A crowd for José Napoleón Duarte

Volume Four – El Salvador: Civil War in Central America


From 1979 to 1992, the military government of El Salvador, supported by the United States, fought a civil war against the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), resulting in the deaths of more than 80,000 people.
Salvadoran government armed forces and paramilitary death squads targeted and massacred civilians and Catholic clergy, including Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980, sometimes cooperating with the armed forces of Honduras.

  • What major differences between liberal and conservative ideologies, left-wing and right-wing ideologies, and socialist and capitalist economies, lead to conflict?
  • Why is it a problem if most of the fertile land in a country is owned by a few people?
  • Why are the interests of wealthy landowners, businessmen, government leaders, and military leaders, often seem opposed to those of students, teachers, workers, and religious leaders?

California Curriculum Framework and Standards

10th Grade California Curriculum Framework and Standards

World History and Geography: Medieval and Early Modern Times

Students in grade seven study the social, cultural, and technological changes that occurred in Europe, Africa, and Asia in the years A.D. 500–1789. After reviewing the ancient world and the ways in which archaeologists and historians uncover the past, students study the history and geography of great civilizations that were developing concurrently throughout the world during medieval and early modern times. They examine the growing economic interaction among civilizations as well as the exchange of ideas, beliefs, technologies, and commodities. They learn about the resulting growth of Enlightenment philosophy and the new examination of the concepts of reason and authority, the natural rights of human beings and the divine right of kings, experimentalism in science, and the dogma of belief. Finally, students assess the political forces let loose by the Enlightenment, particularly the rise of democratic ideas, and they learn about the continuing influence of these ideas in the world today.


7.1 Students analyze the causes and effects of the vast expansion and ultimate disintegration of the Roman Empire.

1. Study the early strengths and lasting contributions of Rome (e.g., significance of Roman citizenship; rights under Roman
law; Roman art, architecture, engineering, and philosophy; preservation and transmission of Christianity) and its ultimate
internal weaknesses (e.g., rise of autonomous military powers within the empire, undermining of citizenship by the growth of
corruption and slavery, lack of education, and distribution of news).
2. Discuss the geographic borders of the empire at its height and the factors that threatened its territorial cohesion.
3. Describe the establishment by Constantine of the new capital in Constantinople and the development of the Byzantine
Empire, with an emphasis on the consequences of the development of two distinct European civilizations, Eastern Orthodox
and Roman Catholic, and their two distinct views on church-state relations.

10th Grade World History, Culture and Geography: The Modern World

Curriculum Framework (2016)

Unit: Nation-Building in the Contemporary World, pp. 360-365

  • Students can engage in a comparative analysis of postcolonial developments in Latin America.
  • Latin American conflicts have often reflected differences between indigenous people and mestizos, and well as between leftist and conservative ideologies, and socialist and capitalist economies.
  • In the 1980s, several Central American states experienced protracted civil wars, but by the 1990s these conflicts had subsided, through the underlying issues remained unresolved.
  • Many Latin American nations have often been forced to rely on the export of a few raw materials as the basis of their economies, which can also fluctuate in value drastically on the world market.
  • As a result, nations end up deeply in debt to foreign banks or other financial institutions, which then require governments to undertake drastic cuts in social services as a condition for receiving loans.

Content Standard 10.10 (1998)

10.10 Students analyze instances of nation-building in the contemporary world in at least two of the following regions or countries: the Middle East, Africa, Mexico and other parts of Latin America, and China.

  1. Understand the challenges in the regions, including their geopolitical, cultural, military, and economic significance and the international relationships in which they are involved.
  2. Describe the recent history of the regions, including political divisions and systems, key leaders, religious issues, natural features, resources, and population patterns.
  3. Discuss the important trends in the regions today and whether they appear to serve the cause of individual freedom and democracy.
11th Grade United States History and Geography: Continuity and Change in Modern United States History

Curriculum Framework (2016)

Unit:  Contemporary American Society, pp. 426-432

  • During President Reagan’s first term in office, Cold War policies toward Latin American and the Soviet Union intensified: conflicts in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Panama demonstrated Reagan’s willingness to send American support to anti-communists all over the Western Hemisphere.

Content Standard (1998)

11.9.5  Analyze the role of the Reagan administration and other factors in the victory of the West in the Cold War.

12th Grade Principles of American Democracy (One Semester)

Curriculum Framework (2016)

Unit:  Comparative Governments and the Challenges of Democracy, pp. 450-454

  • Students can review major political and economic systems and how they influence economic policies, social welfare policies, and human rights practices: socialism, communism, capitalism
  • Students examine nondemocratic and tyrannical forms of government: control of the media, lack of political and personal freedoms, corruption of public officials, lack of governmental transparency, and the lack of citizens’ access to changing the government
  • Students can explore the importance of the rule of law, the need for civilian control of military and police, and the desirability of popular petitions, rallies, and other forms of participation
  • Attention also should be given to historical and contemporary movements that overthrew tyrannical governments and/or movements toward democratic government in Guatemala and El Salvador.

Content Standards (1998)

12.9.1  Explain how the different philosophies and structures of feudalism, mercantilism, socialism, fascism, communism, monarchies, parliamentary systems, and constitutional liberal democracies influence economic policies, social welfare policies, and human rights practices.

12.9.5  Identify the forms of illegitimate power that twentieth-century African, Asian, and Latin American dictators used to gain and hold office and the conditions and interests that supported them.

12.9.6  Identify the ideologies, causes, stages, and outcomes of major Mexican, Central American, and South American revolutions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Lesson Activities
In general, students:

    • Develop their own Compelling and Supporting Questions that will engage and sustain their interest in studying the history.
    • Using the photographs of the Richard Cross collection, prepare their own analyses of the causes, conduct of, and consequences of the conflict.

Compelling and Supporting Questions

  • What major differences between descendants of European conquerors and colonizers, indigenous people, and their offspring – mestizos, lead to conflict?
  • What major differences between liberal and conservative ideologies, left-wing and right-wing ideologies, and socialist and capitalist economies, lead to conflict?

Historical Content
Bullet points that

  • cover basic content
  • inform slide presentations
  • teach note-taking
  • lead to resources – websites and published curriculum

Photograph Viewing Guide

  • Authentic inquiry vs. exploitation
  • People, land and physical structures
  • Historical thinking skills
  • Personalizing historical photographs
Assessment Ideas
Formative and summative assessment options

References to support deeper study of conflict in Central America