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Volume 53 / Social Sciences

SOCIOLOGY: CENTRAL AMERICA


JAN L. FLORA, Professor of Sociology and Agricultural Economics, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

THE LITERATURE PRODUCED ON CENTRAL AMERICAN SOCIOLOGY is high in both quantity and quality; I have chosen to place greatest emphasis on materials in Spanish and those produced by Central Americans. The principal topics which have emerged during the early 1990s include: 1) popular movements, class analysis, and the State; 2) the interface between religion and politics; 3) ethnic studies, particularly ethnic identity; 4) the changing involvement of women in organizations, politics, and production; 5) social services, social issues, and structural adjustment; and 6) refugees and displaced persons.

As the possibility for revolutionary change decreased, several writers focused on middle groups or capas medias whose support is central for political projects of any political stripe (items bi 91002333, bi 92015318, bi 90013687, and bi 90012483). Particularly useful works include those by Torres-Rivas on the meaning of democracy (item bi 93002065); Martín-Baró, who polled the Salvadoran people in the midst of civil war and brilliantly analyzed the relationship between mass media, public opinion, and voting behavior (item bi 92001411); and Vilas, who did an excellent class analysis of the early period of Sandinista rule (item bi 92001417). Priestly's article on the urban settlement of San Miguelito, near Panama City, is a fine case study of the contradictions between the popular classes' participatory organizations and their incorporation into a populist political party organization (item bi 90012135).

Works on Central America's religion and politics deal with Catholic and Protestant movements, both radical and conservative, in Costa Rica (item bi 92001391), Guatemala (item bi 93023914), Honduras (item bi 91002341), and Panama (items bi 92001421 and bi 91013816). All are quite good, but perhaps the best is Garrard Burnett's examination of the relationship between the Guatemalan State and Protestantism from 1872 to the 1950s (see HLAS 52:1424). Three articles dealing with indigenous identity cover religious aspects as well: Rodríguez (item bi 91000701), Arias (item bi 91010014), and Guzmán (item bi 92001402).

Ethnic studies annotated below deal with indigenous groups in Costa Rica (item bi 91018041), El Salvador (item bi 91000701), Guatemala (items bi 91010014, bi 92001402, and bi 91007410), and Nicaragua (item bi 93002129), and with Afro-Caribbeans in all Central American countries but El Salvador (items bi 93002064, bi 93002088, bi 91005104, and bi 93002068). In an excellent political economy study of Costa Rica's Limón Province, Purcell finds that the racial standing of Afro-Caribbeans was closely linked to the economic fate of the United Fruit Company in the province (item bi 91005104). Arias does the most lucid job I have seen of explaining how changing class and ethnic identity of indigenous people in Guatemala in the 1960s and 1970s explain the revolutionary conditions of the early 1980s (item bi 91010014).

In this period, women's issues given considerable importance include women and agriculture (items bi 92001406, bi 93002133, and bi 92001392), women in Sandinista Nicaragua (items bi 92001414 and bi 92001394), and women's status generally. The two best sources are by García and Gomáriz (item bi 93002058) and Murguialday (item bi 93002073). The former's Mujeres centroamericanas is a compendium of demographic data on Central American women and men, together with assessments of the multiple crises of the 1980s on Central American women. Murguialday's careful analysis of the complex relation between the Sandinista government and women as an organized group concentrates on the role of AMNLAE, the official Sandinista women's organization.

This biennium offers works on the history of social reforms in Costa Rica (item bi 92001422) and Honduras (item bi 92001413), on social services and the economic crisis of the 1980s (items bi 91006430 and bi 92001398), on the situation of the elderly in Costa Rica (items bi 91002325 and bi 92001397) and on homosexuality in Central America (item bi 92001410). The best piece on social issues is "Por si mismos" (item bi 92020463), a well documented work on the maras or gangs in Guatemala City.

The involuntary movement of persons due to conflicts in three Central American countries was the focus of various studies, some of which were prepared for international conferences on refugees and displaced persons (items bi 91002327, bi 91002348, bi 91002347, bi 91002339, and bi 91002330). These works are of greatest interest to the specialist.


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