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Dividing the Isthmus

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    Dividing the Isthmus
    Book Description:

    In 1899, the United Fruit Company (UFCO) was officially incorporated in Boston, Massachusetts, beginning an era of economic, diplomatic, and military interventions in Central America. This event marked the inception of the struggle for economic, political, and cultural autonomy in Central America as well as an era of homegrown inequities, injustices, and impunities to which Central Americans have responded in creative and critical ways. This juncture also set the conditions for the creation of the Transisthmus-a material, cultural, and symbolic site of vast intersections of people, products, and narratives.

    Taking 1899 as her point of departure, Ana Patricia Rodríguez offers a comprehensive, comparative, and meticulously researched book covering more than one hundred years, between 1899 and 2007, of modern cultural and literary production and modern empire-building in Central America. She examines the grand narratives of (anti)imperialism, revolution, subalternity, globalization, impunity, transnational migration, and diaspora, as well as other discursive, historical, and material configurations of the region beyond its geophysical and political confines.

    Focusing in particular on how the material productions and symbolic tropes of cacao, coffee, indigo, bananas, canals, waste, and transmigrant labor have shaped the transisthmian cultural and literary imaginaries, Rodríguez develops new methodological approaches for studying cultural production in Central America and its diasporas.

    Monumental in scope and relentlessly impassioned, this work offers new critical readings of Central American narratives and contributes to the growing field of Central American studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79372-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. INTRODUCTION Central American Transisthmian Histories, Literatures, and Cultures
    (pp. 1-18)

    In my classes on Central American literatures, cultures, and histories, I often begin by giving students cutout pieces representing Central American countries and asking them to (re)construct mappings of the geographic isthmus. Often Belize and Panama fall off the map, Guatemala topples over a ragged strip of land, El Salvador acquires an Atlantic coast, Honduras borders Mexico, Nicaragua becomes an undistinguishable green expanse, and Costa Rica does not quite fit in with the others. More often than not, Central America as a whole lies suspended somewhere between amorphous masses on the north and south and the east and west. As...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Costa Rican Grounds and the Founding of the Coffee Republics
    (pp. 19-43)

    When the National Theater first opened its doors in San José in 1897, Costa Rica was beginning an era of progress, modernization, and urbanization. The inauguration of the theater, with its neoclassical architecture and imported Italian artwork (Ferrero 2004, 146), marked over two decades of the fortification of the national economy and the consolidation of the nation’s cultural identity. According to the Costa Rican literary critic Álvaro Quesada Soto, the theater was viewed by many as a “réplica en miniatura de una ópera europea [miniature replica of a European opera house]” (1998, 31), representing not only the romantic ideals but...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Nations Divided: U.S. Intervention, Banana Enclaves, and the Panama Canal
    (pp. 44-75)

    Between 1930 and the 1960s a corpus of political literature representing and contesting the production of bananas gained wide currency across Central America. The transisthmian literature associated with banana production included Joaquín Beleño’sFlor de banana(Banana Flower) (1962), Miguel Ángel Asturias’s trilogyViento fuerte(Strong Wind) (1950),El papa verde(The Green Pope) (1954), andLos ojos de los enterrados(Eyes of the Interred) (1960), Ramón Amaya Amador’sPrisión verde(Green Prison) (1950), Joaquín Gutiérrez’sPuerto Limón(Port Limón) (1950), Carlos Luis Falla’sMamita Yunai(United [States] Mother) (1941), and Carmen Lyra’s “Bananos y hombres” (Bananas and Men) (1931).¹ These...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Power of Indigo: Testimonio, Historiography, and Revolution in Cuzcatlán
    (pp. 76-102)

    In the 1970s and 1980s, armed conflict swept through most of Central America, hitting Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador especially hard. Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, and Belize did not escape the violence but served, at various times, as refugee camps, relocation centers, and military bases for the countries at war. More the rule than the exception in the isthmus, El Salvador in the 1980s was the scene of a twelve-year civil war that claimed over eighty thousand lives and displaced nearly 20 percent of its population (Lungo Uclés 1990, 97–98). Relative numbers of fatalities and displacements were also recorded...

  8. CHAPTER 4 K’atun Turning in Greater Guatemala: Trauma, Impunity, and Diaspora
    (pp. 103-128)

    The novel Cuzcatlán donde bate la mar del sur ends with an imaginary act of reparation, as Pedro Martínez, a soldier in the Salvadoran National Guard, is at last brought before a people’s tribunal to face charges of war crimes against the Salvadoran people. Unbeknownst to Martínez, his niece, Lucía a leftist revolutionary is a member of the tribunal. Conscripted into the army as a boy and transformed into a “uniformed man,” Martínez has terrorized and killed countless Salvadoran peasants for many years. Moreover, he is responsible for the death of his own grandfather, Emiliano, his mother, Beatriz, and members...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The War at Home: Latina/o Solidarity and Central American Immigration
    (pp. 129-166)

    During the 1980s, the so-called Lost Decade of Latin America, also known as the Decade of the Hispanic in the United States,¹ U.S. military and economic aid to Central America reached an annual average of $612 million and $130.2 million, respectively, at the height of the civil wars (Dunkerley 1994, 145). James Dunkerley states, “The 1980s were miserably harsh years for Central America. Precise and reliable figures will never be available for measuring the human cost of the region’s three civil wars. A fair but conservative estimate would be 160,000 people killed and two million displaced during the decade; it...

  10. CHAPTER 6 “Departamento 15”: Salvadoran Transnational Migration and Narration
    (pp. 167-194)

    The political, economic, and demographic crises in the isthmus during the 1980s and 1990s forced many Central Americans to relocate permanently throughout the Americas, Europe, Australia, Canada, and elsewhere. Many people never returned to the isthmus but became part of an expansive Central American diaspora. It is estimated that “between 1820 and 1993, over one million immigrants from Central America legally resettle[d] in the United States” (Pinderhughes, Córdova, and del Pinal 2002), without counting an even larger number of undocumented Central Americans who also made their way to the United States in those years.¹ Sarah Mahler predicts that in the...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Wasted Opportunities: Central America after the Revolutions
    (pp. 195-222)

    The passing of the twentieth century provided Central Americans in and outside the geographic isthmus with the opportunity not only to examine their condition after decades of armed confl ict and destruction but also to begin a political, economic, and social reconstruction of their societies. Fast on the heels of the signing of the Peace Accords in El Salvador in 1992, a number of books on the construction of peacetime civil societies were published. These books includedAmérica Central hacia el2000 (Central America toward 2000) (Torres Rivas 1989),Forjando la paz(Constructing Peace) (Fagen 1988),De la locura a...

  12. EPILOGUE Weathering the Storm: Central America in the Twenty-first Century
    (pp. 223-236)

    In the aftermath of the civil wars of the 1980s, the institutionalization of peace in the 1990s, and the ratification of the Dominican Republic–Central American Free Trade Agreement on July 28, 2005, by the U.S. Congress and its final approval by the Costa Rican government on October 7, 2007, Central American literary and cultural production remains key to the (discursive) reconstruction of the isthmus. As William I. Robinson has suggested for Central American antiglobalization movements and narratives, “The next round [of struggle] will have to be a transnational struggle involving regional and transnational social movements searching for viable formulas...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 237-252)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 253-278)
  15. Index
    (pp. 279-292)