The 1969 conflict between Honduras and El Salvador signaled the weakening of the Central American economic integration process; marked an end to an era of economic growth, industrialization, and political openness; and inaugurated a new chapter, characterized by growing political polarization and violence. There is a prevailing consensus about the significance that this conflict had as a breaking point and historical turnaround. The roots of the crisis between both states, commercial partners and members of a regional political-military alliance, lie in the drastic changes introduced by the Honduran government in its migratory and agrarian policies. These changes sought to contain the massive migration from El Salvador and to reduce by all means necessary, including by violent dispossession, the Salvadoran presence in Honduras. A ferocious anti-Salvadoran media campaign preceded and accompanied the massive expulsion of Salvadorans. Alarmed by the destabilizing effect that a return en masse of poor Salvadoran peasants could bring to the country, and facing an intransigent Honduran government, the leadership in El Salvador decided to resolve the conflict through war. Once this began, both countries mobilized their military forces for over one hundred hours of bloody fighting in July 1969. Although neither country won a decisive victory on the battlefield, at the moment the ceasefire was imposed the military situation amply favored El Salvador. The political, economic, military, and diplomatic consequences of the war had a profound impact during the 1970s and beyond the signing of the peace agreement early in the 1980s. On the one hand, the recounting of the war, full of falsifications and half-truths, continues to play an important role in Honduran nationalism. On the other hand, for Salvadorans the war is an almost forgotten memory.
The Hundred-Hour War, 1969: A Military History
Carlos Pérez Pineda
Agrarian Reform in Bolivia in the 20th and 21st Centuries
Until the 1950s, the distribution of land in Bolivia, as in the rest of Latin America, was very unequal. But in 1953, a year after the 1952 national revolution, the nationalist revolutionary movement (MNR) enacted a decree on agrarian reform that dismantled feudal haciendas in the western highlands, abolished the system of forced peasant labor, and distributed expropriated lands to peasants. While the decree proved redistributive in the Altiplano and valleys, it ended up creating new concentrations of land in Bolivia’s eastern lowlands. This area, which constituted two thirds of Bolivia’s territory, was home to a number of indigenous groups who were displaced from their lands because of the expansion of latifundio in the second half of the 20th century. In 1996, after pressure from below, the neoliberal government of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (1993–1997) approved a new agrarian law that recognized indigenous rights to collective territory (Tierra Comunitaria de Origen, TCO). In 2006, left-leaning President Evo Morales approved a new agrarian law. Although the new legislation mostly ratified the 1996 law, it established that only indigenous and peasant populations could be granted state lands. Despite this legislation claiming to protect the majority Indian and peasant population, scholars such as Colque, Tinta, and Sanjines note that it was under a neoliberal government, between 1996 to 2006, that much of the process of land distribution favored to indigenous groups of the lowlands, and it was under left-leaning President Evo Morales (from 2010 to the present ) that much of land distribution favored medium and agricultural enterprises. The most important clash between the self-proclaimed indigenous Evo Morales and lowland indigenous groups was in September 2011 when indigenous groups living in the National Park and Indigenous Territory Isiboro Sécure (TIPNIS) protested against the government’s unilateral decision to build a road through their territory. Since 2011 (up to the present, 2018) the tension and political distance between president Morales and his loyal coca-leaf grower supporters—many of whom live on the borders of the park and are invested on the construction of the road—versus the indigenous groups of the lowlands have only grown. Ironically, it seems to be under Morales that key indigenous rights such as the right to prior consultation or the right to consolidate territories (TCOs) seem to be at the most risk.
From Desamortization to Agrarian Reform in Mexico, 1856–1940
Alejandro Tortolero Villaseñor
The first phase of the development of land tenure in Mexico, from the desamortization laws in 1856 to agrarian reform, was completed in 1940 by the Lázaro Cárdenas administration. While between 1856 and 1910 property reforms served to concentrate land and stimulate latifundio, from the violent Mexican Revolution of 1910–1917 until 1992 a policy of social justice was implemented that sought to give land to peasant families, thereby generating a better distribution of land, though without improving its productivity. This signifies that if postrevolutionary modernity assumed, echoing neo-institutionalism or old trends such as positivism or regeneracionismo, that land redistribution was a necessary condition to generate economic growth, in reality it was the social dimension and not the economic that gave character to Mexican agrarian reform between 1920 and 1992. As a backdrop to this, the analysis of literature and history shows a truncated and limited agrarian reform in which traditional figures such as the cacique persisted. The traditional and official vision of the agrarian reform is misguided, in which it is understood as a product of restitutive justice, the result of peasants regaining the lands from which they had been evicted due to the desamortization laws and the greed of landowners hungry for land who had annexed the land of the pueblos. To the contrary, agrarian reform is distributive, allocating land to peasants who requested it, while the hacienda was not the source of all the evils that gave rise to the revolution. Nor can the situation of the Mexican countryside be portrayed as the fight of the peones against the hacendados or caciques hungry for land. This erroneous vision of the Mexican countryside should be demystified, because it does not take into account that agrarian reform became the touchstone to give an agrarian nature to a very diversified Mexican Revolution and convert it into an instrument for the postrevolutionary governments to champion the peasant struggle in 20th-century Mexico, becoming the key to economic growth and social justice in the rural Mexican world.
Lázaro Cárdenas and Cardenismo
Lázaro Cárdenas served as Mexico’s president from 1934–1940. His presidency marked the end of the “Maximato,” the period in which the former president Plutarco Elías Calles exercised control. It bridged the gap between the rocky postwar years of the 1920s and the authoritarian dominance of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that characterized the rest of the 20th century. Cárdenas is Mexico’s most studied and best remembered president. To the extent that the Mexican Revolution ever was truly radical or popular, it was during the Cárdenas presidency. Cardenismo is an amorphous term that refers both to Cárdenas’s administration and his reform agenda. Cardenistas were a diverse coalition of supporters, some who advocated his agenda and others who merely allied themselves with his administration for non-ideological reasons. Cárdenas set out to realize what he saw as the promises of the revolution: justice for workers and peasants. He distributed about twice as much land as his predecessors combined, and he promoted unionization and strikes. He famously expropriated and nationalized the petroleum industry in dramatic defense of the Mexican worker. These actions earned him enduring affection, although he did not receive universal support even among the disenfranchised while in office. Many opposed his policies, especially those tied with the project of cultural transformation whose origin came earlier, but whose objectives Cárdenas sought to support, especially secularization. Cárdenas’s “Socialist Education” project faced particularly fierce opposition, and he was forced to abandon it along with most of the anticlerical agenda after 1938. That same year, he reorganized the ruling party along corporatist lines and rebaptized it the “Party of the Mexican Revolution,” or PRM. That restructuring is largely credited with having created the conditions under which future administrations would be able to exercise authoritarian control, although this was not Cárdenas’s intention. His presidency is more noted for what it failed to accomplish than for its successes. Nevertheless, his legacy lives on, most visibly in countryside and in the political career of his son Cuahtémoc, who has for decades struggled to fulfill his father’s vision.
Livestock, Livelihood, and Agrarian Change in Andean Peru
Agrarian transformations in Andean Peru, subject to larger sociopolitical and economic processes, entailed major material, environmental, and biological changes. The long history of sheep introduction in Andean environments, its specific impact on the central highlands, and the making of an Andean breed of sheep—the oveja Junín—illustrate how such transformations shaped rural Peru as a societal space. Following larger environmental patters in Latin America, sheep became the dominant animal of the upper Andean regions, populating depleted landscapes and refashioning otherwise hostile environments as areas of agrarian productivity. Many of the transformations that occurred during colonial times, particularly the consolidation of the hacienda system and the rise of sheepherding as a form of peonage, served manifold purposes in the transition to the national period. While the 19th-century liberal obliteration of corporate identities and property obscured the legacy of indigenous communities, sheep continued to thrive and set the conditions for the incorporation of the Peruvian countryside into the global world economy. In the 20th century, with the parallel arrival of state and capital governance, transforming sheep and sheepherding from vernacular expressions of livelihood into advanced forms of modern agrarian industrialism merged together scientific and veterinarian knowledge with local understandings, producing the oveja Junín as the ultimate result. As sheepherding modernized based on efficient husbandry, sheep modernity efficiently nurtured rural developmentalism, bringing together communal and capitalist interests in unprecedented ways. The state-sponsored project of granjas comunales devoted to capital-intensive grazing economies reveals how husbandry and modern grazing activities both reinforced and transformed societal organization within indigenous communities, sanctioning existing differences while providing a vocabulary of capital for recasting their internal social relations of production. When the state envisioned the centralization of otherwise profitable communal grazing economies, through the allegedly empowering language of agrarian reform, the cooperativization of land, labor, and animals led to communal, family, and individual disenfranchisement. Indigenous community members, turned into campesinos, sought new battlegrounds for resisting state intromission. Eventually, the very biology of the oveja Junín as an exclusive domain of state and capital became the target of campesino sabotage. As the agrarian reform collapsed and revolution engulfed the countryside, rural livelihoods—sheep included—faced their ultimate demise, often with severe degrees of violence. In this entire trajectory, sheep—and the oveja Junín—ruled the upper regions of the Andes like no political power ever did.
Chiapas and the Zapatista National Liberation Army
The 1994 Zapatista uprising in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas was the culmination of centuries of repression and exploitation of the country’s indigenous minority at the hands of its Spanish and mestizo leaders and the landed elite. The Liberal Reform initiated in 1854, followed by the “modernizing” policies of President Porfirio Díaz (1877–1880; 1884–1911), and then the revolution that ousted him, would strengthen and institutionalize a new set of institutional frameworks, discourses, and practices that lasted through the 20th century. The Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista National Liberation Army, or EZLN) emerged from a history of complex and volatile relationships between indigenous peoples of the impoverished state and its economic and political elite, relationships that began a process of redefinition in the 1950s. Zapatismo is one of the expressions of indigenous and working-class struggles in this social and historical context. It can be distinguished from other rural and indigenous movements by its repudiation of the strategies of protest and negotiation within an institutional framework, its adoption of armed struggle, and its rejection of the conventional objectives of land and commercial agricultural production in favor of territorial autonomy and de facto self-government.
Social Movements in Late 20th-Century Ecuador and Bolivia
Both Ecuador and Bolivia have gained a reputation for powerful social movements that have repeatedly challenged entrenched political and economic interests that have controlled the countries since their independence from Spain almost two hundred years ago. A wealthy and powerful minority of European descendant landowners ruled the countries to the exclusion of the majority population of impoverished Indigenous farm workers. Repeated well-organized challenges to exclusionary rule in the late 20th century shifted policies and opened political spaces for previously marginalized people. Social movement organizations also altered their language to meet new realities, including incorporating identities as ethnic groups and Indigenous nationalities to advance their agenda. Their efforts contributed to a significant leftward shift in political discourse that led to the election of presidents Evo Morales and Rafael Correa.
Rural Social Movements in Brazil in the Second Half of the 20th Century
Leonilde Servolo de Medeiros
The struggle for land pervades Brazilian history, but it was not until the 1950s that various groups coalesced, thus forging the basis of a national peasant movement. Prior to the military dictatorship, small farmers associations and Peasant Leagues, irrespective of their strategies, had placed agrarian reform in the public spotlight. Since then, the issue has become the driving force for rural social movements. The 1964 coup violently suppressed these organizations, persecuting peasant and rural labor union activists. At the same time, it created legal mechanisms to make land expropriation viable while giving incentives for massive technological modernization in rural areas. It also encouraged the occupation of frontier zones by corporations. Such initiatives aggravated the land issue in the country in areas of recent and historical occupation rather than alleviating it. By the late 1970s, new actors emerged, putting land disputes back onto the political arena: landless workers, rubber tappers, small farmers, squatters, and the indigenous peoples. New organizations emerged, sometimes in opposition to rural workers’ unions, which performed a relevant role during the dictatorship while at other times working from within them. One of these emerging actors was the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais sem Terra, MST), which stood out nationally and internationally due to its innovative approach in terms of strategies such as land occupations and encampments, and in the late 1990s by building networks with other organizations worldwide, as is the case with the Via Campesina. In parallel to that, family farmers also became politicized as they demanded public policies through union organizations to survive in a rural environment controlled by large entrepreneurs.
Protected Environmental Areas across Brazil
Brazil, the fifth-largest country on earth, has almost a third of its territory classified as protected areas. They include nature reserves with the strictest level of protection and areas reserved for sustainable use. They comprise, in their majority, public lands, but contain a percentage of privately owned estates. They are regulated by a centralized national system of protected areas, but their management is fragmented at all levels of government—federal, state, and municipal. They are located in the sparsely inhabited Brazilian hinterland but can also be found close to the country’s large and densely populated cities. And throughout the years, they have appealed to a diversity of values and policy goals to justify their existence: protection of natural features, development of frontiers, preservation of endangered species and their inhabitants, conservation of biodiversity, sustainability, social justice. All in all, the protected areas of Brazil represent one of the most extensive and ambitious forms of territorial intervention ever implemented in the country. It was not always like that. With a few exceptions, protected areas controlled by the state for the sake of conserving natural landscapes and resources were mostly absent before the 20th century. It was only in the 1930s that the Vargas regime established the first national parks in Brazil. They were followed by a dozen other parks in the 1950s and 1960s, but up until the 1970s, the establishment of protected areas in Brazil lacked proper planning, institutional support, and policy goals. This situation changed in the mid-1970s, during the height of the military dictatorship, when an alliance of Brazilian and foreign conservationists began pushing for the inclusion of protected areas in Amazonian development programs. The adoption of the language and methods of dictatorship-era territorial planning by the proponents of conservation set the basis for the development of a national system of protected areas. The system took twenty years to be passed into law, a period that coincided with the end of twenty-one years of military dictatorship and the return to democracy in Brazil. One of the novelties of this period was the appearance of groups, such as Amazonian rubber tappers, with a stake in defining conservation policy. They introduced ideas of social justice in the conservation debate, in what came to be known as socio-environmentalism. It was also during the post-dictatorship period that Brazilian conservationism adopted global standards of conservation, for example protection of biodiversity and sustainable development, as justifiable policy goals. In the early 21st century Brazil counts over 2,300 distinct protected areas distributed throughout all of its twenty-six states. They are part of a single, but diverse, national system of protected areas.
The Mexican Revolution, 1910–1946
The Mexican Revolution was the first major social revolution of the 20th century. Its causes included, among others, the authoritarian rule of dictator Porfirio Díaz, the seizure of millions of acres of indigenous village lands by wealthy hacendados and foreign investors, and the growing divide between the rich and the poor. As a result of these varied causes and Mexico’s strong social and regional divisions, the revolution against Díaz lacked ideological focus. The revolutionaries ousted Díaz within six months but could not agree on the new social and political order and—after a failed attempt at democracy—ended up fighting among themselves in a bitter civil war. In 1917, the victorious Constitutionalist faction crafted a landmark constitution, the first in the world to enshrine social rights and limit the rights of private, and particularly foreign capital. Although never fully implemented and partially repealed in the 1990s, the document remains the most significant achievement of the revolution. After 1920, a succession of revolutionary generals gradually centralized political power until the election of a civilian presidential candidate in 1946. This effort at state building confronted significant resistance from popular groups, regional warlords, and disaffected leaders who had lost out in the political realignment. In the end, the symbolic significance of the revolution exceeded its political and social outcomes. While fundamentally agrarian in nature, the revolution thus ultimately produced a new national elite that gradually restored a strong central state. One can easily divide the revolution into a military (1910–1917) and a reconstructive phase (1917–1946). However, the latter phase witnessed an important generational shift that transferred political power from the leaders of the military phase to their subordinates as well as civilian representatives, with the formation of a revolutionary ruling party in 1929 serving as the most important watershed moment in this process. Therefore, this essay distinguishes among three separate phases: insurrection and civil war (1910–1917); reconstruction (1917–1929); and institutionalization (1929–1946).
Drought and Public Policy in Northeast Brazil
The semi-arid interior of Brazil’s northeast region, known as the sertão, has long been subject to droughts. These can devastate the agricultural and ranching economy and cause serious hardship for the area’s inhabitants, particularly those who labor on farms and ranches belonging to the landowning elite. A prolonged drought in the late 1870s led the Brazilian government to begin soliciting advice from engineers about how to redress the periodic crisis. In 1909 the federal government established a permanent federal agency, the Inspectorate for Works to Combat Drought, to undertake reservoir construction throughout the sertão along with other measures that would alleviate future droughts. In subsequent decades the activities of the drought agency expanded to include constructing irrigation networks around reservoirs and establishing agricultural experiment stations to teach sertanejo farmers improved methods of farming in semi-arid conditions. Although powerful landowners lobbied for federal aid to construct reservoirs, which helped to sustain their own cattle herds through drought years, they were often opposed to initiatives like the establishment of irrigated smallholder colonies around reservoirs, which threatened to alter the social order in the sertão. Support for the federal drought agency’s work waxed and waned during the 20th century under different presidential administrations. Often it would rise in response to a period of damaging drought, then diminish once the crisis abated. Droughts have affected the sertão at irregular intervals since at least the colonial era. They vary in temporal duration and geographic expanse. Their impact on human populations depends on how the area of reduced rainfall overlaps with human settlement patterns and land use. Over the 20th century the years in which drought most severely impacted human communities (including crops and livestock) in the sertão included 1915, 1919–1920, 1931–1932, 1942, 1951–1953, 1958, 1970, 1979–1983, and 1998–1999. These are the periods when local, state, and federal governments received the most persistent pleas for assistance from affected populations. The precise cause of droughts in the region is debated, but they are thought to be triggered by changes in major wind patterns, particularly the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), that prevent Atlantic Ocean precipitation from reaching the sertão.