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hegemony in the interior of the

salvadoran revolution:
the erp in northern morazdn

"War is a bloody experience from which only those who have

clone nothing escape with clean hands. " Mauricio Chavez
(former FPL commander, currently director ofCEPAZ, Centro
de Pazj

In his Between Two Armies in the Ixil Towns of Guatemala, David

Stoll provides an interpretation of
abstract Guatemalan history that divides
This article offers a nuanced explanation f P o n f b i l i * for * e mas sac r
1 1 ^(!

of the internal politics of guerilla relations. **Ixi1 r e u g l ° n I n * e earl> 19 8 s

f °
between the G u e r r i l l a Arm o f the
It uses the conce; ts of hegemony, fields >
P o o r a n d the G u a t e m a l a n tr00
of power and habitus to aralyze the dy- Ps
w h o actuall carried out
namics of guerilla strategies and efforts > scorched
to implement them in the Peoples Revo- operations. Critiquing the
lutionary Army (ERP) in northern Morazaa naivete and pro-guerrilla stance
of human
El Salvador. The author argues that the rights groups (and si-
guerrilla strategies involved them in a multaneouslj undermining their
double process of hegemony construe- credibilin). Stoll argues that the
tion: hegemony over civilians and hege- ixil area was uninvolved in the
mony over their own combatants. This conflict until the Guerrilla Army
double process was crucial if ERP guerril- of the Poor appeared on the scene
las were to compete on the field of power and "provoked" the state to re-
dominated by the US-backed Salva- spond w ith repression, thus forc-
doran military. ing previously neutral peasants to
lake sides in the conflict: "Judg-
ing from their stories the main reason Ixils cast their lot w ith the guerrillas
journal of latin amencan anthropology 4(1):2-45 copyright ;•• 1999, american anthropological association

2 journal of latin american anthropology

leigh binford university of Connecticut

was [sic] the coercive pressures created by the blows and counterblows of
two military forces, a dilemma Nebajenos typically describe as being en-
tre dosfuegos (between two fires).... Hence, just because an insurgency
grows rapidly does not mean that it represents popular aspirations and has
broad popular support" (1992:20, c.f, p. 91, emphasis in the original).
I am supportive of Stoll's effort to counteract analyses that paint the
world in black and white terms
which hold Latin American gov- resumen
ernments able to do no right and Este articulo ofrece una explicacion
revolutionaries no wrong. If, in matizada de la politico interna de relaciones
fact, this necessary corrective guerrilleras. Utiliza los conceptos de
lay at the heart of his argument, hegemonia, campos de poder y habitui
I would have little objection. para analizar las dindmicas de estrategias
However, by parceling out re- guerrilleras y esfuerzos para implementaias en
sponsibility for the death toll el EJerdtoRevolucionario del Pueblo (ERP) en
equally between revolutionaries la parte norte de Morazan, El Salvador. El
who struggled to alter a highly autor sostiene que las estrategias
guerrilleras los involucraron en un
exploitative economic system
proceso doble de construccion de
and a military that killed thou- hegemonia hegemonia sobre civiles y
sands of uninvolved civilians in hegemonia sobre sus propios combatientes.
order to defend it, Stoll produces Este proceso doble hubiera sido critico si las
a work of historical revisionism guerrillas del ERP pensaban competir en el
which in the end serves to dis- campo de poder dominado por los militarej
credit all armed movements for Salvadorenos, apoyados por los EEUU.
social change. For a logical,
though unstated, implication of his argument is that an\ mass movement

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution 3

that aims to alter the balance of power must develop openly in civil society
and gain a mass following through pacific (nonviolent) action before taking
up arms as a desperate response to unprovoked violence on the part of the
state. In fact, few if any contemporary neocolonial states have allowed
such challenges to develop openly. By employing their self-proclaimed
monopoly on the legitimate use of force, states systematically repress lead-
ers and force oppositional movements underground long before those move-
ments develop the majority following that Stoll deems their legitimate task.
Apart from numerous methodological questions I have about StolPs
work, it seems to me that the principal failing involves a lack of strategic
vision, i.e., a failure to analyze the national situation in Guatemala and the
specific role of the EGP and the Ixil zone within a much larger and very
complex social field. In the pages that follow, I attempt to demonstrate how
we can usefully approach guerrilla-civilian relations by grounding our analy-
sis in two concepts: fields of power and hegemony. Rather than the Ixil
region of Guatemala, however, my focus will be on northern Morazan, El
Salvador, an area controlled from 1983 to 1992 by the Ejercito
Revolucionario del Pueblo (henceforth ERP), one of five political-mili-
tary organizations that made up the Frente Farabundo Marti para la
Liberacion Nacional or FMLN.1
Basically, I shall argue that within areas over which it exercised nomi-
nal day-to-day control, the ERP confronted a civilian population diversified
along lines of age, gender, and political orientation. Although the guerrillas
functioned as a quasi-state and dominated through force when necessary,
attainment of their strategic objectives, if not their very survival, was tied to
the development of a modicum of hegemony over civilians, who served as a
recruitment pool and supplied food, labor, information and other forms of
assistance crucial to the struggle. However, I will also argue that hegemony
over civilians depended on the ERP leadership's exercise of hegemony
over rebel troops and support personnel. Though incorporation into the ERP
was voluntary, such hegemony could not be assumed but had to be created
or deepened where it already existed. In short, maximizing its position on
the military-political field ofpower (see below) of northern Morazan and
contesting that field with the Fuerzas Armadas de El Salvador (El Salva-
doran Armed Forces, henceforth FAES) led the ERP leadership to embark,
at a particular moment of the conflict, on a double process of hegemony
construction, in which the successful exercise of hegemony over civilians
required the ERP leadership to deepen its hegemony over guerrilla combat-
ants as well.

journal of latin american anthropology

differentiation in the interior of the revolution
Following the decline of the indigo industry in the last century, northern
Morazan became an economic backwater and a low priority for the Salva-
doran state, which partly explains the historically poor road, health and
educational infrastructure there. Northern Morazan's heavily broken ter-
rain and thin soils made it unfit for the large-scale production of coffee,
cotton or sugar cane that formed the foundation of the nation's post-WWII
agro-export economy (Williams 1986).: Rather, the land in northern Morazan
\\ as divided into hundreds of small properties (and a few large ones) whose
owners combined subsistence production of corn and beans with small-
scale cattle raising, petty production and processing of henequen and sugar
cane, logging in the higher altitudes (of growing importance following the
Second World War) and seasonal wage labor to zones of export agriculture
on the coast and in the central cordillera. Government officials apparently
saw little reason to invest in Morazan's infrastructure or social services. In
1970 Morazan rivaled Chalatenango as the Salvadoran department with the
least access to electricity, education and public health services; the poorest
quality housing stock; and the worst roads (El Salvador Ministerio de Economia
1974). According
to the 1971 national
census, only 17 of
156,000 people re-
siding in Morazan
department had ac-
quired any post-sec-
ondary education
whatsoever (El Sal-
vador Ministerio de
E c o n o m i a San Mguel
La UniCn
1974:260). In El
Salvador: Land-
scape and Society,
David Browning in-
cluded Morazan
within the tierra
For most of
the post-WWII • -Municipal Centers
Map 1. Northern Morazan • - Departmental
period northern Capital
Morazan was a

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution 5

bulwark of (often passive) support for the National Conciliation Party, closely
allied to the Salvadoran Armed Forces (Baloyra 1982). In this socially and
economically marginalized zone, political party development was attenu-
ated, and the Treasury Police and National Guard, which maintained small,
permanent barracks in most municipal centers, closely controlled elections.
The local Catholic priest rather than political parties played the major, albeit
indirect, role in political socialization. There are some important excep-
tions- a mayoral victory by the Party of Renovating Action (PAR) in
Jocoaitique in the 1950s3 and the formation of Christian Democratic Party
(PDC) clubs in some municipalities in the 1970s.
The progressive political education of Morazanian peasants was a product
of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1967) and the Latin American Bish-
ops' Council held in Medellin, Colombia in 1968. In El Salvador groups
within the Catholic church which followed liberation theology began to
practice a "preferential option for the poor" that legitimized struggles for
better wages and working conditions, and for land reform. One consequence
was the creation of peasant training centers in each of the country's five
dioceses (Richard and Melendez 1982).
Most writing on liberation theology in El Salvador has focused on the
work of Jose Incencio Alas and Rutilio Grande in the diocese of San Salva-
dor, where they had the support of progressive Archbishop Chavez y
Gonzalez (archbishop from 1939-1977). Nationally the training centers also
played an important role "in spreading progressive pastoral and social ideas
outside the Archdiocese of San Salvador, since most of the other dioceses
had conservative bishops who prevented individual pastoral agents from
forming CEBs [Christian Base Communities] or other parish-based projects"
(Peterson 1997:56; see Richard and Melendez 1982:61, 72-74).4
Peasant-catechists in northern Morazan usually attended Centro Reino
de la Paz (better known as El Castano) in Chirilagua, San Miguel where
they gained experience in public speaking and organizing techniques and
learned how to interpret their poverty and marginalization in the context of
the Bible (see Peterson 1997:55-58). Many current and former catechists
now use terms like "awakening" or "rebirth" to describe their experiences
in the centers and they explain how they returned to northern Morazan
anxious to share their new knowledge.5 However, Father Andres Argueta,
the conservative Jocoaitique priest who had sent them to be trained as
catechists on orders from his superior, strived to keep progressive politics
out of church practice. He used his authority over the catechists to sup-
press their liberatory message for several years.
This changed in 1973. Miguel Ventura, a young, radical priest of peas-

journal of latin american anthropology

ant origin trained in San Salvador's San Jose de la Montana seminary,
arrived to take charge of the new Torola parish, carved out of Argueta's
Jocoaitique-centered domain through the reassignment of the municipalities
of Villa El Rosario, Torola and San Fernando. Ventura provided encourage-
ment and direction for the work of the catechists. He also enlarged their
ranks by sending more peasants to El Castano and other training centers.
Against Argueta's single-minded concern with spiritual growth, he promoted
the discourse of the integral development of the whole person, a key fea-
ture of liberation theology's doctrine. Ventura also visited the most remote
communities, where his friendliness, humility and refusal to charge for
masses, baptisms and weddings distinguished him from his predecessor.
The National Guard began to monitor these "threatening" church activities,
and Father Argueta denounced Father Ventura from his pulpit in Jocoaitique.
In 1975 Ventura was transferred south of the Torola River to Osicala
parish. In 1977, following an armed confrontation between the ERP and the
Salvadoran military in Osicala, he was seized by the National Guard, se-
verely tortured, and forced into exile following his release.6 Progressive
Catholicism in northern Morazan possessed a solid constituency at the time
of Ventura's departure, but absent his leadership and subject to escalating
state repression, it never developed to its full potential. After Ventura left
the area, many progressive Catholics, among them a number of the most
dynamic peasant catechists, joined ERP Military Committees, initiated in
1975, and began to prepare for the civil war predicted by ERP founder
Rafael Arce Zablah.7
From 1975 to 1980 "Chele Cesar" (Santo Lino Ramirez) and "Balta"
(Juan Ramon Medrano), the former an ERP military trainer and the latter a
political organizer, periodically traveled to northern Morazan from San Miguel
(Medrano y Raudales 1994). They passed as cattle buyers by day, and by
night they imparted military training and political orientation to ERP Military
Committees throughout the zone. In 1978 the ERP formed the February
28th Popular Leagues (LP-28), an open mass organization that served as
a recruiting ground for the clandestine Military Committees and a pressure
group on the government. LP-28 members were frequently trucked to San
Miguel, San Salvador and other cities where they occupied churches and
government offices and marched with other popular organizations to pro-
test government policies and human rights violations. During these actions,
peasants from northern Morazan became the targets of violent reprisals
from the military and security forces. Some even died when government
troops fired on demonstrators. Often, the survivors returned to northern
Morazan with a different conception of the Salvadoran state, which they

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution

shared with friends and family members, or, in several instances, in risky, open
meetings in town plazas.
I have sketched the process through which state repression forced under-
ground a counter-hegemonic project promoted by sectors within the Catholic
church and led participating peasants to join an armed revolutionary movement.
For most of its practitioners, liberation theology was not about seizing state
power, but it did demystify long-standing supernaturalist explanations of the
sources of wealth and poverty. Challenging the conservative wing of the Catholic
church in rural El Salvador also involved challenging the weak hegemony exer-
cised by the state, given the church's historic role in political socialization. How-
ever, many people in northern Morazan, who over time might have become
inspired by the liberationist project and might have adopted both the discursive
terms in which affiliates to it interpreted their social world and the concrete
activities in which they engaged, were frightened away by government propa-
ganda, threats and repression centered on progressive Catholic beliefs, activi-
ties and personnel. In my view, this history of Christian organization attenuated
by state-sponsored repression goes far to account for the highly differentiated
political terrain over which the ERP exercised day-to-day authority from 1983
until January 1992.8
Carmen Mercedes Letona ("Comandante Luisa"), who for much of the
war headed the ERP's political section in northern Morazan, displayed an acute
understanding of this situation when she divided civilians into the viejo
contingente (old contingent) of dependable FMLN supporters, and the
atrasados (backward elements) which "have developed some resentment as
a result of their own situations." She noted of the latter groups that "because
they have not had a concrete political practice that might raise their levels of
consciousness, their lives have turned around hiding and fleeing [from the army]"
(FMLN 1987:23).9 Many in the viejo contingente cut their political teeth on
liberation theology, disseminated by Miguel Ventura and dozens of peasant
catechist assistants, while the atrasados were the principal objects of the ERP's
counter-hegemonic political project that I will discuss below (See CEBES

hegemony and fields of power

To situate that project, both temporally and spatially, it will help us to
think of northern Morazan as a field of power (Roseberry 1994) situated

8 journal of latin american anthropology

near the bottom of a series of interlinked but hierarchically-ordered power
fields. My analysis here owes much to William Roseberry and to Pierre
Bourdieu's investigations of intellectual, educational, religious and economic
fields as semi-autonomous components of an overall social field of power.
For Bourdieu, each field is a social site in which actors occupying "posi-
tions" endowed with different amounts and types of "capital" (economic,
cultural and/or symbolic) struggle against one another in order to improve
their positions within the field (i.e., to obtain more capital) or to change the
field's rules or its boundaries (Bourdieu 1988,1990a, 1990b; Robbins 1991).10
The rules that govern struggles in social fields are skewed in favor of domi-
nant groups as one of the fruits of their victories in prior struggles.
Bourdieu tends to focus on the analysis of particular French intellectual,
artistic, economic or religious social fields. I am more interested in articu-
lating local, regional, and global developments across fields or nesting fields
within one another in the manner of Eric Wolf (1982), Sidney Mintz (1985)
or, more recently, Florencia Mallon (1995). To this end I argue that the field
of political-military power in northern Morazan was affected by U.S.
government policy and even the civilian population of the United States,
insofar as the U.S. population (or, rather, sectors of it) pressured the execu-
tive and legislative branches to reduce or eliminate military assistance to El
Salvador. J. Michael Waller (1991) manifested a curious awareness of this
when he labeled the U.S. Central America movement the "North Ameri-
can Front of El Salvador's Guerrilla War." But Waller treated the North
American front simplistically as part of a vast global revolutionary con-
spiracy rather than the product of a partial rupture in U.S. imperial hege-
mony (For an alternative analysis see Smith 1996). I am driving at the point
that we need to nest our analyses of local and regional fields of power in
more encompassing national, international and even global contexts, even
as we hone in on local/regional situations.
Another key concept for Bourdieu, and a useful one for thinking about
social fields of power, is that of habitus. The habitus consists of mental
structures that take the form of "durable dispositions;" they are socially
inculcated, with some priority given to early experience, and incline actors
toward selecting operational strategies (economic, marital, consumptive, etc.)
congruent with their positions in the social fields in which the habitus was
formed (Bourdieu 1977:85-86). Workers and bosses or peasants and haci-
enda owners will see the world somewhat differently because those
worldviews represent the structured form of distinct (and antagonistic) class
experiences. Nonetheless, since the dominant group exercises more influ-
ence in historically structuring the field within which subordinate groups are

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution

formed and within which they must operate, the habituses of the latter will
necessarily internalize features of that domination. Their subordinate posi-
tion is, after all, an objective fact within which they were constituted and
with which they must contend daily. Though habitus shapes understanding,
it does not precisely determine it, since each social actor occupies a variety
of social positions (ethnic, religious, class, gender, etc.), each of which (or
some combination thereof) provides the basis for ideological construction
as well as "a base for symbolic struggles for the power to produce and to
impose a vision of the legitimate world" (Bourdieu 1990b: 131).
Habitus can help us to understand how struggles can be meaningful to
their participants even as they are usually constrained by the historical agency
of the dominant, rule-setting group (e.g., Willis 1977) because it conceptu-
ally maps the limits of the assumed (orthodoxy), the debatable (heterodoxy)
and the unspeakable or unthinkable (doxa). Though he did not do so, Will-
iam Roseberry (1994:360-61) could have invoked Bourdieu when he de-
fined hegemony as the manner in which "the words, images, symbols, forms,
organizations, institutions, and movements used by subordinate populations
to talk about, understand, confront, accommodate themselves to, or resist
their domination are shaped by the process of domination itself." Roseberry
opined that, "What hegemony not a shared ideology but a
common meaningful and material framework for living through, talking about,
and acting upon social orders characterized by domination." This, I believe,
is precisely what Bourdieu attempts to get at. Both Bourdieu and Roseberry
imply that hegemonic domination does not terminate with revolutionary vic-
tory but persists into the post revolutionary period as a residual presence
deriving from the objective conditions of domination under which both revo-
lutionary and nonrevolutionary subjects were formed.

military strategies and fields of power in

northern morazan
Now let us turn to the analysis of the wartime field of political-eco-
nomic power in northern Morazan, bringing in, only insofar as necessary,
those larger social fields in which northern Morazan was embedded (but
with respect to which it occupied a relative autonomy deriving from its
specific history and internal social relations)." This field ofpower was
reconfigured four times between the mid-1970s and 1992. Taking some

10 journal of latin american anthropology

liberties with the FMLN's chronology (FMLN n.d.a), these periods can be
defined as follows: (1) Years of Active Clandestinity (pre-1980), (2) Active
Resistance (1980-82), (3) Military Initiative (mid-1982 to 1983), and (4)
Heightened Guerrilla Control (1984-1992). It is convenient to break the last
period into sub-periods (4a) 1984-89 and (4b) 1990-92, the dividing line
being the repatriation between November 1989 and March 1990 of 8,400
Morazanian refugees from a United Nations-sponsored refugee camp in
nearby Colomoncagua, Honduras to Meanguera, Morazan, where they
formed Segundo Montes City, named after one of the Jesuit priests assassi-
nated on 16 November 1989 at the Central American University.12 The
regional field of power was reconfigured in each period on the basis of the
results of the previous period's struggles both in northern Morazan and in
more encompassing fields of power.
For instance, between 1980-82 the FAES committed numerous civilian
massacres in order to "drain the sea of civilians" and isolate the guerrillas
(Binford 1996:100-5). That strategy responded, in part, to the earlier fail-
ures of ORDEN, the National Guard and the Treasury Police to contain
peasant political mobilization. The ERP responded to large-scale govern-
ment military operations with a largely defensive battle plan ("Active Resis-
tance," where the motto was "resist, develop and advance") in order to
avoid annihilation (FMLN n.d.a:20). At least sixty percent of the pre-civil
war population left the zone or sought refuge in municipal centers where
soldiers and security force personnel compelled them to form civil defense
patrols. During this period the military struggle took precedence for both the
ERP and the FAES, at least at the regional level.
The ERP launched a counteroffensive (phase of "Military Initiative")
in June of 1982. By the end of 1983, it had eliminated all army and security
force installations from northern Morazan, thus reconfiguring the field of
military power to its advantage. From late 1983 or early 1984, the begin-
ning of the period of "Heightened Guerrilla Control," a dual power or "mul-
tiple sovereignty" situation existed there. Despite Timothy Wickham-
Crowley's doubts (1989), I believe that had the FMLN sustained its military
offensive, it would have won a clear victory at that time, which quite possi-
bly would have been followed by direct U.S. military intervention.13
By mid-1984, however, the window of opportunity had been slammed
shut by the U.S. government. George Bush visited El Salvador in Decem-
ber of 1983 to caution military and business sectors on the need for a reduc-
tion in urban repression. And in June of 1984 Napoleon Duarte was elected
president in what Edward Herman and Frank Broadhead (1984) cynically
but accurately termed "demonstration elections." Elections (the first of which

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution

took place in March 1982 for a Constituent Assembly which appointed an
interim president) provided the excuse that congresspeople from both Re-
publican and Democratic parties were looking to open wide the aid spigot,
and avoid being blamed for "losing" El Salvador to communism (as if the
country was their's to lose). Military and economic assistance increased
from $25 million in 1980 to $500-600 million annually in the mid-1980s. El
Salvador, a country about the size of Massachusetts, became one of the
world's largest recipients of U.S. military aid. This money provided U.S.
military advisors the leverage they needed to "convert" their Salvadoran
proteges to "low intensity warfare," one of the Defense Department's most
striking oxymorons (See the articles in Manwaring and Prisk 1988).
In El Salvador, low intensity warfare combined bombing of rural areas,
military civic-action programs, civil defense, long range reconnaissance
patrols into guerrilla-held territories and lightening strikes by helicopter-borne
special forces troops against concentrations of FMLN guerrillas located by
Salvadoran and U.S. intelligence sources. Briefly put, the objective was 1)
to clear the guerrillas out of conflictive areas, restore government services
and institute civil patrols as a first line of defense and 2) to break up concen-
trations of guerrillas in their rearguard areas and keep them on the run.
Ultimately the military hoped to reassert government control in large areas
of the country and hem-up the rebels in the mountainous regions of
Chalatenango, Cabanas, San Miguel and Morazan, where they would be
subject to continuous harassment and gradual elimination. The strategy de-
pended on a doubling of the size of the army and a massive increase in the
air force and airtransport capability paid for with U.S. military aid (Schwarz
1991; Byrne 1996; FMLN n.d.a).
The U.S. military banked on the fundamental social and political con-
servatism of peasants, semi-proletarians and rural workers. Whatever the
effects of the war and their responses to it, rural dwellers originated in "pre-
existing social groups whose mentality, ideology and aims," according to
Gramsci, "they conserve for a time" (paraphrased by Roseberry 1994:360).
U.S. Defense Department strategists reasoned that even if many civilians
in war zones had lost confidence in the government, they might continue to
interpret their realities in the terms that it had promoted historically. For this
reason they were considered potentially recuperable by liberal projects.14
The U.S. government, working through the Salvadoran Armed Forces,
rewrote the rules of social struggle in the mi\ita.ry-po\itica\fieldof power in
northern Morazan and elsewhere in El Salvador. Had the ERP and other
FMLN groups not devised an effective counter-response, investing scarce
resources in novel ways to counteract the government threat, they might

journal of latin american anthropology

well have lost the war in the mid- to late 1980s. The encampments of large
units that fought the pitched battles of 1982-83 were particularly vulnerable
to aerial assaults and helicopter-assisted encirclement operations.15 How-
ever, by 1986 the guerrillas had made a successful transition from a war of
position (large units defending territory) to a war of movement (small-scale
guerrilla warfare, hit-and-run operations, sabotage) expanded to previously
untouched areas of the national territory (Binford 1996:144-8; MacLean
1987; Harnecker 1993:252-274; Villalobos 1986; Byrne 1996). The war of
movement reduced the effectiveness of air force bombing and eliminated
the large encampments that were the initial targets of air mobile operations.
Hit-and-run operations, the strategic placement of land mines and economic
and infrastructural sabotage, combined with the occasional spectacular at-
tack on an important military base, extracting high costs from the bourgeoi-
sie and military alike. The civil war remained at a stalemate for the duration,
despite an estimated total U.S. investment (1980-92 military and economic
aid) of $6 billion (Schwarz 1991:2-3).

poder de doble cara

The FMLN promoted civilian organization in controlled and conflictive
zones as a strategic response to low intensity warfare. In "poder de doble
card''' (power with two faces or two sides) the FMLN instructed civilians
to present a pretense of political neutrality (false face) but to struggle for
their legal rights when government troops passed through on operations and
to reveal their politically-committed (true) face to FMLN forces when they
returned after the soldiers departed. To reduce the likelihood of government
reprisals against civilians residing in conflictive areas, the FMLN urged
civilians to cooperate with government troops and to accept the material
and nonmaterial assistance given to them during military civic action pro-
grams. Civilians were also to insist on their political neutrality, i.e., their right
to organize collectively in order to address fundamental war-related prob-
lems, the right to reside in conflict zones, and to resist FAES efforts to
remove them to cities and displaced-persons camps.
Che Guevara (1968 [orig. 1961]:74-102) long ago noted that a stable,
sympathetic and organized civilian population presented revolutionary forces
with many advantages. This was certainly the case in northern Morazan.
The advantages included 1) relief from having to protect civilians during

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution

FAES operations, 2) protest of military human rights violations such as arbi-
trary captures and tortures, which were a regular part of government mili-
tary operations throughout the country, and 3) regularization of civilian as-
sistance rendered openly or clandestinely by the more politically-committed
sectors to the FMLN war effort. Among these we can count peasant-
produced food, transport services, armaments manufacture and storage,
smuggling of materiel in and out of the zone, and information about the
strength and location of government forces.
Another key feature of poder de doble cara involved the organization
and politicization of the politically "backward" sectors of the peasantry,
unable to envision alternatives, had remained in northern Morazan following
the mass exodus in the early 1980s. They continued to cultivate corn, beans
and sorghum. In the mid-1980s both the FAES and the FMLN competed to
exercise hegemony over these groups. The FAES used civic-action projects
and propaganda that blamed the FMLN for the war and the suffering that
accompanied it. The FMLN used activities carried out by the guerrilla's
propaganda section and the political programs generated by the implemen-
tation of the doble cara strategy. Doble cara held out the potential of
politically incorporating and "activating" such civilians. And, in the process,
it changed their consciousness and obtained (or deepened) their commit-
ment to the revolution. Carmen Mercedes Letona stated as much in El
poder popular de doble cara, the key document detailing the strategy and
its rationale.

Basically we want to develop an effective model of organi-

zation in order to integrate and mobilize the masses in
our [war] fronts and rear guard areas to struggle for their
just demands, to educate them and raise their levels of con-
sciousness and establish the political bases for their partici-
pation in the war....
In essence this type of organization is a school for the masses
that will prepare them for the future and educate them in
new values. They will discover through practice that the plan
for the exercise of power promoted by the FMLN is superior
because it breaks with centuries-old domination and gives
the humble peasant the right to express himself and to choose.
(FMLN 1987:26,33)

She also noted that "In this organizational process we attempt not only
to integrate the advanced masses but to attract the backward masses and

journal of latin american anthropology

to neutralize reactionary elements...." (31). In short, "poderde doble card"
defined an applied sociology. Its object was to incorporate, ideologically and
behaviorally, resistant peasants (the atrasados) into the revolutionary pro-
cess. It detailed the steps to be taken in order for the ERP to strengthen its
hegemony in the interior of the revolution.

doble cara and the limits of force

The FMLN adjusted doble cara to conform to the characteristics of
the local social field (FMLN 1987:19). In northern Morazan the ERP's
political organizers served as its "extension agents," charged with working
with civilians as well as with guerrilla combatants and support personnel.
These men (mostly) and women came from both urban intellectual (mainly
student) and rural farming backgrounds. They functioned as interlocutors
between zonal military commanders and the civilian population. They served
as local agents of social control, maintaining social peace and policing politi-
cal disobedience. Thus apart from their other duties, they investigated ac-
cusations of theft, rape and collaboration with government forces. Homi-
cide, rape and betrayal often resulted in execution; chronic theft, prostitu-
tion and other ERP-defined violations were punished by expulsion from
northern Morazan. A shifting political terrain along with a lack of time,
resources and experience complicated investigations, leading both civilians
and combatants to question some decisions handed down by zonal com-
manders (Binford n.d.: chap. 5; Garaizabal and Vazquez 1994). However,
most civilians most of the time seem to have recognized the ERP as the
legitimate authority in northern Morazan. And many people sought out po-
litical activists to resolve disputes and investigate abuses.16 Most ERP
"laws" were compatible with both Salvadoran legal codes and peasant
morality. Moreover, a generally shared notion of the limits of acceptable
comportment and the belief that violators of those limits might be punished
provided a modicum of social stability that made civilian life in a war zone
slightly more predictable and thus tolerable.
On the other hand, some people resisted collaborating with the guerril-
las for fear of becoming the targets of FAES reprisals when the military
invaded the zone.17 When the ERP sought to force compliance through
dictates that exceeded the authority that local residents were willing to grant,
then civilians simply left the area. This occurred during the ERP's forced

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution

recruitment campaign carried out from March to September of 1984. The
campaign was aimed at replacing rebel combat forces depleted during the
1982-83 offensive that cleared the zone of military and civil defense forces.
According to "Nassar," all males between the ages of 12 and 30 were taken to
a military school and given political, cultural, and (for those who became
conscientized) military training. Both "Nassar" and "Dina," an ERP political
officer from San Salvador, evaluated the campaign as positive- even though
few forced recruits chose to remain in the guerrilla- because it provided previ-
ously unorganized rural youth with a more realistic vision of the FMLN than
that disseminated in government propaganda.18
Notwithstanding these benefits, forced recruitment proved a political as
well as a public relations disaster. Like the Sandinistas' forced recruitment of
Nicaraguan youth during the U.S.-sponsored Contra War (see Lancaster 1992),
the FMLN campaign provoked massive resistance on the part of the subject
population. Several thousand civilians left northern Morazan in order to avoid
the seizure of their children and in the process deprived the ERP of important
sources of material and nonmaterial assistance. Many who remained drew
away from the guerrillas andfromthe progressive church as well, when some
guerrilla catechists were convinced to use their links to the population to sup-
port the recruitment campaign (CEBES n.d.: 19,33). Moreover, the campaign
became a political liability in anotherfieldof power relevant to the war when
U.S. newspapers published interviews with irate persons who had taken ref-
uge in refugee camps in San Miguel and elsewhere. U.S. diplomats confidently
opined that forced recruitment was a sign "that the guerrillas were losing popu-
lar support" following Duarte's election, and "were having a harder time wag-
ing their usual rural warfare" (McCarthy 1984; see Lemoyne 1984a), in these
ways justifying higher levels of congressional funding for the Salvadoran gov-
ernment and military. In early October of 1984 the FMLN terminated forced
recruitment (Lemoyne 1984b) and embarked on a concerted program to deepen
civilian participation in the war effort through less coercive, political and ideo-
logical, means.19

forming revolutionary subjects:

the erp and popular organizations
The ERP employed a variety of methods in order to engender a revolu-
tionary consciousness among northern Morazan's youth and adults. Many
children eight to fourteen years old, orphaned when their parents were
journal of latin american anthropology
murdered by soldiers during Salvadoran military operations, spent several
years in the Escuela de Menores (Youth School) located for a time in
Agua Blanca, a northern Morazanian canton of the municipality of
Cacaopera. There they learned reading and writing, mathematics and so-
cial science from ERP educators and received a strong political indoctrina-
tion. According to one informant, most joined combat forces by the age of
twelve because "there was a need for combatants." At the end of their
training, students swore allegiance to the FMLN in a ceremony accompa-
nied by flags and posters and overseen by top ERP brass such as Joaquin
Villalobos ("Atilio") and Jorge Melendez ("Jonas").20
An important medium aimed at the civilian population both inside and
outside the war zone was the clandestine Radio Venceremos. Its personnel
employed radio theater, front line reportage from correspondents, political
music, interviews with combatants and even youth-designed and -directed
programs to engender and strengthen revolutionary morale (Henriquez
Consalvi 1992; Lopez Vigil 1991). Film collectives such as Cero a la Izquierda
and later the Radio Venceremos Network produced films such as Carta a
Morazan (Letter to Morazan) and Decision a Veneer (Decision to Win)
(Mraz 1982), which aired internationally. Late in the war they were shown
on portable televisions trucked around to guerrilla camps and civilian com-
munities alike.21 Finally, the ERP propaganda section organized political
theater and dances presided over by Los Torogoces, an ERP peasant band
(guitars, baso, violin) which sang about fallen comrades, military victories
(the death of Domingo Monterrosa in 1984, the eradication of a company of
government soldiers at Moscarron near San Fernando in 1982), combatant
love and the future society that the people, working together, would create
(Gonzalez 1994).22
However, the work of the propaganda section was dictated by the dy-
namic of the war and ground to a halt when the FAES invaded the zone
(see Lievens 1989). Then the guerrillas melted into the bushes leaving the
civilian population vulnerable to military threats and reprisals- and some-
times resenting that fact (FMLN 1987:23). Equally important, few of the
above-mentioned methods of consciousness-raising penetrated to the core
of inhabitants' daily practices, leaving the pre-existing habitus more or less
As I understand it, doble cara entailed an effort to infuse politics by
reconfiguring practices rather than projecting messages- in song or by means
of political chats-which individuals could take or leave as they saw fit. We
might say that the ERP pursued a "practice theory" approach to the cre-
ation of revolutionary subjectivities. This would include convincing people
to alter their relationship to their objective situation, thus changing that situ-

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution

ation in the process. Representations more appropriate to that situation-
those promoted by the FMLN- would then stand a better change of be-
coming generalized. The representations would reinforce practices and the
military's real and symbolic power would suffer continuous erosion. As
Bourdieu (1990b: 137) noted, "To change the world, one has to change the
ways of making the world, that is, the vision of the world and the practical
operations by which groups are produced and reproduced."
The method involved organizing civilians to confront collectively the
economic, health and educational crises exacerbated by the Salvadoran
military blockade (that had the goal of making life so miserable that they
would be compelled to leave the area). Political activists encouraged the
ERP's reliable base de apoyo (support base) in each populated area to
form local councils in order to identify common problems and seek collec-
tive solutions. For instance, parents' concerns over the absence of school-
ing might be addressed by setting up primary school classes taught by some
literate member of the community; the teacher would receive food and
other economic assistance through communally-generated donations. In order
to reduce food shortages the community might make a collective appeal to
the International Red Cross for a fertilizer donation with the council taking
charge of distribution. As the model evolved two concepts provided its ori-
entation: participative democracy and self management. Each implied in-
volvement- an acceptance of more responsibility for one's situation, and an
active effort to confront and resolve difficulties rather than lament them.
In order to take advantage of the political opening and to facilitate the
participation of atrasados who sometimes blamed the guerrillas for their
suffering, the ERP kept a prudent distance from the day-to-day operations
of the organizations. Rather, ERP political organizers met with small groups
of the most politically-committed civilians and urged them to volunteer for
leadership positions in local citizen councils (referred to as directivas
comunales). On the other hand, the progressive church remained closely
involved. The following statement articulates clearly the convergence be-
tween the goals of CEBES and the doble car a strategy.

We not only had to announce hope but sow it. The situation
was really difficult because the population was internally
divided. This called for work of greater depth. In this con-
text we began to develop a pastoral team with the goal of
evangelizing and promoting a clearer and more Christian
consciousness among the population. The goals were clear:
the creation of community and the organization through col-

18 journal of latin american anthropology

lective institutions that from below could encourage the
population in the task of renewing itself (n.d.: 19, emphasis in
the original)

In the early 1980s the ERP Command allowed former catechists who
worked in combat or support structures to return to full-time pastoral work
under Miguel Ventura and Rogelio Ponceele. The priests through their ser-
mons and periodic visits to communities and the catechists through Cel-
ebrations of the Word, Bible study and ministrations boosted the morale of
civilians, encouraged them to organize, celebrated their projects and politi-
cal victories over the army, and comforted them in their sufferings (CEBES
n.d.; Lopez Vigil 1987).23
Democratic process (nomination of officers, voice or hand voting) were
undermined by a hierarchical structure of control centered in ERP political
activists and their superiors (political commissions and zone commanders
who worked out of guerrilla headquarters). For strategic military reasons
the ERP simply could not allow truly autonomous sources of civilian power.
The election of a person uncommitted to the revolutionary process, a per-
son who sowed dissent among the civilian population or one lacking the
mental and physical fortitude to withstand pressure from the FAES could
have had disastrous consequences for civilians and compas alike.24 Given
the situation it was all but inevitable that independent civilian organization
would be severely limited by the exigencies of the conflict. In 1991, seven
years after the model was first put into practice, an internal ERP document
stated that "[i]n the controlled zone there exists but a single political ten-
dency: the revolutionary party. The civilian population is the party's social
base and the social organizations or guilds (gremios) are mediums of power
with the functions of the state" (FMLN Pleno de Comite Regional
NorOriental 1991).
Notwithstanding the limits on democracy, doble cara was a strategic
success in northern Morazan and in other areas of eastern El Salvador
(e.g., southern Usulutan, northern San Miguel) in which the ERP was ac-
tive. From 1984 when political activists and collaborating civilians promoted
the first local councils, the number of groups and level of coordination among
them increased steadily. In 1988, the process culminated in the creation of
the Patronato de Desarrollo de las Comunidades de Morazan y San
Miguel (Community Development Council of Morazan and San Miguel or
PADECOMSM), composed of fifty-five local councils coordinated from
offices in Perqufn, Morazan (PADECOMSM 1988).25
The financial assistance and political backing obtained by councils from

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution

international church groups, solidarity organizations and nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs) contributed to their growth and consolidation. Hu-
manitarian and development assistance paid for projects that alleviated some
of the worst effects of the war-induced economic crisis and proved an
important attraction for previously unorganized zonal inhabitants, while in-
ternational political and ideological support reduced the sense of isolation
and boosted morale, especially when inhabitants had to confront abusive
soldiers dismissive of their claims to civilian status.
The first crack in the military blockade took place in 1985 when the
Congregation de Madres Cristianas (Congregation of Christian Moth-
ers), a nondenominational group connected to CEBES, picketed the Fourth
Military Detachment in San Francisco Gotera and forced Colonel Vargas to
allow passage of truckloads of food donated by the Catholic Archbishop's
office in San Salvador. The next year the International Red Cross donated
several hundred sacks of fertilizer to local community councils, soon fol-
lowed by a donation of tin roofing material by Oxfam-UK. In the summer
of 1988 the first foreign delegation braved military harassment and road-
blocks to visit civilian organizations in Perquin, further reducing the region's
isolation.26 In June of 1991, when I began fieldwork in the area,
PADECOMSM operated its Perquin office out of the abandoned home of
Hildebrando Umana, a wealthy owner of a large coffee plantation and cof-
fee processing plant who fled the zone when war broke out. International
donors contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars for 1) primary schools
and literacy circles, 2) health posts and centers, 3) credit for the production
of corn, sugar cane and other crops, 4) peasant leadership training, and
many other projects. With the 1991 formation of a regional Asamblea del
Pueblo de Morazan (Assembly of Morazanian People or APM) com-
posed of representatives from PADECOMSM; Segundo Montes City;
CEBES; and the Movimiento Comunal de las Mujeres [Communal
Women's Movement or MCM]) and the release of a pamphlet, unsigned
but composed by ERP strategists, detailing an alternative development model
for the region (Anonymous 1991), northern Morazan presented the image
of an embryonic state with a rudimentary state apparatus and a unique
political economy.27
Throughout the period, the Salvadoran military referred to northern
Morazanian popular organizations as FMLN "fachadas" (facades). It ar-
gued that the food, medicines, fertilizers and other materiel supposedly des-
tined for civilian use were being diverted to guerrilla camps, military hospi-
tals and armaments workshops. Accordingly, the army destroyed crops and
equipment, detained food and materiel at roadblocks, and captured and in-

journal of latin american anthropology

terrogated- often torturing- area residents up until the signing of the Peace
Accords on 16 January 1992.28 U.S. and European church groups, solidar-
ity organizations and NGOs with links to northern Morazan formed an inter-
national network of supporters who disavowed U.S. and Salvadoran gov-
ernment efforts to discredit civilians residing in conflict zones and regularly
inundated both their own local and national political representatives as well
as Salvadoran officials with letters, telegrams and faxes protesting FAES
human rights violations. They gathered significant force from Reagan and
Bush administration officials' violations of national and international laws,
the eyewitness testimony of thousands of Salvadoran refugees to the hu-
man impact of U.S. military assistance and public and elite fears of U.S.
involvement in another Vietnam-type situation. The U.S. Central America
Peace Movement exploited these opportunities, forcing the Reagan and
Bush administrations to expend large amounts of political capital in order to
sustain their interventionist policy in El Salvador and elsewhere (see Smith
Finally, let me note that the ERP extended the PADECOMSM model
to much of eastern El Salvador between 1990 and 1991 through the forma-
tion of three additional regional groupings and the creation of an umbrella
organization called the Patronatopara el Desarrollo de El Salvador (Com-
munity Development Council of El Salvador or PADECOES), which had a
budget of almost two million dollars, and (as of June 1991) a San Salvador
office which maintained regular contact with the national and international
press, NGOs and international solidarity groups.29

hegemony within the erp

In its efforts to exercise (or deepen) hegemony over the civilian popu-
lation of northern Morazan, the ERP leadership could not neglect its own
combatants and support personnel, many of whom rushed to join the guer-
rillas in order to avenge army massacres or to avoid being killed them-
selves. Probably no single event contributed as much to swell ERP ranks as
the massacre of over a thousand men, women and children by the U.S.-
trained Atlacatl Battalion between 11-13 December 1981 (Danner 1994;
Binford 1996). As the war dragged on, numerous war orphans and children
of combatants also joined. Many early recruits into the Military Committees
developed their social consciousness through participation in Christian Base

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution

Communities, while many, perhaps most, of those who joined later had only
the vaguest conceptions of Salvadoran history, the ERP's analysis of it and
the FMLN vision of postwar society.30 This potentially volatile mass had to
learn to accommodate itself to military discipline and the vertical chain of
command before, after as well as during battle. Thus the ERP High Com-
mand set about training and politicizing its "force assets" in order to secure
active obedience to military orders and to ensure that the compas treated
the civilian population with the proper respect.
Early in the civil war, rebel commanders assigned political cadres to
work in the camps during the lulls between Salvadoran military invasions
and rebel offensives (Binford n.d.:Chap. 5). When the FMLN reconfigured
its military strategy in the mid-1980s- breaking down large units into small
ones and expanding the war to previously-nonconflictive areas -all ERP
combatants were required to attend the ERP political school set up in the
abandoned town of Jocoaitique, where each was expected to acquire the
rudiments of political education and the ability to organize the civilian popu-
lation (Lievens 1989:139-142,151-153).
A key to internal discipline was the 15 Principios del Combatiente
Guerrillero (15 Principles of the Guerrilla Combatant) which every com-
batant had to memorize. These principles described alcoholism, drug use
and robbery as "vices practiced and encouraged by the rich" (FMLN 1986:9),
urged respect for enemy prisoners because "we are not a vengeful army
but an army that constructs the future for the poor," (FMLN 1986:15) and
cultivated mutual respect between officers and troops (FMLN 1986:22).
Although the Principles asserted that "our enlistment is voluntary as is our
acceptance of the disciplinary norms and the tasks that each of us must
carry out as revolutionaries" (FMLN 1986: 22), it also sustained that "[a]ll
our activity is directed by a revolutionary ideology and party. We accept its
leadership and we share its thought" (FMLN 1986:25). An undated (though
probably from 1990 or 1991) pamphletfromthe ERP's Cmdt. Lilian Mercedes
Letona Revolutionary School reinforced this last point. Though the pam-
phlet drew distinctions between "bourgeois military discipline" and "revolu-
tionary military discipline," it also stated that revolutionary discipline "is ver-
tical" and that every unit is headed by a field officer who makes the deci-
sions. "Military discipline begins with the principle that orders are not dis-
cussed, assuring that the plans and decisions of the commander are carried
out in practice without vacillations [and] in an energetic manner which will
permit all the troops to act as a single body with a single head, which is the
leader" (FMLN n.d.b).
Most important for my purposes here, however, is the eighth of the

journal of latin american anthropology

fifteen principles, which treated the relationship of combatants to civilians.
"We must be the people's friends, understand their problems in depth, orient
them and recruit them to the struggle everywhere. In this way we will
convert our country into an immense sea of guerrillas and organized people."
An even clearer statement of this policy appeared in a thirteen page FMLN
memo dated 1991. The document stated that members of the National Demo-
cratic Army, the name borne by FMLN forces from 1990, should treat both
civilians and one another courteously and respect one anothers' property. It
characterized contrary behavior as being typical of the enemy:

In general we believe that every act or attitude carried out

by one of our companeros that departs from our revolution-
ary principles and values damages our prestige and our
image as revolutionaries, but more importantly the prestige
and image of our Revolutionary Army and of the FMLN are
damaged when these improper behaviors or deviant attitudes
occur in the presence of the civilian population. (FMLN

This message was hammered home on every possible occasion: during

political training, in speeches by high-ranking commanders and in articles
and stories in El Combatiente, a widely-distributed FMLN news and infor-
mation bulletin that presented revolutionary messages in simple language
and through cartoon-like stories drawing on rural speech and social rela-
However, despite the rural roots of the vast majority of the combatants,
the message did not always take. Rebel troops occasionally abused civil-
ians: threatening them, swindling money, stealing property or raping women.
When discovered, either by chance or following civilian complaints to FMLN
political organizers or commanders, the accused parties were investigated
and severely punished ifjudged guilty (Binford n.d.: Chap. 5). For instance,
Karen Lievens, a Belgian journalist who worked with the ERP for three
years beginning in November 1983, reported the expulsion of a political
organizer, "Alfredo," who drank alcohol (forbidden in FMLN zones of con-
trol), demanded food from peasants without paying for it, and harassed
women in the communities in which he worked (1989:130). Ipsofacto, the
FMLN simply could not tolerate such indiscretions which, unpunished, would
have undermined its claims that its popular army was qualitatively different
from the abusive government military. In this sense, control of if not internal
hegemony over combat and support forces played a crucial role in the doble

hegemony in the interior of the Salvadorean revolution

cara strategy.31 Where abuses were not discovered or not punished be-
cause of a lack of oversight or because the perpetrators were high up in the
chain of command, they often had disastrous consequences for FMLN-
civilian relations.32

women and hegemony in northern morazdn

Whereas the ERP and other FMLN groups expended considerable ef-
fort to engender the "common meaning and material framework" that
Roseberry judges to be the hallmark of hegemony, they made only limited
and feeble efforts to alter pre-war gender ideologies. Although FMLN pro-
paganda emphasized the equality of life in the organization and especially in
the rebel camps (see Alegria and Flakoll 1983; Duntley Matos 1994:21,61;
Reif 1986:160-161; Pearce 1986:274, but also Mraz 1982:39), a large gap
separated words and deeds.33 Social scientists have consistently observed
that as much as thirty percent of the guerrilla force (between combat and
support personnel, which are not always clearly distinguished in guerrilla
warfare) was female, quite possibly the highest percentage in Latin Ameri-
can history (e.g., Vasquez 1997:2). Although women did fight in combat
and some attained high rank and positions of considerable responsibility,
most "gravitated" to support areas, working as radio operators, cooks and
health brigadistas- wartime forms of pre-war caretaker occupations (sec-
retary, domestic worker, nurse) (Rivera et al. 1995:119-120).34 Lievens
(1989:124-125) recounts an experiment in which men and women reversed
tasks for a short time- the women fighting and the men making tortillas, as
well as her participation in an Escuelapara Mujeres (Women's School)
designed to provide ERP women with "cultural, political and military train-
ing" following which they would choose the area in which they wanted to
work. She concludes that "everyone agreed that women were equal beings
with full rights" but "the following step, that women might be able to carry
out the same tasks as men, turned out to be much more difficult" (Lievens
1989:125; c.f. Duntley Matos 1994:28-30,62-66). On the other hand, where
women proved capable of performing those tasks, they sometimes gained
respect in men's eyes (Duntley Matos 1994:30; Rivera etal. 1995:178).
Generally the ERP leadership displayed little interest in altering gender
ideologies and considerable interest in using female recruits to further the

journal of latin american anthropology

organization's revolutionary agenda. Rural Salvadoran women, schooled in
a relatively rigid separation of male and female spheres, generally proved
easy prey. The mostly male commanders employed entrenched beliefs to
control female labor and female sexuality, linking mandates to the needs of
the revolutionary struggle and putting off questions of gender equality to a
remote socialist future following the final victory. At times the minority of
women were called upon to share their sexuality liberally with the much
more numerous men, but as their numbers increased they were pressured
to pair up so as to counter the promiscuous image that some peasant fathers
had developed of FMLN camps (Binford n.d.:Chap. 5; Duntley Matos
1994:27-31; see also Vasquez 1997:7-8; Hipster 1997:7-8). The ERP com-
manders also held women, never men, responsible for birth control and on
occasion pressured women to abort pregnancies in order to remain active in
the struggle (Duntley Matos 1994:28,31, 160; Rivera etal. 1995:231-232;
Vazquez etal. 1996.191-192, 199). Female commanders, practically all of
urban origin, may have sympathized with their sisters, but many attained
their positions by proving themselves in male terms. They seldom inter-
vened actively in party affairs on behalf of women's rights. Lacking an
institutional form of support, female resistance to mandates that conflicted
with deeply felt religious and cultural beliefs was individualized and involved
dropping out of the struggle for a time, if not permanently.35
Apart from the entrenched sexism of many male commanders (and
combatants), ERP leaders were unwilling to formulate, and particularly un-
willing to enforce, policies that contradicted pre-existing beliefs about gen-
der held by the vast majority of its affiliates and partisans, male and female
alike. I believe that is because they feared that public discussion of gender-
and sexuality-related issues would generate internal dissension and a de-
cline in male morale and possibly fighting strength as well. To these mostly
male commanders challenging machismo in its more virulent forms just
seemed too conflict-provoking.36 It was much easier to utilize a pre-war
male hegemony over females, rooted in male and female habitus, to adapt
existing personnel to strategic and tactical necessities.
On the other hand, it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to disentangle the
strategic military issues, those related to maneuvering within a particular
social field, from the personal ones. Some male rebel leaders- and the
cases do not appear to be isolated either- who were accused after the war
of having been notorious wartime mujehegos (womanizers), hand-picked
young, attractive women to serve as their personal radio operators, trans-
ferring their boyfriends to distant fronts and even occasionally sending them
on dangerous combat missions in order to "eliminate" the competition.37

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution

Still, women's political conscientization, their exploitation of previously un-
available opportunities in the areas of health care, education and logistics,
the self-confidence many gained in combat, and the undoubted egalitarian
characteristics of many areas of guerrilla life had repercussions for the
development of a progressive feminist movement following the signing of
the Peace Accords.
However complex and contradictory the situation of female members
of the ERP and other FMLN groups, they were probably better off, on the
whole, than women who remained in controlled zones like northern Morazan
but did not join the guerrilla forces. Duntley Matos (1994) provides detailed
material demonstrating the ERP's use of the Communal Women's Move-
ment (MCM) to divert funds targeted for women's development into the
war effort. At times MCM administrators were not even notified of projects,
drawn up in San Salvador by ERP-linked NGOs, for which they had osten-
sibly solicited funding from international donor organizations.38
Apartfromtheir economic function, organizations of rural women played
key roles in protesting government human rights abuses and appealing for
international sympathy and support on the basis of the ostensibly politically-
neutral status of daughter, wife, mother or grandmother. During the second
half of the 1980s women were at the forefront of demonstrations against
the military. Among other actions, organized northern Morazanian women
secured the release of food and materiel embargoed by the colonel of the
Fourth Military Detachment, refused efforts of the special forces Arce
Battalion to expel them from Nahuaterique in 1985, achieved military rec-
ognition of a chicken production project in El Zancudo following protests in
the Third Battalion headquarters in San Miguel in August of 1987, and
marched to demand freedom for PADECOMSM leaders captured in 1988
(CEBES n.d.:36-43). Like the better known COMADRES based in San
Salvador, the Madres de la Plaza del Mayo in Argentina or the GAM and
CONAVIGUA in Guatemala, women of the Congregation of Christian
Mothers, the Communal Women's Movement and, after 1989, women of
Segundo Montes City suffered threats, intimidation, capture and torture by
soldiers and government officials who accused them of being FMLN sup-
porters (e.g., Cooper 1988:98).
Finally, the overwhelmingly male leadership of PADECOMSM often
used the presence of separate female organizations in northern Morazan as
an excuse to minimize discussion of gender issues in the organization, which
hogged the lion's share of the external funding from the late 1980s into the
postwar period, and wielded considerable political clout in the zone. Soon
after the Congregation of Christian Mothers pioneered popular organization

26 journal of latin american anthropology

in the zone, local citizens' councils formed in Perquin and the surrounding
area. According to one informant, in 1985 the two organizations were com-
pletely segregated with the all-male local citizens' council composed in large
part of the husbands of the all-female Congregation of Christian Mothers.39
By 1991 PADECOMSM had become a region-wide organization with a
budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and contained but a single fe-
male among the thirty-one members of its Executive Board.40 Often
PADECOMSM administrators failed to even advise MCM headquarters,
located a few hundred meters from the PADECOMSM office, of the immi-
nent arrival of foreign delegations or representatives of European or U.S.
NGOs. When women voiced complaints about male discrimination, they
were browbeaten with the ERP party line, often conveyed by female politi-
cal organizers. The ERP removed recalcitrant individuals from leadership
positions and replaced them with more tractable women whose husbands
worked for PADECOMSM. While the frequently-made accusation that
the women lacked the technical and organizational skills to manage the
projects they sometimes acquired was not incorrect, neither PADECOMSM
nor the ERP did much to remedy the situation.

doble cara and guerrilla hegemony

In northern Morazan doble cara accomplished many of its strategic
goals. From their creation in 1984 local councils grew rapidly in size, num-
ber and degree of coordination. They attracted the participation of many
previously unengaged people and deepened the commitment of existing ERP
civilian supporters. The council model encouraged people to take active
measures to resolve their problems, it provided a framework through which
organizations could channel humanitarian assistance with some assurance
that it would reach the target population, and it presented a politically-neu-
tral public image that facilitated the incorporation of the politically "back-
ward elements" that the ERP was concerned to reach. When soldiers in-
vaded the zone and arrested civilian literacy teachers, health promoters and
others, burned newly planted fields, confiscated medicines, and destroyed
sugar processing equipment, they also drove many civilians closer to the
FMLN camp. On the other hand, had the FAES done nothing, the councils
would likely have developed at an even more rapid pace, further eroding the
military's position in the northern Morazanian political-military^/^ of power.

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution

The ERP also realized many tangible benefits from the process. Popu-
lar organizations channeled an estimated twenty percent of each grant or
donation to the ERP-sometimes with the knowledge of the funders- as a
contribution to the war effort.41 The opening of the zone to regular traffic
through the restoration of bus service and the 1990 construction of a tempo-
rary bridge spanning the Torola River made it much easier to smuggle money,
materiel and people in and out of northern Morazan. When 8,400 refugees
returned from the United Nations-sponsored camp in Colomoncagua, Hon-
duras between November 1989 and March 1990 and formed Segundo
Montes City in hills strategically-located above the Torola River, the guerril-
las gained additional material resources, political support and sources of
intelligence information, an expanded recruitment base, and renewed con-
tact with family members from whom many combatants had been estranged
during the refugees' nine-year Honduran exile.42
This leads me to take up once again to the issue of the battle for hege-
mony in the northern Morazan social field. To what degree were
PADECOMSM (and other regional organizations) merely ERP facades?
How and in what manner did the ERP exercise control over them? And to
what degree can we assert that control over civilian organization entailed
hegemony over the base? I will deal briefly with each question in turn.
First, during the lulls between Salvadoran army invasions, the ERP op-
erated as the dominant political authority in northern Morazan by virtue of
its monopoly over the use of force. Much public activity required the ex-
plicit or tacit permission of rebel officials. Beyond this, we have seen that
the ERP created a model of organization and assigned political activists to
work with civilians in order to concretize it. To limited degrees, rebel lead-
ers promoted participative democracy as a means of providing a space for
civilian self determination and self management in order to involve noncom-
batants in collective practices that would benefit them materially and trans-
form them ideologically. As events unfolded the ERP accommodated civil-
ian organization to strategic requirements of the war effort. For instance,
each of the five geographic sub-zones of PADECOMSM corresponded
precisely to one of the five military subzones into which the ERP divided
northern Morazan, while the five organizations under the PADECOES
umbrella were distributed among the five strategic zones composing the
Frente Oriental Francisco Sdnchez.Ai The ERP controlled the election
process to guarantee that important posts would be held by members drawn
from among its loyal supporters, who could be counted on to carry out the
policy designed by rebel political strategists. Thus the guerrillas colonized
the commanding heights of civilian organization in northern Morazan, de-

28 journal of latin american anthropology

signed strategy and tactics, and advised, praised and sanctioned civilian
On the other hand, a substantial degree of autonomy existed at the local
level, the locus of most activity, where women mixed powdered milk and
sugar in the Pany Leche program designed to provide school children with
twice-a-week nutritional supplements, volunteers collaborated to repair
bombed-out buildings for the installation of rudimentary rural health posts,
and community members worked together to organize sugar cane harvests
and processing. In carrying out these and other activities Morazanian peas-
ants organized locally, analyzed problems collectively, and worked out glitches
independently. Neither the ERP nor PADECOMSM possessed either the
will or the personnel to supervise every step of the process.
The depth of ERP hegemony over the participants in the programs of
popular organizations is another, difficult question. Many, perhaps most, people
were attracted to civilian groups by the prospect of alleviating pressing
needs for food, medicine and schooling. However, events showed that once
programs demonstrated tangible benefits, participants were quick to defend
them from assaults by the state. On various occasions civilians traveled,
often by foot, to the Fourth Military Detachment in San Francisco Gotera in
order to demand the freedom of captured leaders, the release of embar-
goed food and materiel contributed by humanitarian and development agen-
cies, and, toward the end of the war, the investigation of military massacres
committed in the early 1980s (Binford 1996:122; CEBES n.d.:28). These
collective protests, whose participants placed themselves at considerable
risk, were among the most important fruits of civilian organization for they
provided concrete evidence that poor people working together could win
concessions from the military. In the process, the ERP deepened and broad-
ened its moral and intellectual leadership in northern Morazan. The enor-
mous efforts that the FAES made to destroy popular organizations evi-
dences the high levels of government concern over the political (and mili-
tary) toll that it was suffering.
However, I also think that FMLN hegemony benefitted from situational
responses to extreme social stress. The motives of many participants re-
mained instrumental, accompanied by only minor changes in consciousness,
even if for some persons these new practices contributed to the develop-
ment of the "common meaningful and material framework" that is the sine
qua non of hegemony (Roseberry 1994:360-361). That that emergent frame-
work never consolidated into a new "structure of feeling" (Williams 1977:132)
owed much to the short duration (eight years) and limited scope of the
doble cara experiment, which failed to reverse at the regional level well-

hegemony in the interior of the Salvadorean revolution 29

entrenched cultural systems based on individualism and authoritarian con-
Bourdieu has noted that habitus can change, particularly in extreme
conditions, where past patterns- formed in very different circumstances-
prove of limited current utility. However, internalized histories "are modified
by the new experiences within the limits defined by their power of selec-
tion...." which "brings about a unique integration, dominated by the earliest
experiences, of the experiences statistically common to members of the
same class" (Bourdieu 1990a:60). Although the war demanded novel re-
sponses (to novel situations) particularly in the areas of collective action,
much of the FMLN's wartime success organizing civilians can be attributed
to the fact that it promoted viable solutions to practical needs by drawing on
many of the "durable dispositions" formed in the context of pre-war social
inequalities.45 When the war ended and the "external" constraints that it
had imposed were lifted, many northern Morazanians again privileged house-
hold over collective production and individual over communal activity.46 Had
the conflict lasted longer or ended differently, perhaps the changes would
have been more enduring, particularly among the younger generation.
The verticalism and authoritarianism practiced by the ERP during the
war- a partial product of the prewar habituses of the rebel leadership-
undoubtedly contributed to the process of demobilization by restricting the
political space within which relatively autonomous organizations might have
proliferated. But given the conditions and the stakes, it is hard to imagine
how things might have unfolded otherwise. Just as the ERP set limits to
civilian initiative so it, too, was subject to amorphous but nonetheless quite
real rules of warfare which placed limits to its strategic maneuvering in a
military field of power over which its day-to-day control was constantly
challenged by a repressive state supported by the world's dominant, imperi-
alist power.
Civil wars are, at best, about opening up political space for the develop-
ment of alternatives to capitalist social relations. They do not resolve the
contradictions that gave rise to them, even though the disruption of capitalist
markets, flight of landlords and elimination of most signs of the state appa-
ratus may provide a fertile field for social experimentation, as occurred in
the Colomoncagua refugee camp (See Cagan and Cagan 1991) and to a
lesser degree in northern Morazan (Macdonald and Gatehouse 1995; Th-
ompson 1995). No less than the "politically-backward sectors" discussed
by Carmen Mercedes Letona, many revolutionaries are imbued with men-
talities, ideologies and aims which they, too, conserve for a time -"durable
dispositions" or habitus (in Bourdieu's terms)- engendered by the very

30 journal of latin american anthropology

prewar conditions against which they struggled. Thus sexism, paternalism,
and verticalism were written into the structures through which the ERP
sought to incorporate civilians and develop hegemony over their actions.
We should critique these shortcomings and the rebels' repression of those
who sought alternatives to them, but it is also important that we acknowl-
edge the fact that they unfolded in situations in which strategic miscalcula-
tion or tactical error often had fatal consequences for combatants, civilian
supporters and possibly even the revolutionary movement itself.
This means, of course, that in the best of cases, i.e., where leftists take
power as in Nicaragua or obtain a quota of it as in El Salvador, the end of
formal military conflict opens up new struggles over the organization of the
present (and future) society. Without doubt, popular organizations formed in
the midst of war should assume an important role in that process. But in
many cases, of which El Salvador is one, they must struggle for political
space against their former guerrilla allies, who demand "party discipline"
and attempt to extend vertical and patriarchal forms of authority to postwar
situations where they can no longer be either compelled or justified and/or
dilute demands for wealth redistribution in an effort to broaden their elec-
toral appeal to the middle classes and national bourgeoisie (Petras 1997).47
At the national level this is precisely what has occurred in the case of
several women's organizations, whose members are frustrated by the
FMLN's peacetime failure to include a women's agenda in its political plat-
form (Murguialday 1997; Soledad Herrera 1997; Vasquez 1997), and among
popular organizations which find the FMLN's "capitalist strategy," pact-mak-
ing, and consensual rhetoric unresponsive to their needs (Petras 1997:46, 51).

David Stoll described Guatemalan civilians as caught up in a vicious
struggle "between two armies," innocent victims of military repression
brought on by a largely unsolicited guerrilla presence. I have argued that,
beginning in the mid-1980s in northern Morazan, FMLN guerrillas and the
Salvadoran military did, indeed, struggle to obtain the collaboration of the
civilian population. But I have also emphasized that that struggle unfolded
on afield of power not of the guerrillas' choosing. Absent the denial of
democracy and the suppression of organized mass movements for social
change in El Salvador- and the history of such suppression and denial is a

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution 31

very long one- the armed left either would not have developed or it would
not have gained the mass following that it did. That was as true in Guate-
mala as well. As the military field ofpower assumed an increasingly im-
portant role in social conflict, the ERP and other groups that composed the
FMLN sought, quite naturally, to harness all potential material and nonma-
terial resources ("capital" in Bourdieu's terminology) in order to defeat U.S.-
backed government forces, whose dominant position allowed them to dic-
tate the rules that shaped struggle in the social field there. Potential ERP
resources included the support of northern Morazan's civilian population,
which the guerrillas sought to broaden and deepen through the doble cara
strategy. Attention to the historical dimension of the conflict and the
embeddedness of local social fields in more encompassing ones allow us, I
believe, to move beyond the moralizing tone of Stoll's critique. Historical
and ethnographic analysis of multiple and embedded social fields should
lead us to conclude that in civil-military conflicts civilians are never com-
pletely "innocent" victims nor rebel forces the totally "free" actors that Stoll
seems to presume.48 The practices of civilians, leftist guerrillas and govern-
ment military forces are constrained, without being determined, both by
their durable dispositions and by the specific positions they occupy in com-
plex, contemporary social fields of power.49

acknowledgements. My thanks to John Holloway, Sergio Tischler. Julie Cottle, Stephen
Streeter and Nancy Churchill, as well as to John Hammond, Mark Edelman and Lynn Stephen,
referees for JLAA. for helpful critique and suggestions for improvement. Adam Flint hosted a
short visit to El Salvador in June 1998 during which I was able to gather materials that strength-
ened several sections. This paper is based out on fieldwork carried out over twenty months
between June 1991 and January 1996. Financial support was provided by the University of
Connecticut Research Foundation (1992, 1994) and a Fulbright-Hays grant (1994-95); it was
written in Puebla, Mexico at the Benemdrita Universidad Aut6noma de Puebla where I was
supported by the Consejo Nacional de Ciencias y Tecnologia (CONACYT) during 1997-98.
Thanks also to Roxanna Duntley, Phyllis Robinson. Shelli McMillan. Samuel Vidal Guzman and
Jacinto Marquez for their work on the project.

The FMLN formed in October 1980 as a coalition of five political-military organiza-
tions; apart from the ERP they were the Fuerzas Populares de Liberation (FPL), the Resistencia
Nacional (RN), the Partido Comunista Salvadorena (PCS) and the Partido Revolucionario de
Trabajadores Centroamericanos (PRTC).

32 journal of latin american anthropology

The area around Perquin, over 3,500 feet above sea level, is the singular exception. There
small coffee plantations, dominated by the Umafla, G6mez and Ventura families, coexist in close
proximity to pine forests.
' This rejection of the dominant party owed much to the leadership of Dore" Castro, a
wealthy and sophisticated populist, who was the first northern Morazanian to serve as depart-
mental governor. Many inhabitants of Jocoaitique municipality developed self-images as politi-
cal rebels, which proved beneficial to the ERP when it began organizing there in the mid-1970s.
The Jocoaitique hamlet of Santa Anita (code-named El Centra) became an early and important
focus of ERP recruitment, and a number of important persons in the municipal center (a nurse,
schoolteacher, and telegraph operator) assisted the rebels at great risk--at cost in several cases-
-to their lives.
An excellent example of the didactic material distributed in the schools is Conozcamos
Nuestra Patria (Let's Get to Know Our Fatherland) edited by the Centros Rurales de la Iglesia
en El Salvador (1974). Lengthy sections of this eighty page pamphlet deal with the history and
economic and social development of El Salvador, as well as the nation's physical and human
geography. The longest chapter (Chapter V) treats "Means of Production" with sections dedi-
cated to land, capital, labor, industry and commerce. Chapter V is followed by a "reflection" in
which the reader is asked to ponder questions such as, "Do you believe that the system of land
ownership is just?" "Does Minifundismo cause rural unemployment?" "What do you view as the
solution to the unjust system of land ownership?" (1974:76).
For instance, Samuel Vidal Guzman, Fabio Argueta and Abraham Argueta discussed El
Castano in these terms in interviews carried out in 1994-95.
Ventura returned clandestinely to northern Morazan in 1982 and served both civilians
and ERP combatants for the remainder of the war.
I have simplified a relationship that was, in reality, quite complex. One former catechist
related that Ventura arranged the first meeting between Arce Zablah and Christians of the base
community movement at the request of catechists concerned about increasing surveillance and
harassment by security forces and the paramilitary Organizacion Democrdtica Nacionalista
(ORDEN). Like many ERP leaders, Arce had once been a member of the progressive Christian
Student Youth (Alegria y Flakoll 1983:26). He apparently maintained links with the Catholic
church following the formation of the ERP in 1971 because the first meeting with Morazanian
catechists was held in April 1974 in a convent at Planes de los Renderos in San Salvador (Binford
n.d.:Chapter 4).
The church was not the only way station to participation in the revolution. Some
informants became radicalized as they reflected on their harsh treatment as seasonal laborers in
agro-export zones or as domestics working in the wealthy San Salvador neighborhoods of San
Benito and Escalon. Another related to me how his internal map of the world was redrawn by the
short-wave broadcasts of Radio Havana.
An extended debate has existed over what rural groups are most likely to become revolu-
tionaries: rural proletarians, semi-proletarians or middle peasants under duress (Wolf 1969;
Wickham-Crowley 1992; Paige 1975). In the only detailed ethnographic work treating the rural
politics of the prewar situation, Cabarriis (1983:183-186, 366), working in rural areas of Aguilares
and El Paisnal, found that semiproletarians were more likely than rural proletarians or middle
peasants both to develop political affiliations (of any sort) and to join revolutionary organiza-
tions. I cannot address the northern Morazanian situation in detail but will note that since unpaid
attendance at peasant training centers presumed a margin of savings generally unavailable to the
landless and land poor, most catechists came from the middle sectors of the peasantry. My main
point in this section is that state repression halted a Christian-based radicalization that, consid-
ering its early successes, gave every evidence of continued growth.
Carmen Mercedes Letona is not listed as the author of the cited work, issued by the FMLN
in 1987, but it was attributed to her by several, former high-ranking ERP informants. The same
point was mentioned frequently in CEBES's Dios en Morazan. For instance, speaking of the
period between mid-1983 and mid-1985, the author/s stated, "Although the army entered the
zone, most of the activities they carried out were designed to terrorize the population. They
continued with their scorched earth policies, the destruction of homes and crops, and captures

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution

and murders of the people. All this was aimed at engendering desperation so that people would
abandon their places of origin. With its destruction, terror and death the war had two conse-
quences for the consciousness of the people: on one side, a consciousness of terror and on the
other, a prejudice against the revolutionary process" (n.d:18, see also pp. 20, 23, 25-26).
Bourdieu's theory points us methodologically to important relationships even if some
concepts, such as "symbolic capital," overly simplify their analyses (Free 1996).
I do not want to imply that there existed a single, uniform field of power in northern
Morazan during the civil war. Rather, fields of power are multiple and cross-cutting. My focus
here is on the principal forces that defined the military conflict between the FAES and FMLN
(in this case the ERP faction). For instance, it would be possible, indeed desirable, to analyze
what might be designated a gender field defined by the unequal relationships between males and
females. I will discuss such relationships briefly in a later section but wish to note here that
they deserve a much more detailed and finer-grained analysis. Vazquez et al. (1996) have
taken a step toward developing that analysis in their seminal Mujeres-montana: Vivencias de
guerrilleras y colaboradoras del FMLN.
The FMLN referred to the fourth period as La Guerra Revolucionaria de todo el
Pueblo (Total People's War) (FMLN n.d. a:3l). In substituting "The Period of Heightened
ERP Control" I employ a label with regional-historical rather than national-strategic refer-
Wickham-Crowley argues that "collective military regimes" of the Salvadoran type
"are particularly strong in the face of insurgencies" compared to "personalistic military
regimes" like those of Somoza in Nicaragua and Batista in Cuba, which frequently succumb to
guerrilla forces that establish cross-class alliances to depose the dictator (1989:514, 519-20).
Wickham-Crowley also agrees with Che Guevara that "one should never try to start a
revolution against an elected government" by noting that as a result of the March 1982
legislative assembly elections, "the military strength of the insurgency ... weakened during
the decade, and Salvadorans consistently indicate in interviews that they want their elected
officials to fix the economy and to secure a peace" (1989:514). Wickham-Crowley downplays
the enormous investment made by the Reagan and Bush administrations in order to maintain
El Salvador as an imperialist redoubt. Interestingly, in his Guerrillas & Revolution in Latin
America (1992:68-85) he limits consideration of the role o f - direct and indirect U.S.
assistance to Latin American militaries to the "first wave" of guerrillas (1956-1970), failing
to reassume the theme when discussion turns to the "second wave" (1970-), relevant to the
Salvadoran case (especially pp. 287-292), thus ignoring the fact that both Salvadoran govern-
ment military strategy and political strategy (e.g., elections) were designed in Washington
and foisted on its "Third World" counterparts as conditions for continued U.S. military and
economic assistance. And nowhere- neither with respect to the first or the second wave does
Wickham-Crowley treat the aid rendered right-wing Central American governments by South
Korea, Taiwan, Argentina and Israel.
Elsewhere (Binford 1996:145-6) 1 compare Salvadoran military strategy to B.F.
Skinner's model of operant conditioning and note how the military discounted the role of
historical memory.
According to Mauricio Chavez ("Joaquin"), a former FPL commander, the FMLN
reached a low point in 1985 when air force bombings and air mobile operations took serious
tolls in the guerrilla ranks. Interview with Chavez, 20 June 1998, San Salvador.
Toward the end of the war the ERP ceded many social control matters to grassroots
organizations such as the Patronato para el Desarrollo de las Comunidades de Morazdn y
San Miguel (PADECOMSM) and the Asamblea del Pueblo de Morazdn (APM). In April of
1991, the latter disseminated a memorandum which contained its position on the felling of
trees, alcoholism, irresponsible fathers, family planning and road repair, among other issues.
In mid-1992, following the Peace Accords but prior to the return of mayors to northern
Morazan, 1 attended several meetings in San Fernando in which the local PADECOMSM
president sought to litigate land inheritance disputes among feuding family members.
This was noted by, among others, "Ulises." a 26 year-old commander, interviewed 19
November 1992 in Campamento Quincho while awaiting demobilization, and by Pedro

34 journal of latin american anthropology

Rodriguez, a former catechist and ERP political organizer interviewed 21 December 1992 in
Interviews in Perqufn with "Nassar," a 28-year-old FMLN political activist, on 5
November 1992 and with "Dina" on 8 November 1992. None of the political activists whom
1 interviewed interpreted forced recruitment as a response to FAES forced recruitment of
civilians in northern Morazan and other areas controlled by the FMLN, which was the
explanation that FMLN spokespersons disseminated to the international press (Lemoyne
U.S. journalists discussed forced recruitment only in northern Morazan, lending the
appearance that it was exclusively an ERP initiative. In fact, forced recruitment was a
generalized FMLN policy which failed as badly in Chalatenango and elsewhere as in Morazan
(Harnecker 1993:245-246).
Interview with Jacinto Marquez in Ciudad Segundo Montes, 15 July 1993.
In the course of developing a project of El Museo de la Palabray la Imogen, Carlos
Henriquez Consalvi has collected an estimated four thousand hours of video tape and a
thousand hours of film produced by FMLN videographers and camerapersons. Interview, 19
June 1998, San Salvador.
By the end of the war the Torogoces were well-known even in San Salvador due to
their many musical broadcasts on the clandestine Radio Venceremos. For a time they were in
great demand and even recorded several cassettes of songs. Two of the band's members were
former catechists. The ERP also organized Cutumay Camones, a slick, professional-sound-
ing group, which toured Europe and the United States and recorded two records. Three
members of Los Torogoces and two members of Cutumay Comones died in combat during the
war (Gonzalez 1994:74-84).
The relationship between the church and civilian population was not without contra-
dictions. The church was close to the ERP Command. Though released from combat, the
mostly male catechists continued to carry weapons for their protection and this alienated
some congregants. Finally, lower level commanders sometimes convinced catechists to use
their influence with civilians to recruit them to military-related tasks. This sowed consider-
able confusion among many people and played into the hands of government propagandists
who railed against the "guerrilla priests" and threatened to punish those who attended ser-
vices or activities which the priests or their catechists organized or in which they partici-
pated. (Interview with Miguel Ventura, 2 July 1993, San Salvador; CEBES n.d.).
Compa is short for companero, a term with numerous glosses (partner,
mate,companion) but which here might best be understood as "comrade-in-struggle." The
term was a standard sign of mutual recognition among Central American revolutionaries and
their supporters.
In 1984 councils often formed clandestinely. A year later five councils in the vicinity
of Perquin joined forces to form the Patronato de Desarrollo de las Comunidades de
Perquin. These were a few of the steps on the road to the establishment of PADECOMSM in
1988. Besides forty-eight local councils in Morazan, PADECOMSM represented seven coun-
cils in adjacent northern San Miguel, another ERP zone of control.
An excellent chronology of these events, couched in the language of Liberation
Theology, can be found in Dios en Morazan (CEBES n.d.).
ERP-linked groups in Morazan never received the levels of assistance available to
civilians linked to the FPL in eastern Chalatenango and northwestern Cabaflas. Early in the
war the FPL sponsored the formation of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El
Salvador (CISPES) in the United States and through that organization and Medical Aid to El
Salvador obtained a practical monopoly over U.S. solidarity-based assistance. ERP officials
failed to appreciate the value of international solidarity early in the war. When they did begin
to operate, later, the U.S. field of solidarity was already dominated by the FPL, albeit neither
CISPES nor Medical Aid to El Salvador officials every publicly acknowledged the limited
destinations of the funds and materiels they collected. Much assistance channeled to ERP
areas came from groups based in Europe.
In essence, then, conflicts between FMLN organizations were transmitted to solidarity

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution 35

supporters, at times generating more rancor, perhaps, than they did even in El Salvador and
undoubtedly weakening the solidarity lobby in the process. The situation provides an interest-
ing example of the interconnectedness of distant social fields and the mutual impacts of the
struggles therein.
Within a short period following public announcement of its formation in April of
1988, every one of the thirty-three members of PADECOMSM's Executive Board was
captured by Salvadoran army troops and taken to the Fourth Military Detachment in San
Francisco Gotera where they were interrogated and usually tortured.
Apart from PADECOMSM the groups under the PADECOES umbrella included:
CODELUM, founded in 1990, which organized northern La Unidn and southern Morazan,
COMUS, founded 2 June 1990, which worked in northern Usulutan, COSDECSAN, founded
29 June 1991, focusing on northern San Miguel, and CODEMl which organized the residents
of Cacahuatique and was still in the process of formation when the war terminated. Nonethe-
less, PADECOMSM accounted for the largest share of the PADECOES budget and provided
PADECOES with many of its most experienced administrative personnel.
Interview with Samuel Vidal Guzman, 2 October 1995 and passing discussions with
other ex-combatants. Another FMLN internal document, titled Sobre el trabajo urbano,
mentioned the difficulties that urban youth had incorporating into the rural guerrilla: "[T]hey
have a romantic vision of the process [which] leads them to develop moral and paternalistic
relations toward rural militants..." (FMLN 1991a).
Without doubt, the most serious offense, generally punished by execution if the
individual was apprehended, was betrayal. Even if low in rank, traitors were repositories of
invaluable knowledge of the social and geographical terrain of struggle which, shared with the
FAES, could have disastrous consequences for rebel forces and their civilian supporters alike.
A member of the Torogoces musical group who collaborated with the Salvadoran military
following his capture (and likely torture) was seized, tried and executed by the ERP when he
made the mistake of making an unaccompanied visit to Ciudad Segundo Monies late in the
war (Gonzalez 1994:80-82). In northern Morazan the two sides carried on a constant propa-
ganda war through radio broadcasts and wall graffiti. The FAES offered money and promised
immunity to combatants who surrendered and turned in their weapons. Their propaganda also
emphasized the difficult living conditions of combatants and claimed that the FMLN leader-
ship was getting rich off the suffering of its supporters. On its side, FMLN wall writings
focused on the shared class identity of their "brother soldiers," emphasized that the guerrillas
were fighting for a cause rather than a "miserable salary," and urged FAES soldiers to desert
and return to their homes so as not to die in a war that benefitted the rich. The propaganda
war was another feature of the wartime contest for hegemony.
' 2 For instance, an ERP political organizer working in Joateca in the late 1970s partici-
pated in the assault, robbery and even murder of local peasants. Later, in the early 1980s, the
reticence of the remaining civilians there to cooperate with ERP requests led another hard-
line activist of urban Mexican origin and relatively insensitive to rural Salvadoran culture to
expel various families from northern Morazan after accusing them of pro-government sym-
pathies. Also exacerbating tensions was a 1982 confrontation between Joateca civil defense
forces, organized by local National Guard personnel to protect the community from "Com-
munist guerrillas," and an invading ERP unit which eradicated the civil defense to the last
man, refusing to take prisoners. According to informants (supported in their claims by
testimony collected by the Segundo Montes Human Rights Commission), the Joateca civil
defense had assassinated scores of innocent men, women and children in the preceding years,
some of whom were friends and relatives of the invading ERP force (Binford n.d.:Chap. 6 plus
interviews). Nonetheless, the vengeance taken by combatants violated the sixth principle of
the combat code (FMLN 1986:15-16) not to speak of international human rights conven-
tions. As a consequence of these and other errors, the FMLN never really gained a foothold
in Joateca. During the March 1994 municipal and legislative elections, the FMLN polled a
distant fourth in Joateca, its worst showing among northern Morazan's eight municipalities.
In 1997 neither the FMLN nor the Democratic Party, formed in 1995 by former ERP and RN
leaders, even ran a candidate there.

36 journal of latin american anthropology

However, nothing that occurred in northern Morazan matched the massacre of thirty to
forty young FMLN recruits ordered by an FPL commander working on the San Vicente
volcano, who accused them of being FAES plants. The youth had been sent to San Vicente
from a refugee camp in San Antonio, Honduras. Following this debacle, the San Antonio
refugees passed from the FPL to the PRTC, with which they continued to identify when they
repatriated from Honduras to Nuevo Gualcho, Usulutan, in the early 1990s. Following the end
of the war, the FPL leadership, fearing the political fallout of negative publicity, continued to
cover-up the event and even refused to assist surviving family members to locate and recover
the remains. (I visited Nuevo Gualcho in October of 1994 and also discussed the case with
journalist Tom Gibb, who had gathered a substantial amount of information on the FPL
comandante who ordered the mass execution in preparation for a book about the civil war and
control of information.)
As these few examples indicate, guerrilla abuses did occur and historical memory de-
mands that, no less than FAES violations of human rights, they be discussed openly. As former
FPL commandante Mauricio Chavez noted in an interview, "all of us who have participated
in the war know too well that we cannot assume positions of moral superiority over anyone,
because war is a bloody experience from which only those who did nothing escape with clean
hands" (Binford 1998). Despite Wickham-Crowley's (1991:50) assertion that the FMLN
committed "many thousands of admitted 'executions'" against the citizenry, I found that on
the whole FMLN policy and actions tended to be extremely supportive of civilians and
respectful of local customs and beliefs. And there is simply no comparison between cases of
abuse such as those mentioned above and the repeated maltreatment of noncombatants by the
FAES. After the war the United Nations-sponsored Truth Commission assigned 95 percent of
the more than 6,000 cases of human rights violations investigated to the Salvadoran army
(85 percent) or paramilitary groups connected to it (10 percent) and only 5 percent to the
FMLN (Naciones Unidas 1993).
Indeed, one interviewee with considerable experience of camp life stated repeatedly
that in the guerrilla forces, women were equal only insofar as they died the same way as men!
In the mid-1980s when the FMLN changed its strategy, every structure (health,
propaganda, etc.) had to be light and mobile and provide for its own security, with the
consequence that "every compa would have to be able to defend herself militarily" (Lievens
1989:140-141). Nonetheless, the disproportionately high percentage of women in the lower-
ranking support sector had ramifications after the war when higher-ranking guerrillas enjoyed
better reinsertion terms (Vazquez 1997:9; Vazquez et al. 1996:220). It is important to note
that the authors of the most comprehensive study of women in war zones provide evidence
to the effect that guerrilla camps became more egalitarian when they were reduced in size in
response to the conversion to guerrilla war in the mid-1980s (Vazquez et al. 1996:111).
Many ERP women who became pregnant during the war gave birth in the
Colomoncagua refugee camp and soon thereafter returned to the front, leaving the infants in
the care of relatives. Others remained in Colomoncagua until the 1989 repatriation. Resis-
tance did take forms other than flight to a safer social arena. One female francotirador
(sharpshooter), whose nickname of "Matacuilios" (loosely translated as "Enemykiller") was
based on her supposedly having killed seven enemy soldiers in a single day, refused to pair up
with any male guerrilla in order to show that she did not need a man.
My use of "machismo" is not intended to reference a single, widely shared Latin
American or Salvadoran ideology, but is a loose gloss for a variety of ideas and behaviors that
sustain male dominance. For an excellent discussion of the problems involved in the unquali-
fied use of the term see Guttman (1996).
More generally, one female informant stated that male combatants referred to new
female arrivals in camp as culos (asses). When male competition for female attention
appeared to get out of hand, commanders generally took the path of least resistance and
removed the woman by reassigning her to another war front. L6pez Vigil (1991) discusses the
jealousies and bad feelings that developed among male members of the Radio Venceremos
collective who vied for the affections of "Mariposa" whom the commanders eventually
removed from the scene.

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution 37

In one case cited by Duntley Matos and discussed extensively in the area around
Perqufn, the MCM learned that it had submitted a project only when the funders requested a
final report regarding the use of the funds.
Interview with Lola Carrillo, 11 December 1992, Perquin.
Interview with Kathleen Lynch, 16 July 1991, Perquin. More generally, Reif
(1986:161) noted a similar division of labor in the FMLN/FDR: "While the FMLN/FDR
tacitly support women's issues and encourage women to share tasks and leadership with men,
they do not seem to have a formal feminist agenda, leaving such concerns to their affiliated
women's groups."
The figure is a general one based on discussions with several civilian leaders; it may
have been higher or lower depending on FMLN financial needs and civilian negotiating
abilities. ERP attempts to continue to extract its quota following the signing of the Peace
Accords led to problems both with funders, who demanded higher standards of accountability
from civilian organizations, and with many recipients, who felt that the rules of the game had
changed and that the ERP should look to its international supporters for postwar financial
During the war the Colomoncagua refugee camp carried out many functions of a
clandestine satellite guerrilla community, an extension into Honduras of the northern Morazan
social field. Several former ERP guerrillas maintained that without the human and material
resources contributed by the Colomoncagua refugees the ERP would have had great difficulty
sustaining a consistently high level of military activity. Despite its obvious importance, the
strategic role of Colomoncagua falls outside the main focus of this paper.
Interview with "Dina," 5 December 1992, Perqufn. Interview with "Carlos," July
1992, San Salvador. It seems clear that the success of the council model in the northern
Morazan rearguard encouraged the ERP to expand it to other areas where day-to-day rebel
control was less secure.
I do not want to suggest that civilian members of PADECOMSM and other civilian
organizations were mere puppets lacking individual initiative or the power of decision. Day-
to-day administrators, many with only a few years of formal schooling, developed impressive
planning, logistical, problem-solving and public relations skills which they have employed to
good benefit in the postwar period in individual enterprises, municipal administrations and
nongovernmental organizations, apart from the popular organizations in which some con-
tinue to work. Thus another product of wartime popular organization was the development
of a homegrown cadre of generally progressive managers, technicians and bureaucrats with
roots among peasants and rural workers.
Wickham-Crowley (1991:33) contrasts "predatory authority," based largely on
violence, with "rational authority," based on exchange. The exercise of rational authority,
the basis for legitimacy, requires governments to defend the civilian population, maintain
internal peace and order and contribute to material security- all features of a panhistorical,
pancultural social contract. Wickham-Crowley simply takes for granted that exchange rela-
tions are asymmetrical and materially favor the dominant classes. His examination of legiti-
mate and illegitimate authority presumes rational actors who know their interests and are
unencumbered with ideological baggage; he never asks just why workers and peasants would be
willing to give so much more than they receive.
Wickham-Crowley (1991:38-44) goes on to note that where states become predatory
or otherwise violate the terms of the "implicit social contract," citizens may shift their
allegiances to revolutionaries, especially if the rebels are able to provide for defense, internal
security and contributions to material security. Undoubtedly, rational calculation was at work
in northern Morazan, but the terms that actors wielded in those calculations were historical
products of, among other things, political struggle, a point that both Bourdieu and Roseberry
make clear. Centering the analysis of civilian-guerrilla relations on a hypothetical "social
contract" does not eliminate the need to subject the terms of that contract to critical
historical and cultural examination, for which the concept of hegemony is quite useful.
Finally, positing a uniform social contract oversimplifies a complex social situation in which
civilians collaborated with guerrilla forces for many different reasons.

38 journal of latin american anthropology

The slow pace of the land program and the paucity of funds available for the reinser-
tion of combatants into civilian society, not to speak of the minuscule assistance provided to
civilians, also affected the ERP's hold on its wartime supporters. To this must be added the
ERP's abandonment of the FMLN, its incorporation into the Democratic Party and that
party's steady march to the right. Nonetheless, the FMLN, of which the ERP remained a part
at the time, won five of eight mayorships in the March 1994 elections held more than two
years after the end of the conflict. In March 1995 the ERP (and the RN) left the FMLN to
form the Democratic Party and in June betrayed the interests of northern Morazan's poor by
voting with ARENA to raise the regressive value added tax (IVA) from ten to thirteen percent.
The split from the FMLN and this conservative turn exacerbated political divisions on the left
in northern Morazan. In 1997 municipal elections the FMLN retained but two of these
mayorships (Meanguera and Jocoaitique), while the Democratic Party won only in Villa El
Rosario. Nationwide the Democratic Party obtained only 13,533 votes, a mere 1.2 percent of
the 1,119,603 votes cast. It would have lost its legal registration for having less than 3 percent
of the vote but for the 39,838 votes (3.55 percent of the total) acquired by PD-PDC coalition
candidates. It is likely that the Democratic Party experienced a backlash against its detailed,
public airing of supposed FPL, PC and PRTC wartime and postwar human rights violations,
made on the eve of the 1997 elections (Partido Dem6crata 1997). By June of 1998 many
former supporters had abandoned the party, the future survival of which is questionable.
Finally, it is important to note that many young people passed their formative years in
the Colomoncagua, Honduras refugee camp where all work was collective and the money
economy nonexistent (This camp was supported by donations from the United Nations and a
number of international NGOs). Since the refugees returned in November 1989 to March 1990
to form Ciudad Segundo Montes, these youth have struggled unsuccessfully to preserve the
collective features of the social fabric in which they were raised. The intensity and density of
social relations in Colomoncagua made of it a much more likely setting for the inculcation of
a different set of "durable dispositions" than the rebel controlled area of northern Morazan.
According to Petras, the FMLN "is largely a party of the upwardly mobile, lower
middle class, ex-combatants set on the new course of finding a niche in the society and in the
interstices of the 'neoliberal' economy. In large part, the FMLN looks to the Center politi-
cally and upward to the national bourgeois for political and social alliances.... The FMLN has
increased its electoral position and influence in local and national government. However, the
advance of its 'capitalist strategy' increasingly dilutes its welfare program: the party of social
democracy increasingly resembles a social-liberal party" (1997:43, 46).
Petras's assessment, while not without merit, overly simplifies the situation. For some
time the FMLN has been internally divided between what some refer to as the "progressives"
or "renovators," led by the recently-elected party chair Facundo Guardado, and "the orthodox
wing," presided over by former chair Salvador Sanchez Ceren (Lindo 1998, CIDAI 1998). The
scission recently became public when members of the "orthodox line" argued in an anonymous
document ofthe need to return to the socialist values that provided the organization's
historical orientation (Anonymous 1998).
The Centro de Information, Documentation y Apoyo a la Investigation (CIDAI) of the
UCA maintains that the ideological problems ofthe left are compounded by its failure to
renew the leadership, i.e., to "retire" some of the wartime comandantes who currently
dominate the party heights and replace them with younger people: "At bottom, the FMLN
has the problem of coming to terms with the values and commitments that it championed in
the past. Up to now the Frente has not made a responsible effort to begin a self-evaluation
which surely would aid it not only in reaffirming its most cherished values, but in weighing the
real capacity of its current leaders in order to carry forward the necessary institutional
renewal... There is no doubt that it is urgent that the party ofthe left begin to renew its
executive leadership, which supposes, in many cases, their replacement by younger leaders less
bound to ideological and political principles resistant to change" (1998:3).
Innocence has a plurality of connotations which are frequently confused or juxtaposed
when discussion turns to the role of civilians in civil-military conflicts. In the North reference

hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution 39

to "innocent" victims of human rights violations generally suggests not only innocence in the
politico-legal sense of people who had done nothing to merit their repression, but also inno-
cence in the sense of ingenousness, possessed of a guileless childlike quality. Such characteriza-
tions are little more than exercises in colonial discourse that for centries have been used by
wealthy groups to justify their right to intervene and decide for those supposedly lacking
rational decision-making power of their own.
Though Stoll castigates EGP guerrillas for provoking military reprisals among otherwise
uncommitted rural dwellers, he never explains why the military's response was so indiscriminate
and so vicious. He analyzes revolutionary attacks on the army near civilian settlements as a
tactical move to force people to choose sides. The military's violent responses hover in the
background as an obvious response that requires no sustained discussion. In my examination of
the El Mozote massacre (Binford 1996:37-47), I made an attempt, albeit partial and inadequate,
to address the issue of repressive military forces, incorporating both national and international

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hegemony in the interior of the salvadoran revolution 45