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date: 23 February 2024

Political Economy, Race, and National Identity in Central America, 1500–2000free

Political Economy, Race, and National Identity in Central America, 1500–2000free

  • Dario A. EuraqueDario A. EuraqueDepartment of History and International Studies, Trinity College


The relationship between historically specific ideas of race and national identity in Central America between the onset of Spanish colonialism in the region, in about 1500, and the end of the 20th century is very complicated. The relationship is rooted not only in the political economy of the region and subregions that were under Spanish colonialism, but also in Spain’s resistance to incursions of British colonialism in the area, particularly on the North Coast, well into the late 18th century, and in some areas of Central America into the 1850s. The nexus between the political economy of nation-state formation in the postcolonial setting deepened after break of the Federation of Central America in the late 1830s, especially after the rise of coffee and bananas as major regional exports. Independent governments in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica tried to impose “imagined political communities” over these exports that would be different from the colonial identities designed by the Spanish imperialism of the past. In this 20th century context, mestizaje, or ladinizaje, became state sanctioned; it promoted racialized national identities in each of these countries, mostly the idea of ethnicity, albeit with critical regional and subregional differences, particularly between Guatemala and Costa Rica. Historiographies that have been influenced by postmodern sensibilities, particularly critical race theory, the new cultural history, and subaltern studies, have influenced recent understanding of the political economy of race and nationality in Central America.


  • History of the Caribbean
  • History of Central America
  • Afro-Latin History
  • Indigenous History
  • Slavery and Abolition

Early and Late Colonial Periods, 1500–1800

“Nations,” Eric Hobsbawm argued long ago, “do not make states and nationalisms but the other way around.”1 The degree to which states do this is most often associated with the political economy of the territory over which the leaders, usually political elites with economic power, seek to control the given territory’s peoples, and to what ends. Of course, the process of state formation and nation creation is also a result of popular resistance to state governance by elites and is even dependent on negotiated struggles between elites and nonelites, heretofore referred to as subalterns. In Central America, during the longue durée covered in this article (1500–2000), the relationship between political economy, race, and national identity traversed various critical moments and processes. The article summarizes the articulations of these relationships.2

In what is today Central America—inclusive of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica—the process of modern state formation as the basis of nation-building began in the 1820s, after complete independence from Spain and formal sovereignty had been achieved. When significant numbers of Spanish conquistadors and colonists had arrived in Central America in the 16th century, they had sought to impose state power on about five to six million people. Conquest led to the decimation of the local populations, and by 1800 Central America only had about one million people (Table 1), mostly still indigenous peoples, although that varied enormously in different subregions of each future country. They were organized into groups as hunter-gatherers, semisedentary agriculturalists, and sedentary city-states, all with cultures, languages, religious beliefs, and economies that were radically different from those on the Iberian Peninsula or anywhere else in the world.

Estimated Population of Central and South America, 1800–1950

Table 1. Spanish-Speaking Countries of the Mainland Continent






Central America*










South America*





* Central America here excludes Belize and Panama. South America includes all present officially.

Sources: Sánchez-Albornoz (1984), Sánchez-Albornoz (1986), and Furtado (1976).

The names and the characteristics of the first peoples of Central America varied enormously, from some who are now extinct, or almost extinct, to others who survived colonialism and continued to exist into the 21st century. The best-known today are the Maya, and especially their monumental architectural creations, which are now sites of archeological research.3 They are found mostly in Guatemala and in Copán, Honduras. In 1500, however, the following peoples, at least, lived in the region; their names are barely recognizable today because most have few members: Acatec, Achi, Aguacateco, Boruca, Bribri, Buglere, Cabecar, Cakchique Changuena, Chicomuceltec, Cholti, Chorotega, Chorti, Chuj, Crobici, Cueva, Cuna, Dorasque, Embera, Guaymi, Huet Itzaj Maa, yIxil Jacalteco, Kanjobal, Kekchi, Lenca, Maleku, Mam, Mangue, Mayangna, Miskito, Mopan, Pech, Pipil, Poqomam Poqomchi, Quiché Maya, Rama, Sacapulteco, Sipacapense, Subtiaba, Tacaneco, Tawaka, Tectiteco, Teribe, Tol, Tzutujil, Ulwa, Uspanteco, Voto, Waunana, and Yucatec Maya. In most countries of Central America, indios made up most of the populations that survived conquest, slavery, disease, and extermination.4 By 1800 only about one million survived.

Moreover, significant new research on the early colonial period has shown that ethnic ascriptions imposed by the Spanish colonial rulers, such as “indios,” were only superficially accepted by the indigenous peoples. In one case, in early Guatemala, Mayans, instead of calling themselves indios, assumed the ethnic identity of “Mexicanos,” the indigenous allies of the conquering Spaniards.5

During the Spanish colonial period (1500–1821), each of the contemporary Central American countries was a province of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, which was in turn administered by the much larger and more powerful Viceroyalty of New Spain, or most of what is today Mexico. In the 1820s the contemporary Central America countries emerged as a formally unified nation, at least as “nation” was understood then, eventually united into the Central American Federation. In 1821, the criollos, creoles, white Spaniards born in Central America, leaders of the Captaincy General, declared their independence from Spain, acknowledging that they had done so to “prevent the dreadful consequences resulting in case Independence was proclaimed by the people themselves,” in the words of the author of Central America’s Declaration of Independence, José Cecilio del Valle.6

The people the creoles feared in 1821 represented the majority of the million or so former colonial subjects distributed throughout 507,966 kilometers2 of a geographically varied territory embraced by the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. By the 1820s, this territory’s first peoples, their descendants, and the mixed peoples created by miscegenation under Spanish colonialism had been classified by the old colonial state into the following general categories, incorporating peoples of the African diaspora: ladinos, mulatos, negros, morenos, and pardos. The origins of the people from the African continent who arrived in Central America have only recently been researched and identified.7 According to Rina Cáceres, Central America received “mondongos,” “congos,” and “casangas” from the Congo-Angola region of West Africa; carabalíes and biafra from eastern Nigeria; “bran” from Ghana; and “mandinga,” primarily from Guinea and Gambia.8

During the colonial period, Indios represented the majority population, ethnically differentiated of course, in all of the provinces in Central America, except Costa Rica. However, that fact should always be contextualized in terms of regional variations in each country, rural versus urban populations, and by time period. As Nancy Appelbaum and others noted in an influential book on the topic, the “historical roots of popular and elite expressions of race and national identity in post-Independence Latin America” and the fact that “national identities have been constructed in racial terms and that definitions of race have been shaped by processes of nation building, are processes closely connected.” These definitions have been unstable and regional.9

This was particularly true after the mid-18th century, when genetic and cultural mixing throughout Central America intensified, a process of miscegenation often known in the scholarship as ladinización and mestizaje, concepts critical to understanding race and national identity in Central America.10 The same is true for another concept used by the Spanish as a collective ethnic ascription for all the varieties of non-creole subjects: castas, or castes.

These demographic classifications of race and identity in Central America have often been used in confusing ways, including in the scholarship.11 The problem stems in part from a lack of uniformity with regard to the known history of critical concepts about this subject in Central American historiography since the 19th century; this includes the words, nation and race and concepts of “ethnicity” and “culture.” According to the German historian Lucian Holscher, “The semantic relationship between words and things is fixed in any act of speech, but changes over time. Determining the specific relationship between language and historical reality is still somewhat open to historical research.”12 This is a challenge in Central America in the sense of intellectual history and concerns the historical etymology of the terms nation, race, ethnicity, and culture, to say nothing of the concept of “identity” and its articulation in the idea of the “nation.”

This article uses Benedict Anderson’s concept of nation:

[The nation] is an imagined political community—and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion. In fact, all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined. Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined. The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic boundaries, beyond which lie other nations. No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind.13

Furthermore, writes Anderson, the nation is

imagined as sovereign because the concept was born in an age in which Enlightenment and Revolution were destroying the legitimacy of the divinely-ordained, hierarchical dynastic realm. Finally, it is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings.14

The historical etymology of the word race is linked to the ancient Italian razza, a term used in the early 16th century to indicate a “pedigree” or “type” of animal selected for reproduction because of its supposed quality. Razza came into existence in the European languages of Latin origin, specifically Castilian or Spanish—but with lesser social classification authority—simultaneously with the word “caste” and its plural “castes.”15

The word caste also deserves an explanation because of its widespread use during the Spanish colonial era. It was adopted by the Spanish from the French word castus, meaning “pure,” specifically in terms of products of organic reproduction, but obviously preceding the meanings used in zoology and biology, not to mention genetics. Something “chaste,” then, especially prior to the colonial period, referred to this alleged reproductive purity; hence, the links between “caste,” “pure,” and “lineage.”

Another fundamental concept for understanding the postcolonial historiography of race and national identity in Central America is “ethnicity” or “ethnic group,” particularly in the 1980s and 1990s.16 The concept derives from ethnicity, which in turn comes to Spanish through the Latin aethnicus and, prior to that, through the ancient Greek ethno, meaning “people” or “peoples.” Initially, “ethno” (or “ethnicity”) lacked inflections of the qualities of organic reproduction explicit in the words razza and casta. In fact, in the Greek, the connotation of “quality” referred more to the distinction between a civicus (citizen) and a barbaro (alien), someone not belonging to Greek culture.17

In Central America, elites depicted the colonized subjects, known as “the people” by 1821, who were overwhelmed by their conquered status and demographic decimation, as slowly losing the casta status imposed on them by Spanish colonial administrators. In fact, as Catherine Komisaruk’s work on late-colonial Guatemala has shown, by about 1800, free labor of different ethnicities had accompanied economic and social changes that made tribute and even slave-based labor largely irrelevant, and consequently casta identifies became less fixed. If this was the case in Guatemala, it was most probably the case elsewhere in Central America.18

After this period, elite descendants of creoles associated most segments of “the people,” particularly “Indians,” with a “folkloric” set of customs and beliefs particular to certain racial groups. This was the case well into the 1950s. By the 1980s and 1990s, “ethnicity” had replaced “race” in the elite and intellectual nomenclature, again especially regarding “the Indians.” In 1991, Richard A. Adams, arguably the most prominent anthropologist working in Central America of his generation, wrote: “All Central American states except Belize are clearly ethnographically controlled by mestizo sectors. They differ in the extent to which the interests of the subordinate ethnicities are ignored or marginalized.”19

“Black” populations in most of Central America, defined as immigrants from Africa or the African Diaspora and racially identified as black who are actually racially mixed, did not receive even that level of recognition by elites and intellectuals until well into the 20th century. Mulattos receive recognition sporadically for their role in the preindependence revolutions in Central America, starting in 1811, but there is virtually no contextualization of their distinct ethnic pasts in Africa or the African diaspora, to say nothing of slavery. The fact is that their ethnoracial category from the age of liberal historiography, at the end of the 19th century, erased this dimension of their collective and individual anger against slavery and other forms of colonial oppression.20

The presence of people of African origin in Central America began with the arrival of the Spaniards themselves given that in the first decades of the 16th century brought Africans and grew via the transatlantic slave trade between 1500 and the 1870s, and after the 1870s, when West Indians migrated there to work as railroad workers and plantation laborers in the Caribbean agro-export economies. Colonial “blackness” in Central America looked substantially different from that of the African diaspora elsewhere in the Americas. The most innovative scholarship on the topic challenges the African diaspora historiography that is dominant in the Americas, which focuses on Brazil, the United States, and other regions in the Caribbean whose history of African slavery was linked to the plantations organized to produce for world markets, particularly sugar.

For example, according to Lowell Gudmundson and Justine Wolfe, Hacienda San Jerónimo in Guatemala, which in the late 18th century “was home to the largest single group of slaves in Central America”—more than six hundred—“along with permanent and temporary Indian and mixed race workers,” represented the extreme exception in characterizing the material context of “black and blackness” of the region.21 “The multiethnic environment of Hacienda San Jerónimo” did exist throughout rural and urban Central America but with far smaller concentrations of slaves, many of whom were classified as mulatos or pardos, or both. This is most important for scholars who want to compare the Central American case with the more familiar and canonical cases of the Latin American and Caribbean historiography: Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Colombia, etc.).22

In the early 21st century, an innovative academic historiography is registering this phenomenon. That same historiography registers the presence and historical evolution of the mestizo population of African origin, be it in terms of phenotype or culture. The official ethnic and racial categories of the colonial and postcolonial eras in Central America are testaments to the legacy of history and the African diaspora. Blacks, mulatos, pardos, zambos, morenos, black Caribs (Garífunas) and black British (called Creoles, different from the creoles mentioned earlier) were the primary ethnoracial categories on the spectrum of skin colors in African-descendant miscegenation in the region; these were registered in colonial and postcolonial censuses, as was the case elsewhere in Latin America.

The post-1870s political economy of Central America, grounded in coffee and banana exports, brought other immigrants to the region in smaller numbers than the West Indians, particularly from western Europe, mostly Germans and the French but also peoples from the Middle East and Asia, primarily from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and China.

1821–1839: After Independence, New States without Racialized National Identities

The relationship between the racialization of the five nations of Central America and its postcolonial political economy, in the sense framed here, did not reach full strength until well after the 1870s.23 Numerous problems confronted the nation-state builders who undertook that task after independence in 1821. Most of the problems had originated in the colonial period and only intensified between the 1840s and 1860s. After the 1870s, each country emerged with a specific economic structure and connections to the world economy that affected its different geographic regions in distinct ways, which in turn complicated the already complicated relation between race and national identity, and even regional racialization within each nation.

Between 1821 and 1839, most of the elites in each of the countries that today constitute the Central American nation pledged sovereign and constitutional loyalty to the Federation of Central America, a nation with a constitution, whose leaders tried desperately to establish and consolidate a state that might actually give this new regional nation a reality beyond the paper on which the constitution was written. Elite “nationalism” during this period was mostly about a Central America–wide “nation,” albeit only fragilely above deep localisms, ethnic and otherwise.24 Between the 1830s and 1870s, with the exceptions of Guatemala and Costa Rica, for different reasons, each local government remained unstable. Each country experienced civil wars and military movements and threats, particularly Honduras, which had over sixty presidents and heads of state during this period, most of whom never completed their constitutional terms in office. In fact, Honduras’s chief executives averaged only about six-and-a-half months in power between the 1820s and 1876.

Much of the instability stemmed from the fact the each country had few resources with which to design and consolidate their nations and collective identities, racialized or not. The Honduran case again provides an example. Between the 1770s and the 1820s, Honduran creoles enjoyed three basic sources of wealth: a tobacco factory near the provincial capital of Comayagua; silver ore, which was abundant near Tegucigalpa; and domestic cattle. In the late 18th century, all three yielded substantial profits. Unfortunately, the export markets for these products collapsed early in the 19th century. The dynamic behind growth and stagnation in the late 18th century lay in European demand for Salvadoran and Guatemalan indigo. Cash from indigo exports stimulated the other economies of Central America. But between the 1790s and early 1800s, wars in Europe interrupted the indigo market, and worse, locusts attacked the crop itself. Poor technologies for silver extraction in Honduras could not keep up for demand in Europe, via Spain, given competition from silver exports from Mexico and Peru. Finally, Venezuela began exporting indigo, and this, together with England importing indigo from Benegal, further damaged indigo as a viable Central American export capable of energizing a power state. Civil wars in Central America in the 1820s and 1830s aggravated the collapse of the indigo market. These problems did not disappear with independence from Spain. Indeed, “the new nation [, the Central American Federation,] was born in debt.”25 In 1821 the treasury recognized a debt of over four million pesos, an amount that had increased to about five million pesos by 1823. Soon after, it assumed more debt: in 1825, Central American Federal governments contracted for foreign loans via bond sales in British financial markets. By 1826, the first of these loans succumbed to a British stock market collapse, and the Central American government found itself saddled with debts, largely for expenses, commissions, government salaries, and cash advances. Collapsing regional economies and civil wars did not help in securing resources to pay for the debts that continued to accumulate into the 1860s. During the subsequent decades, coffee and banana exports became critical to state formation, nation-building, and new racialized elite and subaltern identities, official and otherwise.

It was for these reasons that, before the 1870s, none of the Central American countries could afford to sustain a strong, centralizing state with the power of to create official nations with ideologically racialized ascriptions to postcolonial subjects who were now citizens of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. During this period, three exports alternated as the regions’ most profitable: cattle; hardwoods; and mineral products, mainly silver and gold from Honduras, and cochineal and indigo from Guatemala and El Salvador. These exports stimulated commercial growth in certain regions of Central America during given periods: cattle to the Caribbean, especially to Cuba between the 1850s and 1880s; hardwoods to Great Britain via Belize between the 1840s and 1870s; gold between the 1830s and 1840s, and silver, especially to England and the United States between the 1850s and 1870s.

Among other issues are the following, though they were experienced differently in racial terms in the different countries of Central America: (a) the main obstacle to coffee exports before the 1870s had not been not land or peasant land tenure, indigenous or otherwise, but access to credit and labor, often Indian labor; (b) land privatization had begun in the 1830s, and it intensified in the 1850s and 1860s, and not simply after the 1870s as has traditionally been thought, although it intensified more profoundly thereafter and especially affected indigenous lands, more so in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, less so in Honduras and Costa Rica; (c) before the 1870s, the most forceful national identities the majority of Central Americans had assumed after Independence were rooted in conservative protection of church ideology or opposition to it; this opposition usually came from radical followers of the Enlightenment; it was not against not the church’s property or economic influence; (d) finally, these processes, taken together, are central for addressing “blacks and blackness” in Central America in ways that differentiate it substantially from the legacies of the African diaspora in the Americas as a whole.26

1839–1870: Incipient Racialization and Categorization of National Identities

In contrast to pre-1990s scholarship on nation-state formation in Central America, since the 2000s a consensus has emerged among historians regarding several propositions. First, Central American elites—liberals and conservatives—began promoting liberalizing policies toward the church, state, land, and the people long before the liberal reform period of the post-1870s, policies that promoted the so-called coffee and banana republics established thereafter. Secondly, this liberalizing trend occurred by the 1850s and 1860s, not because of a unified commitment to liberalism, but because of local responses to new incentives offered by the state to export agriculture that had been unavailable before: political stability and the stimulus and cost-savings offered by maritime transportation up and down the Pacific coast of the region, linked to the demands of the California Gold Rush of the late 1840s.

These incentives most often took the form of legislative concessions on duty imports for railroad construction, and corresponding generous tax tariffs on land purchase or rental, most often without local input. These bases for a broader scholarly consensus on some essential propositions must be considered to grasp the depth and pace of the racialized nation-building taking place after the 1870s. Before the 1870s, the elite discourses on the nation remained largely bereft of explicit racialization and valorization; the focus was on grappling with the remnants of the Federation of Central America, which had succumbed to civil wars and debt after 1839; promoting in Nicaragua an interoceanic canal; or in Honduras, an interoceanic railroad.27

The Costa Rican historian David Díaz Arias has offered a framework for thinking about how these broad processes affected the majority-Indian population in Central America as viewed by the elites and the states they controlled. Three strategies were deployed: (a) in Costa Rica, elites, intellectuals, the educational systems, and civic calendars rendered the Indian populations invisible, erasing their cultural heritage in national-identity discourses characterized as demographically “white”;28 (b) in Nicaragua and Honduras, these processes, elite actors, and discourses sought to “integrate” their Indian pasts and declining, if still large, native populations into the modern racialized nations, not championing “whiteness”; and (c) finally, in Guatemala and El Salvador, which were more densely populated than the other countries, the Indians’ past and their present were juxtaposed in a contradictory and exclusivist horizontal plane.29 Elites and intellectuals valorized a folkloric Indian past at the discursive national level, especially in the 20th century; however, the Indian present, its struggles for subaltern identities, land rights, and postcolonial resistance, were actively and viciously repressed, particularly in the case of the Maya of Guatemala.30 In El Salvador, the worst massacre of Indians and of those loyal to indigenous identities took place in 1932 in western El Salvador, in the heart of the region of coffee townships and plantations. Only very recently, since 1998, has Salvadoran “indigeneity” become a project of national imaginations, official and subaltern.31

The racialization of “blacks” and “blackness” and the African diaspora in Central America gives rise to a rather different set of questions, in part because of the scale of the demographics of the African diaspora in this region, in part because of the relationship to the transatlantic slave trade into the 19th century, and also because of the nature of the West Indian migrations to Caribbean Central America between the 1880s and the 1940s. According to Lowell Gudmundson and Justine Wolfe in their ground-breaking collection of essays on these issues, the following questions are relevant to the discussion:

What were the defining experiences of Africans and African Americans in colonial and national times in the region or nation studied? How have African Americans and blackness been portrayed in the regional and national literatures? How and when were African Americans of mixed race defined such that their African descent no longer counted? How have the struggles and contributions of African Americans, particularly those of mixed race, been built into mestizo, national, or otherwise homogenizing narratives? Do contemporary populations identify (culturally, political, or in other ways) with an African heritage? What texts, image, or artifacts do those populations consider emblematic of their history and identity?32

Serious scholarship addressing these questions is very recent, even if nation-state formation and its legislation, as noted already, was affecting the postcolonial experiences of Afro-descendants in Central America, beginning in the 1820s.

1870–1950: The Political Economy of Nation-State Formation in Central America

As noted, fiscal revenues from colonial exports never greatly energized the Central America state before the 1870s. This happened primarily after the 1880s, beginning early with coffee in Costa Rica, followed by Guatemala, El Salvador, and, to a lesser extent, Nicaragua. In Honduras, coffee exports assumed national importance after the 1960s, and really only after the late 1970s. More importantly, coffee in Honduras did not become an essential source of financial capital, as it did in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and El Salvador. Instead, banana plantations and exports became the main drivers of the external economy, albeit controlled by foreign capital, mainly US corporations: the United Fruit Company and Standard Fruit Company. Thus, the popular lore and even scholarship in the United States characterized Honduras as the “classic Banana Republic,” itself a transnational racialization of the country’s history.

The work Robert C. Williams has done on coffee is important for framing nation-building after 1870, and hence for state-sanctioned projects of racial formation and identities among the different countries of the region.33 According to Williams, the different intraregional political cultures and government structures existent in Central America after the 1850s exhibited “patterns of governance” established during the “moment of construction of Central American states”—that is, when “coffee townships” emerged to become politically dominant (1840s–1900). In Williams’s argument “coffee townships” references municipalities or local administrative districts whose economies were dominated by coffee cultivation for export.

He also argues that local elites and patriarchs frustrated by the “limits of accumulation” within the coffee townships eventually coordinated cross-regional politics against the precoffee national governments, which were largely legacies of the late colonial period, including descendants of colonial creoles. He notes that a key element of this process involved using police and military forces to enforce labor discipline and to institutionalize violent, elitist, and exclusivist “patterns of governance,” especially in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Therefore, the political cultures and government structures that emerged between the 1840s and 1900 persisted, despite agro-export diversification and even limited industrialization in the 20th century.

More specifically, Williams contends that the precise relationships and timing of land, labor, and capital inputs prior to elite cross-regional coffee-township alliances served as the differentiating bases for the path dependence of political institutions in the Central American nation-building efforts in the late 19th century. His more detailed analysis here is a critical innovation—namely, the idea that “coffee patriarchs,” again in the context of local variations of land, labor, and capital, used the municipal power of the coffee townships as a first stage on the road to eventual national power, that is, by 1900. He called this “nation building from the bottom-up.”34

This bottom-up nation-building occurred in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, and coffee townships and patriarchs in the latter, established patterns of governance that were different from those in the former countries, which had implications for race and national identities. Williams does not, however, reduce the resultant character of the states to their different relationships of land, labor, and capital as they developed between 1840 and 1900. He recognizes that each country contained “pockets of coffee production” with “highly distinct structural arrangements,” regardless of the prominence of certain coffee townships. In short, he asks:

With so many different models [of land tenure and labor relations in coffee production] to choose from, why did states end up favoring one over the others? Why did the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua enact national land, labor, and capital laws that reinforced the large plantation model, while the national government of Costa Rica encouraged the formation of family-sized farms in the coffee districts?”35

What answer does he offer? “The adoption of national policies that favored large plantations was the existence of a potential Indian labor force. Because of the power of Indian community structures, coffee growers needed a strong counterforce to help them pry labor and land from those communities.” Williams’s general propositions from his 1994 book have subsequently been made richly more nuanced by detailed research in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. In the case of Guatemala, for example, first David McCreery and then Rene Reeves have shown that though coffee townships emerged dominant, Ladino elites and coffee owners did not simply impose their different models of governance; instead indigenous peoples resisted a “ladino nationalism” against which indigenous subalterns posed their ethnic identities from the bottom up.36 That protracted ethnic conflict, sometimes open and violent but often not, continued into the 20th century, turning brutally genocidal in the 1970s and 1980s.37

Aldo Lauria-Santiago and others have demonstrated that in El Salvador, in the coffee districts and townships in the 19th century, there was a more marked juxtaposition between “ladino nationalism” and indigenous resistance to it, and that protection of indigenous communal lands documented for Guatemala did not take place. El Salvador’s 19th-century indigenous communities were much more internally fractionalized, and internal conflicts often led to factional initiatives to enlist Ladino and later mestizo elites in townships on different sides of land and other resource conflicts.38 In the end, though, this different dynamic in the face of rising coffee cultivation and exports in the transition to the 20th century led to a powerful state that made even folkloric indigeneity an official, national shame, Jeff L. Gould has argued, particularly after a massacre of thousands of “Indians” in El Salvador in 1932.

The Nicaraguan scenario’s details, Julie A. Charlip and Justine Wolfe have shown, suggest that though coffee townships emerged to become prominent and even dominant in certain regions of the country, the internal structure and ethnic dynamics in those regions were substantially less conflictual those in Guatemala and El Salvador. First, coffee farms in Nicaragua’s most important coffee townships did not register a concentration of land and capital as was the case in Guatemala and El Salvador. In Nicaragua, coffee farms were largely in the hands of medium and small acreage of land tenure, and the labor on those farms was only nominally ethnically indigenous. In fact, Wolfe, argues, many indigenous communities survived into the 20th century even as their small coffee farmers or laborers participated in the coffee economy.39

Costa Rican governments, lacking the “Indian problem,” as others have called it, and enjoying a formidable agricultural frontier, could promote family-size farms in the coffee districts, hence the promotion of whiteness as the central trope of national identity, which has only been challenged since the 1990s.40 Ultimately, this led to a more open political system in Costa Rica compared to that in Nicaragua, a state that was less repressive and dependent on its coffee oligarchy well before the end of the 19th century, with a more open political culture.41 And, this happened long before United Fruit Company established operations on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, often known then as the “Atlantic Coast.” This led to a discourse of blackness in Costa Rica that elites associated with the banana-growing region of the Caribbean coast, where the United Fruit Company imported West Indian labor for building railroads, ports, and also to serve as laborers.42 At the beginning of the 20th century, this complemented a much longer and more complicated process of neutralizing Costa Rica’s colonial African presence, an effort consolidated by the educational system and 20th century elites.

In Honduras, with a few coffee townships scattered in the south and northwest of the country, something quite different happened.43 “Unlike the other countries,” Williams suggests, “Honduras did not develop a national class of coffee growers capable of building a national state.” What is more, “without an active class of agricultural entrepreneurs to push the reforms from below, the actions of the Liberal state scarcely penetrated beyond the capital city.” Finally, “although legislation was passed giving the facade of a liberal, secular state, the Honduran government continued the colonial tradition of living off concessions to aguardiente producers and foreign companies.”44 In the end, “in Honduras a national coffee elite did not emerge to influence the formation of the national state during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”45 The “foreign companies” most favored in Honduras were the banana-exporting companies from the United States, particularly the United Fruit Company, founded in 1899. In this way, Honduras became the main country in Central America to have the political economy of race and national identity articulated to what James Colby has characterized as the main agents that molded “relations” between the United States and Central America and the Caribbean between the 1850s and World War II: United States corporate power and culture.46

Colby focuses on the United Fruit Company’s presence in Central America, albeit with new research and comprehensive knowledge of the historiography, particularly that published in English in the United States By the second decade of the 20th century, the United Fruit Company’s “primary strategy was to develop a divided work-force through the recruitment and hiring of Hispanic laborers” who, on plantations, railroads, and in ports, were juxtaposed to the West Indian workforce that was originally so important to its operations, and not just in Costa Rica and Guatemala, but in Honduras and elsewhere in the Central American Caribbean region. After the 1920s, in the face of what Colby calls elite and subaltern xenophobic and racist nationalism directed against the West Indians, United Fruit Company executives abandoned their labor segmentation policies, and increasingly favored a “Spanish-speaking workforce,” often idealized as anti-imperialist heroes by elites attempting to defend economic interests and national sovereignty assaulted by the imperial corporatism of the company. By the 1930s, United Fruit Company had not only stopped importing West Indian laborers into Central America; it also repatriated many workers back to the English speaking and still colonial islands (see Table 2).

Migrations and the West Indian Presence in Central America, 1850–1940

Table 2. Migrations and the West Indian Presence in Central America, 1850–1940



Costa Rica






















Sources: Conniff (1985), Harpelle (2001), Chambers (2010), and Euraque (2003).

On the other hand, the almost forty years of West Indian migration to Limon, Costa Rica, contributed another layer of race and ethnicity to the much older one grounded in the African diaspora that was different from the Spanish colonial experience. But this history of the African diaspora in Caribbean Costa Rica was not just another “layer” of race and ethnicity. Its political economy involved and provoked intense processes of migration, remigration, settlement, and resettlement from and in many locales of what Lara Putnam calls the Western Caribbean and Caribbean Central America.47 According to Putnam, this in turn made West Indians traveling to and from Caribbean Central America critical agents in a number of political and cultural processes and events that created the “Black Atlantic,” far beyond the Caribbean small ports and towns on the coasts of Central America, including Marcus Garvey and the United Negro Improvement Association, Harlem jazz, and black internationalism in the 1920s.48 No wonder that even in Honduras, a wide-eyed novelist called the Caribbean town of Tela, the seat of the United Fruit Company until the late 1920s, “our New Orleans, our Harlem.”49

In no other country in Central America did the political economy of the globalized banana plantation system in Honduras so articulate it to the cultural shift in United States. According to John Soluri, between the 1890s and the 1950s, bananas imported and consumed in the United States, invaded “everyday life in the U.S.”50 Hondurans, and probably US citizens, will be amazed to learn that the “banana’s ubiquity” in the 1920s in the United States influenced even a scene in William Faulkner’s classic novel As I Lay Dying. By the 1950s, not only poets, novelists, and musicians engaged bananas in the United States; “the companies themselves constructed images of bananas and the tropics through mass marketing campaigns” that included everything from children’s books to recipes for their moms that featured “baked bananas in the peel” and “ham banana rolls.”51

Because Honduras lacked a globalized political economy in nationally articulated coffee townships, the history of the political economy of bananas is crucial to understanding the racialization of national identity in this country in a way unique in Central America. To those outside Honduras, the nation was a “Banana Republic.”52 This couplet of words, in the name of a fruit originally imported to the Americas from Asia under Iberian colonialism, and in the name of the Latin res publica (of the public and the state), early in the 20th century articulated a range of clichés and caricatured images that framed diplomatic relations between the United States and Central America and the Caribbean. Coined by O. Henry in a novel published in 1904Of Cabbages and Kings—“Banana Republics” referenced countries ruled by dictators, oligarchs, and “strongmen” ruling over economies and Indians or mixed-race peasants (or both) and dependent on agricultural exports, stereotypically coffee or bananas. In some countries, the main export was sugar, and a labor force made up of descendants of the French or English generated African diaspora in imperial struggles against Spanish colonialism. Early on, Banana Republics were linked to the racial and cultural legacies left by Spanish colonialism in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Panama.

Significant Caribbean and Central American banana exports to the United States began in the 1870s. Boston received the first imports from the British Caribbean and thereafter New Orleans and other US southern coastal ports became important. Honduras began cultivating commercial bananas after the 1870s. US citizens, diplomats, and military men who ventured into the region at this time brought with them visions of their country’s place in the world grounded in the history and myths associated with the expansion west after the 1830s, including a white Manifest Destiny to bring order and “progress” to the remnants of Spanish colonialism in the United States, its mixed-race populations and remaining Indians.

This included war with Mexico in 1848, efforts to purchase Cuba from Spain, and the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 that declared the region an exclusive US sphere of influence. US investments in the region had been virtually nonexistent between the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine and the 1890s; economic relations were mostly limited to fruit imports of fruits and loans for infrastructure projects, particularly railroads and a canal through Nicaragua or the Isthmus of Panama. These initiatives produced individual colonialist projects, for example, like the career of William Walker in the 1850s.53

US citizens settled in Mexican territory, illegally declared independence, and withstood Mexican efforts to recover Texas in the 1830s, and afterward inspired others in the practice of filibustering, including Walker. He sailed to Nicaragua in 1855 and embroiled himself in a civil war taking place among Nicaraguan elites, who were challenging Cornelius Vanderbilt’s control of transit across Nicaragua and transportation via ocean freight to the Californian “Gold Rush.” Walker declared himself president of Nicaragua, re-established slavery, and ruled between 1856–1857. Central American armies defeated Walker, and Hondurans executed him in 1860.

Between the 1870s and 1929, Honduras became the main exporter of bananas in the world because of the enterprises owned by two US corporations that financed wars among Honduran elites to secure concessions—the United Fruit Company and the Standard Fruit Company. After the 1930s, United Fruit, headed by Sam “the Banana Man” Zemurray, which had operations in many Central American countries in and the Caribbean, dominated the “Banana Republics,” an economic monopoly that brought thousands of West Indian laborers to Caribbean Central America, not only to Honduras but to Costa Rica, and even to Guatemala.54

In 1933, the United Fruit Company stopped importing West Indians into Honduras. In fact, they could no longer do so legally because Honduran immigration laws in 1929 and 1934 banned phenotypically black people from immigrating to Honduras and established an “alien registration” system based on national, cultural, and phenotypic criteria. Unlike in Costa Rica, the impact of black West Indians in Honduras is virtually unknown in the academic realm, apart from the work of Douglas Chambers. He and a few other authors acknowledge that by the 1950s, the Anglo Afro-Caribbean diaspora in Honduras had fragmented and almost disappeared from the official national imagination and subaltern identities.

Even in old age, in the 1950s, Zemurray enjoyed close relations with the US State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).55 In 1954 he used these connections to engineer a coup against the president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz, who had challenged United Fruit Company’s monopolies.56 The coup led to a horrible civil war that lasted into the late 1980s. US diplomats either appeared as active agents of US corporations, or as negligent of a neocolonial American Empire, particularly when marines protected economic or geopolitical interests. Between 1898 and 1959—that is, from the US military defeat of Spain in Cuba to the overthrow of General Fulgencio Batista by Fidel Castro—US diplomatic relations with the so-called Banana Republics were framed by doctrines of imposition through the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, Dollar Diplomacy, and the Good Neighbor Policy in the 1930s and 1940s.

After 1950, Good Neighborliness succumbed to the Cold War struggles between the United States and the Soviet Union and their allies. Between the 1960s and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, which also registered decolonization in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, US diplomacy often based its policy decisions on a caricature of the Banana Republics. The US invasion of Panama in 1989, authorized by the president George H. W. Bush, a former CIA chief, apprehended dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega, who had been a paid CIA informant for decades, and framed US–Latin American relations in clichés that US citizens, corporations, and diplomats have used since the 1910s.

The clichés and racialized stereotypes of the Banana Republics in travelogues, Hollywood and industrial films, newsreels, and military documentaries, as well as school textbooks, are best illustrated by Dee Dee Halleck’s The Gringo in Mañana Land (1995). Films from the 1950s to the 1980s incorporated these caricatures as mythmaking and parody, for example, Jacques Tourneur’s Appointment in Honduras (1953) and Woody Allen’s Bananas (1969), or as critiques of the Reagan administration’s intervention in Nicaragua in the 1980s, such as Alex Cox’s Walker (1987). In 1978, a retail clothing company was established that sold travel clothing and marketed “wild” adventure, calling itself Banana Republic.

1870–1990: State-Sanctioned National and Regional Racialization; the Role of Education and Print Culture

During the rise and consolidation of coffee and bananas as Central America’s most important global exports and capitalist ventures, each country’s intellectuals and educational systems deployed, in both curriculums and texts and at both the primary school and university levels, state designed and sanctioned “imagined political communities.” To a different degree in each country, this process, often known as ladinización or mestizaje, homogenized the great variety of racial and ethnic categories established during Spanish colonialism and the postcolonial West Indian migrations into populations presumed to be primarily “ladino” or “mestizo”—that is, Indian and Afro-descendant legacies, genetic and cultural, seemingly minimal, “survivals” and “vestiges” of the distant colonial past, were often narrowed to certain racialized “regions” in each country.57

An important venue for these new racialized national narratives emerged between the 1870s and 1940s out of the relationship between modern print culture and intellectuals in Central America. According to Ivan Molina, during this period, intellectuals and their printed products, from essays in newspapers to books, framed the broader cultural history of the region and its distinct national and regional cultural microhistories in narratives that were radically different from those of the first half of the 19th century. The new racialized imagined discourses of nationhood can be found in the texts and practices of elite intellectuals involved in printed culture, schooling, and literacy; nurturing intellectual circles, all articulated to the construction of a public life, and commodified artistic products, poems, novels, and more.58

In Central America, the imagined “Indian worlds” were often reduced to the western Mayan highlands of Guatemala; the western Pipil-descendant towns in El Salvador; the western and southwest Lenca territories of Honduras or “la Mosquitia”; the Miskito and Sutiaba settlements of the “Atlantic Coast” of Nicaragua juxtaposed with the mestiza “western” highlands, home of August C. Sandino.59 Costa Rica, of course, presumably bereft of Indians, had boasted of a “white” population since the early 19th century.60 The imagined “black” worlds of Central America were in Guatemala often reduced to the West Indian migrations in the Puerto Barrios and Livingston microregions, tiny urban areas facing the Caribbean Sea; the same was true for Costa Rica and Honduras, a littoral that since the colonial period was often known as “la costa atlantica,” and in Honduras’s northeast, “La Mosquitia,” home to the Miskitos, and Tawakas in particular.61 In this narrative, in Costa Rica blackness was narrowed to the Province of Limon, headquarters of the United Fruit Company.62 Although Costa Rica’s colonial blackness was “replaced” with a West Indian blackness imported by the United Fruit Company, in the officialized national imagination of Honduras, colonial blackness and the colonial African diaspora were erased by Garífuna, who, exiled from St. Vincent, had arrived on its Caribbean coast in 1797.63 As the Garífuna migrated to the United States, Honduran blackness there was also presumed to be limited to this ethnic group.64 Finally, blacks and blackness seemed utterly extinct in El Salvador, and largely so in Nicaragua, as well.65 What follows is a comparative summary of this situation as it existed in the first decade of the 21st century in Central America.


Guatemala’s 20th-century popular press, educational system, and civic calendar registered tributes to indigenismo via Mayan icons drawn from an elite version of Maya history, including Tecum Uman, the Popol Vuh, and the Rabinal Achi.66 The academic ethnographic work on Guatemala after the 1940s is rife with racism.67 It was being produced at the same time that thousands of Mayans were being massacred in civil wars between 1960 and the signing of Peace Accords in 1996. Meanwhile, as researchers such as Arturo Taracena, Richard Adams, Santiago Bastos, Greg Grandin, Arturo Arias, Marta Elena Casaús, and Charles Hale have documented, miscegenation and complicated processes of ladinization continued, now juxtaposed with a Pan-Mayan movement that was critical of Spanish colonialism and the Ladino colonialism that became triumphant with the hegemony of coffee townships in the latter 19th century.

In the 1990s in Guatemala, this pan-Mayan movement was grounded in an extraordinary and unique phenomenon taking place not just in Central America but in all the Americas. According to the 1994 census and other data, between five and six million people identified as Mayan Indians, roughly half Guatemala’s population, and because of the repression, genocide, and displacement of latter 1980s, many thousands fled to Mexico, the United States and Canada.68 In the United States, Los Angeles an early entry point and settlement area for Maya communities in the 1980s. There, for the Mayans, as for others fleeing Central American wars, their racialized identities originating in the south encountered a racial formation very different from whence they came.69

While the significant Afro-descendant urban communities of the Spanish colonial period have received scholarly attention, the imagined official Guatemalan nation lacks even traces of colonial blackness.70 Even Guatemala’s small but vibrant Garífuna and Afro-Caribbean presence, which originated in the late 19th century, has been largely excluded from the imagined political community.71 In 2004, in what was a tiny gesture of acceptance of the 20th-century Afro-descendant population, Marva Weatherborn, the daughter of a Jamaican banana worker father and a El Salvadoran mother and also a migrant working in the banana plantations of Guatemala, was voted Miss Guatemala. She represented Guatemala that year in the Miss Universe pageant.

El Salvador

In Salvador, the educational curriculum, textbooks, and list of holidays featured on the school civic calendar have been perhaps the most traditional in Central America, lacking any day dedicated to the national ethnic heritage, including “folkloric” Indians; not even Atlacatl, the alleged indigenous leader long assumed to have died fighting the Spanish in the early 16th century, is mentioned or mythologized in ways that merit considering the recent scholarship. Debates in other Central American countries, before and after 1992, about the “500 Years of Discovery” and the role of Christopher Columbus in the history of colonialism in the Americas, do not appear to have influenced the pedagogy on ethnicity in El Salvador beyond very small scholarly circles. Perhaps this was not allowed in the context of the transition to peace agreements upon the resolution of the civil war in El Salvador. October 12 is recognized as a Day of Hispanicity in El Salvador, as it is in Guatemala.

The slaughter of thousands of indigenous people who rebelled in western El Salvador in 1932 created what Jeff L. Gould has characterized as an embarrassment and national shame around indigenous ethnicity.72 Therefore Salvadoran governments, starting in the 1940s, used the state to cultivate a “scar on the memory” of indigenous ethnic identity, including the black ethnic identity. Apparently, the formal education system still bears this scar.73 Specifically, this translated in daily life into attacks on communal land rights; indigenous dress, particularly among women; and institutional assaults on indigenous languages. Even though local birth records in western El Salvador continued to register indigenous identities, the national state statistics eliminated the indigenous ethnic categories. Thus, in the first decade of the 21st century, “it is unclear whether the combined population of indigenous Nahuat, Lenca, Cacaopera, and Maya totals ten percent or one percent of the national population of approximately six.”74 During this period, Salvadoran indigeneity struggled to survive and cultivate a cultural niche even among champions of regional and international indigenous ethnicity.75

In the Spanish colonial period, blacks and blackness during in El Salvador, notwithstanding the scholarship by Paul Lokken, José Heriberto Erquicia, and others, are virtually nonexistent in the Salvadoran educational system, and hence in the popular imagination. This is because of racism in general, not because there have been widespread massacres of peoples from the African Diaspora.76 And since El Salvador’s only costal rim is on the Pacific Ocean, it did not experience the significant settlement of African diasporic peoples in the late 19th and 20th centuries connected to the political economy of bananas plantations and exports that happened in Guatemala and, especially, in Honduras. Moreover, El Salvador never experienced the presence of even small Garífuna communities; these emerged in Guatemala and in Nicaragua after dispersing east and west from Caribbean Honduras.


During the last two decades a historiography that records Honduras’s complex racial and ethnic past in the context of the hegemony of the banana exporting economy has emerged. A narrative that perhaps best illustrates this is associated with the history of the Honduran national currency, named after Lempira, a Lenca chieftain who died in the 1530s resisting Spanish conquest. After a legislative decree in 1935, Honduras’s official civic calendar gave Honduran citizens a new date to revere, July 20, designating it a “day of national consecration in honor of Lempira, greatest hero, defender of national independence.”77

The official historiography, promoted by the Ministry of Education since the first decade of the 20th century, and then by the Ministry of Culture since the mid-1970s, usually identified Lempira as a native Lenca chieftain from the west of the country, whose merits included dying defending his territory against the Spanish conquistadors during the third decade of the 16th century. Lempira’s place in the Honduran imagined political community is unique in all Central America. No other state elevated mythic Indians to such a status. Lenca lands were not affected by the political economy of a poor coffee exports or the rise of the banana export economy on the country’s Caribbean coast. In fact, Lempira’s elevation as a dead national cultural hero in the 1920s served to narrow mestizaje to a binary “Spanish-Indian” miscegenation and to neutralize blackness as a whole.78 The design and discourses in the censuses served that process as well, as censuses did elsewhere in Central America.79

The construction of a “national hero” Lempira goes back to the late 19th century, when Honduran elites, mostly intellectuals, began construct a Honduran nationality, as was happening in other countries in Central America, as well. However, Lempira “the defender of the territorial integrity”—in other words, defender against foreign invasions—belongs in the 20th century. The official “nationalization” of Lempira, despite his heroic tragedy, was consolidated in the 1920s through two official acts. It began in 1926, when the Honduran congress legislated Lempira the country’s “national” currency, coins or paper money, even when the actual paper currency features the monumental Maya structures of ancient Copan, located ten miles from the border with Guatemala, even though the Maya were and remain a tiny population among Honduras’s ethnic Indians. The state sanctioning of the ancient Maya monuments in Honduras as an international tourist destination is known as the “Mayanization of Honduras.”80

In 1928, the Honduran Ministry of Education commissioned a Honduran painter to “imagine” Lempira and paint his portrait; hence he invented a 20th-century imagined Lenca Indian to represent the never seen chieftain. This official and subaltern championing of Lempira after the 1920s must be juxtaposed against the 20th-century narrative of blackness.81 As noted, Honduras’s colonial blackness had been erased by the end of the 19th century, including the very important contributions the presence and visibility of African slavery in constructing, in the mid-18th century, Fort San Fernando de Omoa on the country’s Caribbean coast.82 During the transition to the 20th century, the liberal nation-state builders had even eliminated “mulatto” as a census category.83 Between the 1950s and 1970s, special attention was given to the history of the Garífuna, Honduras’s largest Afro-descendant population since the late 18th century and, today, Central America’s largest and most visible Afro-descendant population living outside the region, especially in the United States.84

At the beginning of the 21st century, the Garífuna population on the Caribbean coast of Honduras was between 43,000 people (based on the official Honduran census of 2013) and 400,000 people (according to some Garifuna intellectuals). There are few official census data on the Garífuna in a transnational context85; Garífuna are descendants of a polyglot, racially mixed population that has occupied the Honduran Caribbean since the late 18th century. Besides Spanish, most Garífuna speak their own language, a mix of a range of African, European, and Carib Indian languages, although the younger generations in the cities are less inclined to retain their language.86


By the late 1970s, Nicaraguan intellectuals, especially members of or sympathizers with the Sandinista National Liberation Front, and the state, had sanctioned a national narrative of indigenous resistance to the Spaniards during the colonial period, but it largely excluded the living Miskitos, Sutiabas, English-speaking creoles, and others.87 But unlike Guatemala or Honduras, Nicaragua’s official imagination claimed no historical indigenous characters, such as Lempira, the Honduran Lencan, or Tecum Uman, the Guatemalan Mayan, or to an even lesser degree and only very recently, the Atlacalt in El Salvador. In fact, the “interior” Nicaraguan mestizos, argues Baron Pineda, racialized “the Atlantic Coast” as a region mired in “shipwrecked identities.”88 Of course, in Costa Rica, Juan Santamaria, the country’s nationalist cultural hero, lost his Afro heritage as soon as he was raised to that status at the end of the 19th century.

Comparatively speaking, Nicaraguan historiography until very recently lacked significant scholarly research on its African descendants, even less than Honduras, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, in particular. According to Sergio Ramírez, Nicaragua’s preeminent novelist,

The mutilation of our history in order to remove its African element is astounding. Those looking to define a national identity turned the focus on a race that had been oppressed and held back, and was in need of redemption, a point of view that was developing throughout the first half of the 20th century in Latin America and became a part of the literature. This race is a mestizo, native, Hispanic one, [though] more native than Hispanic.89

Moreover, argues Sergio Ramírez,

blackness continues to be intolerable, in its unspoken sense. It cannot be spoken of. A sepulchral silence falls over its presence in our history and on those cultural elements that make up our daily life, to the point that everything that comes from this black heritage is disguised as indigenous.90

The triumph of a silent indigeneity within a homogenous mestizaje achieved preeminence in the 1920s and 1930 in the context of the formidable coffee economy that was being consolidated at the time, as Jeff L. Gould argued in pioneering work on the issue.91 Juliet Hooker has segmented the “official mestizaje” process in Nicaragua in the 20th century into three periods: “vanguardismo, Sandinismo, and . . . ‘mestizo multiculturalism.’” These emerged “in the 1930s, 1960s, and 1990s respectively in Nicaragua.”92

By the beginning of the 21st century, research on the Afro-descendant population had identified at least three major strands of the African diaspora in Nicaragua that had historically been excluded from the state-generated national political imagination: descendants of the African slaves introduced by the Spaniards; Garífuna who migrated to the Caribbean and Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua; and Creoles, a historic mixture of Afro-descendants; European descendants, especially British; and indigenous local to that region of Nicaragua. In the official Nicaraguan Census of 2005, only about 20,000 Nicaraguans self-identified as “creoles,” less than 1 percent of the country’s populations.93

Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, a Latin American whiteness was juxtaposed not so much to colonial indigeneity but to legacies of the postcolonial African diaspora in ways that are comparable to Uruguay in South America. In the case of Costa Rica, that particularity has historically been juxtaposed with a regional Caribbean Coast on “la costa atlántica.” Afro-Caribbean migration to Costa Rica between the 1880s and 1930s—which added nearly 50,000 new contributions to Afro-colonial heritage, as documented, did not transform the myth of whiteness that had been promoted since the mid-19th century. In fact, it probably had the opposite effect. Only during the last two decades has Afro-Antillean differentiation within the general colonial Afro-descendant heritage in Costa Rica been officially recognized, despite Costa Rica having one of Central America’s most developed scholarly research agendas on blackness. In fact, until the mid-1990s Costa Rica cultivated the same general patterns in their educational systems and civic calendars as the rest of Central America, with nuances of format and presentation. The conceptualization of the relationship between conquest and miscegenation (ladinización and mestizaje) generated during the Spanish colonial period was not enriched with the Afro-colonial West Indian legacy introduced between the late 19th century and the 1930s.94

As in Nicaragua and El Salvador, and unlike in Honduras and Guatemala, the list of official holidays in Costa Rica does not include days dedicated to indigenous heroes, and certainly not to those of African descent. In in 1971, April 19 was decreed the Day of the Aboriginal Costa Rican; and since 1980, August 31 has been observed as the Day of Black Heritage.95 So it merits emphasizing an idea Quince Duncan, the eminent Costa Rican writer of Afro-Antillean descent, raised as part of an educational campaign, launched in 2008, at the American Institute of Human Rights, which is based in Costa Rica, about the “human rights of people of African descent.” According to Duncan, the Journal of Costa Rica published, in 1939, a letter by Clodomiro Picado, Costa Rica’s most prominent scientist of the 20th century, in which he warns:

Our blood is turning black! And if we continue like this, not a fleck of gold will the crucible produce but rather a chunk of coal. There might still be time to save our heritage of European blood which is possibly what has prevented us until now from falling into African-like manners, whether it be in politics or in tastes that mimic art or social status in pathetic and ridiculous ways.96

This process was well underway in the 1880s, when the Costa Rica state named its “unknown soldier” a national hero but simultaneously deracialized him. His evident mulatto features were erased from official representations of this hero, named Juan Santamaria. According to Steven Palmer, Santamaria was a “foot soldier who, during the Battle of Rivas in 1856, burnt down the Meson de Guerra from where William Walker's filibusters were decimating Costa Rican troops with rifles.”97 Furthermore, the

following decade, Santamaria would become the national hero of Costa Rica, and the war against Walker (the Campaña Nacional) would be reconstructed by the state and liberal intellectuals as a surrogate war of independence, something which Costa Rica's national mythology had hitherto lacked.98

According to one of the liberal Costa Rica state and nation designers in the 1880s, Santamaria’s “head was covered by rough and curly hair, not a little similar to that of the African race; but in his face could be discovered the characteristic features of our own race.” Thus, argues Steven Palmer, “though the national hero’s recessive traits might recall the mestizaje that not even liberals could quite erase, he was aggressively brought back into the fold of Costa Rican racial ‘sameness’”—that is, a Costa Rican whiteness promoted since the mid-1850s.99

Costa Rican academia—in the social sciences and through universities and graduate degrees in history—has made impressive advances, at least in recent years, in the historiography related to the Afro-descendant problematic, even as officially its governments have only slowly registered its racial and ethnic pasts in the imagined political imagination.

Neoliberalism and the Multicultural Turn: Beyond Racialized Nations?

In one way, Costa Rica’s deeper commitment to university-level academic education and social science considerations of nation-state formation and race have been explained by the fact that it escaped the civil war and revolutionary turmoil that engulfed the rest of the countries in Central America in the 1980s. In Guatemala, the civil war in the 1980s represented an extension and more violent phase of the civil war that began after the 1954 coup against Jacobo Arbenz in which Mayan indigenous communities lost thousands and thousands of victims, leading eventually to formal trials for genocide. By 1982, the left had organized into the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (National Revolutionary Unity of Guatemala). As elsewhere in Central America, combatants and sympathizers in a varied political and cultural left, ranging from Marxists to progressive Catholics, often faced overwhelming force and repression from state-sanctioned military violence and civilian death squads, especially in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador and, to a lesser extent, in Honduras. Military regimes ruled these four societies almost continuously after the end of World War II and continued to do so into the late 1970s.

The civil wars were sparked by various critical events during the mid- to late 1970s. In Nicaragua, the Sandinista guerrillas, organized as the Sandinista National Liberation Front (widely known as the FSLN) since the 1960s, overthrew the Somoza family dictatorship in July 1979. By October of that year, a progressive military coup in El Salvador against an existing military dictatorship established the context for a civil war in which a fierce political right that positively referenced the 1932 massacres faced an insurgency organized around the main insurrectionary communist mestizo executed in 1932, Farabundo Martí. The guerrillas and civilians of the Marxist left in El Salvador formally organized as the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front. In Honduras, very small guerrilla groups organized in 1980 and 1981 but were mostly killed by the military and death squads. The Honduran guerillas failed to garner massive popular support comparable to that in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Honduras instead saw its territory occupied by US military forces that supported the military regimes in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, with which it shares borders. This also led to Honduras’s harboring civil war refugees and guerrilla incursions from all three countries.

The civil wars and insurrections and US military support for the right-wing military regimes resulted in an enormous number of violent deaths and casualties, on a scale never before registered in the region. This only ended after various negotiated peace accords were signed by contending sides in the early 1990s. In Guatemala, between 1954 and the accords of 1996, some 200,000 Guatemalans lost their lives in the civil war. In Nicaragua, the Sandinista insurrection, its repression, and the civil war of the 1980s accounted for approximately 40,000 deaths. In El Salvador, between 1980 and 1992, almost 80,000 succumbed to violent deaths. While Nicaraguans fled the country as never before in its history during the 1980s, Guatemalans and Salvadorans fled in the tens of thousands, most often as refugees to the United States. In 2011, there were about 1.2 million Guatemalans in the United States, and 70 percent of those arrived in 1990 or later.100 Between 1980 and 1990, the Salvadoran immigrant population in the United States increased from nearly 95,000 to almost 470,000. In the first decade of the 21st century, this figure stands at about one million.101 Today, there are about 400,000 Nicaraguans in the United States, nearly half arriving after 1990. There are about 700,000 Hondurans in the United States today, most having arrived in the late 1980s and especially during the 1990s. Garífunas have been migrating to the United States in small numbers since the 1930s and especially after the 1970s.

In the longue durée, to a large extent the civil wars of the 1980s in Central America represented the inability of the coffee and banana agro-export economies of the 19th and 20th centuries, and some industrialization in the 1960s and 1970s, from meeting the basic economic, social, educational, and health needs of the majority of the region’s peoples, of whatever racial and ethnic background. In the 1970s and 1980s, repressive reaction to protests, along with demands for greater democratic participation on the part of authoritarian, militarized regimes, except for Costa Rica, deepened the agro-export crisis.102 In response, US foreign policymakers in Washington, and local allies, from policymakers to some intellectuals, and most of the Central American elite, opted for what are now called “neoliberal” economic policies. In this scenario, the official vocabulary of racialized imagined mestizo and ladino nations that consolidated in the 1940s in Central America experienced what many scholars, especially anthropologists, have called a “multicultural turn” from above and from below, from a range of ethnic subaltern movements mobilized as never before.

More than fifteen years ago, William I. Robinson succinctly summarized the structural changes in the political economy of Central America that began in the mid-1980s and consolidated during the 1990s:

The transnational elite has since the 1980s been promoting a “transnational agenda” of polyarchy and neoliberalism. Polyarchy and neoliberalism are political and economic components, respectively, of global capitalism. Transitions to polyarchy represent adjustments of political structure to the economic changes brought about by capitalist globalization. The type of flexibility in the exercise of social control, the mechanisms of intra-elite conflict resolution, compromise and consensus building, and the superior prospects it offers for the hegemonic incorporation of subordinate groups, makes polyarchy a more appropriate political system than authoritarianism for capitalist modernization in the current epoch. In sum, the integration of national productive structures into emergent globalized circuits of accumulation requires a “liberal world order” or a global policy regime that breaks down all national barriers to the free movement of transnational capital between borders and permits the free operation of capital within borders. The global economy cannot function without a harmonization of national fiscal, monetary, exchange, budgetary, industrial, labor and other macroeconomic policies. Structural adjustment programs attempt to restore macroeconomic equilibrium.103

Almost ten years after Robinson’s characterization, Eric Hershberger of the American University, in Washington, DC, organized a major scholarly project to more closely engage the role of contemporary elites in Central America’s relationship to global capitalism.104 It is a new structural phase very different from the rise and crisis of the coffee and banana agro-export economies that consolidated summarized here for the period 1870s to the 1950s. According Hershberger, his and his colleagues’ efforts amount to

an ambitious project about the composition and role of Central American elites who have long played an enormous role in shaping the political and economic landscape of Central America. The investigation explores historical context, transformation, and continuity in elite composition as well as how elites relate to the economic, political, and social orders.


among the goals of this project are to identify and map the sectoral and territorial economic underpinnings of contemporary elites in these five countries, the institutional spaces in which elites exercise power, develop comparative studies of disputes around fiscal policy, and consider the role of relations between Central American elites with the United States and with the broader international arena. This research highlights continuity and change in all aspects. We explore how the economic landscape gives rise to political interests, and catalogue the organizational mechanisms through which elites seek to channel their interests into public policy. We describe and analyze elite relationships to different components of the state and, where relevant, their ties to illicit actors. The research empirically documents the sociopolitical attitudes of Central American elites and assesses how those attitudes translate into behaviors.105

At any rate, during the 1990s, this complicated transformation in the region’s political economy, led by old and new economic elites and allies, in often complicated and contradictory ways, brought with it important reconsiderations of the region’s racialized mestizo nations and corresponding cultural institutionalism. In fact, argued Charles R. Hale more than ten years ago, neoliberalism represented

a new strategy of governance that reaches well beyond economic reforms. In particular, neoliberal governance includes the limited recognition of cultural rights, the strengthening of civil society, and endorsement of the principle of intercultural equality. When combined with neoliberal economic policies, these progressive measures have unexpected effects, including a deepened state capacity to shape and neutralize political opposition, and a remaking of racial hierarchies across the region.106

More specifically, in the Guatemalan context,

where Mayas constitute the majority of the population and have made impressive strides over the past two decades in nearly every realm of cultural rights: forging powerful cultural-political organizations, contesting racism, and demanding and receiving recognition from dominant actors and institutions who, a generation earlier, espoused a naturalized scorn for “lo indio.”107

According to Hale,

members of the dominant culture, known as Ladinos, generally have distanced themselves from the racism of times past, adopting instead a position that affirms cultural equality and allows a limited space for cultural rights but ultimately justifies a new form of racial hierarchy, letting culture, rather than race itself, provide the rationale.108

This happened in Nicaragua as well, with very mixed results, even in 1987 when Nicaragua “was one of the first Latin American countries to adopt multicultural citizenship reforms that assigned special collective rights to costeños, the black and indigenous inhabitants of its Atlantic Coast region.”109

In Honduras, affirms Hale,

during the 1990s Honduras experienced the same entangled emergence of neoliberal multiculturalism. Neoliberal reforms were epitomized by the notorious Congressional Decree 90-90, an amendment to Article 107 of the Constitution, passed in 1990, which made it legal for foreigners to own beach land, thereby clearing the way for a surge of beachside property sales and mega-tourist development. Black and indigenous organizations in this period engaged in intense protest and mobilization.110

The panethnic organization called Confederación de Pueblos Autóctonos de Honduras, formed in the early 1990s, “acted on behalf of nine distinct organizations sharing a remarkably unified voice, in support of multicultural reforms and against neoliberal megaprojects, such as a proposal to dam the Patuca River. Over the next fifteen years, the state begrudgingly conceded a series of essential multicultural reforms: signing on to ILO Convention 169 (1995), passing a property law that allows for multicommunal land claims (June 2004), initiating the World Bank–funded land administration project (PATH), which purports to support black and indigenous claims.”111

Future historians of Central America will address the recent multicultural turn vis-à-vis the racialized nations of the past. Anthropologists, on their own and in conversation with historians during the last fifteen years have been documenting race, ethnicity, and national identity in the region, now influenced by critical race theory, feminism, and postmodernism to search in many new directions. A recent succinct statement summarizes the current state of research thus:

Especially in the fields of war aftermaths, violence, and the formation of political subjectivities, anthropologists of Central America have elaborated innovative trajectories for the discipline as a whole. The regional scholarship’s historical strengths in political economy, indigenous studies, and social movement research continue to flourish. Work in this region pushes the boundaries of how we understand people’s relationships to the natural resources still abundant in the area’s rich volcanic soils and waters. The complex idioms of multiculturalism and identity politics have taken particular forms in Central America that are foundational for the theorizing of anthropologists elsewhere. Ultimately, though, the vast majority of Central Americans live in precarious, violent conditions, ever more so under neoliberal governance.112

Discussion of the Literature

The historical literature on the articulated relationships between political economy, race, and national identity in Central America in the sense presented in this article reflect a post-1980s academic phenomenon. The “Notes” and “Further Reading” sections offer many of the most contemporary publications in English and in Spanish. Before the 1980s, the historiography of Central America produced in the region and in the United States assumed essentialist and even social Darwinian perspectives to interrogate in a biological way how the human differences in “race” and “ethnicity” played a role in the societies established after the Spanish conquest and during the subsequent three hundred years of colonialism.

Moreover, subaltern identities in the historiography prior to the 1980s, and even into the mid-1990s, largely excluded the African diaspora, blackness, and even the early-20th-century West Indian migrations from their focus of study. “Indians” received most of the academic attention, largely under the auspices of ethnographic studies produced in the United States or by elite Central American intellectuals and literati (or both). Examples include two of the most comprehensive historiographical studies of the 1960s and 1970s: William J. Griffith’s “The Historiography of Central America since 1830” was published first in English in the United States, then in Spanish in the region, and Ralph Lee Woodward Jr.’s “The Historiography of Central America since 1960.” Much of the ethnographic research yet conversant with historiographical trends of the 1980s before the multicultural trend is summarized by Carol A. Smith and Jeff Boyer in “Central America since 1979: Part 1,” and by Smith and Boyer and Martin Diskin in “Central America since 1979, Part II.”113

Historiographical trends in each Central American country conversant with ethnographic sensibilities, and with the 1990s work on nation-state formation, are available in Spanish. See the chapters by José F. Cal, “La historiografía guatemalteca hasta Severo Martínez Peláez: Trazos iniciales de un debate”; Darío A. Euraque, “Historiografía de Honduras, 1950–2000”; Miguel Angel Herrera C., “La historiografía de Nicaragua en la segunda mitad del siglo X”; Iván Molina Jiménez, “La historiografía costarricense en la segunda mitad del siglo XX: Renovación y diversificación”; and Fina Viegas, “Aproximación a la historiografía salvadoreña de 1950–2000,” all in Boris Berenzon Gorn and Georgina Calderón Aragón’s Historia de la historiografía de América, 1950–2000.114

A pioneering collection of essays in the early 1990s that drew on Eric Hosbawm, Benedict Anderson, and other theorists of nation-state formation is Arturo Taracena and Jean Piel’s Identidades Nacionales y Estado Moderno en Centroamérica. Ten years later, Charles Hale, Jeffrey Gould, and Darío A. Euraque presented new and critical research on mestizaje in Memorias del mestizaje: Política y cultura en Centroamérica, 1920–1990. A very recent summary of the ethnographic and ethnohistorical production during the last ten years is, Jennifer Burrell and Ellen L. Moodie, “The Post–Cold War Anthropology of Central America.”115

Primary Sources

The first venues for studying race, ethnicity, and nation in Central American history, especially under Spanish colonialism, are the national and municipal archives of each country in the region and the archives in Seville, Spain. The best collection in the region is the one in Guatemala City, unsurprising given that all the current states of Central America were governed from there until the 1820s. Many of the colonial documents generated in Central America are available via the Portal de Archivos Españoles on the website of Spain’s Ministry of Culture, Guatemala section. The card catalogue of the Archivo General de Centroamerica in Guatemala City, also known as the Fichero Pardo, has an accessible website. Many of the scholarly journals referenced here, especially Mesoamerica, have published articles and essays on the status of the archives in different countries of Central America. Novice researchers should first contact experienced researchers because gaining access to collections in Central America often requires very different protocols from those in the United States or Europe. This is particularly true with municipal archives, which are often really “warehouses” of dusty and ill-organized but extremely valuable primary sources.

Several academic institutions in the United States since World War II have specialized in collecting and conserving unique primary sources about Central America, particularly for the 19th and 20th centuries. Important in this regard are Tulane University, the University of Kansas, and the University of Texas–Austin. These have well organized and accessible online research portals to a vast assortment of primary sources, from ephemera to newspapers to private papers, periodicals, and photographic collections generated by individuals and state and corporate actors, local to the region, and often based in the United States.

In this regard a critical source of primary materials are the vast numbers of documents, maps, and diplomatic correspondence exchanged between US foreign policy agencies and institutions and Central American governments since the mid-19th century, and especially during the 20th century. Classic reference sources are Arthur E. Gropp, Guide to Libraries and Archives in Central America and the West Indies, and Kenneth Grieb, Research Guide to Central America and the Caribbean. There is also the Tavera Foundation’s Fuentes manuscritas para la historia de Centroamérica: Nibliografía de instrumentos descriptivos.116 Much of this material can be examined on microfilm at many colleges and universities in the United States. The 19th-century US consular reports had been microfilmed by the 1930s; many of the US Department of State documents related to Central American internal affairs had been microfilmed by the late 1960s and early 1970s. During the 1980s, thousands of documents for the 1930 to 1960 period, often declassified confidential materials, were reproduced by University Publications of America, and sold to library and archive collections at universities in the United States All have good indexes and guides. Many of these primary sources are now being digitalized and can be accessed via portals at universities in the United States.

Finally, fascinating details on race, ethnicity, and migration patterns are now accessible, for fees, of course, from commercial enterprises that have digitalized and scoured a massive collection of primary sources such as birth, death, and marriage records, as well as maritime and even air travel and trade documents. Examples are My Heritage; and Ancestry.

Further Reading

  • Barahona, Marvin. Evolucióǹ Histórica de la Identidad Nacional. Tegucigalpa, Honduras: Editorial Guaymuras, 1991.
  • Barahona, Marvin. Pueblos Indígenas, Estado y Memoria Colectiva en Honduras. Tegucigalpa, Honduras: Editorial Guaymuras, 2009.
  • Caceres, Rina. Negros, Mulatos, Esclavos y Libertos en la Costa Rica del Siglo XVII. Mexico City: Instituto Panamericano de Geografía e Historia, 2000.
  • Casaus, Arzu, and Marta Elena. Guatemala: Linaje y Racismo. Guatemala, Honduras: F&G Editores, 2007.
  • Chambers, Glenn. Race, Nation, and West Indian Immigration to Honduras, 21. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2010.
  • Conniff, Michael L. Black Labor on a White Canal: Panama, 1904–1981, 3–4, 106. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985.
  • Díaz, David. Construcción de un Estado Moderno: Política, Estado e Identidad Nacional en Costa Rica, 1821–1914. San Jose, Costa Rica: Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica, 2005.
  • Euraque, Darío A. “The Threat of Blackness to the Mestizo Nation: Race and Ethnicity in the Honduran Banana Economy, 1920s and 1930s.” In Banana Wars: Power, Production, and History in the Americas. Edited by Steven Striffler and Mark Moberg, 232, 236. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.
  • Furtado, Celso. Economic Development of Latin America, 12. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1976.
  • Gordon, Edmund. Disparate Diasporas: Identity and Politics in an African-Nicaraguan Community. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998.
  • Hale, Charles. “. . . Más que un indio (more than an Indian)”: Racial Ambivalence and Neoliberal Multiculturalism in Guatemala. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 2006.
  • Harpelle, Ronald. The West Indians of Costa Rica: Race, Class, and the Integration of an Ethnic Minority, 19, 147. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001.
  • Hooker, Juliet. Theorizing Race in the Americas: Douglass, Sarmiento, Du Bois, and Vasconcelos. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.
  • Lindo-Fuentes, Hector, Erik Ching, and Rafael Lara-Martinez. Remembering a Massacre in El Salvador: The Insurrection of 1932, Roque Dalton, and the Politics of Historical Memory. Alburquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007.
  • Martínez Peláez, Severo. La Patria del Criollo: An Interpretation of Colonial Guatemala. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009.
  • Sánchez-Albornoz, Nicolás. “The Population of Colonial Spanish America.” In The Cambridge History of Latin America. Vol. 2. Edited by Leslie Bethell, 34. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
  • Sánchez-Albornoz, Nicolás. “The Population of Latin America, 1850–1930.” In The Cambridge History of Latin America. Vol. 4. Edited by Leslie Bethell, 122. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
  • Taracena, Arturo, et al., eds., Etnicidad, Estado y Nación en Guatemala, 1808–1944. Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala: Centro de Investigaciones Regionales Mesoamerica, 2002.


  • 1. Eric J. Hobsbawm. Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth and Reality (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 9.

  • 2. Perhaps the most up-to-date summary of the literature on state formation in Central America is Víctor H. Acuña Ortega, et al., eds., Formación de los Estados Centroamericanos (San Jose and Costa Rica, 2014).

  • 3. Rosemay A. Joyce, ed., Revealing Ancestral Central America (Washington, DC: The Smithsonian Latino Center and the National Museum of the American Indian Smithsonian Institution, 2015); and Patricia A. McAnany, Maya Cultural Heritage: How Archaeologists and Indigenous Communities Engage the Past, Archaeology in Society (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016).

  • 4. Fernando Cruz Sandoval, et al., Los Indios de Centroamérica, 2nd ed. (Tegucigalpa, Honduras: Universidad Pedagógica Nacional Francisco Morazán, 2017).

  • 5. Laura E. Matthew, Becoming Mexicano in Colonial Guatemala (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012). For more on the issues in Latin America as a whole, see Leo J. Garofolo and Rachael Sarah O’Toole, “Constructing Difference in Colonial Latin America,” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 7, no. 1 (Spring 2006).

  • 6. Andres Towsend Ezcurria, Las Provincias Unidas del Centro América: Fundación de la República (San Jose: Editorial Costa Rica, 1973), 21.

  • 7. Rafael A. Obando, “Sin memoria de esclavitud: Procesos de Empoderamiento de Afro-descendientes en la Audiencia de los Confines, 1525–1643” (PhD diss., Universidad Pablo de Olavidade de Sevilla, 2013).

  • 8. Rina Cáceres. “Las Conexiones entre Centroamérica y África,” in África en tiempo de la esclavitud, ed. Rina Cáceres (San Jose, Costa Rica: UNESCO/UCR, 2008), 12–17.

  • 9. Nancy Appelbaum, Anne S. Macpherson, and Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt, eds., Race and Nation in Modern Latin America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), 2.

  • 10. Charles Hale, Jeffrey Gould, and Darío A. Euraque, eds., Memorias del Mestizaje: Política y Cultura en Centroamérica, 1920–1990 (Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala: Centro de Investigaciones Regionales Mesoamerica, 2005).

  • 11. George R. Andrews, “Los Afrodescendientes en los Censos Latinoamericanos,” Claves: Revista de Historia, no. 2 (January–June 2016): 257–278.

  • 12. Lucían Holscher, “Fundamentos Teóricos de la Historia de los Conceptos,” in La Nueva Historia Cultural: Influencia del Postestructuralismo y el Auge de la Interdisciplinidad, ed. Ignacio Olibarri and Francisco Javier (Madrid: Editorial Complutense, 1996), 82.

  • 13. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism, 2nd ed. (London: Verso, 1991), 5–7.

  • 14. Anderson, 5–7. Steven Palmer was a pioneer in applying Anderson’s work in Central American historiography. See Steven Palmer, “Racismo Intelectual en Costa Rica y Guatemala, 1870–1920,” Revista Mesoamerica 31 (June 1996): 99–121. The historiography on the nation in Central America is now much more sophisticated about these matters than it was at the end of the 1980s. See the essays on Central America in El Lenguaje de los Ismos: Algunos Conceptos de la Modernidad en América Latina, coord. Marta E. Casaus Arzu (Guatemala City, Guatemala: F&G Editores, 2010); Jordana Dym and Sajid A. Herrera, coords., Centroamérica Durante las Revoluciones Atlánticas: El Vocabulario Político, 1750–1850 (San Salvador: Instituto Especializado de Educación Superior para la Formación Diplomática Editores, 2014); and Ethel Garcia Buchard, coord., Imaginarios de la Nación y la Ciudadanía en Centroamerica (San Jose: Universidad de Costa Rica, 2017);

  • 15. The following discussion draws on Raymond Williams. See also the discussion of the semantic history of the concepts of race, caste, ethnicity, and culture in Darío A. Euraque, Conversaciones Históricas con el Mestizaje en Honduras y su Identidad Nacional (San Pedro Sula, Honduras: Centro Editorial, 2004), 9–36; and Euraque, “Apuntes para una historiografía del Mestizaje en Honduras,” Revista Iberoamericana 19 (2005): 105–125.

  • 16. Peter Wade, Race and Ethnicity in Latin America, 2nd ed. (London: Pluto, 2010), 14–17.

  • 17. Peter Fleer, “El Factor Étnico en la Formación de las Naciones Centroamericanas,” Iberoamericana, Nueva Época, Año 2, no. 8 (2002): 23–41.

  • 18. Catherine Komisurak, Labor and Love in Guatemala: The Eve of Independence (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013).

  • 19. Richard A. Adams, “Strategies of Ethnic Survival in Central America,” in Nation-States and Indians in Latin America, ed. Greg Urban and Joel Sherzer (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991), 181.

  • 20. José Antonio Fernández M., “Población Afroamericana Libre en la Centroamérica Colonial,” in Rutas de la Esclavitud en África y América Latina, comp. Rina Cáceres (San Jose, Costa Rica: Editorial Universitaria Centroamericana, 2001), 339–340.

  • 21. Lowell Gudmundson and Justin Wolfe, eds., Blacks and Blackness in Central America (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 153.

  • 22. In the case of Honduras, colonial blackness is best read in José Lara, “In Search of Identity: The Place of Space, (Proto) Race and Ideology in Colonial and Post-Colonial Honduras (2012), 80–91 (PhD diss., Georgetown University, 2012); and Mélida Velásquez, “Una Interpretación de la Esclavitud Africana en Honduras, Siglos XVI–XVIII” (PhD diss., Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, 2015).

  • 23. Xiomara Avendaño Rojas, Centroamérica entre lo Antiguo y lo Moderno: Institucionalidad, Ciudadanía y Representación Política, 1810–1838 (Castellón de la Plata, Spain: Publicaciones Universitat Jaume, 2009).

  • 24. Teresa García Giráldez, “El Debate Sobre la Nación y Sus Formas en el Pensamiento Político Centroamericano del Siglo XIX,” in Las Redes Intelectuales Centroamericanas: Un Siglo de Imaginarios Nacionales (1820–1920), ed. Marta Elena Casasús Arzú and Teresa García Giráldez, 13–69 (Guatemala City, Guatemala: F&G Editores, 2005). On the weight of localist and regional sovereignties resisting Central American unification in this period, see Jordana Dym, From Sovereign Villages to National States: City, State and Federation in Central America, 1759–1839 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006).

  • 25. Robert S. Smith, “Financing the Central American Federation, 1821–1838,” Hispanic American Historical Review 43, no. 4 (1963): 486.

  • 26. Lowell Gudmundson and Héctor Lindo-Fuentes, eds., Central America, 1821–1871: Liberalism before Liberal Reform (Tuscaloosa : University of Alabama Press, 1995), 120–125; and Gudmundson and Wolfe, Blacks and Blackness in Central America, 4.

  • 27. Gudmundson and Lindo-Fuentes, Central America, 1821–1871 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1995), 39–41.

  • 28. Darío A. Euraque and Yesenia Martínez, The African Diaspora in the Educational Programs of Central America (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2016), 43–49.

  • 29. David Díaz Arias, “La Invención de las Naciones en Centroamérica, 1821–1950,” Boletín de la Asociación para el Fomento de los Estudios en Centroamérica, no. 19 (December 2005).

  • 30. Bienvenido Argueta Hernández, Racismo en el Discurso Pedagógico, Vol. 1, El Instituto Agrícola de Indígenas (Guatemala: Agencia Alemana de Cooperación Internacional, 2011).

  • 31. Robin M. Delugan, Reimagining National Belonging: Post-Civil War El Salvador in a Global Context (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2012).

  • 32. Gudmundson and Wolfe, Blacks and Blackness in Central America (Durham, NC: Duke University Press), 23n.23.

  • 33. Robert G. Williams, States and Social Evolution: Coffee and the Rise of National Governments in Central America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994). I draw on Williams’s work, but there are other comparative perspectives on Liberalism and nation-state formation in Central America that explore the transition from the 19th to the 20th centuries. See James Mahoney, The Legacies of Liberalism: Path Dependence and Political Regimes in Central America (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001).

  • 34. Williams, States and Social Evolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press), 204–224.

  • 35. Williams, States and Social Evolution, 226.

  • 36. Rene Reeves, Ladinos with Ladinos, Indians with Indians: Land, Labor, and Regional Ethnic Conflict in the Making of Guatemala (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006).

  • 37. Greg Grandin, The Blood of Guatemala: A History of Race and Nation (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002).

  • 38. Aldo Lauria-Santiago, An Agrarian Republic: Commercial Agriculture and the Politics of Peasant Communities in El Salvador, 1823–1914 (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999); and Aldo Lauria-Santiago and Leigh Binford, eds., Landscapes of Struggle: Politics, Society and Community in El Salvador (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004).

  • 39. Julie A. Charlip, Cultivating Coffee: The Farmers of Carazo, Nicaragua, 1880–1930 (Athens, OH: Ohio State University Press, 2003); and Justin Wolfe, The Everyday Nation-State: Community and Ethnicity in Nineteenth-Century Nicaragua (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007).

  • 40. The details are available in a classic study by Lowell Gudmundson, Costa Rica before Coffee: Society and Economy on the Eve of the Export Boom (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1986).

  • 41. Consuelo Cruz, Political Culture and Institutional Development in Costa Rica and Nicaragua: World Making in the Tropics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

  • 42. Jason Colby, The Business of Empire: United Fruit, Race and U.S. Expansion in Central America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011).

  • 43. Darío A. Euraque, Reinterpreting the Banana Republic: Region and State in Honduras, 1870–1972 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).

  • 44. Williams, States and Social Evolution, 232.

  • 45. Williams, States and Social Evolution, 138–141.

  • 46. Colby, Business of Empire.

  • 47. Lara Putnam, The Company They Kept: Migrants and the Politics of Gender in Caribbean Costa Rica, 1870–1960 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

  • 48. Lara Putnam, Radical Moves: Caribbean Migrants and the Politics of Race in the Jazz Age (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013).

  • 49. Augusto C. Coello, La Epopeya del Campeño (San Pedro Sula, Honduras: Editorial Coello, 1938), 25.

  • 50. John Soluri, Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005), 57.

  • 51. Soluri, Banana Cultures, 61 and 161.

  • 52. Darío A. Euraque, “Banana Republic,” in America in the World, 1776 to the Present: A Supplement to the Dictionary of American History, ed. Edward J. Blum (New York: Scribner’s, 2016), 115–116. Another approach to the issue is Héctor Pérez Brignoli, “El Fonógrafo en los Trópicos: Sobre el Concepto de Banana República en la obra de O. Henry,” Iberoamericana 6, no. 23 (2006): 127–141.

  • 53. Víctor Hugo Acuña, ed., Filibusterismo y Destino Manifiesto en las Americas (San Jose, Costa Rica: Museo Histórico Cultural Juan Santamaría, 2010).

  • 54. For the West Indian presence in Honduras, see Jorge Alberto Amaya, “Los Negros Ingleses o Creoles de Honduras: Etnohistoria, Racismo y Discursos Nacionalistas Excluyentes en Honduras,” Revista Yaxkin 23, no. 1 (2007): 13–33; and Glenn Chambers, Race, Nation, and West Indian Immigration to Honduras, 1890–1940 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2010).

  • 55. Richard Cohen, The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King (New York: Picador, 2013), 173–211.

  • 56. Arturo Taracena and Roberto García Ferreira, ed., La Guerra Fría y el Anticomunismo en Centroamérica (Guatemala City, Guatemala: Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, 2017).

  • 57. Many of the relevant issues are succinctly presented in Ronald Soto-Quiroz, “Reflexiones sobre el mestizaje y la identidad nacional en Centroamérica: De la colonia a las Repúblicas liberales,” Boletín de la Asociación para el Fomento de los Estudios en Centroamérica 25 (2006).

  • 58. Ivan Molina, La Estela de la Pluma: Cultura Impresa e Intelectuales en Centroamérica durante los siglos XIX y XX (Heredia, Costa Rica: Editorial Universitaria, 2004). Molina focuses mostly on Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. For the Honduran case, see Jorge Amaya, Historia de la Lectura en Honduras: Libros, Lectores, Bibliotecas, Librerías, Clase Letrada y la Nación Imaginada, 1876–1830 (Tegucigalpa, Honduras: UPNFM, 2009). For the Guatemala case, see the essays in Teresa García Giraldez and Marta Elena Casaús Arzú, eds., Las Redes Intelectuales Centroamericanas: Un Siglo de Imaginarios Nacionales (1820–1920) (Guatemala City, Guatemala: F&G Editores, 2005).

  • 59. Roger Lancaster, “Skin Color, Race, and Racism in Nicaragua,” Ethnology 30, no. 4 (1991): 339–342.

  • 60. Chester Urbina Gaitán, “Raza e Identidad Nacional de Costa Rica en el Periódico El Costarricense (1846–1849, 1870 y 1873–1877),” Revista de Ciencias Sociales 146 (2014): 155–165.

  • 61. Robert Sierakowski, “Central America’s Caribbean Coast: Politics and Ethnicity,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia, Latin American History, September 2016. On the Honduran Mosquitia more recently, see Laura Hobson Herlihy, “Neither Black nor Indian: The Discourse of Miskitu Racial Identity in Honduras,” in Ethno and Historical Geographic Studies in Latin America : Essays in Honor of William V. Davidson, ed. Peter H. Herlihy et al. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2008), 129–144.

  • 62. A comparison of Guatemala, Costa Rica, and El Salvador that draws on Benedict Anderson’s work is, Patricia Alvarenga, “La Construcción de la Raza en Centroamérica de las Primeras Décadas del Siglo,” Anuario de Estudios Centroamericanos, 38, Universidad de Costa Rica (2012), 11–40.

  • 63. Darío A. Euraque, “La Diáspora Africana en Honduras: Entre la Esclavitud Colonial y la Modernidad del Protagonismo Garífuna,” in Del Olvido a la Memoria, vol. 1, Africanos y Afromestizos en la Historia Colonial de Centroamérica, ed. Rina Cáceres Gómez (San Jose, Costa Rica: Oficina Regional de la UNESCO, 2008), 37–56.

  • 64. Paul C. Johnson, “Finding Africa in New York,” in Paul C. Johnson, Diaspora Conversions: Black Carib Religion and the Recovery of Africa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 205–226; and James Chaney, “Malleable Identities: Placing the Garínagu in New Orleans,” Journal of Latin American Geography 11, no. 2 (2012): 121–144. See also Mark Anderson, “Comparison and Connection in the Study of Afro-Latin America,” African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal 5, no. 1 (2011): 35–48.

  • 65. On literature and blackness in Central America in general, see Jennifer Gómez Menjívar, “Liminal Citizenry: Black Experience in the Central American Intellectual Imagination” (PhD diss., Ohio State University, 2011).

  • 66. Euraque and Martínez, African Diaspora, 37–56.

  • 67. Marta E. Casaus Arzu. “El Deslizamiento Conceptual de Raza, Racismo y Discriminación en Guatemala (1950–2006),” in Marta E. Casaus Arzu, Coordinadora, El Lenguaje de los Ismos: Algunos Conceptos de la Modernidad en América Latina (Guatemala City, Guatemala: F&G Editores, 2010), 387–430.

  • 68. W. George Lovell and Christopher H. Lutz, “‘A Dark Obverse’: Maya Survival in Guatemala, 1520–1994,” Geographical Review 86, no. 3 (1996): 398–407.

  • 69. James Loucky, “Continental Contours of Maya Migration over Thirty Years,” Practicing Anthropology 34, no. 1 (Winter 2012): 4–8.

  • 70. Beatriz Palomo Lewin, “La población africana en el Reino de Guatemala, 1723–1773”, in Rutas de la esclavitud en Africa y América Latina, Rina Cáceres, ed. (San José: Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica, 2001), 195–209; Lowell Gudmundson “Los Afro-Guatemaltecos a fines de la Colonia: Las haciendas dominicas de Amatitlán y de San Gerónimo,” in Rutas de la esclavitud en Africa y América Latina, Rina Cáceres, ed. (San José: Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica, 2001), 251–268; and Paul Lokken, “Marriage as a Factor in the Emancipation of Slaves in the Rural Area of Guatemala in the Seventeenth Century,” trans. Daniel Barczay, ed. Jorge Luján Muñoz, Annals of the Academy of Geography and History of Guatemala 76 (2001): 81–113.

  • 71. Douglas W. Trefzger, “Making West Indians Unwelcome: Race, Gender, and the National Question in Guatemala’s Banana Belt, 1914–1920,” (paper, Conferencia Anual, Asociación de Estudios Latinoamericanos, September 6, 2001); and Frederick D. Opie, Black Labor Migration in Caribbean Guatemala, 1882–1923 (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2009).

  • 72. Jeff Gould, “Nacionalismo Revolucionario y Memoria Local en El Salvador,” in Hale, Gould. and Euraque, Memorias del Mestizaje, 295–323; and Jeffrey L. Gould and Aldo Lauria-Santiago, “La Matanza: The Political and Cultural Implications of 1932,” in To Rise in Darkness: Revolution, Repression, and Memory in El Salvador, 1920–1932, by Jeffrey L. Gould and Aldo Lauria-Santiago (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), 240–273.

  • 73. Virginia Tilley, Seeing Indians: a Study of Race, Nation, and Power in El Salvador (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005), 218–219.

  • 74. Robin Maria De Lugan, “Commemorating from the Margins of the Nation: El Salvador 1932, Indigeneity, and Transnational Belonging,” Anthropological Quarterly 86, no. 4 (Fall 2013): 965–994.

  • 75. Virginia Tilley, Seeing Indians: A Study of Race, Nation, and Power in El Salvador (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005).

  • 76. José Heriberto Erquicia Cruz, “El Elemento Estético Indígena y/o Prehispánico en el Patrimonio Artístico Salvadoreño como Expresión de la Identidad Nacional,” Revista de Museología Kóot, Año 2, No. 3 (October 2012): 66–79; Paul Lokken, “African Presence in Seven Salvadoran Communities, 1671–1711: Evidence from Guatemalan Ecclesiastical File,” trans. Carlos Alfredo Medina Rivera, in Repository: File Disclosure Body General’s Office [El Salvador], III Era, vol. 2 (2006): 37–46; and Lokken, “Mulattoes, Blacks and Miscegenation in the Mayors over San Salvador and Sonsonate (XVII Century),” trans. Eddy Gaytan, in Miscegenation, Power and Society: Essays in Colonial History of the Provinces of San Salvador and Sonsonate, ed. Sajid Ana Margarita Gómez and Alfredo Herrera (San Salvador: Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, 2003), 3–27.

  • 77. Darío A. Euraque, “La Creación de la Moneda Nacional y el Enclave Bananero en la Costa Caribeña de Honduras: ¿En Busca de una Identidad Étnico-Racial?,” in Euraque, Conversaciones Históricas, 69–87.

  • 78. Darío A. Euraque, “The Threat of Blackness to the Mestizo Nation: Race and Ethnicity in the Honduran Banana Economy, 1920s and 1930s,” in Banana Wars: Power, Production, and History in the Americas, ed. Steven Striffler and Mark Moberg (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 229–249.

  • 79. Darío A. Euraque, “The Banana Enclave, Nationalism and Mestizaje in Honduras, 1910s–1930s,” in At the Margins of the Nation-State: Identity and Struggle in the Making of the Laboring Peoples of Central America and the Hispanic Caribbean, 1860–1960, ed. Aviva Chomsky and Aldo Lauria (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), 151–168.

  • 80. Darío A. Euraque, “Antropólogos, Arqueólogos, Imperialismo y la Mayanización de Honduras: 1890–1940,” in Euraque, Conversaciones Históricas, 37–68.

  • 81. Darío A. Euraque, “Negritud Garífuna y Coyunturas Políticas en la Costa Norte de Honduras, 1940–1970,” in Memorias del Mestizaje, ed. Hale, Gould, and Euraque (Guatemala City, Guatemala: Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamerica, 2004), 295–323.

  • 82. Erin Amason Montero, “The Construction of Blackness in Honduran Cultural Production” (PhD diss., University of New Mexico, 2010).

  • 83. Shayla R. Jacobs, “The Mulatto in the National Narrative of Positivist Honduras, 1879–1887” (master’s thesis, San Diego State University, 2013).

  • 84. Much of this period is available in pioneering essays by William V. Davidson, Etnología e etnohistoria de Honduras: Ensayos (Tegucigalpa, Honduras: Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia, 2009).

  • 85. According to Honduran anthropologist Geraldina Tercero, in 2010 Garífuna activists in the United States promoted writing their ethnicity in the “Other” category. She found nearly 3,000 Garífunas in the US Census of 2010 (personal e-mail communication, August 23, 2017). See also Paul J. Oro, “Ni de aquí, ni de allá”: Garífuna Subjectivities and the Politics of Diasporic Belonging,” in Afro-Latin@s in Movement: Critical Approaches to Blackness and Transnationalism in the Americas, ed. Petra R. Rivera-Rideau, Jennifer A. Jones, and Tianna S. Paschel (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 61–83.

  • 86. Taylor E. Mack, “Cultural Maladaptation and Preadaptation in Colonial Honduras: Spaniards vs Black Caribs, 1787–1821,” Journal of Latin American Geography 10, no. 2 (2011): 177–193.

  • 87. Euraque and Martínez, African Diaspora, 33–34.

  • 88. Baron L. Pineda, Shipwrecked Identities: Navigating Race on Nicaragua’s Mosquito Coast (Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2006).

  • 89. Sergio Ramírez, Tambor Olvidado (San Jose, Costa Rica: Editorial Santillana, 2007), 10–11.

  • 90. Ramírez, Tambor Olvidado, 10–11.

  • 91. Jeff L. Gould, To Die in This Way: Nicaraguan Indians and the Myth of Mestizaje, 1880–1965 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998).

  • 92. Juliet Hooker, “‘Beloved Enemies’: Race and Official Mestizo Nationalism in Nicaragua,” Latin American Research Review 40, no. 3 (2005): 14–39.

  • 93. Juliet Hooker, “Negotiating Blackness within the Multicultural State: Creole Politics and Identity in Nicaragua,” in Comparative Perspectives on Afro-Latin America, ed. Kwame Dixon and John Burdick (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2014), 266.

  • 94. Rina Cáceres, “Imágenes y Representaciones de los Afrodescendientes en la Primera Mitad del Siglo XX,” in Relaciones Interétnicas: Afrodescendientes en Centroamérica, ed. José Heriberto Erquicia and Rina Cáceres (San Salvador: Universidad Tecnológica de El Salvador, 2017), 279–306. The most recent study of the West Indian presence and its legacy in Costa Rica in the 20th century is Reina Rosario Fernández, Identidades de la Población de Origen Jamaiquino en el Caribe Costarricense (segunda mitad del siglo XX) (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: Cocolo Editorial, 2016). A very specific look at the relationship between Marcus Garvey and West Indian Costa Rica sensibilities is available in Asia Leeds, “Representations of Race, Entanglements of Power: Whiteness, Garveyism, and Redemptive Geographies in Costa Rica, 1921–1950” (PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2010).

  • 95. Euraque and Martínez, African Diaspora, 44.

  • 96. Quince Duncan, preface to Campaña Educativa sobre Derechos Humanos de las Personas Afro descendientes, Elementos Básicos de Derechos Humanos: Guía Introductoria (San Jose, Costa Rica: Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos, 2008), 18.

  • 97. Steven Palmer, “Getting to Know the Unknown Soldier: Official Nationalism in Liberal Costa Rica, 1880–1900,” Journal of Latin American Studies 25, no. 1 (1993): 45–72.

  • 98. Palmer, “Getting to Know the Unknown Soldier,” 45.

  • 99. Palmer, “Getting to Know the Unknown Soldier,” 70.

  • 100. Anna Brown and Eileen Patten, “Hispanics of Guatemalan Origin in the United States, 2011,” Pew Research Center, June 19, 2013. The exodus of Guatemalans and Salvadorans to the United States, and especially their US born children, have produced a generation of Central Americans negotiating identity politics and race in this country. See Norma Stoltz Chinchilla and Nora Hamilton, “Identity Formation among Central American-Americans” (report, University of Southern California Center for Immigration Integration, November 2013). On identity formation for the Honduran Garífuna in the United States at this time, see in Paul J. Oro, “Ni de aquí, ni de allá”: Garífuna Subjectivities and the Politics of Diasporic Belonging,” in Afro-Latin@s Movement: Critical Approaches to Blackness and Transnationalism in the Americas, ed. Petra R. Rivera-Rideau, Jennifer A. Jones, and Tianna S. Paschel (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 61–83.

  • 101. Aaron Terrazas, “Salvadoran Immigrants in the United States” (report, Migration Policy Institute, January 5, 2010).

  • 102. Robert G. Williams, Export Agriculture and the Crisis in Central America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986).

  • 103. William I. Robinson, “Transnational Processes, Development Studies and Changing Social Hierarchies in the World System,” Third World Quarterly 22, no. 4 (2001): 534.

  • 104. Elites and Power in Central America,” Project Statement in Center for Latin American-Latino Studies, American University, Washington, DC.

  • 105. Elites and Power in Central America,” Project Statement in Center for Latin American-Latino Studies, American University, Washington, D.C.

  • 106. Charles R. Hale, “Neoliberal Multiculturalism: The Remaking of Cultural Rights and Racial Dominance in Central America,” Political and Legal Anthropology Review 28, no. 1 (2005): 10.

  • 107. Hale, “Neoliberal Multiculturalism,” 20.

  • 108. Hale, “Neoliberal Multiculturalism,” 20.

  • 109. Juliet Hooker, “Beloved Enemies”: Race and Official Mestizo Nationalism in Nicaragua,” Latin American Research Review 40, no. 3 (2005): 14.

  • 110. The issues in Honduras are summarized by Mark Anderson, “Notes on Tourism, Ethnicity and the Politics of Cultural Value in Honduras” in Central America in the New Millennium: Living Transition and Reimagining Democracy, ed. Jennifer Burrell and Ellen Moodie (New York: Berghahn, 2012), 276–292.

  • 111. Charles R. Hale, “Resistencia para que? Territory, Autonomy and Neoliberal Entanglements in the ‘Empty Spaces’ of Central America,” Economy and Society 40, no. 2 (2011): 191. For a historian’s detailed perspective on these matters in Honduras, see Darío A. Euraque, “El Patrimonio Cultural ante las Etnias: Más Allá del Folklorismo,” in El Golpe de Estado del 28 de junio de 2009, el Patrimonio Cultural y la Identidad Nacional de Honduras, by Darío A. Euraque (San Pedro Sula, Honduras: Centro Editorial, 2010), 297–363.

  • 112. Jennifer Burrell and Ellen L. Moodie, “The Post–Cold War Anthropology of Central America,” Annual Review of Anthropology 44 (2015): 393.

  • 113. William J. Griffith, “The Historiography of Central America since 1830,” Hispanic American Historical Review 40, no. 4 (1960): 548–569; Ralph Lee Woodward Jr., “The Historiography of Central America since 1960,” Hispanic American Historical Review 67, no. 3 (1987): 461–496; Carol A. Smith and Jeff Boyer, “Central America since 1979: Part 1,” Annual Review of Anthropology 16 (1987): 197–221; and Carol A. Smith, Jefferson Boyer, and Martin Diskin, “Central America since 1979, Part II,” Annual Review of Anthropology 17 (1988): 331–364.

  • 114. Boris Berenzon Gorn and Georgina Calderón Aragón, cords., Historia de la historiografía de América, 1950–2000, Tomo II, Historiografía de Centroamérica (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Instituto Panamericano de Geografia e Historia, 2010).

  • 115. Arturo Taracena and Jean Piel, eds., Identidades Nacionales y Estado Moderno en Centroamérica (San Jose, Costa Rica: Editorial Universitaria Centroamericana, 1995); Hale, Gould, and Euraque, Memorias del mestizaje; and Jennifer Burrell and Ellen L. Moodie, “The Post–Cold War Anthropology of Central America,” Annual Review of Anthropology 44 (2015): 381–400.

  • 116. Arthur E. Gropp, Guide to Libraries and Archives in Central America and the West Indies (New Orleans: Middle American Research Institute, Tulane University, 1941); Kenneth Grieb, ed., Research Guide to Central America and the Caribbean (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985); and Fundacion Tavera, Fuentes manuscritas para la historia de Centroamérica: Bibliografía de instrumentos descriptivos (Madrid: Fundación Histórica Tavera, 1998).