Imagining the Future of the Subaltern Past-
Fragments of Race, Class, and Gender in Central
America and the Hispanic Caribbean, I8so-I9So
The peoples of Central America and the Hispanic Caribbean faced
daunting challenges in their attempts at nation-state formation dur-
ing the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Not the least of these
challenges was the systematic undermining of national sovereignty by
other, more powerful states, particularly the United States. U.S. geo-
political interests appeared to require the proliferation of small, weak
states at the same time that the United States endangered their very
existence through overt and recurrent manipulation and intervention.
Whether or not their viability as nation-states was compromised by
arbitrary geographic or economic boundaries, foreign interventionism
generated a hypernationalist resistance that served to further highlight
that these states valued their sovereignty, despite its perception by out-
siders as dubious and contested.
In most cases the dominant nationalist discourses invoked a moral and
historical dualism as simplistic as it was effective: a demonized North
American or imperialist "other" frustrating the national aspirations of
a heroic, ever more homogeneous "people." Whether in the hands of
the earliest generations of upper-class or creole political leaders, or
in the more heated rhetoric of would-be reformists and revolution-
aries of the middle classes, it was within this frame of reference that
the laboring classes made their demands for incorporation and defined
themselves as citizens with rights to defend and a historical identity to
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