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Forces that Propelled the Civil War in El Salvador: Peasant Mobilization, the Catholic Church, and United States Intervention


This paper explores the domestic and foreign conditions that exacerbated the social, political, and economic inequalities in El Salvador during the early twentieth century and in turn stimulated and advanced the Salvadoran Civil War. I make clear that two geographic regions, the “domestic” El Salvador and the “foreign” United States, actively shaped the trajectory of the Salvadoran Civil War. From the Salvadoran perspective, I argue that early practices of peasant mobilization in the 1930s and political education through religious institutions in the 1970s were two driving forces in the war. From a foreign perspective, I posit that United States intervention played a sinister role in the unfolding of the war in ways that scholars and historians have not analyzed critically enough. Furthermore, I challenge the use of popular dogmas, such as Marxist and structuralist theories, that have been used as frameworks to understand the factors that led to the emergence of the Salvadoran Civil War. As a counter-argument, I suggest that local actors had more agency than previously noted in popular discourse surrounding El Salvador.

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