Protecting the border, caravans, criminals and sovereignty. Most of this obtuse rhetoric targets people from three countries; Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
*It should be noted that for decades, US policy toward Cuba was the exact opposite, in fact encouraging people to risk their lives to cross the border (wet feet – dry feet).
So let’s talk about these three countries. Collectively they are home to nearly 33 million people living in an area roughly half the size of Wyoming (home to less than 1 million). The indigenous people of the region – the Maya – have one of the richest mathematical legacies anywhere on earth and much of the land in the region is fertile and actively volcanic.
These are not pseudo-communist states and they are deeply Christian. In fact these three
countries are overwhelmingly the most evangelical protestant places outside of the United States anywhere in the Americas.
This is no accident. These were also the true Banana Republics. Their land, their people, their wealth simple vessels for a few elite – often foreign – to become extremely wealthy.
Stepping back for moment, let’s offer a personal perspective on the region. I first learned Spanish in the north of Guatemala (20 years ago there were 10 million people in that country, now nearly 17 million).
Guatemala in particular is intensely beautiful and deeply cultural, with nearly half the population speaking a Mayan language. Its volcanic land offers high altitude and rich soil. The northern plateau is the Yucatan and has many important archaeological sites including Tikal (the Pyramids made famous in Star Wars).
Squeezing hundreds of years of history into a few words, this northern region of Central
America continues to bear the brunt of the worst of colonialism. From the US in the north to Tierra del Fuego in the extreme south of Americas, the Spanish colonial legacy is terrible. It ended earlier than other colonial endeavours, but left a distinct legacy of misery among many populations.
From roughly 1492 to the 1820’s, Spanish colonial rule imposed an oppressive, often slaved-based system that was strictly class structured, racist, misogynist and extremely Catholic. Wealth was exported from the region to finance colonial undertakings around the globe. Click here for the Most Important City of the Last 500 Years.
After almost all of Latin America gained independence between 1810 and 1823, the landed elite maintained strict control (despite some very progressive constitutions) and different regions further developed into single-product economies.
Little El Salvador, for example, almost joined with Mexico, then a Central American Republic,
but basically the tiny elite did whatever was expeditious to support their coffee-producing fiefdom.
Guatemala and Honduras were essentially colonized by the American United Fruit Company – now Chiquita Banana. Seriously, this one massive company controlled a majority of these national territories. Google it!
*For another bit of shocking history, read about William Walker who, in the 1850’s, attempted to establish an English-speaking slave state in Nicaragua. Incidentally, this is the origin of the world filibuster.
It is little wonder some of the truly oppressed masses of Central America were drawn to the Cuban Revolution and socialist ideology. Thus this impoverished, colonial region becomes a violent flashpoint in the Cold War. Yep – Iran-Contra, student massacres in San Salvador, liberation theology in the Catholic Church and Efrain Rios Montt in Guatemala.
Montt only died in 2018. This evangelical general was trained and educated in the United
States. He was close to openly racist Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. His de facto government of 1982-1983 killed thousands of people in Guatemala – particularly those of Mayan heritage. And the doors swung open for more missionaries.
For its part, Honduras has faired even worse. It too was a banana republic and the country was decimated by the hurricane Mitch in 1998. In the aftermath of that devastation, the second city of Honduras – San Pedro Sula – was taken over by gangs and was known for many years as the most violent city on earth.
This is the legacy of colonialism, racism, monopolies and evangelism. It is time to take some responsibility. I have travelled extensively throughout the region for over two decades. I meet kind, friendly people. I do not think I have even been on a flight to any one of those countries where I have not met Christian missionaries who are surely well motivated.
These are not Venezuelan-style ‘socialist’ states – rather their small economies are generally
dependant upon agriculture, off-shore textile labour and – particularly in the case of Honduras – smuggling. Click here.
This is an absolute tragedy. Before accepting all the racist lies about these poor people being infiltrated by Isis or some other conspiracy propaganda, just read a little bit of history and have some sympathy for the poor mother who walks thousands of miles to escape poverty and violence – oh, and all the missionaries have told her the US is the chosen land.
Let me propose and new type of Marshall Plan. Remember the money spent to rebuild Europe after World War 2 – this was to support democracy and stop the spread of communism. This worked. Central America could be wealthy, safe and democratic.
Let’s finally show some respect.