Assessment for Indigenous Peoples in El Salvador
|Publisher||Minorities at Risk Project|
|Publication Date||31 December 2000|
|Cite as||Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Indigenous Peoples in El Salvador, 31 December 2000, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f3a763.html [accessed 23 May 2015]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Most of El Salvador's indigenous people are assimilated into the society, though there remain small pockets of indigenous communities that have retained their traditional customs and language. Though the Salvadoran government does not officially recognize the indigenous people, political discrimination against them is due to neglect, not any prevailing practice (POLDIS01-03 = 2). Economic discrimination against the indigenous is a widespread yet informal social practice. The indigenous people of El Salvador are impoverished and lack adequate education and health facilities. While not targeting the indigenous specifically, conditions within the country have been improving slightly since 1992, when the government started implementing policies to ensure better treatment of individuals, and began to recognize past human rights abuses by the military and police. Some officials have even been sentenced to prison. As the peace process consolidates in El Salvador, it is not very likely that the indigenous will organize or mobilize as an identity group (COHESX9 = 4), but rather as a larger part of the rurally poor in society (ECOSTR99 = 5). Furthermore, violence does not seem likely since most protest and organization by indigenous people has been peaceful and non-violent. Factors supporting the likelihood of rebellion or protest are all but non-existent.
The indigenous constitute 5% (310,000) of El Salvador's population and primarily reside in the southwestern region in the states of Sonsonate (especially the communities Nahuizalco and Izalco), Ahuachapan, La Libertad, and (to a lesser extent) Santa Ana. The most well known community is Panchimalco, just outside of San Salvador (GROUPCON = 3).
Although the indigenous are estimated to make up 5% of the population of El Salvador, few retain their traditional indigenous culture and customs. Virtually all of El Salvador's indigenous speak Spanish as their native tongue and very few are familiar with Nahuatl, their traditional language. By appearance, some may appear of darker skin color than ladinos (i.e. mestizos), which may also be due to their likelihood to labor outdoors. Very few indigenous wear traditional dress, such as the huipiles (skirts worn by women) (ETHDIFXX = 7). The majority of Salvadoran society are ladinos, and distinct indigenous communities and organizations are less prevalent (RACE = 2). Most Salvadorans, indigenous and non-indigenous, are Roman Catholic.
Salvadoran indigenous people are the descendants of the Pupils, a nomadic tribe of the Nahua of central Mexico. From the beginning of Spanish conquest in El Salvador, the indigenous and the Spaniards lived in the same areas. Racial mixing, known as "mestizaje", began in the 16th century. With the development of indigo plantations in the early 17th century, many indigenous villages were destroyed, and many were forced to farm and work on these plantations.
In 1932, some indigenous people who were protesting government policies killed 35 ladinos. In retaliation, the government killed between 35,000 and 50,000 indigenous, in a massacre called "La Matanza." Afterwards, the indigenous began to hide their traditions and to assimilate into the dominant ladino society (POLSTAT = 2). This process accelerated during the 1980-1992 civil war, when death squads killed thousands (ATRISK1 = 1). Many indigenous people were discouraged from their traditional customs and culture for fear of being associated with targeted grassroots organizations. The present Salvadoran Constitution makes no specific provisions for the rights of indigenous people, or for their ability to participate in decisions affecting their lands, culture, traditions, or the allocation of natural resources.
The indigenous people want: protection of land (ECOGR501-03 = 1), protection of customs (CULGR201-03 = 1), bilingual education (CULGR301-03 = 1), equal civil rights (POLGR401-03 = 2), the development of a central state to organize a national commission to address indigenous concerns (POLGR302-03 = 1), greater political rights in own community (POLGR201-03 = 1), and improved working conditions (ECOGR401-03 = 1).
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