The events of Alberto Masferrer's life and the parallel evolution of his social thought reveal much about the broader forces which shaped El Salvador and Central America during his generation. His lifetime brackets the consolidation of the Salvadoran state and the formation of modern social groups. Alberto Masferrer was born in 1868, the age of the Liberal presidents' ascendence throughout Central America; he died in 1932 as Depression-era dictators assumed power throughout that same region. In fact, 1932 is a watershed year in Central American history. With Agustín Farabundo Martí's failed Communist uprising in El Salvador and the murder of Augusto Cesar Sandino in Nicaragua, the early 1930s brought a decisive end to the possibility for Masferrer's idealized type of elite-led reform and instead turned opponents toward ideologically-motivated popular revolt. Alberto Masferrer, like most intellectuals, struggled with ideas and power. He realized that the liberal reforms of the late nineteenth century Presidents not only had failed to improve the material and moral condition of the majority of his countrymen, but actually had degraded them. Though Masferrer's admiring biographer Matilde Elena López observed that “[t]he reality of man exploited by an unjust society is the central idea of his life,” it remains no easy task to categorize the cranky journalist's thought for, indeed, he does not fit neatly into any single ideology. Masferrer the humanist gave primary importance to the betterment of social and economic conditions for those living on the material plane, while Masferrer as a Christian stressed the otherworldly values of humility, hard work, patience and charity. Masferrer the communist called for a return to the ejidal landholding system of the traditional Indian communities and a guaranteed standard of living for all Salvadorans, but Masferrer the corporatist recognized the existence of a natural state of hierarchy and felt that harmony would prevail if each remained true to his pre-ordained vocation. Masferrer the aesthetic arielista venerated language and culture, but Masferrer the criollista could not be restrained to the world of pure art and consistently returned to earth to criticize uneven social conditions. Masferrer the hispano-falangist idealized a strong and vigorous nation, yet Masferrer the pacifist abhorred violence and aggressiveness.
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