ALDO LAURIA-SANTIAGO AND AVIVA CHOMSKY
Introduction
Identity and Struggle in the History
of the Hispanic Caribbean and Central
America, I8so-I9So
This volume brings together new research on the social history of Cen-
tral America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean in the crucial period
of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries-a period that
saw the consolidation of export economies and national states, both of
which, in most cases, have left enduring legacies for our times. Tradi-
tional histories of this period have been written from the top down, and,
from the international perspective, from the outside in. The contribu-
tions to this volume take the opposite approach. Drawing on recent
trends in social and cultural history, the authors see the popular classes
as important actors in their national histories and seek to uncover as-
pects of these histories that have heretofore remained submerged and
silent.
The contributors to this volume define "laboring peoples" very
broadly and integrate their histories into national and international
contexts. Laboring peoples in Central America and the Caribbean were
usually more rural than urban, and few fit the pattern of a classic pro-
letariat. Out of this ethnically and socially diverse population of former
slaves, peasants with varying relations to the land, and seasonal and per-
manent migrants, elites attempted to recruit or coerce a workforce for
agro-export industries.
The volume's chapters examine multiple forms of worker and peasant
culture, identity, consciousness, and resistance. Workers' and peasants'
individual and collective struggles were centered on questions relating
to community, ethnicity, land, and dignity as well as on work-related
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