The Middle Sector

El Salvador Table of Contents

The small proportion of society constituting a middle class-- about 8 percent in the early 1980s--included skilled workers, government employees, professionals, school teachers, smallholders, small businessmen, and commercial employees. These people were caught between the polar extremes of wealth and poverty. Not being members of the traditional oligarchy--although the great success of nineteenth- century coffee production had stimulated the development of the middle sector as well as of the elite--the middle sector traditionally had little direct influence in government affairs. Similarly, although profoundly influenced by the United States, members of this population sector did not have sufficient wealth to enjoy ready access to schooling or travel in that country. Instead, having only a tenuous toehold on property and limited power within the existing Salvadoran system, the middle sector found its position precarious and felt seriously threatened by El Salvador's political and economic crises.

After the depression of the 1930s, the middle sector hoped to improve the standard of living for all Salvadorans through agrarian reform and through legalized peasant organizing. In the 1960s and early 1970s, various professionals and other members of the middle class tried to promote meaningful elections and called for a transition to more open and participatory democratic procedures. As economic and political crises deepened in the 1970s and 1980s, however, many members of the middle class became alienated by the rising tide of political violence. Many of these Salvadorans wished that the problem of "subversives" would simply go away so that order, stability, and economic growth could be restored. Others, however, chose to become increasingly active in political parties or popular organizations.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress