SPECIAL ISSUE ON CENTRAL AMERICA – Preface
In terms of social theory, we have called the crucial concept used in this work the “new Central American historic subject.” We interpret this new collective actor as a social phenomenon, but also view it from the Christian option for the poorest, those in whom the features of the suffering Christ can be clearly seen.
The new Central American historic subject is an amalgam of peasants, agricultural and urban laborers, rural migrants, seasonal workers and an immense unemployed population, marginalized, if lucky, in informal service work. It includes indigenous peoples; other ethnic and racial minorities; the youth, which make up more than half of the population; and women, multiply exploited by gender, race, color and class. It encompasses the political-military vanguards, whose project is to mobilize these groups in order to take power and put it at the service of the logic of the majorities. Together with the vanguards are the popular grassroots organizations, which bring together the diverse components of the historic subject. The concept does not exclude the unorganized masses, who are capable of insurrection at given moments and who ultimately can be incorporated into a new project. When these components are articulated into a relationship, it converts them into social forces and political protagonists: in other words into a political subject that struggles for social and national liberation, sovereignty and self-determination, and is part of an emerging project of third world peoples.
This active new force is opposed by the old Central American historic subject, made up of the remnants of the local oligarchy, the modernizing capitalists who emerged from the introduction of coffee into Central America, and the rising military, empowered by the dominant class which proved unable to maintain a submissive structure and required repression to keep itself in power. The arbitrator in this Central American theater is the geo-political subject—the United States. The confrontation among these actorss, opposed diametrically in their goals, values and interests, is the root of the Central American question.
The other thematic focal point in this analysis is its Central American perspective. There is a danger of homogenizing and diffusing the differences among the countries in an effort to frame the similarities and mutual relations, but this analysis emphasizes a way of thinking about Central America precisely as “Central America,” thus contributing modestly to making it become Central America.
The analysis also separates, somewhat artificially, the cultural, economic, military, political and international factors that in reality make up the web of reality being examined. All these options are made explicit to get to the roots of the Central American question honestly and with the greatest socio-scientific rigor possible, so as to formulate trends and offer a prognosis about the future.
Within the totality of factors mentioned above, the ideological cultural focus is emphasized as the decisive one. In the current period the military factor is dominant, the economic factor is the one that determines the possibilities of survival for the historic subjects in war, and the international factor is what conditions the prolongation of the conflict or sharpening of the crisis with US military intervention. We consider the ideological-cultural factor decisive in the solution to the crisis, however, because that’s where the identity and the capacity for resistance of the two subjects is being played out. The emphasis made on the religious aspect of culture in the work doesn’t come from the belief system of the authors, nor is it deduced from a sociological perspective. Rather it blossoms forth from within the cultural identity of the peoples themselves, people strongly guided by their religious experience.
Justice and liberation versus imperial hegemony is the choice for these historic subjects. In choosing justice and liberation the new historic subject in Central America must confront not only its local dominators but the political determination of successive US governments to maintain the countries of the region as banana republics.
The unjust prolongation of the conflict and the sharpening of the crisis are turning the Central American question into a definitive and determinant one. The intransigence of the old social forces and the interventionist support of the US government is artificially prolonging this crisis, pushing the suffering to unimaginable limits. A prolongation of the crisis without a calculable termination can thus be predicted. The determinants of identity and capacity for resistance accumulated over more than a hundred years of struggle make it possible also to predict that the tenacity and imagination of the new historic subject will be able to achieve a just peace, mobilize international solidarity based on the legitimacy of its demand and achieve a democratic solution through either negotiation or a painful victory.
The option taken in this work and its explicit values come from the commitment of Christian faith which, through the mediation of social analysis, opts for this new Central American historic subject. Christian hope is embodied in political hope, and in the praxis of Central America’s wretched of the earth.