Departamento 15- Ana Patricia Rodríguez

El Salvador Colonial History and It’s Legacy:

Prior to Spanish colonization, El Salvador was inhabited by the Lenca, Maya Chortí, Maya Pocomam, Cacaopera, and Nahua Pipil indigenous groups. Most Salvadorans are descendants of the Pipils, who are related to the pre-Columbian Toltec civilization from Mexico. Despite this rich heritage of indigenous peoples and languages, the majority of Salvadorans speak Spanish, due to the colonization of El Salvador in the 16th century by Spain. El Salvador gained independence from Spain in 1821, yet the majority of the fertile farming land was owned by descendants of the Spanish elite. This led to great income inequalities, and in 1932 there was an uprising of rural and indigenous farmworkers, led by Agustín Farabundo Martí, that killed 32 Ladinos, land-owners. This incited a major repression by the Salvadoran government that resulted in the murder of 35,000 to 50,000 rural and indigenous peoples, known as “Las Matanzas,” the massacre. Indigenous people were especially targeted.

Income and land inequality continued and led El Salvador into a violent civil war between the conservative government that was supported by the U.S. government, and the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN).

Civil War Explained in Five Facts

1. Fourteen of the richest families own over 90% of your country’s land. Poor people began to question this system and wanted the land to be shared.

2. In 1980, the government in power at the time, ARENA, became very aggressive and labeled anyone who supported land reform as an “enemy of the state.”

3. Salvadorans formed the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). The FMLN created a guerilla army of the people to oppose the government and right-wing paramilitary forces. They began to fight back and take back land from the government.

4. The United States funded the Salvadoran military to fight the FMLN, at about 1 million dollars a day. The United States offered refugee status to only 3% of Salvadorans, but after being taken to court, the U.S. offered Temporary Residential Status to many Salvadorans.

5. From 1979 to 1981 alone, an estimated 30,000 Salvadorans were killed by the government’s death squads. Violence on both sides lead to a truce brokered by the United Nations in 1993, and the FMLN was recognized as a political party. Overall, the civil war lasted for 12 years and left 75,000 Salvadorans dead.

Current Issues: There is high poverty and crime in El Salvador. Natural disasters and civil war have severely impacted the economy. In the 1980s, gang members returned from the U.S. and brought gang culture to El Salvador. Gang activities led to increased murder and displacement of Salvadorans. El Salvador has one of the world’s highest murder rates, at 71 murders per 100,000.

Departamento 15- A.P. Rodriguez

In El Salvador, emigrants have been mythologized as ‘‘los hermanos lejanos’’ – the distant relatives. They have also been associated with ‘‘Departamento 15,’’ the name given in El Salvador to the Salvadoran diaspora, identifying it as the 15th province of the country after the 14 departments within the country’s geographic territory. Extended across the world, Departamento 15 is the product of the migrations of Salvadorans expelled by the civil war in the 1980s and their more recent translocations in the 21st century. This essay examines the narrative construction of the transnational imaginary of Departamento 15 in newspaper media, the Internet, performance pieces, poetry, visual art, music, and other materials. Focusing on the greater Washington, DC Metropolitan Area, and the San Francisco Bay Area, it explores the emergence of new trans-local and transnational Salvadoreñidades.

Presentation: Sarah Peter

Small groups discussions


In Pairs: discuss the following topics with a partner and summarize the main arguments presented by Ana Patricia Rodríguez. Look for quotes to support your explanations.

Salvadoran transnational migration

.History of Salvadoran migration to the U.S (21)

.Two main cities: San Francisco and Washington D.C. (21-2)

.Connections to the homelands and social networks, culture, and identities in new home sites (22-3)

.Salvadorans as transnational migrants (23)

.Net worth of  Salvadoran diasporic communities (23)

Economic and cultural remittances

.Family remittances (23)

.Salvadoran state interest in Salvadoran immigrants (23-4)

.Economic stronghold and political potential of Salvadoran migrants (24)

.The transnational movement of human capital fueled by stories of los hermanos lejanos (25)

.Immigrant narratives of Departamento 15 (25-27)

Martivón Galindo’s San Francisco

. San Francisco Bay Area vibrant cohort of Central American writers (27)

. A quick look at the poem “SanFranciscanos” (28)

. Particular elements of Galindo’s San Francisco (28-9)

Counternarratives: Quique Avilés is in the house

.Quique Avilés’ context (30)

.A quick look at the poem “Barrio”  (30)

.The weight of life anchored in linguistic and economic barriers (31)

.A quick look at the poem ‘‘El Salvador at a Glance’’ (31-2)

.Understanding his homeland from a physical and cultural distance (32)

Salvadorans making music in Mount Pleasant

.Migrant narratives of Lilo González y los de la Mt. Pleasant (36)

.Topics from the CD A quien corresponda (36)

. ‘‘The infamous don Manuel’’ experience

.‘‘Forjando un sólo pueblo’” as a transnational anthem


Based on these cultural examples brought by Ana Patricia Rodríguez, how would you describe Departamento 15?

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