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Solidarity Under Siege
The Salvadoran Labor Movement, 1970–1990


  • Date Published: May 2019
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108410199

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About the Authors
  • El Salvador's long civil war had its origins in the state repression against one of the most militant labor movements in Latin American history. Solidarity under Siege vividly documents the port workers and shrimp fishermen who struggled yet prospered under extremely adverse conditions during the 1970s only to suffer discord, deprivation and, eventually, the demise of their industry and unions over the following decades. Featuring material uncovered in previously inaccessible union and court archives and extensive interviews conducted with former plant workers and fishermen in Puerto el Triunfo and in Los Angeles, Jeffrey L. Gould presents the history of the labor movement before and during the country's civil war, its key activists, and its victims into sharp relief, shedding new and valuable light on the relationships between rank and file labor movements and the organized left in twentieth-century Latin and Central America.

    • Proposes a new interpretation of the Salvadoran labor movement's rise and fall, examining the alliances and misalliances forged between the Latin American left and the country's disaffected urban working class and rural poor
    • Focuses on the interplay between failed encounters of social movements, including linguistic misunderstandings, rooted in class, ethnic, gender, and geographical differences
    • Seeks to understand Central America's transition to neoliberalism in all of its manifestations
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Solidarity under Siege tells the story of Puerto El Triunfo, the harrowing politics and perils of Latin America's longest running labor strike there, and the disappearance of the whole regional economy at the hands of foreign investors' complicity with the military. Gould has made Central America's tragic neoliberal turn and the ravaging of hope for state-led economic development understandable, painful and palpable.' Lillian Guerra, University of Florida

    'With the empathy and insight that characterizes all of his pathbreaking work on Central America, Jeffrey L. Gould recuperates the remarkable and sobering story of the shrimp workers in El Salvador's Puerto El Triúnfo. Their early victories, achieved amidst violent repression, could have set the stage for a nostalgic tale about a lost world of labor militancy and the wages of neoliberalism. Yet, Gould explores the divergent understandings and gender-based tensions that undermined solidarity and left the workers vulnerable to neoliberal plunder. This book illuminates the experiences of women and men whose struggles need to be remembered so that they will not have been in vain.' Barbara Weinstein, New York University

    'A deeply researched, meticulous case study that makes myriad important and original contributions.' Erik Ching, The Americas

    'Offers an impeccably researched, well-organized, and lively account of the Salvadoran labor movement between 1970 and 1990 …' Leigh Binford, Hispanic American Historical Review

    'Jeffrey Gould's portrayal of labor struggles over the course of several decades in El Salvador's important shrimp port - Puerto El Triunfo - gives readers a close-up view of labor activism in that industry and El Salvador more broadly during the Cold War and the ensuing entrenchment of neoliberalism … Weaving together insights from interviews, local union archives, and court records, Gould brings to this study the nuanced analysis and compassion that mark his earlier works on Nicaragua and El Salvador … Solidarity under Siege ties this compelling local history of organizing and its challenges to El Salvador's Cold War - era labor history more generally. The book is recommended not only for Central America specialists but also for a readership interested in the experiences of shrimp industry unionists as they struggled 'to cast a net of solidarity' in the most difficult of circumstances.' Betsy Konefal, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas

    'This book is a welcome delve into the history of social organisation in El Salvador, before and during the civil war of the 1980s. Newly available archive sources as well as interviews with survivors and exiles from that period have offered new detail and dimensions to this history. The labour movement … was much overlooked at the time; authors focused … on peasant participation in the revolutionary movement. The labour movement … has never received the academic attention it deserves. This book amply fills that void, with a careful and nuanced reconstruction of events over significant time periods that enable us to appreciate aspects of the country's labour history in relation to the struggles of other sectors … and the political projects that sought to mobilise their support … Through this book and the accompanying documentary he has made, Gould has ensured that the story will not be lost.' Jenny Pearce, Journal of Latin American Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108410199
    • length: 276 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.42kg
    • contains: 21 b/w illus. 1 map
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: an arc of triumph and despair
    1. Tired of the abuse: gender and the rise of the Sindicato de la Industria Pesquera, 1970–9
    2. The cost of solidarity: the Salvadoran labor movement in Puerto el Triunfo and greater San Salvador, 1979–80
    3. The last chance: the Junta Revolucionaria de Gobierno and the impending civil war
    4. Labor conflicts in Puerto el Triunfo, El Salvador, 1985
    5. The far right and fraud
    6. Solidarity and discord in the labor movement, 1984–9
    7. The longest strike in history
    Conclusion: tropical deindustrialization and its discontents

  • Author

    Jeffrey L. Gould, Indiana University, Bloomington
    Jeffrey L. Gould is Distinguished Professor of History at Indiana University, Bloomington. His books include To Lead as Equals: Rural Protest and Political Consciousness in Chinandega, Nicaragua, 1912–1979 (1990), To Die in This Way: Nicaraguan Indians and the Myth of Mestizaje, 1880–1965 (1998), and with Aldo Santiago, To Rise in Darkness: Revolution, Repression, and Memory in El Salvador, 1920–1932 (2008). He has also directed and codirected three documentary films, Port Triumph, which documents many of the events and people in Solidarity under Siege, La Palabra en el Bosque, and Scars of Memory: El Salvador, 1932.

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