Learning about our history and Central America’s civil wars
Quote by Guatemalan-American poet Maya Chinchilla (Milvian Gonzalez)
Given that the Civil Wars in Central America occurred during the late twentieth century, the only information most Central American students have about these wars comes from family members who actually experienced them.
Mark Aguilar, a sophomore majoring in cinema and media studies at UMD says he does not recall ever learning about the Central American diasporas and wars throughout his K-12 education.
“The knowledge I have on the civil war in El Salvador are stories from my dad who was young while it was happening.”
Aside from his father, Aguilar also learned about the Salvadoran civil war through “Voces Inocentes,” a 2004 film about the Salvadoran Civil War that he watched in his childhood.
Mark recounts how the film provided him insight into what it was like to live in El Salvador during the war, and its effects.
“As a kid, I knew El Salvador wasn't like that anymore, but it showed me how devastating a pretty recent war had been for families during the time, like my dad who lost three brothers during the war”
According to Eduardo Figueroa, a sophomore majoring in psychology at UMD, his education on Central American diasporas throughout his K-12 education was minimal.
He says that the only time he learned anything relevant to the Civil wars that occurred in parts of Central America was when he learned about the Guatemalan CIA coup in his U.S History class in high school.
“They talked about the context of the events, military figures, military tactics, and the effects that came with the coup.”
Eduardo mentions it would not have made much sense to go into detail about Central American diasporas in a class that specialized in U.S History.
Eduardo does, however, mention that learning about the Guatemala CIA coup inspired him to learn more about the Guatemalan civil war.
“I took it upon myself to learn on my own time.”
Dr. Ana Patricia Rodríguez, an Associate Professor in the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures says that it is important for students to know about the long line of resilience that Central Americans come from as well as “knowing your history so that it does not repeat itself.”
Rodríguez and her family came to the U.S. in the late 60s, before the Salvadoran Civil War which started in 1979.
Dr. Rodríguez remembers her father's house as an “underground” in the sense that they were not personally experiencing the war but were in close contact with family members who were.
She did not learn about the war or any of the uprisings that led to it in her K-12 learning and recounts that her insight into Central America began with her politically engaged household.
“Home was school to me because my family was always talking about what was happening in the country, says Rodríguez. ”
She emphasizes that while being educated on Central America's history and civil wars is important, the material cannot solely stem from U.S. scholars. She mentions that scholarship from Central America should also be respected and, as she claims, it is important to “learn directly” from people who lived through these events firsthand in Central America.