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African American Boxer Billy Clarke in Modernizing Guatemala  

Alvis E. Dunn

In the final decades of the 19th century the Central American nation of Guatemala represented some intriguing employment and entrepreneurial possibilities from the point of view of US citizens. The lure of coffee cultivation, mahogany harvesting, even mining was real. Additionally, the promise of employment building an inter-oceanic railroad resulted in significant numbers of African Americans journeying to Guatemala. The relocation offered good pay and many apparently believed that it would also take them to a place where Jim Crow racism was not the predominant and limiting factor that it was in the United States. For at least one of those men however, railroad work was not the primary enticement to the region. By 1893, such alleged opportunities in Guatemala had attracted the black athlete, entrepreneur, and entertainer Billy A. Clarke. During his two years in the country, with his sometime business partner and sparring mate, Rod Lewis, also an African American, Clarke operated a gymnasium where he taught the “Art of Pugilism,” staged several prize fights, and, for a time, captured the imagination of the capital city with the example of modern, imported entertainment and professional sports. Between 1892 and 1898, Guatemala was ruled by, first president, and later, dictator, General José María Reina Barrios. A globalizer enamored of modernization, European architecture, and North American technology, the environment fostered by Reina Barrios attracted not only contractors and African American workers from the United States to build railroads but also other foreigners who made for the Central American nation, bringing the outside world to the mile-high capital of Guatemala City. Into this setting came Billy A. Clarke, drawn by the same baseline possibilities of solid work and the prospect of less Jim Crow as his African American railroad compatriots, but with the additional promise that his individual skills as a fighter and promoter might reap even bigger rewards. The story of Clarke in Guatemala is one of race, identity, and creative self-promotion. Building an image that combined ideas of the exotic and powerful African with ideas of the North American armed with “know-how” and scientific fighting skills, Clarke became a Guatemala City celebrity and was eventually known as the “Champion of Central America.”

Article

The African Presence in Central American History  

Robinson Herrera

Far from monolithic, the seven Central American countries—Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama—each have unique cultural traditions and historical trajectories. Their different geographies, while not deterministic in any facile manner, influenced their development in ways that continue to shape their national characteristics. The cataclysmic 16th-century Spanish Conquest introduced new peoples and cultural traditions to the region. African slaves, primarily from the sub-Saharan region, accompanied the first Spanish ventures, and, later, as the colonies consolidated and grew, peoples of African descent, both enslaved and free, became a part of the area’s economic and cultural landscape. Starting in the late 18th century, African peoples from the Caribbean—whether forcefully exiled or as a result of searching for economic opportunities—traveled to Central America. Despite a contemporary collective historical amnesia that imagines Africans isolated in specific regions, namely the Caribbean coast, peoples of African descent can be found throughout the Central American nations. Rather than addressing each country, a thematic approach that focuses on the Spanish Conquest, slavery, emancipation, the ethnogenesis of African connected cultures, the historical erasure of Africans, and the contributions of peoples of African descent helps to understand the complex ways that peoples of African descent have impacted the history of modern Central America. For far from isolated to small populations along the Caribbean, the African presence can be discerned throughout the region, even in places often perceived as entirely devoid of its influence.

Article

American Evangelicals in Guatemala  

Lauren Frances Turek

The category of “evangelical” is a broad one, encompassing a range of different Christian denominations, nondenominational groups, and subcultures. Evangelicalism in the United States has evolved considerably over time and varies greatly by geographic region as well as by ethnicity and race. Although the evangelicals of the First Great Awakening in the 18th century have a genealogical connection with the neo-evangelicals of the post–World War II years and the Pentecostals preaching out of strip mall churches in urban and suburban areas of the United States in the early 21st century, much has changed in terms of evangelical practices, demographics, and even beliefs over the intervening centuries. This diversity and evolution notwithstanding, evangelicals share a basic faith in Biblical authority, a conversion or “born-again” experience, and a commitment to evangelism according to sociologist Mark Shibley. The latter commitment, which derives from Jesus Christ’s Great Commission to his followers in Matthew 28:19 to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” has long spurred evangelicals to undertake missionary work throughout the world. The first evangelical missionaries arrived in Guatemala in the 19th century, and since then, the country has seen a steady influx of evangelists of all stripes. While some US missionaries worked in Guatemala on a short-term basis, many resided there for extended periods of time—decades in some cases—planting churches, building schools and medical facilities, and providing aid to alleviate suffering brought on by natural disasters or poverty. Evangelical missionaries also forged close relationships with some Guatemalan leaders, at times involving themselves in local and national politics and interacting with diplomatic officials and intelligence agents from the United States. The relationship between US evangelicals and General José Efraín Ríos Montt, a right-wing evangelical dictator who came to power in 1982 and oversaw a brutal genocide against the Indigenous Maya, has attracted particular attention. The evangelical presence in the country contributed to a dramatic shift in Guatemala’s religious demographics. In the 19th century, the country was (at least nominally) almost exclusively Catholic, though many Guatemalans also continued to practice indigenous faith traditions. As of 2019, Guatemalan Protestants, most of whom are evangelicals, made up approximately 35 to 42 percent of the population according to estimates from the Pew Research Center and the United States Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. The ongoing relationship between US evangelicals, their counterparts in Guatemala, and Guatemalan leaders has influenced Guatemalan politics as well as relations with the United States into the present day.

Article

The Association of Communitarian Health Services (ASECSA) and the Role of Religion and Health in Central America  

Susan Fitzpatrick-Behrens

The Association of Communitarian Health Services (ASECSA) is a transnational, religiously influenced health program in Central America created during the Cold War. ASECSA was founded in 1978 by a small group of international health professionals with ties to programs started by Catholic and Protestant clergy and laity in Guatemala’s western highlands in the 1960s. It introduced a model of healthcare in which Maya health promoters and midwives became partners in healing rather than objects to be cured. Support for the health programs and ASECSA came from secular and religious international agencies, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), German Misereor, Catholic Relief Services, and the World Council of Churches. ASECSA was founded to disseminate knowledge of popular health education strategies used by health promoters and midwives to provide preventive and curative medical services to their communities. The education methods grew from Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and its use by religious agents influenced by liberation theology. Although it was founded in Guatemala, ASECSA’s publications and meetings attracted participation by health professionals and paraprofessionals from Mexico, Central America, and even the Caribbean. Ecumenical religious centers affiliated with liberation theology in the 1960s and 1970s facilitated the development of popular health programs that played a defining role in the region.

Article

Augusto C. Sandino and the Mexican Revolution  

Alejandro Bendaña

Augusto C. Sandino (1895–1934) led a peasant rebellion against the armed forces of the United States which occupied Nicaragua between 1926 and 1932. While much has been written about Sandino’s military prowess in this 20th-century guerrilla warfare, less is known about the development of his political thought and intellectual formation. That issue necessarily takes historians to the Mexican Revolution, and specifically to the period between 1923 and 1926 when Sandino was an immigrant worker in the oil fields of the larger Tampico area. Radical labor unionism and anarcho-syndicalism were the principal currents that Sandino encountered, and that helped shape his outlook and subsequent political manifestos. Because Sandino did not directly refer in any detail to this period of his life in subsequent interviews and statements, an examination is made of the cultural and social roots of working-class formations in which he immersed himself. Fortunately, historians have explored the social aspect, labor union activity, economics, and politics of the oil fields in depth (Adleson, Alafita-Mendez, Alcayaga Sasso); Dospital and Hodges were among the first to point to Sandino’s early experience in Mexico including his encounters with the metaphysical schools and mentors who shaped the idealism underpinning his anti-imperialism economic, political, military, and cultural thinking. During a military campaign and at the peak of his fame, Sandino returned to Mexico (1929–1930) expecting that the “revolutionary” government, on the one side, and the Communist Party of Mexico, on the other side, as representative of the international communist movement (Comintern) would lend political, financial, and military support for the war in Nicaragua. Cerdas Cruz told that story well, although without the benefit of primary sources. But Sandino was mistaken and eventually felt betrayed by both sides that laid claim to the revolution. He returned to Nicaragua where he fought successfully until the US Marines’ withdrawal at the end of 1932. Months after signing a peace treaty, Sandino was assassinated (February 1934) in Managua by the leaders of the proxy military constabulary or Guardia Nacional left behind by the United States in Nicaragua. At that time, he was establishing communes in northern Nicaragua according to the teachings of his first intellectual and spiritual mentors.

Article

Banana Industry in Central America  

Kevin Coleman

From the earliest days of Spanish and Portuguese colonial rule up until the late 19th century, banana cultivation in the Americas was carried out mostly by smallholders. That changed around 1880, when schooner captains based in Boston and New Orleans began to buy bananas in the Caribbean and sell them in the United States. In the geographically small countries of Central America, a couple of US-based banana companies have wielded enormous influence. The United Fruit Company (now known as Chiquita) acquired so much power in Guatemala and Honduras that it came to function as a state within a state, giving rise to the notion of “banana republics.” The company consolidated its power through various means: it installed authoritarian civilian and military governments that gave concessions to land, railroads, and ports; it divided its labor force along ethnic and racial lines; it built hospitals, schools, workers’ barracks, and houses for its management; and it used massive amounts of pesticides and herbicides in a capital intensive effort to cultivate varieties of the fruit that North American consumers came to expect but which were susceptible to Panama disease and Black Sigatoka. Bananas and plantains are a dietary staple throughout the tropics, and the diseases that beset the Gros Michel and Cavendish varieties that are grown on monocrop plantations threaten a vital source of healthy and relatively cheap calories that much of the world has come to rely upon. In recent years, consumers and civil society groups have organized to demand more socially and environmentally responsible bananas, creating organic and “fair trade” alternatives to conventional “free trade” bananas.

Article

Biography of a Colonial Document  

Sylvia Sellers-García

What can we learn about the documents we work with if we incorporate a study of document creation, travel, and storage into the consideration of document content? Some well-known documents, such as the Popol Vuh, have backstories that reveal as much as their content. But even obscure documents, such as a dispute over a road detour in 18th-century Guatemala, can be read productively as objects with life trajectories. Understanding the “life” of this document—the world in which it was made, the tools and knowledge of its making, its travel while being written, its storage in colonial and national archives—sheds new light on its meaning. Similarly, all colonial documents can be interpreted in new ways if their lives are treated as part of the interpretation.

Article

Bourbon Reforms in Central America, 1700–1808  

Jorge González Alzate

The Kingdom of Guatemala, a neglected backwater of the Spanish Empire under the Habsburgs, figured prominently in the long-term strategic planning of the Bourbon state. Royal preoccupation with this impoverished colony was reflected in the wide-ranging program of reform that the crown sought to put into practice in the isthmus over the course of the 18th century. For Philip V and his successors, the most pressing concern was the crown’s lack of control over the colony’s Caribbean coast (also known as the Mosquito Shore), a swampy and insalubrious region that for decades had been under the effective control of British interlopers and their native allies, the indomitable Sambo-Mosquitos. The main thrust of the reform project was therefore directed at addressing that serious security gap, a situation which, at the same time, severely limited Spain’s capacity to reap the benefits of Central America’s economy and trade. In its initial stages, the effort to implement the reforms proved to be a protracted and frustrating process, hampered by resistance from vested interests, lack of funds and personnel, natural disasters, and above all by recurring military conflict. It was not until the aftermath of the Seven Years War (1756–1763) that Charles III, facing the prospect of an even more damaging British attack, resolved to take decisive action and commanded his ministers to expedite the pace of reform. Royal orders were then issued that called for the de-Americanization and overhauling of the civil administration, direct state intervention to stimulate economic productivity and expand maritime trade, the establishment of a modern, efficient, crown-administered fiscal structure, the strengthening of the defense system, and the assertion of royal authority over the ecclesiastical establishment. Initially, the uncompromising manner utilized by the crown in introducing the changes, particularly the reforms to the fiscal system, provoked much unrest and resistance among wide segments of the population. But in the end, the reforms survived and, by the closing years of the century, most of the measures had largely met the crown’s objectives. The fiscal surplus generated by the economic and commercial expansion of the second half of the 18th century enabled the Bourbons to attain their principal strategic objective in Central America, namely dislodging the British enemy from much of the Atlantic coast. Unfortunately, not long after this climatic point, the decades-long effort quickly unraveled as the monarchy began to collapse in 1808. In the end, the reform project proved insufficient; the dream of attaining modernization and preeminent status among European powers remained elusive. As conditions in the mother country deteriorated, so did the economic and political stability of Central America. The kingdom’s provinces were engulfed by increasing political volatility and economic depression. Following the example of neighboring New Spain, Central Americans declared their independence in 1821. Thus, in the end, the Bourbons had “gained a revenue and lost an empire.”

Article

Catholics, Evangelicals, and US Policy in Central America  

Michael Cangemi

During the Cold War’s earliest years, right-wing governments and oligarchic elites in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua fostered closer relationships with the Catholic Church. Dictatorial leaders like Guatemala’s Carlos Castillo Armas and dynastic regimes like Nicaragua’s Somoza family regarded the Church as an ally against supposed Marxist influence in the region. Those ties began to fray in the late 1960s, as the Second Vatican Council’s foundational reforms moved Catholicism farther to the political and social left around the globe. This shift was especially prominent in Central America, where Catholics like El Salvador’s Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero and Guatemala’s Father Stanley Rother were among Central America’s most visible critics and reformers as political violence increased across the region during the 1970s. Relatedly, evangelical Protestants, particularly Pentecostal groups based in the United States, flooded Central America throughout that decade. Their staunch anticommunism and established ties to influential policymakers and political lobbyists in the United States, among other factors, gave evangelical Protestants greater influence in US-Central American relations. Their influence was strongest during the early 1980s, when José Efraín Ríos Montt, an ordained Pentecostal minister with Eureka, California’s Verbo Ministries, seized Guatemala’s presidency via a coup in March 1982. Notable US evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson praised Ríos Montt’s regime for its rabid anticommunist ideology, while President Ronald Reagan claimed that the dictator had received a “bum rap” in the global press. Concurrently, some US evangelical missioners and pastors also foregrounded the Sandinista government’s anti-Protestant activities as additional justification for US support for Nicaragua’s Contra forces. Religious actors were also instrumental to Central America’s peace processes after the Cold War, as Catholic and Protestant leaders alike worked closely with regional governments and the United States to end decades of political violence and enact meaningful socioeconomic reforms for the region’s citizens.

Article

Central America in the 17th Century  

Eduardo Madrigal

When the 16th century—the Conquest Century—drew to a close, the territory of what is today called Central America was already organized as a colonial domain. The system of “Two Republics”—segregating autochthonous populations from the Spanish in order to protect the former from the abuses and potential perversions of the latter, but also to better control the former and demand labor, goods, and money from them—was well established, and colonial institutions (Audiencia, royal treasury offices, town councils (cabildos), dioceses, parishes, etc.) had been put in place. The Spanish governing and enriched elite were clearly on top but were surrounded, nonetheless, by a plethora of dominated ethnic groups, such as the indigenous and the African—either slave or free—populations, the non-elite Spanish immigrants, and those of mixed race. The process of miscegenation between all ethnic groups of colonial society, slow and faltering at first, was already a fact in the region, and a caste society was firmly established. At the same time, Spanish settlement in the territory was entrenched, with consolidated cities and established rural properties. Trade and mining were also active, creating economic cycles linked to the global economy, as well as to internal markets. However, resistance and rebellions by the dominated populations and an extended frontier—made of unconquered and uncontrolled zones—as well as the irruption of enemies in the uncontrolled regions, were not absent from the region. What was the destiny of this complex newly born society over the century to come? In Central America, the new century would be characterized by processes of stabilization and consolidation of colonial life in all aspects, but also by strong geostrategical interests, brutal social asymmetries, and an overwhelming peripheral status.

Article

Central America in the Age of Tyrants, c. 1930–1960  

David Díaz-Arias

During the 1930s, the worldwide economic crisis, local social unrest, the political legacy of the 19th century, and local elites’ fears of Indigenous and organized-workers mobilizations were the perfect combination for the rise of new dictatorships in Central America. Military caudillos appeared in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, substituting a short period of democratic experience in these countries during the 1920s. Only in Costa Rica did democratic development remain, despite a bitter dictatorship from 1917 to 1919. By the end of the 1930s, strongmen who admired European fascism ruled with an iron fist and counted on the US State Department’s approbation and collaboration. National guards in El Salvador and Nicaragua and the army in Guatemala became the foundations of fierce regimes. But World War II and the Allies’ victory gave opportunities for internal opposition to contest dictators. In Guatemala and El Salvador, coup d’états occurred in 1944, bringing about new democratic scenarios for progressive politicians. Central America saw the rise of social democracy between 1948 and 1949. In 1948, a brief civil war in Costa Rica worked to consolidate social reforms that took place from 1940 to 1943, and in 1949, the reformists took power in Honduras. Even in Anastasio Somoza’s Nicaragua, a political opening occurred when the dictator supported organized labor and began to work with his political opposition. But the years of change did not last. Guatemala’s democratic experiment was abruptly canceled by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1954; in Nicaragua, the killing of Somoza in 1956 carried the country into a new, bloody regime; and in El Salvador, military officers overthrew the president in 1960.

Article

The Central American Coffee Commodity Chain  

Mario Samper Kutschbach

Coffee production has been a significant economic activity in Central America since the 19th century, and it has played an important role in shaping social relations, politics, and culture in various ways over time, both within coffee-producing areas and in each country. Coffee continues to be a major export crop, although the region’s economy has diversified, and the prospects of coffee as a commodity and a way of life will influence the fortunes of many in the highland areas of the isthmus. The Central American coffee commodity chain, from planting, care of the coffee groves, and harvesting through transportation, processing, and storage to shipping, roasting, and distribution abroad and within each country, has evolved in response both to internal dynamics and to changes in the world market for coffee and consumer demand, international trading systems, capital flows, and marketing systems. The supply of credit and the exchange of knowledge and information on the market as well as technical expertise and the provision of inputs, genetic material, and equipment have helped shape and reshape this value chain. Farmers’ strategies and cooperative endeavors, as well as local processing, gathering, and storage facilities and financing and regulations, have adapted to changing trends and to market downturns, recoveries, and segmentation. Vertical and horizontal integration of the various links in this chain have also evolved, in ways that differ from one country to another. While historically there has been a trend toward concentration especially in processing and export, there has also been fragmentation and greater involvement of small- or medium-scale producers in cultivation and in primary processing in specific countries or areas. Certain pests and diseases, whose geographical distribution and severity have been related to agro-ecological conditions and practices, have also contributed to modifications in productive systems. Climate change has had increasingly severe short-term impacts on the frequency of extreme events and variability of rainfall and temperature, while warmer average temperatures have begun to affect the altitudinal range of coffee cultivation. There is definitely a future for specific types of Central American coffee, but not necessarily for all current areas, farms, and firms specializing in this tropical product.

Article

Central America’s Caribbean Coast: Politics and Ethnicity  

Robert Sierakowski

From the period of imperial conquest and competition, the Caribbean coast of Central America has served as an interstitial space: between British and Spanish rule; between foreign corporate control and national inclusion; mestizo, black, and indigenous. Running from Guatemala in the north through Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama in the south, “la Costa” has functioned as a contested terrain imbued with economic import, ethnic difference, and symbolic power. The coastal zones were transformed in the 20th century through the construction of railroads and later highways, large-scale foreign immigration, the spread of states’ bureaucratic agents, and internal migrants, as well as transnational projects such as the Panama Canal and the United Fruit Company’s integrated banana plantation empire. The coastal region’s inaccessible terrain, large communities of lowland indigenous people, and vast numbers of Afro-Caribbean migrants from islands such as Jamaica markedly differentiated these lowlands from the wider Central American republics. From indigenous groups such as the Rama, Mayangna-Sumu, Kuna, Guaymí, and Bribri, to the Afro-indigenous Garifuna and Miskitu, and the English-speaking black Creoles and Afro-Antilleans, the region has enjoyed great ethnic diversity compared to the nominally mestizo republics of which it has formed part. Finally, ladino (non-indigenous) or mestizo (mixed-race) campesino migrants from the Pacific or Central regions of the isthmus arrived in large numbers throughout the 20th century. Racism, ethnic exclusion, and marginalization were often the response of national states toward these coastal populations. In some contexts, tensions between and among ethnic groups over land and natural resources, as well as between national states and local autonomy, flared into violent conflict. Elsewhere in Central America, the Caribbean coast’s position in national political development permitted a gradual meshing of national and regional cultures during the second half of the 20th century.

Article

Central America Under Liberal Rule, 1870–1929  

Carlos Gregorio López Bernal

In 1871, a wave of “liberal revolutions” began in Central America. Important changes were made to strengthen national states, promote the growth of the economy, and secularize society. The speed and intensity of the reforms varied across the region, as did the results. However, in every case, there were significant advances shown through exports, public works, and architecture in major cities. The benefits of the reforms were also unevenly distributed. Coffee growers, businessmen, and bureaucrats saw their incomes and living standards improve while peasants, indigenous people, and workers received little, and in some cases saw their living conditions deteriorate significantly. The global crisis of capitalism in 1929 demonstrated the vulnerability of the liberal model, producing an authoritarian turn in the region.

Article

Chicle Gum and Popular Culture in the Americas  

Jennifer P. Mathews

Chicle is a thick and odorless natural latex that comes from the Chicozapote tree (Manilkara sapota), which is indigenous in Mexico and Central America. When the sapodilla tree is cut into with a blade or infested with insects, it produces latex as a protective response. The ancient Maya and Aztec used this latex as chewing gum, a habit that Mexican president General Antonio López de Santa Anna continued in the 19th century. While in the United States, he introduced chicle to US inventor Thomas Adams, Sr., who in the 1870s produced the first mass-produced chicle chewing gum. However, it was William Wrigley, Jr. who in the 1890s entered a highly competitive gum market and innovated new marketing campaigns that appealed to a broad audience. These advertisements often proclaimed the benefits of gum chewing for digestion, dental hygiene, and the ability to improve mental focus. Wrigley used these qualities to encourage the US military to adopt chewing gum into rations starting in World War I. As military personnel shared chewing gum with children in war zones, this “American habit” spread around the world. Public officials complained about the expense of cleaning up gum-littered sidewalks, the Women’s Temperance Union even argued that chewing gum was a slippery slope that could lead to smoking, gambling, or drinking, and many cultures have strong social norms regarding gum chewing in public. Despite these challenges, William Wrigley spent millions of dollars promoting a favorable image for gum and the habit of gum chewing, and other marketers launched collectables such as baseball cards to encourage sales. Chicle-based chewing gum ultimately became a victim of its own popularity, and while researchers sought out other sources of latex, such as jelutong, balata, and gutta-percha, US manufacturers ultimately resorted to synthetic substitutes. Although the chewing gum industry of today is dominated by the use of a synthetic gum chewing base, it is worth more than $25 billion annually.

Article

The CIA in Guatemala  

Stephen M. Streeter

Guatemala first came to the attention of the United States as a security threat after a middle-class revolution in 1944 overthrew a dictator who had long accommodated the United Fruit Company, the largest US foreign investment in the country. The new presidents, Juan José Arévalo (1944–1951) and Jacobo Arbenz (1951–1954), carried out a series of social reforms that upset the Guatemalan oligarchy and the Fruit Company. Arbenz’s Decree 900, which redistributed land from the wealthy to the poor, especially alarmed Washington because of the fear that nearby countries would adopt a similar program, thus endangering US foreign investments in the region. After the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration determined that Guatemala was becoming an intolerable communist threat, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began planning a covert operation to remove Arbenz. Operation PBSUCCESS was modeled on the covert action plan that was used successfully to depose the Iranian government in 1953. After bribing and threatening the Guatemalan military to cooperate, the CIA equipped and trained an exile army in Honduras that invaded Guatemala on June 17, 1954, and forced the resignation of Arbenz within ten days. The coup destabilized Guatemala, leading eventually to a brutal civil war that killed more than two hundred thousand Guatemalans.

Article

The Cocoa Trade in New Spain in the 18th Century  

Guillermina del Valle Pavón

In New Spain, cocoa was a staple food whose high demand at the beginning of the 17th century meant that cocoa beans were imported from Guatemala, Venezuela, and Guayaquil. The viceroyalty of New Spain became the largest world buyer of cocoa because it paid for the product with silver, which was the principal means of exchange at the time. The cocoa trade was monopolized by a small, powerful group of the Consulado (merchants’ guild) of Mexico City who contracted it, redistributed it to the rest of the viceroyalty, and shipped it to Spain. However, the Spanish Crown’s prohibitionist trade policy hindered the expansion of the cocoa trade to meet the demand in New Spain. As Spain intermittently suspended sailing between the viceroyalties of Mexico and Peru, the supply of Guayaquil cocoa was limited to shippers who could obtain special licenses and those who smuggled it. When the monarchy required extraordinary funds to finance its wars in Europe, it granted permits to move Ecuadorian cocoa through the Pacific routes. However, it preferred the supply of cocoa from Caracas for geostrategic reasons, a factor that was used by Caracas shippers to raise prices. Mexican merchants preferred to import Ecuadorian cocoa because of its higher profitability. Trade in cocoa from this source was based on a confluence of complex kinship, community, and friendship networks. Finally, in 1789, the Guayaquil cocoa trade was authorized without restrictions, which significantly reduced the demand for Caracas cocoa. In addition, cocoa from Tabasco, Guatemala, and Maracaibo was traded in New Spain. The relationship between the Crown and the commercial elite of Mexico was characterized by a policy of continual ongoing negotiations. The cocoa trade was privileged in exchange for merchants’ contributions over and above regular fiscal payments.

Article

Communist Parties of Central America  

Iván Molina

Throughout the 20th century, Central America experienced two key waves of communist-party formation. The first wave lasted from 1923 to 1931 and the second from 1949 to 1954. The first-wave parties actively participated in four fundamental historical processes: in El Salvador, in the rebellion of 1932; and in Costa Rica, in the banana strike of 1934, in the reforms of 1940 to 1943, and in the civil war of 1948. The second-wave parties participated decisively in the radicalization of the Guatemalan social reforms (1951–1954) and in the 1954 Honduran banana strike. These parties had a differentiated impact on Central American societies. In Costa Rica and Panama, the communists promoted social changes whose success worked against the communists themselves. In Belize, an active Labor party prevented a communist party from developing there. In Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, repression neutralized the role that communist parties could play as institutional modernizers. In the mid-1940s, the military assumed this modernizing role: in Guatemala, with the collaboration of the communists; and in El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, against the communists. The most radical of these reformist experiences was the Guatemalan, which ended in 1954 due to a US-backed coup. In the other countries, the military endorsed socially limited reforms without political democratization. In this context, the communist parties began to be displaced by guerrilla movements from 1959 to 1963. In Honduras, the military managed to stop this displacement in the early 1960s through broader reformist policies, but the guerrillas in the other countries led a successful revolution in Nicaragua (1979), fought lengthy civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, and turned Central America into one of the main battlefields of the Cold War in the 1980s. Beginning in the 1990s, these guerrilla movements became political parties, electorally strong in El Salvador and Nicaragua, and marginal in Guatemala, but different from the communist parties that preceded them. At the beginning of the 21st century, the communist parties that still exist in Central America barely maintain a presence on Facebook.

Article

Conservation in the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico  

Ariel E. Lugo

Conservation is a long-term process that unfolds over time and seeks to develop harmony between human activity and ecosystems of all types. The unfolding of conservation in the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico took place over a period of over 140 years, beginning in 1876. The conservation process in Puerto Rico involved the description of the biodiversity, the understanding of forest dynamics in relation to the conditions prevailing in the Luquillo Mountains, extensive research on the life history of critical species, understanding the basis of forest resilience, recognizing the social-ecological-technological context of conservation, applying advanced technological tools, and resolving the inevitable conflict that develops among the different actors involved in the conservation effort. Unfolding conservation within a country requires continuous and effective support from governmental, non-governmental, business, and scientific sectors of the social-ecological-technological systems of the country. These sectors come together at different moments in time, and the path followed is different in different countries. In Puerto Rico, the unfolding of conservation was triggered by the government in close collaboration with academic and governmental scientific sectors. Within the Luquillo Mountains, the business sector did not oppose conservation activities, and the unfolding process reached high levels of effectiveness. The rest of Puerto Rico benefited from the conservation process unfolding on the Luquillo Mountains. In contrast, conservation in the Amazon has been characterized by conflict among different actors competing for a common resource. In general, commercial activities that are based on resource exploitation lead to conflict and a slower development of conservation activities. When the business community used science to improve land productivity, as it did in Central America, conservation benefited because the science that was used stimulated conservation values. The establishment of government institutions with a focus on conservation through research and education appeared late in the mainland tropics compared to Puerto Rico, but when it happened, it accelerated the unfolding of conservation. All the countries examined here were most effective in conservation when the collaboration among the different sectors of society was high and based on objective and anticipatory scientific activity.

Article

Contextualizing the Popol Wuj from Friar Ximénez to the Digital Age  

Néstor Quiroa

Regarded as an ethnohistorical treasure, the Popol Wuj narrative has been read exclusively as a freestanding, self-contained text used to inquire into a history far removed from when it was actually created. Consequently, the colonial context of the text itself has been minimized, including the central role of Dominican friar Francisco Ximénez as transcriber and translator of the only copy in existence. The present study delineates a historical trajectory of the Popol Wuj, reframing the narrative within its colonial ecclesiastic context. It explores the physical structure of Friar Ximénez’s 18th-century manuscript, preserved as MS 1515 by the Newberry Library in Chicago, to demonstrate that his work was first and foremost a series of religious treatises intended to carry out the conversion of the K’iche’ to Christianity. As a cautionary word, rather than revisiting the old, biased approach of questioning the authenticity and authorship of this Popol Wuj narrative, the current study suggests a broader reading, addressing the complexities intrinsic in this text, particularly the fact that the narrative was the result of the cultural contact between mendicant friars, whose main objective was to evangelize, and indigenous groups, who strived to maintain their cultural continuity by recording their oral history in the face of such a threat. Finally, this study invites scholars to ponder on the implications that the present structure of Ximénez’s manuscript (MS 1515) presents for future Popol Wuj studies as the narrative enters the age of electronic information and digital imaging.