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Volume 60 / Humanities

HISTORY: CENTRAL AMERICA


STEPHEN WEBRE, Professor of History, Louisiana Tech University
DARÍO A. EURAQUE, Associate Professor of History, Trinity College


AS THE NEW CENTURY BEGINS, historical scholarship on Central America shows continued signs of growth and innovation. Trends described in previous essays persist, and there are signs of new trends emerging. Of particular note are studies that focus on women's experiences and also on broader issues of gender, among them works by Oyuela (item #bi2003000531#), Putnam (item #bi2001003575#), and Rodríguez Sáenz (item #bi2003000534#).

There has also been a reinvigoration of ethnohistory, embracing not only the frequently studied indigenous peoples of Guatemala, as seen in new works by Alda Mejías (item #bi2003000541#), Grandin (item #bi 00001037#), and Watanabe (item #bi2001005503#), but also groups less often addressed, reflected in studies by Lara Pinto for Honduras (item #bi2003000530#) , Gould for Nicaragua (item #bi 98013128#), and Edelman (item #bi 99007287#), Soto Quirós (item #bi 99009694#), and Solórzano Fonseca (item #bi2001007980#) for Costa Rica. In addition, there is an indication of renewal in the history of ideas, to judge by innovative studies on the independence era by Bonilla Bonilla (item #bi2001003074#), Sierra Fonseca (item #bi2002000453#), and Taracena (item #bi2003000536#), and on the Guatemalan intellectual engagement with the problem of the native "other" by Casaus Arzú (item #bi 00004987#).

For the colonial period, articles by Few and García are evidence of a growing interest in gender issues (items #bi2001000462# and #bi2001002484#, respectively). There has also been a striking increase in the attention paid to the African experience under Spanish rule, including contributions on Guatemala by Herrera and Lokken (items #bi2001001390# and #bi2001000853#), on Panama by Mena García (item #bi2001000028#), and on Costa Rica by Aguilar Bulgarelli and Alfaro Aguilar (item #bi 98011690#), Cáceres Gómez (item #bi2001003573#), and Lobo and Meléndez Obando (item #bi 98011775#). More traditional questions, such as the composition and behavior of regional elites in the 18th century, also continue to attract sound scholarship, as is evidenced by the appearance of major, long-awaited monographs on Guatemala by Santos Pérez (item #bi2003000540#) and on Honduras by Taracena (item #bi2001001540#).

Political history is in vogue again for the national period, now enriched by a new focus on the politics of nation and state formation at the local level, especially before the rise of agro-export economies in the 1860s–70s. Pioneering contributions include works by Alda Mejías and Avendaño Rojas on Guatemala and Nicaragua (items #bi2003002334# and #bi 98013175#, respectively) and Téllez Argüello also on Nicaragua (item #bi2001003066#). Some new work in this area continues to emphasize the social and economic context, such as Lauria-Santiago's revisionist history of peasant and community politics in 19th-century El Salvador (item #bi2003000549#). Another traditional field, diplomatic history, is giving way in Central America as elsewhere to the "new international history," characterized by ambitious multi-archival studies of foreign economic and political activity in the region, such as those by Quesada Monge on the British (item #bi 00005348#) and Schoonover on the French and the Germans (items #bi2003002332# and #bi 98002706#), all of which focus on the 19th century. Representative of the same tendency for the 20th century is Streeter's new book on US-Guatemalan relations after 1954 (item #bi2003002333#).

Among younger scholars, particularly in Costa Rica, the turn towards cultural history has led to an interest in previously underexplored topics, especially crime and its implications for communal solidarity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as seen in works by Alvarez Jiménez (item #bi 98012903#) and Gil Zúñiga (item #bi 00006114#). Also a new fusion of environmental and social history has emerged in studies of the banana industry by Marquardt and Soluri (items #bi2003002328# and #bi2001000906#, respectively).

Finally, historians of Central America are making greater use of the Internet to advance historical production, distribution, and the organization and networking of scholars. For example, colleagues interested in following the progress of the NEH-funded international project on "African American Identities in Central America," led by Gudmundson, Cáceres Gómez, and Meléndez Obando, can do so by visiting its attractive web site (item #bi2003000528#). The Internet has also played a significant role in the growing success of the biennial Central American historical congresses, held regularly since 1992. Approximately 115 papers from the V Congreso Centroamericano de Historia, held at the University of El Salvador in July 2000, are available on the web at http://www.ues.edu.sv/congreso/ (item #bi2003000533#). Ponencias from the VI Congreso, held at the University of Panama in July 2002, are not available online; however, the official web page with a detailed program of the conference can still be accessed at http://es.geocities.com/vicongcahist/, and the VII Congreso, scheduled to take place in July 2004 in Tegucigalpa, has its official web page at http://es.geocities.com/istoriacolonial/7ccah.html.


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