, the government agreed to negotiate a less hard-line policy and began negotiating with the gang leaders, which temporarily decreased the murder rate, but is unsteady. Extortion, rape, domestic violence, and kidnapping are serious threats to the citizens of El Salvador.

Source: Erik Ching, Authoritarian El Salvador: Politics and the Origins of the Military Regimes, 1880-1940. South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press, 2014.

This source offers more information on the historical background that preceded the Civil War. It offers an account of the Civil War, and the peace process that ensued. The article concludes by exploring the impunity for military and police personnel that participated in crimes against humanity.

This article from the New York Times explores the relationship between the United States and El Salvador and how interwoven these countries and their circumstances are. It further explores the topic of gang violence in the region and offers perspectives and offers insight as to why migrants flee their home nations.

This entry was posted on March 21, 2019 at 11:04 am and is filed under El Salvador with tags Central American Gangs, El Salvador, El Salvadoran Civil War, US Intervention, Violence in Central America. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Facts about El Salvador’s independence, history, and earthquakes

1. El Salvador became independent from Spain on September 15, 1821.

2. The territory was once occupied by Olmecs, followed by the Mayans. At the end of Mayan rule, the Toltec Empire took control of the country. Later on, in the 11 th century, the land was dominated by Pipil people and at last, Spanish people conquered the region. After gaining control of the country, Spanish people forced the locals to become slaves.

3. El Salvador is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America.

4. “The torogoz” is the national bird of El Salvador.

5. The indigo plant was the most important crop during the colonial period.

6. Chronic political and economic instability plagued the nation between the late 19 th century and mid 20 th century.

7. The biggest earthquake in the country was experienced on January 13, 2001. It was measured at 7.6 on the Richter Scale.

A Brief History of the CIA in El Salvador During the 1980s

The relationship between the CIA and El Salvador is complicated. The Central American country was controlled by military dictatorships from the 1930s through the Salvadoran Civil War that broke out in 1979. In the time between those years, the nation had experienced minor conflicts, civil unrest, human rights violations, and increased guerrilla activity that ultimately led to the turmoil and full-blown civil war that ran through the early 1990s.

The Soviet Union and Fidel Castro’s Cuba backed the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) and ran a covert program that supplied some 15,000 guerrilla rebels with 800 tons of modern arms and training — including the supply of western manufacturers to cover up the source of the weaponry.

The guerrillas in 1980 had a variation of pistols, hunting rifles, and shotguns until the communist military intervention of January 1981 supplied them with a weapons arsenal of their own. These guerrillas went from an uncoordinated militia to a heavily armed insurgency force overnight with a plethora of M60 machine guns, M79 grenade launchers, RPG-7 rocket launchers, M72 light antitank weapons, and various rifles originally manufactured from Belgium, Germany, Israel, China, and the United States.

When U.S. President Ronald Reagan assumed office the same month of the guerrilla general offensive and communist military intervention, El Salvador became the target of the largest counterinsurgency campaign since the Vietnam War. The U.S. had significant influence in Latin America, including training some of the most notorious dictators at the infamous School of the Americas , also known as the “School of Coups.” For six decades, some 65,000 soldiers, dictators, assassins, and mass murderers counted themselves alumni of the school that was first created in Panama in 1946 to prevent the spread of communism in the Western hemisphere.

Among the more prominent alumni from El Salvador was Roberto D’Aubuisson, a death squad leader who murdered thousands and gained the sadistic nickname of “ Blowtorch Bob ” for his methods of torture. Colonel Domingo Monterrosa, the first commander of the ATLACATL — an elite paramilitary unit trained and equipped by advisors from the United States — also attended the school and was later fingered for directing the El Mozote Massacre , the bloodiest slaying of guerrilla sympathizers in the entire civil war.

The U.S. advisors had their hands tied they trained and equipped El Salvadoran military forces who, in turn, fought guerrilla factions however, they also operated on their own at times and controlled the civilian populace through brutal violence no matter the cost or human atrocities they committed. During the civil war that lasted nearly two decades, an estimated 75,000 civilians were killed by government forces.

The Reagan administration had secured a $4 billion financial and military aid package for El Salvador on the condition that they had to inform Congress every six months on the progress of improvement of human rights conditions.

“The Salvadoran military knew that we knew, and they knew when we covered up the truth, it was a clear signal that, at a minimum, we tolerated this,” said American Ambassador Robert E. White at a hearing in 1993. Representative Robert G. Torricelli of New Jersey, Democratic chairman of the House subcommittee on Western Hemisphere affairs, later commented, “It is now clear that while the Reagan Administration was certifying human rights progress in El Salvador they knew the terrible truth that the Salvadoran military was engaged in a widespread campaign of terror and torture.”

The Reagan administration continued supporting the fight against the spread of communism in the region well into the early 1980s, while the CIA shifted its focus to Nicaragua as it was declared the source for weapons traveling across the border and a safe haven for guerrilla fighters. “President Reagan has authorized covert operations against the Central American nation of Nicaragua, which, administration officials have charged, is serving as the military command center and supply line to guerrillas in El Salvador,” wrote the Washington Post in 1982.

The U.S. Army Special Forces had a regular contingent of 55 soldiers in El Salvador during the height of the civil war, but the CIA had more leeway as their officers and contractors assumed unofficial covers attached to the U.S. Embassy. The CIA operated the Ilopango air base , and it was critically important for the use of airpower against El Salvadoran rebels as well as flying supply missions into Nicaragua beginning in 1983. Their air capability increased from 10 helicopters to more than 60 helicopters, some C-47 cargo planes to at least five AC-47 gunships, and a fleet of 10 fighter jets and 12 helicopter gunships for air support missions.

Félix Rodríguez , a Cuban native, was known in El Salvador under the alias of Max Gomez. Rodríguez was a legendary paramilitary operations officer in the CIA who was involved in the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion as a member of Brigade 2506. He also helped capture Che Guevara in Bolivia and later served in Vietnam with the Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs). Rodríguez went to El Salvador as a private citizen in 1985, motivated to continue fighting against communism. He taught Salvadorans “tree-top” flying techniques from Huey helicopters like he did in Vietnam.

“By experience in Vietnam, we found out that going extremely close to the ground the guerrilla is not able to determine from what direction you are coming,” Rodríguez told “ 60 Minutes .” “From the time they see you, they don’t have many time to shoot you.”

U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North eventually recruited Rodríguez to participate in the illegal Iran-contra resupply operation into Nicaragua. Congress had signed the Boland Amendment into law, which banned “humanitarian aid” to the Contras (anti-Sandinista guerrillas) in 1984 however, the Reagan administration established a “private aid” network using old deteriorating airplanes behind Congress’ back. The planes were equipped with “fuzzbusters” purchased from Radio Shack — a far cry from the state-of-the-art radar typically found inside CIA aircraft. The operation was doomed from the start and faced Soviet-made antiaircraft that Nicaraguan rebels employed against them.

On Oct. 5, 1986, Eugene Hasenfus , who worked for Corporate Air Services, a front for the Southern Air Transport , an air component of the CIA, parachuted safely from his C123K cargo plane that had been shot down by a surface-to-air missile. The incident exploded throughout the press and exposed the Iran-Contra Affair, which became one of the largest scandals of Reagan’s presidency.

San Salvador, a town founded in 1525

It is April 19, 1525, to organize a second expedition against Cuzcatlán Pedro de Alvarado and trust the success of this journey to his brother Gonzalo de Alvarado, ordered that the town that was founded there being given the name of San Salvador and conforming to the style of the time, on behalf of his brother captain Pedro de Alvarado elected as Mayor 19 of this city of European civilization Diego Holguin.

The Church of this new European colony, entrusted to the priest Francisco Díaz, was placed under the patronage of the Holy Savior or divine Savior of the world, whose liturgical celebration takes place on August 6 every year, recalling the Biblical Miracle of the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor.

During the colony, round about of this ancient villa, elevated to the rank of city 27 September 1548 by César Catholic Charles V of Germany and I of Spain, was created with capital in this city, the City Hall Mayor of San Salvador, which originally comprised the provinces of San Vicente, San Miguel or Chaparrastique, Cuzcatlán, Choluteca, and that with the exception of the latter, the intendance of San Salvador was established in 1786. In addition to this political and administrative unit existed during colonial times in the territory today from El Salvador, the Mayor’s Office in Sonsonate or province of the Izalcos.

In 1824 met in the city of San Salvador members of the intendance of San Salvador and the largest municipality in Sonsonate and agreed to form a federal State, with the name of El Salvador, denomination which was confirmed to be issued June 12, 1824 the first Constitution of the country.

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