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Processes of Spatialization in the Americas

Configurations and Narratives

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Edited By Gabriele Pisarz-Ramirez and Hannes Warnecke-Berger

Where do the Americas begin, and where do they end? What is the relationship between the spatial constructions of «area» and «continent»? How were the Americas imagined by different actors in different historical periods, and how were these imaginations – as continent, nation, region – guided by changing agendas and priorities? This interdisciplinary volume addresses competing and conflicting configurations and narratives of spatialization in the context of globalization processes from the 19th century to the present.

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Regional Homogeneity by Force or by Conviction? Central American Regionalism in a Long-Term Perspective

Thomas Plötze

Regional Homogeneity by Force or by Conviction? Central American Regionalism in a Long-Term Perspective

Abstract: This chapter reappraises Central American attempts of creating regional homogeneity in the long run since independence. At a first glance, the colonial, cultural heritage as well as the politico-economic developments make Central America appear as a firmly intertwined region. Traditionally, Central America has been characterized as a regional space par excellence. Looking at concrete historical attempts of regionalism, I argue that incidences of increased regional interaction alternated with periods of fragmentation. Seen from this angle, regional homogeneity has never been a result of a historical ever-growing process. Instead, I argue that regional homogeneity has been made and unmade in security narratives. Results from this chapter suggest that regionalism in Central America has always been inward-looking—either through paving the way for the spatialization of individual state spaces or through preserving the status quo in economic and political terms by suppressing intra-societal resistance in each Central American country.

1Introduction

The question of what defines Central America as a space varies according to the observer’s perspective on this region as a space. In geographic-geological terms, Central America describes an Isthmus. It is the only area in the world that lies between two oceans (the Pacific and the Atlantic) and two (sub-) continents (North and South America) (Hall 5). Culturally, Central America can be defined as a culturally homogenous zone where some of the advanced civilizations had developed (Mayas and Aztecs), or as a frontier and interaction sphere pointing to its geopolitical meaning as a transit region (Creamer 45–49). Geopolitically, Central America has a particular trans-national relevance. Starting as an important port during the Spanish colonial system, Central America’s transit position significantly augmented after its independence. Emerging world powers (the United States and Great Britain) intended to extend their influence in order to build a transoceanic connection through the Isthmus. The delineation of the five core states (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica) as the building blocks for Central America finally refers to the shared historical and ←99 | 100→political development with the advent of Spanish colonization.1 Similar colonial and cultural heritage as well as politico-economic developments make Central America appear as a firmly intertwined region.

This points to the characterization of Central America as a regional space par excellence, as it denotes, traditionally, a historico-politically homogenous grown region (Sagastume Gemmell 25; Zinecker, Gewalt 107). Central American attempts to create regional homogeneity look very promising because “this region is rather unique, probably in the world, for any study of the relationship between peace, [regional, T.P.] integration, and foreign intervention” (Dabène 44–45). This implies that studies about Central American regionalism usually begin from the assumption of homogeneity as a rule and then continue to ask why so many exceptions have been appearing since independence. Usual explanations for these exceptions are the lack of political will or the institutional weakness. Contrary to that, I argue in this chapter that regional homogeneity has rather been an exception than a rule. I will show in the upcoming section that Central America experienced many failed, but also some successful, attempts of regionalism.2 Thus, Central American regionalism proceeded in waves. Incidences of increased regional interaction replaced periods of fragmentation. Seen from this angle, homogeneity within a regional space has never been the result of a historical process but, as I argue, the result of specific discursive formations. This chapter approaches Central America from a theoretical stance claiming that regions are the result of social constructions, made and unmade through discursive interactions (Bøås et al. 203). Regions are, therefore, one particular spatiality. This theoretical assumption implies looking at the processes of space-making from a regional perspective and asking how discursive narratives have been making and unmaking regional homogeneity rather than taking the homogeneity of Central America as a historical given.←100 | 101→

Since its independence, Central America has experienced waves of regionalization only in three periods (1820, 1850, and 1950–1960). These three waves have been the result of the specific configuration of an underlying security narrative. Attempts of creating regional homogeneity in Central America are successful when external security problems merge and align with an intra-societal threat perception. However, this merger has most often been highly unstable and is rather an exception than a rule. The second and third part of this chapter turns to the security narrative. It reveals how the security narrative influenced the making and unmaking of regional projects and is able to produce Central American spatial homogeneity within Central America.3

2Waves of Regional Homogeneity in Central America

Waves of regionalism in Central America have always been inspired by the dream of a patria grande (Dym, “Central” 315), of a Central American state as the highest possible expression of regional homogeneity. This Central American dream has surfaced again and again from the 19th century until today. However, as this idea forms an important and almost stable element of the discursive repertoire, a reference to this dream obviously cannot explain the waves of regionalism in Central America. There must be something more, something that this chapter assumes to be the security perception. The aim of this part is to briefly reiterate the ups and downs of regionalism from the 19th century until the end of the 1970s.4 From this overview, I derive the peaks and nadirs of regional projects in Central America, to which I zoom in on afterwards to address their respective security narratives.

Central America has long-standing experiences in regional interactions. In fact, experiences of regional interaction in Central America date well back until the beginning of the nineteenth century, or even beyond if one were to consider the Spanish colonial rule as something similar to experiences of regional ←101 | 102→interaction. What comprised and delineated Central America during the colonial rule was the result of the political-administrative assignment conducted by the Spanish empire. Officially, under the jurisdiction of the viceroyalty of New Spain (Mexico City), the main juridical and administrative center was the Audiencia, the General Captaincy of Guatemala. The central administrative and political authorities acted from Guatemala City. They comprised a handful of selected Spanish officials appointed by the crown (Roniger 25; Reza). The Guatemalan merchant elite controlled all external economic exchange with Spain as well as the internal trade within the General Captaincy between the provinces and Guatemala City (Floyd). The omnipresent power-nexus of administrative tax collection and economic control in the hands of this Guatemalan merchant elite came under pressure with the implementation of the so-called Bourbon Reforms.5 The final blow to colonial rule in Central America certainly emerged with the rather short establishment of the liberal constitution of Cádiz (Cortes de Cádiz)6 and the erection of a constitutional monarchy in Spain. The political turmoil and the conflicts among the Creole elites throughout the Americas as well as the independence war in New Spain (Mexico) supported the independence movement within the General Captaincy of Guatemala, which succeeded rather peacefully in 1821 (Roniger 25).

Despite some ideas of forming a confederation between different municipalities (Karnes 16–22) right after independence, the former Captaincy joined the Mexican empire in 1821. Two years later, however, the empire dissolved. From 1823 on, the former area of the Captaincy first formed the United Provinces of Central America and later declared themselves the Federal Republic of Central America7 in 1824. With the federal constitution of 1824, the Central American federation imitated the US-constitutional model, at least formally (Dym, From Sovereign Villages 204). In fact, however, the federal political structure heavily ←102 | 103→relied on the colonial heritage of political administration granting largely autonomous power to the municipality level. The Central American federation signifies the first attempt at establishing regional homogeneity in the form of a regional and autonomous Central American state. This attempt lasted until 1839 when the federation dissolved into five independent countries (Roniger 26–27).

In addition to the failed attempt of the Central American federation, a second rather short incidence of regional cooperation happened in the middle of the 19th century. Central American historiography refers to the “war of independence” (Roniger 48) when the Central American countries in a concerted action fought successfully against the US filibuster William Walker. In 1853, William Walker arrived in Nicaragua. He intended to support one Nicaraguan political faction (Liberals) to fight against the prevailing power faction in the government.8 After a sweeping victory, Walker inaugurated himself as Nicaraguan president. Soon after, he even developed expansionist tendencies towards the other Central American countries. This provoked a concerted Central American action against Walker and his affiliates in 1856–57.

In terms of political economy, the period from the 1850s until the 1920s can be characterized as a period of increased economic development. The implementation of coffee (and banana) production led to economic growth, and the state capacity grew within each Central American country.9 The period until the beginning of the 20th century witnessed several regional initiatives but not even one unfolded into a lasting regional project. This long period of lack of regionalism therefore also needs further analysis in terms of the underlying security narrative. Constant intra-regional quarrels, conflicts, and destabilization led to the setting up of the first regional Court of Justice in Central America under the auspices and initiative of the United States. However, after its establishment in ←103 | 104→1908, the Court closed in 1914 when Nicaragua became a de-facto protectorate of the United States.10

Until the 1950s, Central America followed the chosen agrarian-export-led development path. Despite severe economic setbacks (e.g. the Great Depression of the 1930s), the state capacity to control the social and economic means of production expanded through the evolution of professional military forces, which in turn ensured the domination of the elite.11 After the Second World War, regionalism experienced a new momentum in Central America through the establishment of three regional organizations in political (Organization of the Central American States, Organización de Estados Centroamericanos, ODECA), economic (Central American Common Market, Mercado Común Centroamericano, MCCA), and security issues (Central American Defense Council, Consejo Centroamericano de Defensa, CONDECA).

ODECA, established in 1951, acted as the institutional framework under which the “first ever customs union in Latin America” (Bulmer-Thomas, “The Central” 313) emerged (MCCA) in 1960. Resulting from an idea of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC, Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe, CEPAL), the main aim of MCCA has been to ignite industrialization through the implementation of a regional import substituting industrialization (ISI).12 Three years later, the Central American countries founded CONDECA. It was the first regional mechanism for consultation regarding questions of defense throughout Latin America (Saxe-Fernández 43), and it was institutionally integrated within ODECA (Briscoe 4; Smith 23). Its general goals were the maintenance of peace and collective security, collection of information and knowledge-sharing among the members, and the development as well as provision of “means for the coordinated employment of the armed or ←104 | 105→public security forces” (Smith 23–24). The United States facilitated the development of MCCA and CONDECA by providing financial support for the development of telecommunication and intelligence networks and of counter-insurgent capabilities with the deployment of the US Southern Command military branch (Holden, “Securing” 10–11; Dunkerley, The Long 75; Schmitter 4). While the overall success of those regional institutions was modest, MCCA experienced difficult times in the years 1969/1970 when first problems and signs of crisis emerged with rising indebtedness, fiscal problems, and overproduction.13 The so-called soccer war between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969 hit all three organizations very hard—an event from which they could never recover. Problems even aggravated with the Sandinista Revolution, as well as with the beginning (El Salvador) and intensifying (Guatemala) civil wars.

This rather short historical overview has highlighted three waves of intensified regional interaction: the Central American federation during the 1820s, the war against William Walker (1856–57), and the establishment of the three regional organizations of ODECA, MCCA, and CONDECA during the 1950/1960s. These three periods are the most visible expression of initiatives towards regional homogeneity until the 1970s. However, they all failed, and eventually heterogeneity prevailed. In the subsequent two sections, I zoom in on these three waves and reconstruct the underlying security perception to provide an alternative interpretation of the making and unmaking of regional homogeneity in Central America. My account thus confronts standard explanations that focus on missing political will or weak institutional configurations.

3The Making of Regional Homogeneity

This section turns to the making of regional homogeneity in the three waves described above. I relate the peak of these waves to the respective security narrative. My findings suggest that Central America turns towards regional cooperation only under a specific configuration of the security narrative. When external threats merge and align with intra-Central American security problems, Central America experiences attempts of regional space-making. Intra-Central American security problems entail a perception of threat between different power factions, municipalities, and later on between the different Central American countries.←105 | 106→

3.1Central American Federation

After the dissolution of the Mexican empire in 1823, Central America took its political future in its own hands and declared full independence from any external power. With a national constituent assembly beginning in 1823, Central America chose to develop towards a federal state and defined the political structure by distributing administrative, political, and judicative responsibilities between the ever-powerful municipalities, provinces (or states), and the federal state. Most studies take the independent provinces’ decision about joining the federation for granted and rather focus on the institutional elaboration of the federation (Dym, From Sovereign Villages 195–225; Hernández 37). Only a few evidence in some sources point to the underlying security perception (Karnes).

Most authors who deal with this period highlight the prevailing particularism, frictions, and localism within Central America. Partly a result of the colonial heritage, these dividing lines of friction and sometimes hatred continued between the various provinces (e.g. between El Salvador and Guatemala or Nicaragua and Costa Rica), between different municipalities within the very same provinces, or between political power factions. Traditionally, historians interpret these multiple and often interwoven frictions along the divide between liberals and conservatives and characterize ‘liberals’ as pioneers of Central American federation, while they accuse conservatives of taking a contrary position which discarded the ‘liberal’ idea of a federal state (Hernández 24; Clegern 1–3). Historians thus argue that this divide contributed to alienating, conspiratorial, and suspicious tendencies throughout Central America.

When Central Americans feared their fellow citizens, or their provincial and municipal neighbors, a question arises why they opted for forging a federation after all and not for full independence of the provincial territories. I argue that this was due to a common concern for protection. This common concern arose because of a mutual and shared perception of external security threats. Various references to the security narrative point into this direction. Following these references, security threats—though mostly vague—related to a resurgent Mexico, or even worse: “[a]lways there was the fear of intervention or reconquest by Spain. Modern scholarship generally scoffs at the danger, but the enunciation of the Monroe Doctrine in December, 1823, was a North American symptom of a threat that the Central Americans felt most intensely” (Karnes 46). Other evidence points to rumors of a furious Simon Bolívar aiming to integrate the Central American provinces into a Colombian monarchy (46). Those rumors of outside menaces lie underneath the explanation of why Central America forged a federation, despite their fierce local grievances. For a short period, these ←106 | 107→perceived outside threats led to a union between the different Central American power factions (economic elites, municipalities, etc.) in order to prevent an external intrusion (46).

However, it seems that the perception of external threats was too hazy and abstract in order to overcome differences between internal power factions. Soon after the formation of the federation, internal quarrels and armed conflicts were again on the rise.14 These internal conflicts and wars finally led to the fragmentation and dissolution of the federation, which I analyze in more detail in the third part of this chapter. At first glance, the Central American federation might have symbolized the highest expression of regional homogeneity; however, in practice, “the Central America of 1824 was not a nation but a league of towns, suspicious of each other and linked only by common concern for protection” (Karnes 92; Dym, From Sovereign Villages 177).

3.2The War of Independence—William Walker

A manifest external threat as an impetus for collective identity creation on a federal level (Karnes 135; Roniger 25) finally unfolded during the 1850s when William Walker posed a serious threat to all Central American countries. The gateway for entering Central America was the severe and ongoing civil or municipality war between León and Granada in Nicaragua—an ongoing conflict dating back to earlier times of the federation. Being invited by the power faction of León (Liberals) in 1853, Walker’s entry into Central America was the result of a mutual threat perception between León and Granada (Karnes 140). However, the local friction between León and Granada was only a beginning, and Walker’s venture was by no means solely a private Filibuster enterprise. International developments certainly had an influence on this issue as well. On the eve of the US-American civil war, Manifest Destiny, the inherent urge to find new slave states outside of the US confederate states and the intense conflict between the United States and Great Britain about the Nicaraguan canal certainly influenced Walker’s initial success in Nicaragua.15←107 | 108→

The expansionist aspirations of Walker provoked a regional reaction from neighboring Central American countries. Around 1856, fear became prevalent that Walker could extend his aspirations (Medaglia Gómez 5). As a reaction, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras forged a military alliance to overthrow what Central Americans perceived then as an “extra-regional” threat (Hernández 67; Roniger 48). Certain alienated Nicaraguan power factions as well as Cornelius Vanderbilt even supported the military alliance, intending to oust an internal competitor faction (Loveman 111; May, The Southern 102–03). The successful push back of the Walker intermezzo in Nicaragua relied on a successful attempt at defining Walker as a unitary, external security threat, which successfully merged with an internal security threat perception. However, this was only short-lived. When Walker lost and left Central America, so did the external threat perception, and Central America fell back into old patterns of oppositional disagreements.

3.3The Trinity of Regional Organizations—ODECA, MCCA, and CONDECA

This particular configuration, that is the merging of external and internal threat perceptions, once again was prevalent during the establishment of the three regional organizations after the Second World War. Thus, it was to a lesser degree political and economic considerations that explain regionalization in this period. On the contrary, the specific security perception played a decisive role, even for the establishment of the common market (MCCA).

Three Central American and international developments are significant for the security perception that became so characteristic of the 1950s and 1960s: (1) With the onset of the Cold War, Communism was of immediate concern to the Central American countries, especially against the background of the so-called Guatemalan Revolution.16 (2) Both the successful Cuban Revolution at the end ←108 | 109→of the 1950s as well as the US-initiated Alliance for Progress17 heavily influenced the security perception. (3) The emergence of guerrilla insurgencies and left-wing anti-regime groups within various Central American countries (especially in Guatemala) likewise affected the security perception.

The security perception of an identifiable external menace (Cuba) and the emergence of local insurgency movements provoked the establishment of the trinity of regional organizations. Right from the beginning of the foundation of ODECA, the alleged Guatemalan communist experience and the socio-economic reforms it undertook led the other Central American countries to fear the rise of potential popular expectations in their own countries (Dabène 48; Karnes 240). Further evidence suggests that the Central American countries feared, on the one hand, a possible external communist intrusion, and on other hand, they viewed the Guatemalan experiment as an immediate communist threat at their doorstep (Selser 30–31).18

The internal and mostly potential threat, Communism, merged with a clearly identifiable external menace, the Cuban Revolution: without doubt, the formation of the MCCA also had economic grounds; and surely, there is also a time coincidence between the MCCA, the Cuban Revolution, and the Alliance for Progress. But the MCCA could only take off after the final approval and support of the United States through its genuine anti-communist program (Sánchez Sánchez 57; Cable 670; Posada and López 56). Economic stability and prosperity became an important ingredient of the security narrative because “[c]ommunism is the chief obstacle to economic development in the Central American region.”19 While the MCCA aimed to fight the threat economically, CONDECA—founded around the same time—was concerned with the political stability of the Central American countries. External and internal threats merge at this moment: On the one hand, “[t]o Central American military planners the threat of Fidel Castro’s brand of communist aggression is very real, and they are determined to keep the Communists from overrunning the Isthmus”(Smith 25). On the other hand, there was widespread fear of the potential emergence of subversive forces from within the Central American societies themselves: “The Cold War and the ←109 | 110→guerrillas were the only significant threat or enemies. Some of these threatened the survival of the military regimes” (Sánchez Sánchez 128).

After the Second World War, the trinity of regional organizations followed the clearly identifiable aim to install an inter-governmental form of regional homogeneity in order to subvert any potential anti-systemic tendencies in Central America. Thus, this emerging regional space served as a means for maintaining the status quo. Under the framework of ODECA, MCCA aimed at economic stability and—to some extent—relief, and CONDECA was “explicitly designed to thwart internal subversion and to act as the penultimate guarantor of the dictatorships of Central America […]” (Dunkerley, The Long 75).

The successful merger of internal and external threat perceptions during this period suggests that this specific configuration of the security narrative had a powerful discursive impulse. This time, the external threat was clearly identifiable (Cuba and Communism). The internal threat, however, remained rather vague, less graspable, and dispersed in the form of anti-systemic and leftist-resistance groups.20 When this specific security narrative no longer corresponded with intra-regional threat perceptions, not very surprisingly, the trinity of regional organizations imploded. In the next part of this chapter, I turn to this implosion and to the unmaking of other examples of regional homogeneity.

4Central American Heterogeneity as the Rule

So far, the main argument has been that regionalism in Central America unfolds when the security perception of internal and external threats merges. For the unmaking of regional homogeneity, I claim that a different configuration of the security narrative is the underlying factor. Evidence in the following three examples suggests that regionalism dissolves when intra-Central American threat perception dominates, leading to regional heterogeneity as the predominant paradigm.

4.1Dissolution of the Central American Federation

As indicated in the second part of this chapter, the Central American federation finally dissolved in 1839. Very soon after the formation of the federation, internal conflicts and quarrels broke out. Evidence suggests that the predominant security ←110 | 111→perception focused on intra-Central American foes and threats. This implies that the diffuse and vague external threat perception at the initiation of the federation vanished in favor of an intra-societal threat perception.

The specific security narrative predominant during the federation has its roots in different historical explanations of the failure of union. Whether one refers to the prevailing schism between Liberals (hotheads) and Conservatives (Serviles) (Weaver, “Reform” 133; Woodward, Central 90; Woodward, “Economic” 565), or to the politico-economic divide between the federal center and the provincial peripheries (Patch 97; Floyd 99–100; Niemann 147; Williams; Wortman, “Government” 275), or to the predominant municipal character of the conflicts (Dym, “Our” 466), the underlying security perception of intra-Central American threats nevertheless prevails. Certainly, the poor federal performance in economic and political terms had an influence on the dissolution. From a security narrative perspective, however, these alleged political and economic factors convey the same configuration of the security perception. Constant envy and competition on the world market due to the specialization in similar export products furnished grievances between different factions of the elites. Ideological and political quarrels between neighboring municipalities conveyed a picture of constant, but also shifting, threat perception.21 Whether one perceives one’s neighboring municipality, fellow citizen, or rival power faction as a threat because of ideological, economic, or political reasons lastly plays a minor role. The prevailing factor is the perceived intra-Central American threats. This configuration remained in the background of the numerous internal civil wars, armed conflicts, and skirmishes22, which finally culminated in the war between Francisco Morazán and Rafael Carrera resolving the ongoing process of dissolution within the federation.23 Taken together, an external threat perception merged with an internal ←111 | 112→one even before the formation of the federation for a short time. This discursive configuration took a back seat in the narrative beginning in 1826. With only a hazy external threat perception, intra-regional threat perceptions between different factions became the dominant configuration of the security narrative leading to constant armed interferences or wars.

4.2Regional Heterogeneity in the Long 19th Century

A similar argument emerges with the long 19th century. One may raise a question why the moment of regional cooperation did not last longer after the successful ousting of William Walker. Again, I refer to the specific configuration of the security narrative: the moment of regional cooperation was short-lived because the external threat broke away almost immediately with the defeat of Walker, while the intra-regional threat perception prevailed and even intensified.

Even though Central Americans attempted to reunite or establish some form of regionalism after the 1850s, none of these initiatives lasted for long. These attempts mainly remained unilateral experiments by individual presidents or dictators to reunite the federation by occupying, interfering with, or sometimes inserting politically more sympathetic elite fractions in their neighboring states. Two very active presidents were the Guatemalan President Justo Rufino Barrios throughout the 1870s and 1880s (Karnes 161–63), and the Nicaraguan President José Santos Zelaya (Karnes 167–74).

Evidence suggests that the main threats described as intra-Central American, as grievances between neighbors, constantly changed the threat perception as alliances among the states continuously shifted. Guatemalan (i.e. Barrios’s) “[…] forces invaded El Salvador, in the usual manner of aiding the party out of power, and succeeded in installing a more cooperative president, while Guatemalan troops were still present” (Karnes 153). These military initiatives by Barrios and Zelaya either failed almost immediately or met with fierce resistance from the attacked countries (Palmer 529). Whether both figures really intended a reestablishment of Central American unity or “[…] they [only] constantly meddled in the affairs of the other states in the name of Central American union” (Karnes 167; Palmer 516) is of secondary importance. These examples point to the predominant security perception, in which intra-Central American threats provoked neighboring interferences, influences, and military conflicts. The overall idea or dream of a patria grande degraded at best to a label for the intra-Central American security perception by individual Central American countries.←112 | 113→

4.3The End of the Regional Trinity

The trinity of regional organization experienced a major blow at the end of the 1960s from which it would never recover, again, as I argue, due to a change in the previous configuration of the security narrative. The merging of external and internal—mostly intra-societal—threat perceptions retreated in favor of intra-regional threat perceptions. In other words, what started as intra-societal menaces, for example, in El Salvador and Honduras, eventually turned into intra-regional threats and even into a war between both countries.

Economic factors influenced the dissolution of the MCCA according to the majority of the available explanations (Bulmer-Thomas, “The Central” 315; Sánchez Sánchez 89). According to these studies, massive trade balance disparities between the member countries as well as the lacking support, or open opposition of the most important economic power faction in Central America (the agrarian oligarchy) deprived the MCCA of any serious attempt to follow the ISI-model (Bulmer-Thomas, “Economic” 292; Bulmer-Thomas, The Political 175–76, 184–85; Cable 668–69; Nuhn 494). The result was the continued deterioration of the financial capabilities of the MCCA member states. In addition to these economic factors, and even more important for the purpose of this chapter, I argue that the change in the configuration of the security narrative is the explanatory factor for the dissolution of MCCA as well as of the other two regional organizations. The soccer war between Honduras and El Salvador may have popped up all of a sudden, but the underlying security narrative suggests that the threat perception changed during the 1960s. This was perhaps reinforced by economic factors.

The soccer war between Honduras and El Salvador broke out after a series of world cup qualifiers between both the countries. The war lasted from July 14 until 18, 1969. Even though the soccer games might have been the igniting events, threat perceptions between both the countries were already tenaciously high. Two unsolved issues explain these perceptions: (1) the trade conflict, as the economic development of El Salvador was merely to the detriment of Honduras (Cable 660). (2) During the preceding decades, around 250,000 Salvadorian peasants occupied and cultivated Honduran territory because of the increasingly high land pressure in El Salvador (Posada and López 58). For the El Salvadorian elite, the out-migration of peasants to the neighboring Honduras functioned as a safety valve for potential intra-societal unrest and socio-economic demands. In turn, resentment against the Salvadorian migrants arose in Honduras due to an anxiety about increased labor competition and accusations towards the ←113 | 114→Salvadorian politico-economic elite.24 The soccer war and the underlying threat perception thus show that intra-societal fears in each country switched towards accusations between both countries, as “[…] fue una lucha entre las fracciones de las burguesías dominantes en cada país. La salvadoreña buscando mantener su hegemonía sobre el campesinado y dentro del bloque de poder; la hondurena, tratando de resarcirse de la grave situación socioeconómica que afrontaba el país”25 (Posada and López 59).

Looking at the security narrative in this example, its configuration resembles in large parts with those reconstructed in the other two examples of unmaking regionalisms. Security narratives, which entail intra-Central American threat perceptions, have a dissolving impact on regionalism. Especially this last example of the 1960s reveals that when intra-Central American threats gained the upper hand, regional homogeneity dissolved. With the end of the soccer war, Honduras drew out of the MCCA and CONDECA, leading finally to a standstill of ODECA (Aguilera Peralta 154; Isacson 14). Thus, the trinity of regional organizations, initially aimed at preserving the economic and political status quo in each Central American country, received a major stroke because of a change in the security narrative configuration. What began as a merger and alignment between an external (Communism) and an intra-societal threat (leftist movements) turned into an intra-regional threat perception. In other words, the initial unity in threat perception switched back towards the (historical) rule of mutual grievance.

5Conclusion

The aim of this chapter has been to put forward the argument that the security narrative has been responsible for the (un-)making of regional homogeneity in Central America. This argument provided a reinterpretation of the prevailing explanations, suggesting that the waves of regionalism in Central America cannot solely be explained by a lack of political will and/or weak institutions. I related these waves of regionalism to the underlying security narrative in three examples. ←114 | 115→This reinterpretation has provided the following results and reference points for further analysis. In terms of regionalism, the historical examples indicated that from a regional perspective, homogeneity in Central America was rather an exception than a rule. One may even reach to a conclusion that regionalism in the long durée mainly had two functions: (1) Regionalism acted as the ideal background for state formation and the consolidation of the Central American states during the 19th and until the beginning of the 20th century. Though seemingly at odds with the historical fact that regionalism was only present for a longer period during the federation, the idea of Central American unity was always around in the discursive repertoire. However, this idea mainly served as a discursive background under which internal quarrels and wars divided Central America into individual state spaces. Regionalism may have initially started from homogeneity in 1824 but eventually evolved into regional heterogeneity. Thus, regional space-making lastly paved the way for the creation of individual state spaces. (2) Regionalism as a background changed after the great depression of the 1930s. Though potentially forged under the dream of unity, regionalism in the form of the trinity of regional organizations mainly aimed at preserving the status quo in economic and political terms to suppress intra-societal resistance in each Central American country.

This reinterpretation of the waves of regionalism in Central America became explainable with reference to the underlying security narrative. Overall, I opted for a detailed analysis of what and who emerged as a security threat in the respective examples. What lies underneath this overall claim is the acknowledgment that the specific configuration of the security narrative is important. The rather exceptional configuration throughout the long durée has been a mergence and alignment of external and internal threat perception. When this configuration dominated, regionalism in Central America emerged. The rule, however, was an absence of lasting external threat perceptions and, instead, the prevalence of intra-Central American threat perceptions. When Central Americans feared their fellow citizens and neighbors more than anything else, dissolution of regionalism and fragmentation was the result. In this historical retrospective, one may even differentiate what intra-Central American threat perception means: (1) During the 19th century, intra-Central American threat perception meant mainly anxiety and grievances between elite factions on a rather horizontal level. This eventually was responsible for regional fragmentation and tentative state formation, respectively consolidation. (2) After the great depression of the 1930s, intra-Central American threat perception rather turned inwards and was vertical in terms of increasing fear of popular uprisings and leftist movements. Horizontal threat perception did not completely vanish but rather took a backseat within the security narrative.←115 | 116→

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1During colonial times, however, this delineation was not fixed from its onset: For example, the peninsula of Yucatan, Chiapas, and Panama belonged to Central America until 1542, when Yucatan shifted to the audiencia of New Spain in 1560 and Panama towards the viceroyalty of Peru in 1567, becoming later part of the viceroyalty of New Granada in the 18th century. Finally, Panama sprouted into Greater Colombia (1819–31), subsequently Colombia, and only recently integrated into Central America during the last three centuries (see Hall 16; Karnes 9; MacLeod 23; Medina-Nicolas 81; Roniger 18).

2I define regionalism as a regional project comprising a “programme and strategy which may lead to formal institution-building” (see Hettne and Söderbaum 34; Söderbaum 3).

3Approaching Central America from this specific regional angle implies a certain limitation: I do not intend to provide a full-fledged account of the national developments in each Central American country. Since this has been done extensively elsewhere, I refer to some important national as well as international developments for the waves of regional homogeneity. For this, I refer to the outstanding contributions of Acuña Ortega; Bulmer-Thomas, The Political; Dunkerley, Power; MacLeod; Mahoney, “Path-Dependent”; Paige; Weaver, Inside; Williams; Woodward, Central.

4From the 1980s onwards, Central America experienced three civil wars in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador. This period until today is the object of my forthcoming dissertation project.

5The Bourbon Reforms were an administrative and economic plan of reform elaborated after the War of Spanish Succession in 1714, first implemented in Spain and afterwards in the Americas. This plan of reform mainly aimed at strengthening the Spanish access to the economic surplus, a reform of administration and the beginning of economic liberalization in the colonies (see Pinto Soria; Wortman, “Bourbon” 233, 236–37).

6The liberal constitution of Cádiz can be considered as a reaction to the forced installation of Napoleon’s brother as the king of Spain in 1808, elaborated by Spanish forces in opposition to Napoleon. After the reinstatement of Ferdinand VII, the constitution was abandoned in 1814 and again enacted in 1820.

7The Federal Republic of Central America comprised Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

8William Walker was by no means the only filibuster sweeping into the Caribbean and Pacific area. US-filibusterism was a trend of the middle of the 19th century related to the US-expansion of the western frontier, the so-called Manifest Destiny and an attempt to find new potential territories to reproduce the US-southern states model of slave plantation economy, see May, Manifest; Medaglia Gómez.

9This refers to the term “liberal reforms” in which coffee and to some extent banana production began on a large scale to be implemented in the Isthmus. The period of “liberal reforms” mainly experienced an enforced lock-in towards an export-oriented agrarian economy (sometimes called ‘Coffee Revolution’). This implied a redistribution of large amounts of land, increasing the land concentration combined with more or less harsh measures to enforce and recruit sufficient amount of labor for the coffee fincas and banana plantations, see Brockett; Dunkerley, Power; Gudmundson and Lindo-Fuentes; Lauria-Santiago; Lindo-Fuentes; Paige; Reeves; Weaver, Inside; Williams.

10This refers to the Byran-Chamorro Treaty directly intervening in Nicaragua and guaranteeing exclusive building rights for an interoceanic canal in Nicaragua, see Bulmer-Thomas, The Political 20; Karnes 191–93; Roniger 99.

11The military acted as a kind of substitute in ruling the states for an economic elite, see Bulmer-Thomas, The Political; Dunkerley, Power; Holden, Armies; Mahoney, “Path-Dependent”; Mahoney, “Radical”; Zinecker, Kolumbien 101, 293–95.

12For a theoretical discussion of ISI, see Hirschman. For a general discussion of MCCA, see Bulmer-Thomas, The Political 172; Hernández 137–41. Concomitantly, there emerged the Central American Secretary for Economic Integration (Secretaria de Integración Económica Centroamericana, SIECA) and the Central American Development Bank (CABEI, Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica, BCIE), see Interiano Portillo 8; Fonseca and Ramírez.

13During the first decade, all participant countries of the CACM witnessed constant high rates of growth and the augmentation of the intra-regional trade as well as an increase in foreign direct investments and in the industry’s share in the GDP, see Bull 960; Cable 664; Dolinsky and Stookey 77; Nuhn 493; Sánchez Sánchez 80, 82.

14“[…] and they had even missed the cohesive influence of a common military enemy when they obtained independence. Now, free, there were dangers, but they were vague and diversified […]” (Karnes 55).

15Manifest Destiny and pro-slavery factions in the United States supported the US-filibusterism, see Medaglia Gómez. At the onset of the 1850s, the quarrels between the USA and Great Britain about a Nicaraguan canal became very intense. Besides Belize (British Honduras), Great Britain held some colonial territories at the Caribbean rim of Central America (Mosquito Coast). Even the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, 1850 could not calm down the dissension between both powers, see Harper’s Weekly; Leiken and Rubin 72–73; May, The Southern 86–88.

16Guatemala witnessed a so-called revolution between 1944 and 1954: Military dictator General Ubico was ousted in 1944 through popular uprising and the subsequent elections meant the emergence of a social-democratic government with a clear politico-economic project of reforming and redistributing the agrarian sector (especially since 1951). The Arbenz government was however ousted in 1954 by a concerted action and intervention of CIA, Guatemalan forces, and with more or less open support of the neighboring Central American states, Handy, “National”; Handy, “The Most”; Handy, “Insurgency”; Handy, Revolution; Gleijeses, “The Agrarian”; Gleijeses, Shattered.

17As an immediate response towards the Cuban Revolution, then US President John F. Kennedy initiated the Alliance for Progress for Latin America with the aim to prevent any future ‘Cubas’ in the western hemisphere. This multi-million dollar development program included, for example, social welfare measures and also Agrarian reforms.

18In contrast to this, Schmitter argues that CONDECA was founded based on an initiative from Guatemala and Nicaragua in 1961, Schmitter 37–38; Saxe-Fernández 41.

19US President Kennedy qtd. in Nairn 21, which refers to the Declaración de Centroamerica, adopted in San José, Costa Rica, in 1963 (see Fernández-Shaw 164–70).

20With the exception of Guatemala, which witnessed the formation of the Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes (FAR) right after the ousting of Arbenz, resistance and leftist movement remained rather under the radar in the other Central American countries.

21Remnants of the colonial empire, municipalities could maintain their powerful position after independence and during the federation by establishing multiple power centers: “The greatest challenge these independence leaders faced, whether they sought to relocate power to state or federal government, was getting cities to stop acting like sovereign states” (Dym, “Our” 466).

22Karnes lists in total 51 battles for Guatemala, 40 for El Salvador, 27 for Honduras, 17 for Nicaragua, and 5 for Costa Rica during 1824 until 1842 (94).

23In the final stages of the federal republic, opposition arose from the Guatemalan Highlands, especially Los Altos wherein Rafael Carrera, as a military leader quickly evolved as the conservative challenger of the perceived “true Central American” Francisco Morázan, see Clegern 1–3; Karnes 69; Riekenberg, “Die Rebellion”; Riekenberg, Ethnische; Weaver, Inside 54, 58; Weaver, “Reform.”

24“The Salvadorian Government has been criticised for exporting its social problems rather than solving them, and Honduran propagandists have drawn attention, for propaganda purposes, to a feudal oligarchy of ‘fourteen families’ who supposedly own most private property in El Salvador” (Cable 659).

25“[…] it was a fight between the fractions of the dominant upper classes in each country. The Salvadorian [fraction] was attempting to maintain its hegemony over the peasantry and within the power block; the Honduran [fraction] was intending to recover from the severe economic situation which the country faced.” (own translation)←121 | 122→←122 | 123→