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Remembering Ethnocide: Social Imaginaries of State Violence

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In January of 1932, the Salvadoran military government systematically killed between 7,000 to 50,000 people, mainly Nahuat Indigenous peoples, in the Western region of the country over a period of three weeks. This tragedy came to be known as “La Matanza”, or “The Killing/The Massacre”. Hegemonic understandings of 1932 often represent three dynamics of the massacre through discourses of: 1) the coffee economy, 2) the Communist narrative, and 3) the Presidential elections of 1931. This thesis considers the following questions: How were Nahuat communities impacted by La Matanza? How do Mármol’s social imaginaries represent the massacre? And, how can social memories of the ethnocide function as forms of testimony to reify and/or confront state violence? To answer these questions, this thesis conducts a brief historical overview of 1932, reflects on interdisciplinary works in memory studies, and analyzes cultural production of La Matanza through Roque Dalton’s renowned book Miguel Marmól: los sucesos de 1932 en El Salvador. I argue that Dalton’s representation of Mármol responds to hegemonic understandings of 1932 by problematizing the aforementioned discourses. Even so, his spoken memories also reified gaps and silences, particularly of the physical and symbolic violences that Indigenous and gendered communities endured during and after the ethnocide.

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