The Modernization of Underdevelopment:El Salvador, 1858-1931

“What most strikes me on arriving from Europe is the absence of all extremepoverty,” Mrs. Henry Grant Foote observed approvingly of El Salvador in themid-nineteenth century.’ The British diplomat’s wife concluded that SouthernEurope and the major cities of England suffered far worse poverty and humanmisery than the diminutive-and other observers would add “backward”-Cen-tral American republic. These first impressions of the country, to which QueenVictoria’s government had posted Mrs. Foote’s husband in 1853, were also herconclusions strengthened by eight years of residence there.Her memoir revealed at least one explanation for the satisfactory quality oflife: people enjoyed access to land.

The large Indian population still possesseda part of its communal lands, ranked by Mrs. Foote as among the “most fertile“areas of El Salvador.2 Those who chose not to live in the communities, shenoted, “generally have their own little piece of land and a house on it.”’ Theoutskirts of the capital, San Salvador, seemed almost Edenic in her prose: “Theenvirons of the city are very beautiful, being one mass of luxuriant orange andmango trees, bending beneath their load of fruit, and the cottages of the poorpeople are remarkably neat and clean, each surrounded by its own beautifulshrubbery of fruit trees.“4 These observations buttressed her conclusion of theready availability of food. The simple society excluded sharp distinctions be-tween rich and poor. The Englishwoman praised the practical modesty amongthe upper class, although its humility sometimes bemused her. At one point shechuckled: “One custom struck us as very peculiar in this state. Everyone, fromPresident downwards keeps a shop, and no one objects to appear behind hiscounter and sell you a reel of cotton, the wives and daughters officiating in thesame capacity.“3 She left an incomplete although suggestive portrait of the newnation, characterizing life as bucolic, devoid of social and economic extremes.Around the middle of the century, a small group of foreign travelers anddiplomats, among them John Bailey, E. G. Squier, Carl Scherzer, and G. F. VonTemsky, visited El Salvador.6 Their accounts corroborated Mrs. Foote’s. Al-though those visitors considered the small nation to be overcrowded even then,Professor, Department of History, UCLA.0 1984 by Western Illinois University.
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294E. Bradford Burnsthey agreed that most of the population owned land, either individually orcollectively. The large hacienda existed but did not monopolize the rural econ-omy. Squier noted, “There is little public and unclaimed land in the state, andfew large tracts held by single individuals.“7 He contrasted that aspect of landtenure favorably with the experience of other nations he knew. The Indians,who at midcentury comprised at least a quarter of the population, worked eithertheir communal lands or individual plots. A large number of them exclusivelyinhabited a Pacific coastal area of 50 by 20 miles between the ports of La Libertadand Acajutla, “*retaining habits but little changed from what they were at theperiod of conquest,” according to Squier.8 All the travelers lauded the generosityof nature and spoke of the abundance of food. Von Tempsky recalled that theIndian Village, Chinameca, he visited in 1855 was “well supplied with the neces-saries of life.“9 Particularly impressed with the region of Sonsonate, Scherzerlauded the abundance, variety, and low price of food.10 None mentioned eithermalnutrition or starvation.The largely subsistence economy produced rather leisurely for the world mar-kets. Indigo, traditionally a principal export, earned $700,000 of$ 1,200,000 fromforeign sales in 1851. Minerals, balsams, skins, rice, sugar, cotton, and cacaoaccounted for much of the rest.Even though the foreign visitors waxed eloquent about some idyllic aspectsof life as they lived and perceived it in El Salvador, not one pretended that theisolated nation was a rustic paradise. Problems existed. The visitors lamentedthe disease and political turmoil. Still, even if life did not mirror the ideal, asocioeconomic pattern that benefited many had emerged in the long colonialperiod and much briefer national period: food was produced in sufficient quan-tity to feed the population, the economy was varied, little emphasis fell on theexport sector, the land was reasonably well distributed, the foreign debt waslow, and the absence of the extremes of poverty and wealth spoke of a vaguedegree of equality. Having endured for some time, however, by the 1 850s suchcharacteristics were about to disappear. The El Salvador those foreigners ob-served was on the threshold of change and a rather rapid and dramatic changeat that.Over the course of three centuries, Spain had implanted its political, economic,social, and cultural institutions in its vast American empire with varying degreesof effectiveness. Those regions nearest the viceregal capitals or well integratedinto imperial trade patterns bore the most vivid testimony to their successfulimplantation. Consequently, no matter what great distances might have sepa-rated Lima from Mexico City, the gold mines of Colombia from the silver minesof Bolivia, or the sugar plantations of Cuba from the cacao estates of Venezuela,similarities in economic and political structures outweighed inevitable localvariations. Historiographic studies tend to dwell on the relative changelessnessand continuity of some of those institutions over half a millenium. The insti-tutions surrounding the use of land and labor are two useful examples; theconcentration and authoritarian exercise of political power is another. Still, themetropolitan institutions did not fully penetrate every part of Spanish America.To the degree they did not, those regions remained marginal to internationaltrade and isolated from the primary preoccupations of the crown. Fusing Iberian,Indian, and African cultures and institutions, such regions remained nominallysubordinate to a distant monarch but for practical purposes more responsiveto local conditions.
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The Modernization of Underdevelopment: El Salvador, 1858-1931295More regional diversity existed in Spanish America during the period whenthe colonies obtained their independence, 1808-1824, than there would be atthe end of the century. The reasons for the rapid homogenization during thenineteenth century are not difficult to find. Many of the elites in all the newlyindependent governments had embraced or would embrace the ideas that sprangfrom the European Enlightenment. They admired French culture, while theylooked to England for their economic vigor. As the nineteenth century waxed,their collective desire grew to create in the New World a replica of Europe northof the Pyrenees. To emulate the “progress” the elites believed characteristic oftheir model nations, they needed capital. They obtained it through loans, in-vestments, and trade, all three of which linked them ever more closely to NorthAtlantic capitalism. Marvelous advances in communication and transportationfacilitated the growing conformity forged by common goals and trade patterns.One major consequence was that as the new nations neared the first centenaryof their independence, the institutional patterns of Latin America reflected amore striking similarity than they had after more than three centuries of Iberiandomination. To achieve conformity required certain areas and nations, thosethat once had been marginal to Spanish interests and thus most superficiallyincorporated into European commercial patterns, to change dramatically. Apredominately export-oriented economy linked to international capitalism be-came the dynamo propelling that profound, rapid change. In certain cases, rad-ical transformation-almost revolutionary in some instances-challenged thestereotypes of “changelessness” and “continuity” often applied to the entirearea.One of the new nations, El Salvador, provides a striking example of the rapidand profound change of a once-neglected outpost of the Spanish empire. Further,its experience with progress or modernization accompanied by the increasingimpoverishment of the majority of the inhabitants illustrates how a Latin Amer-ican nation could modernize without developing.”’Spanish institutions had imperfectly penetrated El Salvador. Throughout thecolonial period that small area bore a closer resemblance to its Indian past thanLATENANGlo\GOFig.I1.Map of|ElSalvaor.SONSONATEigSANFRANCISCOlvaor
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296E. Bradford Burnsto any of the bustling centers of colonial Spanish America. Like the other CentralAmericans, the Salvadorans remained geographically isolated and largely self-sufficient. As Adriaan C. van Oss convincingly argued, the Central Americanshad “turned their backs on the coasts and thereby on intensive commerce withthe motherland.“12 Yet, within the short span of three decades, roughly between1860 and 1890, El Salvador acquired the economic, political, and social insti-tutions characterizing the rest of Latin America. These included a dynamic andmodernizing export sector based on monoculture and the predominance of thelarge estate producing for foreign trade; a subservient, impoverished, landlessrural labor force; concentration of economic and political power within thehands of the principal planters who exercised it from a single dominant city,the capital, which, if it fell short of duplicating its urban model, Paris, none-theless contained districts reflecting the architectural influence of nineteenth-century Europe; and a political understanding and tolerance between an in-creasingly professional military and politicoeconomic elites. In a number offundamental aspects, El Salvador became nearly indistinguishable from the otherSpanish-speaking nations. The process by which that formerly isolated and sin-gular state acquired institutions characteristic of the rest of Spanish America aswell as the consequences of that process merit study.For three centuries Central America formed part of the Spanish empire beforeit fell briefly under Mexican rule. A shaky confederation, the United Provincesof Central America, emerged in 1824 but crumbled under political rivalries adecade and a half later. In 1839, some of the leading citizens of San Salvadordeclared the independence of El Salvador, although the vision of a greater Cen-tral American fatherland remained constant in El Salvador. Promulgating aconstitution in 1841, the Salvadorans embarked on a tempestuous political jour-ney. The population of the new republic, estimated in 1850 to be 394,000,consisted largely of Indians and mestizos with a small minority of whites, blacks,and mulattoes (see table 1). Most of the population lived in the countryside.The economic structures characteristic of the long colonial past remainedintact during the first half of the nineteenth century. El Salvador continued toexport in small quantities marginal products of limited demand. The Spanishmercantilist legacy rested lightly on the region because of its isolation and eco-nomic insignificance. The land-use patterns accommodated both Spanish andIndian practices. The Indian villages held the land they needed;-the traditionalTABLE 1ESTMATES OF THE POPULATION OF EL SALVADOR, 1821-1930YearPopulation1821250,0001855394,0001878554,0001882612,9431892703,5001900783,4331910986,53719201,178,66519301,353,170SouRcE: Jeffry Royle Gibson, “A Demographic Analysis of Urbaniza-tion: Evolution of a System of Cities in Honduras, El Salvador, andCosta Rica” (Ph.D. diss., Cornell University, 1970), p. 80.
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The Modernization of Underdevelopment: El Salvador, 1858-1931297Indian communities survived. The haciendas, the large estates owned by Span-iards and their descendants, also existed. In the early nineteenth century, therewere approximately 440 haciendas averaging close to 2,000 acres each.’3 Theyaccounted for one-third of the land area. The Indian communities producedfood for local consumption. So did the haciendas, but they also grew the principalexport crops, foremost of which was indigo.Indigo production required both a regular and a seasonal labor force. Thehaciendas drew their workers from neighboring Indian communities. They alsoslowly but steadily encroached on Indian lands. The control of the politicalinstitutions of the new republic by a small merchant and planter class comple-mented those trends. The new national elite fully understood the importanceto their own prosperity of controlling land and labor. No longer did a distantSpanish crown thwart them. For the time being, however, certain other realitiesinhibited their economic expansion. The frequent wars in Central America, ascarcity of capital and credit, a disruption of trade routes and patterns, and thelack of any products in high demand in foreign markets caused a general eco-nomic decline throughout much of the first half of the nineteenth century. Thosepolitical and economic realities enforced a kind of balance between the Indiancommunities and the haciendas. Both seemed to provide satisfactory, if verymodest, life styles. Such was the El Salvador described by Foote, Squier, VonTempsky, Scherzer, and Baily.After 1858, new socioeconomic patterns took shape. Greater political stabilityand closer contact with the North Atlantic nations, principally the United States,France, and Great Britain, partially explain the emergence of the new patterns.Very importantly, the elite found a new crop, coffee, that the country couldgrow and profitably sell abroad. More than anything else, concentration on thegrowth and export of that single crop altered old institutions. Before the end ofthe century, the new coffee estates became the base of economic production,political power, and social organization. The coffee planters emerged as thepowerful economic, political, and social elite.Instrumental in initiating the challenge to the old system, President GerardoBarrios (1858-1863) directed the fledgling nation’s first steps toward moderni-zation and change. A trip through Europe in the early 1 850s had influenced himprofoundly. In one letter back to El Salvador, he proclaimed his mission: “Iurgently needed this trip to correct my ideas and to be useful to my country…. I will return to preach to my fellow countrymen what we Central Americansare and what we can become.”’4 He did. He informed the legislative assemblyin 1860 that he intended to “regenerate” the nation.’5In a pattern already becoming familiar throughout Latin America, those whowould “regenerate” their society advocated rather uncritically the models pro-vided by the leading capitalist nations of the North Atlantic. Their agrarian,industrial, and technological advances awed the Latin American elites. Thosenations seemed to have found the sure road to “progress,” a gloriously nineteenth-century notion for which the current social science concept “modernization” issynonymous. In the minds of the elites, “to progress” came to mean to recreatethe European model in Latin America. Carried to its extreme, it even signifiedthe encouragement of European immigration to replace the Indian and Africanpeoples of the New World. Within a broad Latin American perspective, Barrioswas by no means unique in either his discovery of Europe or his hope of re-creating his nation in its image. Within the narrow confines of bucolic El Sal-
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298E. Bradford Burnsvador, however, he seemed to be something of a visionary ready to deny thepast in order to participate in an alluring if uncertain future.Barrios characterized the nation he governed as one that was “backward,”“destitute,” and “misgoverned,” and into which he believed he introduced“progress.”’6 Both a military commander and the owner of a medium-sizedestate, the president represented the nascent middle class in his lifestyle, outlook,and aspirations. His govemment vaguely encompassed a liberalism character-istic of later nineteenth-century Salvadoran politics. He favored individual lib-erties, opposed dictatorial rule, and sought to end the neofeudalism dominatingthe countryside. He succeeded in accelerating a rural shift from neofeudalismto neocapitalism. In a not unfamiliar pattem in nineteenth-century Latin Amer-ica, however, liberty during the Barrios years-as thereafter-smiled exclusivelyon the elites, and authoritarian rule remained the practice despite rhetoric tothe contrary.A devoted francophile, President Barrios incorporated Liberal and Positivistideas into his policies to turn his country from its Iberian and Indian past to acloser approximation of a rapidly changing Westem Europe. In 1860, the firstprogram he announced for his government included these five goals: promotionof agriculture, industry, and commerce; introduction into El Salvador of theprogress that distinguished other nations; encouragement of immigration; re-form of the educational system in accordance with the latest European ideas;and construction of roads and ports to facilitate international communicationand transportation. Such goals typified the modernizers of nineteenth-centuryLatin America. Soon after the announcement of his program, the presidentpromulgated the nation’s first civil code and a new educational plan, both ofwhich inevitably drew on the latest European models. In true Positivist fashion,Barrios believed the government should play a direct role in encouraging ex-ports.’7 The most immediate results of his policies were to facilitate the growthof capitalism and to promote foreign commerce. Indeed, exports doubled be-tween 1860 and 186218Barrios appreciated the incipient agrarian and commercial changes alreadyunder way in El Salvador. In 1853, steamship service had been inauguratedbetween El Salvador and California. Six years later, the government began topay a subsidy to the Pacific Mail Steamship Company to service the Salvadoranports. As one immediate consequence, sugar and rum exports rose, a trendBarrios applauded. United States diplomats stationed in San Salvador also spokeenthusiastically about the rising export trade facilitated by the steamships.’9President Barrios not only encouraged the growth of crops with an internationaldemand but favored land and labor laws complementary to such agrarian en-terprise.Understanding the importance of coffee on the world market and the suita-bility of El Salvador’s rich volcanic soil to produce it, the president promotedits production.20 Farmers had first started to grow small amounts of coffee forlocal consumption in the eighteenth century. Governmental encouragement ofits production dated from 1846, without noticeable results. Barrios assumed avigorous role in its promotion in order both to diversify exports and to increasenational income. Under his direction, coffee exports had their mo’dest begin-nings. In his presidential address to the legislative assembly on 29 January 1862,he emphasized the impetus his government gave coffee, predicting (incorrectly)
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The Modernization of Underdevelopment: El Salvador, 1858-1931299that within two years El Salvador would be the major coffee producer in CentralAmerica.21In the decades after Barrios (really even including the Conservative govern-ment of Francisco Duenas, 1863-1871),22 the Liberals articulated a program ofgoals focusing on the modernization of the transportation and communicationinfrastructures, the expansion of coffee exports, the adoption of European models,and the strengthening of governmental power. Never loath to use force to im-plement their program, they extended their authority from the presidential pal-ace to the most remote hamlet.The relatively complex process of coffee production engendered a series ofcrises in the traditional neo-Hispanic and neo-Indian institutions that had ad-equately served a society whose economy leisurely grew indigo and food crops.23The eventual triumph of coffee, a kind of victory of modern capitalism, neces-sitated new institutional arrangements.Coffee production differed significantly from indigo, traditionally the primaryexport. The indigo plant grew without need of a great deal of care or investment.Within a year, the farmer could harvest it, although the amount of pigmentincreased if harvest could be delayed two or even three years. Indigo productionrequired a small permanent work force supplemented during the harvesting andprocessing, both of which were relatively uncomplicated. Coffee could be grownunder a variety of conditions on lands ranging from a small plot or a few acresto vast extensions of land. Small coffee planters seemed to flourish in someparts of Latin America. Colombia provided a useful example. In El Salvador,however, the growing and most especially the processing of coffee took placeon medium-sized and large estates. Care, conservation, and fertilizing of theland and preparation of the coffee, including drying, processing, and sacking,required considerable capital and a large permanent work force generously aug-mented during the harvest season. Coffee planters waited three to five years forthe first harvest. They required considerably more capital, patience, and skillthan the producers of indigo. Those requirements everely limited the numberof coffee growers but particularly the number of processors. Handsome profits,however, reimbursed the few who met the requirements.The lure of a lucrative market prompted those planters who could bear thefinancial burden to expand their estates, which grew at the expense of communallandholdings and small landowners. The shift in landowning pattems funda-mentally altered the lifestyle of the majority. The governments enthusiasticallyencouraged this change: they facilitated the concentration of land into fewer andfewer hands. Thus, in the decades between 1860 and 1890, the landholdingpatterns came to resemble the commercial capitalistic models characteristic ofplantation economies elsewhere in the world. The first step was to label theIndian communal lands as retrograde, antiprogressive. They stood accused ofthe heinous crime of delaying or even preventing modemization. In short, theypreserved the “backward” past. President Barrios initiated the legal attack onthe ejidos, landholding communities, and the tierras communales, municipallyowned and worked lands. His policies forced part of those lands onto the market,just as ambitious entrepreneurs sought more acres for coffee trees.An official governmental and survey in 1879 revealed that only a quarter ofthe land still belonged to the villages.24 The govemment of President RafaelZaldivar (1876-1885) promptly oversaw the disposal of those remaining lands.Zaldivar proudly wore the modernizing mantle of Barrios, demonstrating his
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300E. Bradford Bunsadmiration for his predecessor by erecting an imposing mausoleum for him. Aneditorial in the Diario Oficial in early 1880 summarized the official attitudetoward the communal lands, revealing once again the ideological continuity ofthe governments after 1858:On the one hand, we see virgin fertile lands that are calling for the application of capital and laborto reap the wealth that is promised; while on the other, we see the majority of the inhabitants ofour villages content to grow crops of maize and beans that will never raise this miserable peopleabove their sorry position. They will remain in the same wretched state they endured in colonialtimes…. The government is determined to transform the Republic, to make each one of the villages,yesterday sad and miserable, into lively centers of work, wealth, and comfort.2’Action followed. In early 1881, the government abolished the tierras commu-nales. With far-reaching consequences, the decree denounced ancient practicesto declare unequivocally the economic policy in vogue for some decades dra-matically enforced after 1881: “The existence of lands under the ownership ofCommunidades impedes agricultural development, obstructs the circulation ofwealth, and weakens family bonds and the independence of the individual. Theirexistence is contrary to the economic and social principles that the Republichas accepted.” A year later, a law dissolved the ejidos for the same reason: theywere “an obstacle to our agricultural development [and] contrary to our eco-nomic principles.“26 The communidades and ejidos bore the blame, accordingto official thinking, of thwarting “progress,” meaning, of course, the expansionof coffee culture. In both cases, the lands were divided among community mem-bers. Such actions disoriented the Indian and folk populations, which had littleconcept of private ownership of land. Quite the contrary, they identified thecommunity and the land as one: the land existed for the commonweal of thegroup. The community cared for the land in an almost religious fashion. Co-operation rather than competition governed the economic behavior of thosepopulations. In the government’s judgment, the Indians and rural folk obviouslywere not prepared to contribute to El Salvador’s capitalist future.Once the communal lands were distributed into small plots, the coffee plantersset about acquiring the land. Experience proved that it was easier to befuddleand buy out the new, small landowner than the well-entrenched and tradition-oriented community.” The emerging rural class system, increasingly character-ized by a small group of wealthy coffee planters and processors on the one handand a large body of ill-paid laborers on the other, contrasted sharply with themore equalitarian structures of rural El Salvador prior to 1860.Export patterns altered radically during the same decades. From the colonialperiod into the early 1 880s, El Salvador had enjoyed varied agrarian productionand export: maize, indigo, tobacco, sugar, cacao, coffee, cotton, and tropicalfruits. The midcentury invention of synthetic dyes doomed the most importantof those exports, indigo. Coffee more than made up for its demise. The exportstatistics tell the tale. In 1860, coffee composed but 1 percent of the exports; in1865, 8 percent; and in 1870, 17 percent. In 1875, for the first time, the valueof coffee exports exceeded indigo exports, quite a change from 1865 when thevalue of indigo exports amounted to 15 times that of coffee. Table 2 indicatesthe changing nature of El Salvador’s exports during the critical 1864-1875 pe-riod. In 1879, coffee accounted for 48.5 percent of the total value of all exports.By 1910, it accounted for $4,661,440 of exports totaling $5,696,706:”’Indigo bythen earned only $107,936 on the world markets. During the decade of the1880s, El Salvador became virtually a monoagricultural exporting nation, its
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The Moderization of Underdevelopment El Salvador, 1858-1931301f;t*.Oc WN 00 ON 0i 0 o0 n_C O:d00)= t:c t-D ‘c 4N _n_O en CA *wz(c4 – CO0W r-I“O~.0 F _t t_moX- O<".0 C OI^^' 0O00-MNNoo>eng:0oo O o c7A-OON.0 vb oCe0WCCC)C)C:O, -.-ooooFb^OoOurX~~~~~0-oLCOOoottmU U00 en ON tl >cO \00 in ‘TC q-00VI I’No_oOte0~~~~~~~~~~HWN )Qhu0O’r1I,,_0~~~~~~~~~~~b “O:0ON ‘ ,Dt’_r’o 0WW)4t – l- e r-”’t*ONO :t- M-w c en t-ut)c~ o (70~[ ooep~0 o ar6en W ONent>0 ‘Ne)~~~~~re?C-4etCNa t- oo-i0 00 \? oe?;O n o no4 _ n oa o enno oot _ o-W) – CD __C)*o>M~oo-m “’esCW1n\0*nabC7 I.ozT?^o>=N<0 tn ?N v0% M r inCO>^4M.oo 00 00 00 0?\?\?l00 00 00 00 000 000\14 _- _4 _- _4 _. _4 .- _- _” _0-
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302E. Bradford Burnseconomic prosperity largely dependent on the purchase of coffee by three orfour nations, which, in turn, supplied investments, technology, and manufac-tured goods in quantities commensurate with the profits from coffee sales.The domination of the national economy by coffee obviously affected therural folk, the overwhelming majority of the population. The expanding coffeeestates continued to dispossess vast numbers of them of their lands. They, then,depended on the coffee plantations for work and, to the relief of the coffeeplanters, formed a sizable pool of unemployed and underemployed who couldbe hired at meager wages. At the same time, the increasingly unstable positionof larger numbers of the rural population created discontent and unrest amongthem. The rural poor protested their deteriorating situation. Major uprisingsoccurred in 1872, 1875, 1880, 1885, and 1898. The planter-dominated govern-ments addressed the problem of maintaining order not only to assure tranquillitybut just as importantly to insure a docile and plentiful labor supply. Threateningfines, arrests, and punishments, the Vagrancy Laws of 1881 required the pop-ulace to work. The Agrarian Law of 1907 further regulated the rural workingclass, while it authorized the organization of a rural constabulary to provide thephysical protection the landowners demanded. Agricultural judges-in a fashionsomewhat reminiscent of the Spanish repartimiento system-made certain thatthe labor force was available when and where the planters needed it. The newrural police enforced the judges’ decisions, intimidated the workers, protectedthe planters, and guaranteed the type of rural order the planters believed essentialto their prosperity. They already had closely identified national well-being withtheir own.By the end of the century, coffee had transformed El Salvador. The landowningstructures, the land-use patterns, and the relationship of the workers to the landwere radically different. Whereas in 1858, there existed a reasonable balancebetween large estates, small landholdings, and ejidos, by 1890, the large estatedominated. The increasing accumulation of capital in a few hands strengthenedthe coffee estate, improved coffee processing, and further facilitated coffee ex-portation.A tiny but significant group of capitalists appeared by the end of the century.Foreign immigrants, who invariably married into the leading Salvadoran fam-ilies, played a disproportionately important role among them. They skillfullycombined their wider knowledge of North Atlantic capitalism with local needs.A small number of Salvadoran capitalists from both the upper and middle classesand the local representatives of British capitalists joined them. Some of themcontrolled the processing and/or export sectors of the coffee industry, highlylucrative and strategic enterprises. Their interests obviously intertwined withthose of the coffee planters.Political stability accompanied economic growth and change. Beginning withthe government of Barrios in 1858 and ending with that of General AntonioGutierrez in 1898, the chiefs-of-state stayed in office longer then their prede-cessors. In that 39-year time span, 7 presidents governed for an average of 5.7years each, more than double the time the chiefs-of-state between 1839 and 1858had served. Five of the presidents had military backgrounds. Force dislodgedeach president from office. The administration of Tomas Regalado, 1898-1903,marked a transition. General Regalado came to power through force, regularizedhis position through election, served the constitutional four-year term, and thenstepped down from the presidency at the end of that term.28
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The Modernization of Underdevelopment: El Salvador, 1858-1931303The coffee elites had codified the political rules for their domination in theConstitution of 1886. It remained in force until 1939, the longest lived of ElSalvador’s many constitutions. Suppressing communal landownership, it em-phasized the inviolability of private property. Within the classic framework ofnineteenth-century liberalism, the document valued the individual over the col-lective. It enfranchised literate male adults, a minority in a land where illiteracyprevailed. Characterized as authoritarian and elitist, it served the planters hand-somely during the half-century it was in force, defining the political boundariesof the “modern” state they sought to create.29 It contributed significantly to thenew political stability.Increasing political stability, rising exports and income, economic growth,and a careful attention to the servicing of foreign debts nominated El Salvadoras a candidate for foreign loans used to purchase a wide variety of consumeritems the coffee class fancied, to introduce foreign technology, and to modernizethe economy. Not unnaturally, a government in the service of the plantersfavored investment in and modernization of the infrastructure servicing thecoffee industry. Renovation of two important ports, La Libertad and Acajutla,was completed in the 1860s. The first bank opened its doors in 1872, and theymultiplied in number during the decade of the 1 880s. The republic entered therailroad era in 1882 with the opening of a modest 12-mile line between Son-sonate, a departmental capital and one of the principal commercial centers, andAcajutla. The line facilitated the export of the varied local products, amongwhich coffee was rapidly becoming the most important. English loans in 1889promoted the expansion of an incipient railroad system that also fell underEnglish administration.British investments accompanied loans and together they assured Britain’seconomic preeminence. Besides railroads, mining attracted British capital. In1888, the English established the Divisadero Gold and Silver Mining Companyand the following year, the Butters Salvador Mines. The British began to enterthe banking business in El Salvador in 1893.The coffee interests also appreciated the importance of a modern capital, thesymbol of their prosperity, as tribute to their “progressive” inclinations, andthe focal point of their political authority. By the end of the century largernumbers of the richest families were building comfortable, in some cases evenpalatial, homes in the capital. They broke some of their immediate ties withthe countryside and the provincial cities to become a more national elite centeredin San Salvador.A sleepy capital of 25,000 in 1860, San Salvador boasted of no pretentions.A visitor in the mid-1880s remembered: “There is very little architectural tasteshown in the construction of the dwellings or of the public buildings … thestreets are dull and unattractive. … The public buildings are of insignificantappearance.“30 It compared unfavorably with the cities of similar size in LatinAmerica. Sensitive to that reality, the newly prosperous coffee elites resolved torenovate the capital, expunging the somnolent past in favor of the envisionedvigor of the future. The city took on new airs as the center of a booming economy.By 1910, the population numbered more than 32,000. The central streets hadall been paved and electricity illuminated the city. An excellent drainage systeminsured the good health of the inhabitants. A series of new buildings, amongthem a commodious headquarters for the governmental ministries, a cathedral,and a market, added to the modernity. The elites boasted of attractive homes
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304E. Bradford Burnsin the capital. The new and beautiful Avenida de la Independencia combinedwith ample parks and plazas to provide grace and spaciousness to the city. Themodern, still somewhat quiet capital made a favorable impression on visitors.Above all else it spoke of-and symbolized-the prosperity that coffee affordedthe nation.3’The very restricted democracy fostered by the Constitution of 1886 functionedsmoothly in the early decades of the twentieth century. From 1903 to 1931, eachpresident was elected in the approved fashion-selected by his predecessor andratified by a limited electorate-and served for the constitutional mandate offour years. The politicians respected the doctrine of “no reelection.” Peacefulselection and rotation of presidents contrasted sharply with the violence char-acteristic of the change of governments in the nineteenth century. The prepon-derance of civilian presidents was also unique. Of the eight men elected to thepresidency during the 1903-1931 period, only one was a military officer, GeneralFernando Figueroa (1907-191 1).The prosperity and power of the coffee planters reached their culminationduring the years 1913-1929, an economic and political period referred to as theMelendez-Quinonez dynasty because of the two related families that held thepresidency. Those families ranked among the largest coffee producers. When anassassin felled President Manuel Enrique Araujo in 1913, Vice-President CarlosMelendez assumed the presidency as the constitution provided and then wonthe presidency in his own right during the elections the following year. In 1919,his brother, Jorge Melendez, succeeded him for four years, followed by hisbrother-in-law, Alfonso Quinonez Molina, for another quadrenniel. This tightlyknit family political dynasty demonstrated the ease incumbent presidents en-joyed in manipulating elections to select their successors. It further illustratedthe increasingly narrow political base of the coffee planters. Indeed, fewer andfewer men controlled the thriving coffee industry, particularly the processingand export. During the dynasty, perhaps more than at any other period, thoselinked to coffee exports were able to monopolize both economic and politicalpower. One obviously enhanced the other. Wealth conferred the prestige thatfacilitated political manipulation. In turn, their control of the government com-plemented their economic interests. During those years, the planters successfullyheld the small but aggressive urban middle class at bay, repressed or manipulatedthe impoverished majority-both the rural masses and the growing urban work-ing class-and neutralized the military, from whose ranks had arisen so manyof the nineteenth-century presidents.The actual exercise of political power by the coffee class forged a uniquechapter in Salvadoran history: prolonged civilian rule. When General Figueroa,a constitutionally elected president, left the presidential palace in 191 1, civilianpoliticians occupied it for the succeeding two decades, a remarkable record,never equaled before or since. Of course the economic strength, political influ-ence, and social domination of the coffee elites had been a reality since the lastdecades of the nineteenth century. From the beginning of their rise to economicand political power in the 1860s and 1870s they had enjoyed amiable relationswith the military. The planters counted on the military to support a politicalsystem complementary to coffee exports. Economic prosperity, after all, facili-tated the modernization and professionalization of the army. The easy shiftfrom military to civilian presidents manifested the harmonious relations be-tween the planters and the officers.
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The Modernization of Underdevelopment: El Salvador, 1858-1931305The army had won its laurels on the battlefield. Nearly a century of inter-national struggles-the frequent wars against Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua,and assorted foreign filibusters-and of civil wars created a strong and reasonablyefficient army, perhaps the best in Central America. A prudent governmentpampered the military. A military academy to train officers functioned sporad-ically. In 1900, the third such school, the Escuela Politecnica Militar, opened,only to be closed in 1927. Five years later the government inaugurated theEscuela Militar, still functioning. Thus, for most of the years of the twentiethcentury, a professional academy existed. In 1909, the government contractedwith Chile for a military mission to improve the training of officers. The EscuelaPolitecnica Militar and the Escuela Militar provided a reasonable-to-good ed-ucation for the cadets and fostered the corporate interests of an officer class.Increasingly the academy drew its cadets from the urban middle and lowermiddle classes, two groups enthusiastically advocating the modernization of thecountry.32 While the officers’ concept of modernization tended to parallel thatof the planters, it also emphasized the need for up-to-date military training andequipment, manifested a growing faith in industrialization, and responded tothe vague but powerful force of nationalism.In 1910, the government reported that its army consisted of an impressive78 staff officers, 512 officers, and 15,554 troops on active duty (a figure thatseems to be inflated).” Percy F. Martin, in his exhaustive study of El Salvadorin 191 1, reported: “The Government . . . have [sic] devoted the closest care andattention to the question of military instruction, and the system at present inforce is the outcome of the intelligent study of similar systems in force in othercountries, and the adaptation of the best features existing in each. A very highesprit de corps exists among the Salvadoran troops, and, for the most part, theyenter upon their schooling and training with both zeal and interest.“34 Thegovernment favored the officers with good pay, rapid promotion, and a host ofbenefits. Martin marveled at the comforts provided by one of the officers’ clubs:“For the use of officers there exists a very agreeable Club, at which they canprocure their full meals and all kinds of light refreshments at moderate prices;while the usual amusements such as drafts, cards, billiards, etc., are providedfor them. So comfortable is this Club made that officers, as a rule, find verylittle inducement to visit the larger towns in search of their amusements.”’35 Acontented military was the logical corollary to planter prosperity.The further solidification of the corporate interests of the military was en-couraged by the establishment in 1919 of a periodical for and about the militaryand in 1922 of a mutual aid society, the Circulo Militar. More than an economicassociation, it encouraged the moral, physical, and intellectual improvement ofits members. One knowledgeable visitor to Central America in 1928 claimedthat El Salvador had the best-trained army in the region.mPeace and order at home combined with increasing demands for coffee insureda heady prosperity for the planters and their government. With the exceptionof an occasional poor year, usually due to adverse weather, production movedupward after 1926 toward an annual harvest of 130,000,000-140,000,000 pounds,as table 3 illustrates. After 1904, El Salvador produced at least one-third ofCentral America’s coffee, its closest competitors being first Guatemala and sec-ond Costa Rica. After 1924, Salvadoran production surpassed that of Guatemalato hold first place in quantity (and many would add quality) in Central America.
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306E. Bradford BurnsTABLE 3COFFEE PRoDucTIoN,1924-1935YearPounds1924-192595,020,0001925-1926101,413,0001926-192766,139,0001927-1928149,474,0001928-1929134,042,0001929-1930143,301,0001930-1931165,347,0001931-1932105,822,0001932-1933141,096,0001933-1934127,869,0001934-1935130,073,000SouRCE: Edelberto Torres Rivas, Interpretacion del Desarrollo SocialCentroamericano (San Jose, Costa Rica: Editorial Universitaria Cen-troamerica, 1973), pp. 28485.The elites and the government became increasingly dependent on income fromcoffee production.A significant change in El Salvador’s international trade pattern also tookplace. In the nineteenth century, El Salvador sold much of its exports to theUnited States and bought most of its imports from Europe. In the twentiethcentury, that triangular pattern became increasingly bilateral due to a closertrade relationship with the United States, which bought more Salvadoran exportsthan any other nation and began to furnish most of its imports as well.Growing U.S. investments in El Salvador further linked the two nations eco-nomically. Prior to the opening of the twentieth century, U.S. investments hadbeen practically nonexistent. In 1908, they totaled a modest $1.8 million, butthey rose rapidly thereafter. $6.6 in 1914; $12.8 in 1919; and $24.8 in 1929.While these sums were insignificant in terms of total U.S. investments abroad,which in Latin America alone accounted for over $1.6 billion by the end of1914, they represented a sizable proportion of the foreign investments in ElSalvador by 1929. U.S. investors consequently began to exert influence over theSalvadoran economy. The pro-U.S. attitudes of the presidents of the Melendez-Quinonez dynasty greatly facilitated the penetration of North American interestsinto El Salvador, while World War I reduced the British presence.“7The coffee planters and their allies exuded confidence. Coffee prices, landdevoted to coffee production, coffee exports, and coffee income all rose im-pressively after 1920. At no time from 1922 through 1935 did coffee representless than 88 percent of the total value of exports. During three of those years,1926, 1931, and 1934, it accounted for 95 percent. The amount of land producingcoffee increased from 170,000 acres in the early 1920s to 262,000 acres in theearly 1930s. Meanwhile, coffee growing and processing concentrated in everfewer hands with no more than 350 growers controlling the industry by the mid-1920s. The largest enjoyed annual incomes of $200,000.38Ruling from their comfortable and modern capital, the planters and theirallies were creating an impressive infrastructure of roads, railroads,, nd portsas well as a telegraphic and telephone communication network. The plantations,the government, and the army were efficiently run. In their own terms, the eliteswere highly successful. Still, they nurtured visions of further change. Some fret-
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The Modernization of Underdevelopment: El Salvador, 1858-1931307ted over the dependence on coffee for prosperity and talked of the need todiversify agriculture. A few experimented with cotton as an alternate export.Others spoke in terms of industrialization, and limited amounts of capital didsupport an incipient manufacturing sector. The elites even discussed the exten-sion of democratization and the inclusion of the lower classes in the politicalprocess. It was the talk of a contented minority that wanted to perfect theirpolitical and economic systems. Benefiting from the great changes wrought bytransforming a largely peasant and subsistence economy into a plantation andexport economy, the coffee elites assumed that their own prosperity reflectedthe well-being of the nation they governed.While the shift to coffee culture may have created an aura of progress aroundthe plantation homes and the privileged areas of the capital, it proved increas-ingly detrimental to the quality of life of the majority. One U.S. observer con-trasted the lifestyles of the classes in 1931:There is practically no middle class between the very rich and the very poor. From the people withwhom I talked, I learned that roughly ninety percent of the wealth of the country is held by abouthalf of one percent of the population. Thirty or forty families own nearly everything in the country.They live in almost regal splendor with many attendants, send their children to Europe or the UnitedStates to be educated, and spend money lavishly (on themselves). The rest of the popultation haspractically nothing. These poor people work for a few cents a day and exist as best they can.3“This grim observation was by no means novel. After a tour of Central Americain 1912, Charles Domville-Fife concluded that “there are more comparativelypoor people in this country [El Salvador] than there are in some of the largerstates.“O An academic study of the 1919-1935 period speaks of “recurrent foodshortages” and “economic desperation” among the masses in a period of highliving costs and low wages.4’ The cost of basic foods skyrocketed between 1922and 1926: corn prices, 100 percent; beans, 225 percent; and rice, 300 percent.The importation of those foods, once negligible, became significant in 1929.42An analysis of the class structure in 1930 suggests the concentration of wealth:it categorized 0.2 percent of the population as upper class.43 An accelerating rateof population increase accentuated the problems of poverty. The populationreached 1,443,000 by 1930. The vast majority was rural. Yet, only 8.2 percentcould be classified as landowners.44The very changes that facilitated the concentration of land into fewer handsalso precipitated the social and economic disintegration of the life style of theoverwhelming majority of the Salvadorans. The changes squeezed off the landthose who grew food for their own consumption and sold their surpluses inlocal market places. The relative ease of access to land-hence, food-depictedby the five travelers in the 1850s was no longer accurate after 1900. The dis-possessed depended on seasonal plantation jobs. Some began to trickle into thetowns and capital propelled by rural poverty and the search for urban jobs,which either did not exist or for which they were unprepared. The extent of thenew social and economic disequilibrium was not immediately appreciated. Im-pressive economic growth masked for a time the weakness of the increasinglynarrow, inflexible, and dependent economy.As is true in such overly dependent economies, events in distant marketplaceswould reveal local weaknesses. By the end of the 1920s, the capitalist worldteetered on the edge of a major economic collapse whose reverberations wouldshake not only the economic but also the political foundations of El Salvador.With his term of office nearing an end in 1927, President Quinonez pickedhis own brother-in-law, Pio Romero Bosque, to succeed him, a choice with
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308E. Bradford Burnssignificant consequences. Don Pio, as Salvadorans invariably refer to him, turnedout to be more liberal, less conventional, and highly unpredictable in comparisonwith his three predecessors of the Melendez-Quinonez dynasty. He entered officeriding high on the wave of coffee prosperity, but the international financial crisisthat began in 1929-1930 soon tossed his government into a trough of economictroubles, testing all his skills in navigating the ship of state.The dynamic sector of the economy suffered the vicissitudes common tonations dependent on the export of a single product. In an indictment beforethe Legislative Assembly, Minister of Finance Jose Esperanza Suay pointed outthe cause of the nation’s economic plight: “The coffee crisis that this year [ 1929]has alarmed everyone clearly indicates the dangers for our national economyof monoculture, the domination coffee asserts over agrarian production.”’45 ElSalvador may have been an efficient coffee producer, but it was not the onlyone. In fact, exporters were beginning to outnumber importers. The economicprosperity of at least ten Latin American nations, of which Brazil was by farthe most important, also depended on coffee sales. At the same time, a fewAfrican areas were producing coffee for export. Demand fell while supplies re-mained constant or even increased in some instances. Consequently the pricedropped drastically. In 1928, El Salvador sold its coffee for $15.75 per hundredkilograms-in 1932, for $5.97. The financial consequences for El Salvador canreadily be perceived in an economy in which coffee constituted 90 percent ofthe exports and 80 percent of the national income. Not surprisingly therefore,government revenues plummeted 50 percent between 1928 and 1932. El Sal-vador witnessed the highest index of rural unemployment in Central America.Small coffee growers suffered severely. Their loss of land through bankruptcyand foreclosure-an estimated 28 percent of the coffee holdings-augmented theestates of the large landowners. The problems revealed a modernized but under-developed economy, one that readily responded to foreign whims but failed toserve Salvadoran needs.The planters’ reaction to the mounting problems exacerbated the nation’seconomic woes. They increased the amount of land devoted to coffee in an effortto make up for falling prices. The consequences of that trend were as obviousas they were disastrous: the economy depended more than ever on coffee, morepeasants lost their land, rural unemployment rose, and food production forinternal consumption declined.46President Romero Bosque tried valiantly to ride out the economic storm.Politically he fared better. Practicing the liberal ideology he preached, he per-mitted the full play of those liberties authorized by the Constitution of 1886but hitherto suppressed. His administrative talent and his unimpeachable hon-esty impressed his fellow countrymen. He determined to make honest men ofpoliticians. He turned on his less-than-scrupulous predecessors and even sentQuinonez into exile. Those actions heightened his popularity despite the eco-nomic crisis.To the amazement of all and the consternation of the professional politicians,Don Pio decided to hold an honest presidential election in 1931. Contrary toall previous political practices, the president advanced no candidate. It wasindeed an historical first. Since no political parties existed, a few hastily orga-nized to take advantage of the unprecedented opportunity to electioneer.The six new parties represented the interests of the working, professional,middle, and planter classes and thereby reflected the social changes overtaking
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The Modernization of Underdevelopment: El Salvador, 1858-1931309El Salvador.4’ A small but vocal urban working class had emerged in the 1 920s,flexing its muscle in several important strikes. The presidents of the dynastyflirted occasionally with that potential source of political power. Their policiesgyrated from wooing the workers to repressing them. In 1925, some workersand intellectuals, with the assistance of communist leaders from Guatemala,founded the Communist party of El Salvador. In the excitement of preparationfor the 1931 election, a Labor party also emerged. It nominated Auturo Araujo,who enjoyed a genuinely popular following. The candidate sought to distancehimself from his more radical supporters, the foremost of whom, Agustin Far-abundo Marti, was busy organizing rural labor, an activity guaranteed to disturblandlords and arouse the suspicion of the military.To avoid any of the international influences among the Labor party members,most notably of communism, Araujo turned to the ideas of Alberto Masferrerto enhance his party’s program. An intellectual, philosopher, and writer, Mas-ferrer dominated Salvadoran letters.48 The strongest voice of the newly invig-orated nationalism in El Salvador, he criticized the institutions that had beenshaped by the coffee class and called for greater social justice. In Patria, theprestigious and lively newspaper he founded on 27 April 1928, Masferrer pro-tested against the presence of foreign companies, the lack of decent housing,and the high cost of living. He advocated industrialization and the protectionof national resources from foreign exploitation. He denounced those “who havethe souls of a checkbook and the conscience of an account ledger,” those whokept “the people in misery, who kill by hunger thousands of persons, and whocause more than half the workers to die due to lack of food, shelter, or restbefore they reach the age of thirty.”’949Both the extreme left and right verballyassaulted Masferrer. The right labeled him a dangerous Bolshevik, criminalagitator, and subversive. The left attacked him as a demagogue, traitor, andright-wing socialist.For his campaign, Araujo adopted Masferrer’s program of vitalismo, the “vitalminimum” that the philosopher defined as “the sure and constant satisfactionof our basic needs.”’’0 Thus, Araujo campaigned for the nine major points ad-vocated by vitalismo, among them: hygenic, honest, and fairly remuneratedwork; medical care, potable water, and decent sanitation; a varied, adequate,and nutritious diet; decent housing; sufficient clothing; expedient and honestjustice; education; and rest and recreation. Within the context of Salvadoransociety in late 1930 and early 1931, Araujo ventilated some “revolutionary“views. Vitalismo, he declared, would be financed by transferring funds from themilitary budget to social expenditures. One can but speculate about the reactionto such a proposition within the confines of those comfortable officers’ clubs.Masferrer himself held some unconventional ideas about the role of the mil-itary within Salvadoran society. That fully one-sixth of the national budget wentto the army in 1929 disturbed him. It was not productive investment; it didnot contribute to national development. “For a country that no longer fightswars, our army is extraordinarily expensive…. And, if there are no longer anywars to fight, why should the state maintain such a burdensome institution?“he asked.5” The army could serve much more useful national goals if it addedto its traditional roles of protection from foreign invaders and the maintenanceof internal order those of building and maintaining roads, providing water tothe villages, improving the health of the inhabitants through sanitation cam-
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310E. Bradford Burnspaigns, protecting the forests, and helping the population in times of naturaldisaster.Araujo also heeded Masferrer’s call for land reform. The philosopher advo-cated the nationalization of the land and its redistribution.52 He classified thelandowning system as well as the relations between the landlords and ruralworkers as “feudal”: “The lord in this case is the landowner, he who gives andtakes, he who permits the worker to reside on his lands or expels whoever doesnot obey or please him.“53 Araujo planned to have the government buy the landfrom the rich and redistribute it to the poor.With its platform firmly buttressed by the ideas of Masferrer, the Labor partyaroused the enthusiasm of large numbers of people who viewed its program asthe means to solve the deepening economic difficulties and to create a morejust society. For his running mate, Araujo chose a military man, General Max-imiliano Hernandez Martinez. The general had borne the presidential standardof the small National Republican party before he joined forces with Araujo.First as a presidential candidate and later as a vice-presidential candidate, Mar-tinez appealed to the popular classes on social issues.Honoring his promises, Don Pio remained impartial during the selection ofpresidential candidates and the campaign. The elections took place in earlyJanuary 1931. Araujo won. He confronted an impossible task. Somehow he hadto reconcile the vast differences among the Labor party, the coffee planters, themilitary, and the newly emergent middle class. He had to accomplish his miraclein the midst of the worst-and what would be the longest-economic crisis inmodern Salvadoran history. The problems cried for bold action; an irresolutepresident proved to be incapable of acting. He ignored the “vital minimum“program that he had supported during the campaign. His inaction confoundedand then alienated his followers. Frustrations mounted daily; unrest resulted.On 2 December 1931, the military responded to the crises precipitated byeconomic collapse and political unrest. The soldiers turned out of office the firstand thus far only freely elected president, who fled the country after less thanone year in office. The military coup was the first in 33 years-since November1898, when General Tomas Regalado seized power-and the first staged byprofessional army officers who did not come from the dominant socioeconomicclass.54 Three days later the military junta turned power over to the constitutionalvice-president, General Hernandez Martinez, who also had served as ministerof war.5” His exact role in the coup d’etat still remains unexplained. Investedwith power, he governed energetically for the next 13 years, a record of politicallongevity in El Salvador.Most sectors of society greeted the military seizure of power with relief. Ithad become painfully apparent to all that President Araujo, immobilized by theeconomic debacle and the inability of the national institutions to respond tonew demands, could not govern. The majority thought the young officers whocarried out his overthrow would be able to resolve the crises threatening todestroy the nation. Rightly or wrongly, the populace put trust and hope in thoseofficers. The Marxist student newspaper Estrella Roja congratulated the militaryon the coup d’etat. It reiterated the belief that the incompetence pf Araujo“imposed a moral obligation on the military to remove him from office.” Thenewspaper quickly pointed out, however, that the coup itself could resolve fewof the nation’s fundamental problems:
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The Modernization of Underdevelopment: ElSalvador, 1858-1931311Pardon our skepticism. We do not believe that the coup will end the Salvadoran crisis which is farmore transcendental than a mere change of government. The crisis has deeper roots than the inca-pacity of Don Arturo. It results from the domination of a capitalist class that owns all the land andmeans of production and has dedicated itself to coffee monoculture.6Although no profound institutional changes were forthcoming, Araujo’s down-fall represented something more than “a mere change of government.” It ini-tiated new alliances and a sharing of power. In short, it ended the coffee planters’monopoly of economic and political power.The economic collapse alone had not triggered the coup. The causes of thepolitical change also included the growing social, economic, and political com-plexities engendered by incipient industrialization and growing urbanization,more intensive nationalism, the roles played by immigrants, an urban prole-tariat, an expanding middle class, and professional military officers in an in-creasingly varied society, improved transportation and communication, andefforts to diversify the economy. Further, any explanation of the coup must takeinto account the inability of President Araujo to govern, an unfortunate realityin the country’s first democratic experiment, which may have revealed as muchabout institutional structures as it did about the chief executive.The demands on the government varied, and while some could be reconciled,others could not. The rural folk looked to the communal past for a solution totheir plight. They wanted the government to return land to them. The planterelites obviously favored the present land distribution and the export economyfrom which they had extracted so many benefits for such a long period. Theexpanding middle class and the professional military thought in nationalisticterms that included a reduction in the level of dependency, a wider sharing ofsocial benefits, and industrialization. Their solutions to the crises lay in thecities. Urban growth had been slow, and, as table 4 shows, the populations ofthe five largest cities remained relatively small. Urban dwellers accounted foronly 15 percent of the population. Yet, they provided many of the leadersadvocating innovations.The events of 1931 brought to a close a dynamic period in the history of ElSalvador during which the coffee planters had gained economic and politicalascendancy to dominate the nation. Stresses during the preceding decade dem-onstrated the increasing difficulty the coffee planters experienced in governingthe nation. The brief political experiment under Don Pio and Don Arturo hadbeen sufficient to prove that a functioning, pluralistic democracy would notwork to the planters’ best advantage. They lost their political monopoly. Thecoup in 1931 signified that they would not regain it. They understood by thenthat they would benefit most from an authoritarian government managed bythe military and complementary to some of the goals of the middle class, whichTABLE 4POPULATIONS OF THE FIVE LARGEST CITIEs, 1930CityPopulationSan Salvador89,385Santa Ana39,825Santa Tecla20,049San Miguel17,330Sonsonate15,260SouRcE: Gibson, “A Demographic Analysis of Urbanization,” p. 338.
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312E. Bradford Burnswanted access to the national institutions and upward mobility. Those groupsworked out a suitable arrangement to the exclusion of the rural masses and theurban working class. They divided the tasks of government after 5 December1931: the military exercised political power, while the landowners, in alliancewith sympathetic bankers, merchants, exporters, and segments of the urbanmiddle class, controlled the economy. Each respected the other. General Mar-tinez succeeded in reestablishing oligarchical control, although he could notreturn the nation to the status quo ante 1931. El Salvador was entering a newphase of history.During the 1858-1931 period, El Salvador reshaped its institutions in orderbetter to export coffee; modernization had taken place, producing some of theadvantages its advocates had predicted. There were more and better roads, amodest railroad system, efficient ports, and a capital city with sections boastingall the amenities of its European or U.S. counterparts. Almost everything con-nected with the export of coffee and the life styles of the elites seemed up-to-date, indistinguishable from what one might find in the capitals of the majorindustrial nations. Impressive growth had taken place. The statistics measuringpopulation, coffee production, and foreign investments had risen impressively,and, until 1929, so had national income. An observer could conclude that certainaspects of national life had progressed in the course of seven decades, that the“progressive” El Salvador of 1931 differed considerably from the “backward“nation Barrios had resolved to “regenerate” in 1858.National life was different, but not always in a positive way. Quite anotherlegacy of growth and progress was the nation’s acute dependence on the exportof a single product, coffee, for its prosperity. Monoculture and plantations weresome of the results, and they dominated the economy. The efficient productionof coffee did not extend to foodstuffs. The countryside fed the population lessadequately than before. By the end of the 1920s, El Salvador began to importfood, not because the land could not feed the people-the hoary excuse of over-population has been disproven-but rather because the planters used it to growexport crops.“7 On several levels, the nation had lost control of its own economy.By 1931, El Salvador confronted a series of political and economic crises, theconsequences of the type of modernization its governments had imposed.The perceptive observations of two commentators, widely spaced in time,reveal the basic difference separating the El Salvador of the end of the 1850sfrom that of the end of the 1920s. Mrs. Foote had lived among a well-fedpopulation. Large estates, small farms, and communal lands coexisted. Therelatively varied export sector had played a significant but not the dominantrole in the economy. The critical eye of Alberto Masferrer viewed quite a dif-ferent situation. He assessed the state of Salvadoran society in 1928 in this way:There are no longer crises; instead, there are chronical illnesses and endemic hunger…. El Salvadorno longer has wild fruits and vegetables that once everyone could harvest, nor even cultivated fruitsthat once were inexpensive….Today there are the coffee estates and they grow only coffee.Where there is now a voracious estate that consumes hundreds and hundreds of acres, before therewere two hundred small farmers whose plots produced corn, rice, beans, fruits, and vegetables. Nowthe highlands support only coffee estates and the lowlands cattle ranches. The cornfields are disap-pearing. And where will the corn come from? The coffee planter is not going to grow it because hisprofits are greater growing coffee. If he harvests enough coffee and it sells for a good price, he canimport corn and it will cost him less than if he sacrifices coffee trees in order to grow it…. Whowill grow corn and where? . . . Any nation that cannot assure the production and regulate the priceof the most vital crop, the daily food of the people, has no right to regard itself as sovereign.Such has become the case of our nation.”’
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The Modernization of Underdevelopment: El Salvador, 1858-1931313In vivid contrast to Mrs. Foote’s earlier observations, Masferrer saw a hungrypopulation with limited access to the use of land, a population whose basic needfor food was subordinated to the demands of an export-oriented economy. The“progress” charted by the Salvadoran elites had failed to benefit the overwhelm-ing majority of the citizens.59 Prosperity for a few cost the well-being of themany.The contrasts between Foote’s and Masferrer’s observations suggest that littleor no development had taken place, if one measures development by a risingquality of life index and the maximum use of resources, natural and human,for the well-being of the majority. Thus, the contrasts provoke serious questionsabout the wisdom of the type of modernization and economic growth El Sal-vador pursued after 1858, since neither addressed the needs of the majority ofthe Salvadorans. Rather, they left a legacy of poverty, dependency, and classconflict that succeeding generations of generals, politicians, and planters havenot been able to resolve.NOTESIMrs. H. G. Foote, Recollections of Central America and the West Coast of Africa (London: Newby,1869), p. 101.2Ibid., p. 84.3lbid., p. 61.4Ibid., p. 54-55.’Ibid., p. 60.6John Baily, Central America: Describing Each of the States of Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador,Nicaragua, and Costa Rica (London: Saunders, 1850); E. G. Squier, Notes on Central America,Particularly the States of Honduras and Salvador (New York: Harper, 1855); Carl Scherzer, Travelsin the Free States of Central America: Nicaragua, Honduras, and San Salvador, 2 vols. (London:Longman, 1857); G. F. Von Tempsky, Mitla: A Narrative of Incidents and Personal Adventures ona Journey in Mexico, Guatemala, and Salvador in the Years 1853-1855 (London: Longman, 1858).In a much later and certainly more scholarly study, David Browning tends to confirm the maintheses of these more impressionistic travelers: El Salvador: Landscape and Society (Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press, 1971).7Squier, Notes on Central America, p. 326.’Ibid., p. 331.’Von Tempsky, Mitla, p. 424.’?Scherzer, Travels in the Free States, vol. 2, pp. 148, 195-96.“For a series of useful case studies of the effects of the penetration of international capitalismupon the local economies during the nineteenth century, see Roberto Cortes Conde, The First Statesof Modernization in Spanish America (New York: Harper, 1974).“Adriaan C. van Oss, “El Regimen Autosuficiente de Espana en Centro America,” Mesoamerica(Guatemala) 3 (June 1982): 68.“3Browning, El Salvador, pp. 85, 87.“4Letter of General Gerardo Barrios, Rome, 21 November 1853, printed in the Revista del De-partamento de Historia y Hemeroteca Nacional (San Salvador) 11 (March 1939): 42.“That speech is printed in Joaquin Parada Aparicio, Discursos Medico-Historicos Salvadorenos(San Salvador. Editorial Ungo, 1942), p. 222.“6Address to the General Assembly, 29 January 1862, printed in Italo Lopez Vallecillos, GerardoBarrios y su Tiempo, vol. 2 (San Salvador. Ministerio de Educacion, 1967), p. 219.
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314E. Bradford Burns’7Gary G. Kuhn, “El Positivismo de Gerardo Barrios,” Revista del Pensamiento Centroamericano(Managua) 36 (July-December 1981): 88. For a more general statement on Positivism in El Salvadorsee Patricia A. Andrews, “El Liberalismo en El Salvador a Finales del Siglo XIX,” ibid., pp. 89-93.”’Kuhn, “El Positivismo,” p. 87.19. ..the commerce of the Central American States has wonderfullly increased, and especiallywithin fifteen years and since the establishment of the line of steamers from Panama. This hasintroduced and established regularity, certainty, and dispatch in their communication with the restof the world. It has organized and maintained a mail service and secured a rapid, sure, and safemode of commercial intercourse and exchange. In the interests which are thus growing up intoimportance, (sic) and wealth and commanding influence will be found the means of counteractingthe unfortunate results of their political systems, and those interests must soon be powerful andwidespread enough to be able to finally put down the political system which retards or hinders theirdevelopment…. Since the establishment of the Panama Company’s Steamers, the Revenues fromthe Custom House in . . . Salvador have more than quadrupled. The foreign commerce of all theRepublics, which, previous thereto, was in the hands of a few who could afford to import cargoesaround Cape Horn, has been opened to all. . .. The growth of California and the States on thePacific has opened new courses for their trade” (James R. Partridge to Secretary of State, 22 April1865, Diplomatic Dispatches from U.S. Ministers to Central America, General Records of the De-partment of State, National Archives of the United States of America). “The Republic of Salvador,though territorially much the smallest of the five Central American States, is first in the amount ofexports and only second in population. It has three seaports on the Pacific, La Union, La Libertad,and Acajutla, at all of which the Panama Railroad Steamers stop twice a month, up and down, andat which American vessels land and receive freight and passengers. In the other Central AmericanStates these steamers land only at one port” (A. S. Williams to Secretary of State, 27 March 1867,ibid.).“Lopez Vallecillos, Gerardo Barrios, pp. 216-18, 127-28.21Ibid., pp. 216-17.22This interpretation of the Duenas administration rests on the assessments of Derek N. Kerr, “LaEdad de Oro del Cafe en El Salvador, 1863-1885,” Mesoamerica (Guatemala) 3 (June 1982): 4, 7,as well as on the diplomatic dispatches of A. S. Williams. In particular, see his dispatches of 12January and 8 February 1969, to the U.S. Secretary of State, Diplomatic Dispatches from U.S.Ministers to Central America, General Records of the Department of State, National Archives ofthe United States of America.23For an understanding of the negative effect the introduction of coffee culture had on the peasantryof Costa Rica and Guatemala, see Mitchell A. Seligson, Peasants of Costa Rica and the Developmentof Agrarian Capitalism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1980); and David J. McCreery,“Coffee and Class: The Structure of Development in Liberal Guatemala,” Hispanic American His-torical Review 56 (August 1976): 438-60.24Browning, El Salvador, p. 190.2“Ibid., p. 173.26The quotations from the Law for Extinction of Communal Lands, 26 February 1881, and theLaw for the Extinction of Public Lands, 2 March 1882, are found in William H. Durham, Scarcityand Survival in Central America: Ecological Origins of the Soccer War (Stanford, CA: StanfordUniversity Press, 1979), p. 42.2“This trend was almost universal throughout Latin America. For the general discussion consultE. Bradford Burns, The Poverty of Progress: Latin America in the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley andLos Angeles: University of California Press, 1980), particularly pp. 132-54. For specific discussionsof El Salvador see Browning, El Salvador, particularly pp. 146, 147, 167, 173, 175, and 214; AlastairWhite, El Salvador (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1982), p. 93; and Rafael Menjivar, Acumulacion Ori-ginaria y Desarrollo del Capitalismo en El Salvador (San Jose, Costa Rica: Editorial UniversitariaCentroamericana, 1980), pp. 123-27.2Jorge Larde Y Larin, Guia Historica de El Salvador (San Salvador: Ministerio de Cultura, 1958),pp. 32-43.2“Rafael Guidos Vejar, El Ascenso del Militarismo en El Salvador (San Salvador. UCA/Editores1980), p. 65.30William Eleroy Curtis, The Capitals of Spanish America (New York: Harper, 1888), 180-81.3IPercy F. Martin, Salvador in the XXth Century (London: Arnold, 191 1), pp. 256-75.
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The Modernization of Underdevelopment: El Salvador, 1858-193131532The role of the military in El Salvador, 1858-1931, and the relations between civilian politiciansand military officers adhere in general terms to the broad observations made by Edwin Lieuwenconcerning the behavioral pattern of the military throughout Latin America in the nineteenth andearly twentieth centuries. See his Arms and Politics in Latin America (New York: Praeger, 1961),pp. 17-35. Vejar provides the details and some general conclusions for the study of the Salvadoranmilitary in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in El Ascenso del Militarismo.33Martin, Salvador, p. 86.34Ibid., p. 87.35Ibid., p. 88.36Arthur J. Ruhl, The Central Americans (New York: Scribner’s, 1928), p. 174.37Rafael Menjivar covers the topic and statistics of growing U.S. investments in AcumulacionOriginaria, pp. 55-81.“The statistical data in this paragraph are drawn largely from Everett A. Wilson, “The Crisis ofNational Inttion in El Salvador, 1919-1935” (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 1969), pp. 108-41.“Major A. R. Harris, U.S. Military Attache to Central America, 22 December 1931, NationalArchives of the United States, R. G. 59, File 816.00/828, as quoted in Thomas P. Anderson, Malanza:El Salvador’s Communist Revolt of 1932 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1971), pp. 83-84.4?Charles W. Domville-Fife, Guatemala and the States of Central America (London: Francis Grif-fiths, 1913), pp. 285-86.4“Wilson, “Crisis of National Integration,” pp. 29, 115, 128.4“Ibid., pp. 126-127; Durham, Scarcity and Survival, p. 36.43Alejandro R. Marroquin, “Estudio Sobre la Crisis de los Anos Trenta en El Salvador,” Anuariode Estudios Centralamericanos 3 (1977): 118.“Ibid.“Quoted in ibid., p. 121.“Vejar, Ascenso del Militarismo, pp. 102, 100.47These parties were the Partido Evolucion Nacional (National Evolution party), representing themost conservative and economically powerful groups; the Partido Zaratista (party of Alberto GomezZarate), grouping together the urban supporters of Zarate who favored the policies of the “Dynasty”;the Partido Constitucional (Constitutional party), sharing much of the conservative philosophy ofthe National Evolution party and appealing largely to the same groups; the Partido Fraternal Pro-gresista (Progressive Fraternal party), directed by a general and enjoying military support, appealedto the the rural workers in a paternalistic way; Partido Nacional Republiciano (National Republicanparty), also directed by a general, Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez, and uniting professionals,students, workers, and some coffee growers; and the Partido Laborista (Labor party), appealing tothe urban and rural workers as well as to smaller farmers. Ibid., pp. 113-14.“Hugo Lindo, “El Ano de Alberto Masferrer,” Inter-American Review of Bibliography 29 (July-September, 1969): 263-77. His biographers tend to be uncritical. One, Matilde Elena Lopez, char-acterized him as Central America’s “broadest hinker,” one of the “most illustrious men of thecontinent,” and a “revolutionary.” Masferrer: Alto Pensador de Centroamerica: Ensayo Biografico(Guatemala City: Editorial del Ministerio de Educacion, 1954), p. 9.“Quoted in Marroquin, “Estudio Sobre la Crisis,” p. 144.5“Alberto Masferrer, Patria (San Salvador. Editorial Universitaria, 1960), p. 83. The first editionof El Minimum Vital appeared in 1929. This essay draws on Masferrer’s newspaper discussions ofhis idea and on the definitive textual edition: Minimum Vital y Otras Obras de Caracter Sociologico(Guatamela City: Ediciones del Gobierno, 1950), pp. 179-210.“5Masferrer, Patria, p. 219.“2Ibid., 189-90.“Quoted in Marroquin, “Estudio Sobre la Crisis,” p. 145.4Vejar, Ascenso del Militarismo, p. 12.
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316E. Bradford Burns“There is no doubt that Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez is a controversial figure in Salvadoranhistoriography, generally denounced as an “eccentric”-if not “insane”-dictator. Two scholars oftwentieth-century Salvadoran history, Everett A. Wilson and Robert V. Elam, suggest that somerevisionist assessments of Martinez may be in order. Wilson concludes, “There are several indicationsthat Martinez, in spite of the notorious eccentricity and brutality of his long regime, presided oversignificant national reconstruction in the early 1930’s” (“Crisis of National Integration,” p. 233).Elam emphasizes, “Perhaps no president in this nation’s history began with a broader base of supportthan that enjoyed by Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez in 1932” (“Appeal to Arms: The Army andPolitics in El Salvador, 1931-1964” [Ph.D. diss., University of New Mexico, 1968], p. 45).“6Vejar, Ascenso del Militarismo, p. 131.57A major theme of William H. Durham, Scarcity and Survival in Central America, is that ifSalvadorans would make more efficient use of their land, they would be able to feed themselves well.5’Masferrer, Patria, pp. 179-82.59The Salvadoran situation amply illustrates the theme of the impoverishment of the majority asLatin America “progressed” or “modernized” in the nineteenth century set forth in Burns, ThePoverty of Progress. For an economist’s view of that theme, consult Robert E. Gamer, The DevelopingNations: A Comparative Perspective (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1976). Another useful economicanalysis, but with a contemporary emphasis, is: David Felix, “Income Distribution and the Qualityof Life in Latin America: Patterns, Trends, and Policy Implications,” Latin American ResearchReview 18, no. 2 (1983): 3-34.

The Journal of Developing Areas 18 (April 1984) 293-316

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