Ana Patricia Rodríguez is an associate professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and U.S. Latina/o Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she teaches courses in Latin American, Central American, and U.S. Latina/o literatures and cultures. Professor Rodríguez has published numerous articles and books on the cultural production of Latinas/os in the United States and Central Americans in the isthmus and in the wider Central American diaspora among them Dividing the Isthmus: Central American Transnational Histories, Literatures, and Cultures (University of Texas Press, 2009).
In the 1980s and 1990s, Chicana/Latina feminist cultural activists who were critical of U.S. intervention and imperialism in Central America engaged in the production of what I have called “solidarity fictions,” or “fictions of solidarity.” During those decades, the United States provided military and economic aid to Central American regimes, particularly in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, to fund wars of genocide and general destruction. As a consequence, many Central Americans sought asylum in the United States as refugees, political exiles, and immigrants. In the heat of that moment, Chicana/Latina writers and critics began to document the deaths, displacements, and border crossings of thousands of Central Americans fleeing civil wars fought between U.S.-supported right-wing governments and leftist guerrilla organizations. (199)
Case Study: El Salvador’s Civil War Explained in Five Facts
1. Fourteen of the richest families own over 90% of your country’s land. Poor people began to question this system and wanted the land to be shared.
2. In 1980, the government in power at the time, ARENA, became very aggressive and labeled anyone who supported land reform as an “enemy of the state.”
3. Salvadorans formed the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). The FMLN created a guerilla army of the people to oppose the government and right-wing paramilitary forces. They began to fight back and take back land from the government.
4. The United States funded the Salvadoran military to fight the FMLN, at about 1 million dollars a day. The United States offered refugee status to only 3% of Salvadorans, but after being taken to court, the U.S. offered Temporary Residential Status to many Salvadorans.
5. From 1979 to 1981 alone, an estimated 30,000 Salvadorans were killed by the government’s death squads. Violence on both sides lead to a truce brokered by the United Nations in 1993, and the FMLN was recognized as a political party. Overall, the civil war lasted for 12 years and left 75,000 Salvadorans dead.
Current Issues: There are high poverty and crime in El Salvador. Natural disasters and civil war have severely impacted the economy. In the 1980s, gang members returned from the U.S. and brought gang culture to El Salvador. Gang activities led to increased murder and displacement of Salvadorans. El Salvador has one of the world’s highest murder rates, at 71 murders per 100,000.
Chicana Solidarity with Central America
This contact zone of sorts permitted Chicana writers to challenge borders imposed by U.S. imperialism and border regimes, starting with 1848, when the northern territories of Mexico were territorialized (taken) by the United States. Henceforth, if not before the Caribbean and Central America, each in their own turn, have been subjected to U.S imperialist and empire-building forces. (200)
Latina transfronterista feminists produce a unique mixed blend fictions to forge alliances and work across geopolitical border and global struggles, and challenge neocolonial and imperial forces at work across the Americas. (201)
Latina feminist scholars set out to produce “flesh and blood theory.” For example, fusing personal stories into collective testimonios of struggle. Latina Feminist Group collaborated in the writing of intersectional stories, and theories bridging scholarship in the areas of race, class, gender, sexuality, generation, nation, among other things. (202)
U.S. Chicana/ Latina Transnational Narrative Interventions
To the immigrant mexicano and the recent arrivals, we must teach our history. The 80 million mexicanos and the Latinos from Central and South America must know of our struggles. Each one of us must know basic facts about Nicaragua, Chile, and the rest of Latin America. The Latinoist movement (Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and other Spanish-speaking people working together to combat racial discrimination in the marketplace) is good but it is not enough. Other than a common culture we will have nothing to hold us together. We need to meet on a broader communal ground.
In an illuminating moment, [Cherríe Moraga] recognized that U.S. intervention and Latin American immigration are, in fact, linked, for “[e]very place the United States has been involved militarily has brought its offspring, its orphans, its homeless, and its casualties to this country: Vietnam, Guatemala, Cambodia, the Philippines.” Moreover, she linked U.S. intervention in Central America to massive Central American immigration waves that continue to this day. (204)