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Women in WarThe Micro-processes of Mobilization in El Salvador$

Jocelyn Viterna

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199843633

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199843633.001.0001

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(p.233) Appendix B Data and Methods

(p.233) Appendix B Data and Methods

Women in War
Oxford University Press

I. Listing of Data Sources

The 230 interviews conducted for this book were distributed as follows:

Interview Sources

Total Number of Interviews

The “Relatively Random” Sample: These men and women were selected by impartial criteria with the explicit goal of gaining a relatively representative group of guerrillas and non-guerrillas, although it would of course not qualify as a statistically random sample. (Sampling process described below.)


Breakdown by Wartime Participation:

-38 women guerrillas

-13 women collaborators

-31 women nonparticipants

-19 men guerrillas*

-5 men collaborators*

-8 men nonparticipants

-4 men in the Salvadoran Armed Forces*

-4 dropped**

The “Leader” Sample: These women were selected for interviews because others in their municipio identified them as leaders.


Breakdown by Wartime Participation:

-14 guerrillas***

-5 collaborators

-1 nonparticipant

Key FMLN Informants: These interviews provided information about formal FMLN policies and procedures. Nine of these interviews were conducted after analyzing the rank-and- file data, which allowed me to confirm whether the patterns I identified in my data were in fact regularized practices (if not formal policy) in FMLN camps.


Breakdown by wartime participation:

-7 high level FMLN commanders

(3 men, 4 women)

-6 mid-level FMLN commanders

(5 men, 1 woman)

Other Key Informants:


-2 political leaders

-One interview with two Catholic nuns from the United States who had lived in El Salvador during the war

-6 interviews, one with each community’s village council members to learn about community histories and resources (each interview had 1-4 respondents)

Women’s Movement Representatives:


Interviewed one high level staff person at each of 8 different women’s NGOs currently operating in El Salvador

Pre-study Interviews:


Women living in war zones; convenience sample

(*) Of the four men who served in the Salvadoran Armed Forces, one also served as an FMLN guerrilla, and one also served as an FMLN collaborator. They are each counted twice, once in each category.

(**) Four individuals were dropped from the analysis. One woman was dropped because she was only 18 at the time of the interview and was too young to have any real war experiences. A second woman was dropped because the interviewer failed to properly record the interview and the notes were insufficient for the detailed analyses required. One man was dropped because he was clearly mentally disabled and had great difficulty answering the questions. And a second man was dropped because inconsistencies in his story led to doubts of its accuracy. All dropped individuals from the “relatively random” group were nonparticipants in the war.

(***) Two women selected as leaders were not recorded, and therefore are not included in my tables. Both were former guerrillas. One was not recorded due to interviewer error. The other agreed to an interview with the condition that no recording be made. Although detailed notes from both interviews suggest that these two individuals support all the arguments in the text, I chose not to include them in the tables in appendix A because the notes are simply not as detailed as recordings would otherwise be.

(p.234) (p.235)

In addition, archival information on the organizational structure, ideologies, and recruitment strategies of the FMLN were found in these San Salvador locations:

  • Museo de la Palabra y el Imagen

  • CEPAZ-Centro de Paz

  • Biblioteca General de la Fuerza Armada de El Salvador (Armed Forces Library)

Listing of key documents utilized in chapter 2 (copies available from author upon request):

  • Partido Revolucionario de Trabajadores Salvadoreños (PRTC). La Estrategica de su violencia, política y su propaganda. 1985. Armed Forces internal document.

  • Informe especial de inteligencia: Campamento guerrillero del ELN (Brazo armado del FAR/FMLN) “Nube-9,” ubicado en el canton Jocotán, San Fernando, Chalatenango. Desmantelado el día 18 de junio de 1981. Armed Forces internal document.

  • Algunas tácticas del FMLN. Publicación del Grupo de Operaciones especiales de la Fuerza Armada de El Salvador. No date. Armed Forces internal document.

  • Estudio sobre las fuerzas terroristas salvadoreñas: PRTC. 1985. Armed Forces internal document.

  • Estudio sobre el FMLN. Octubre 1984. Armed Forces internal Document.

  • El trabajo de organización campesina. 1987. FMLN internal document.

  • El ejército de milicia y guerrilla. Lineamientos de organización. 1987. FMLN internal document.

  • Lineas Militar del FMLN. Morazan, Mayo-Junio 1985. FMLN internal document.

  • La Sociedad que Construiremos (Aspectos Centrales del Programa Máximo). Documento 5. Escuela Revolucionaria Cmdte. “Lilian Mercedes Letona.” PRS. No date. FMLN internal document.

  • Apuntes Acerca de la Insurrección Armada de las Masas. 1987. Comité Zonal. FMLN internal document.

  • Sintesis de la Linea de Accion de Masas: Fase de Preparación de la Contraofensiva Estrategica. Comandancia General 1986. FMLN internal document.

  • La Ofensiva Estrategica. Comandancia General 1987. FMLN internal document.

  • Información: Tarea de Todos. Comité Zonal. 1987. FMLN internal document.


II. The Qualitative Interview Process

1. Seeking a “Relatively Representative” Sample

Qualitative interview data are generally characterized by rich, detailed, textured information from a relatively small number of individuals. As a result, they are often better for “theory building” than for “theory testing.” This study is no exception. However, there is no escaping the fact that my research questions themselves imply a degree of generalizability. “Why did women join the FMLN guerrilla army?” “What are the consequences of women’s FMLN guerrilla experiences?” I therefore aimed to select respondents who are as representative as possible of the category “women guerrillas”—even while acknowledging that a truly statistically randomized sample of my targeted population was of course impossible.

Sources estimate that more than 95% of FMLN guerrillas hailed from rural areas, so I focused my data collection exclusively in rural areas. I first selected six villages from three different municipios across El Salvador—Suchitoto, Perquín, and Jiquilisco. A municipio is similar to a U.S. county in that it is a politically bounded geographic region that incorporates a number of smaller villages within its territory. Each municipio was chosen because it represented a different geographic region of El Salvador and was included on a UN list of the 25 municipios most violently disputed during the civil war. These municipios also demonstrate varying degrees of FMLN control during the war, with one region being well-ensconced in FMLN territory, while the other two were sites of constant conflict between the two warring factions. The six villages were then chosen from within the three municipios to ensure representation of all five ideological branches of the FMLN guerrilla army and to achieve some variation in size. Villages ranged from approximately 300 to 1,000 inhabitants. The three municipios selected for research, and their relationship to zones of conflict at the end of the war, are indicated on the map at the front of this book.

Next, with the help of hired Salvadoran high school students, I surveyed all households in each community (or a random subset of households in the two largest communities), asking how many adult men and women lived in each home, what were their ages, and whether or not any of them lived and worked in the guerrilla camps during the civil war. With this information, I selected 14 women (7 guerrillas and 7 non-guerrillas), and 6 men (3 guerrillas and 3 non-guerrillas) from each community to interview. The guerrilla members were selected at random, and the non-guerrillas were selected to match the ages of the selected guerrillas as closely as possible. My resulting group of respondents was highly representative of the full population of the six villages in terms of age and participation distributions. Only two of the initially identified individuals, one man and one woman (1.7%), refused to take part in an interview. Each (p.237) was replaced with another similar individual from the list who in turn complied. These interviews took place between September 2001 and May 2002.

The men and women selected were interviewed in depth about their present-day ideas, activities, and living conditions, as well as about their wartime experiences. Some questions were written to specifically target factors highlighted in the literature as critical for processes of mobilization and participation, and other, more open questions generated narrative recounts of experiences before, during, and after the war. The shortest interviews lasted one hour; the longest took nearly eight hours spread across two afternoons. Typically, interviews lasted two or three hours. Each interview was conducted in Spanish, in the respondent’s home community (and usually in her home), recorded, and transcribed in its entirety.

In addition to these 120 individuals selected to be relatively representative of the variation across the rank-and-file of the FMLN, I also interviewed 20 women from these same municipios whom other community members identified as “leaders.” Identifying the paths by which these women became leaders, and comparing their experiences with those of women selected more randomly, helps capture the processes by which some women gained political and economic power at the end of the war and others did not.

I also conducted interviews with key informants. To get contextual information about the communities in which I lived and worked, I conducted group interviews with village leaders about each community’s history, resources, and political and social activities. To better understand the historical and present day operations of the feminist movement in El Salvador, I interviewed representatives of eight leading women’s organizations about their history, mission, and relation with war and revolution. Seven of these organizations were headquartered in San Salvador. Finally, I interviewed seven high-ranking FMLN commanders and six mid-level FMLN commanders about the structure and daily operations of the FMLN guerrilla camps and women’s place within these structures. Four of the five FMLN factions were represented. I also conducted four interviews with political and religious leaders to gain a more general sense of the power dynamics among the competing groups during the war.

Finally, data from 60 rural women interviewed more informally during a preliminary trip to El Salvador in 1998–1999 are used to weave together local histories and to enrich the descriptions of life during the war more generally. This brings the total to 230 interviews conducted across a four-year period. I conducted roughly 75% of these interviews myself; trained research assistants conducted the remaining 25%. These narratives, in combination with the hundreds of conversations and observations that I made while living among my Salvadoran hosts—over meals in their homes, at community meetings, while helping with English homework at night, picking corn in the fields during the work day, and simply hanging out at the community mill, water pump, tiendita (small store), or (p.238) bus stop—provide the foundation for this analysis. Several archival documents (primarily FMLN and Armed Forces wartime reports) provide additional background information.

In total, I spent approximately two and one-half years in El Salvador (two 11-month trips in 1998–1999 and 2001–2002, plus seven short trips between 1995 and 2012).

2. Why El Salvador?

If women are to be empowered by guerrilla activism, then El Salvador is clearly a place where such empowerment would occur. First, El Salvador was one of the most successful of all Latin American movements in terms of generating large numbers of guerrilla recruits and civilian support (Wickham-Crowley 1992), and there is some indication that the depth of women’s integration into the guerrillas may have been particularly strong here (Luciak 2001). Second, the FMLN espoused a socialist ideology and, at least in its formal statements, prioritized women’s equality within the revolutionary movement. Third, although the civil war itself was very violent, the FMLN seldom advocated or enacted violence against women or violence against civilians as a tactic of war (Wood 2006).1 In fact, as my interviews make clear, it was often considered safer for women to be in an FMLN guerrilla camp than to be a civilian in the war zone. Fourth, the FMLN relied heavily on the international community for material resources and political support. Because these international players were invested in the image of emancipated women warriors, the FMLN believed that funds and support would flow more freely from the international community if women were active in the movement (or at least appeared to be). Fifth, guerrilla activism in El Salvador lasted for 12 years, giving plenty of time for women to be mobilized as insurgents, and for insurgency to shape their life courses.

Finally, many of the cases in which scholars claim women were empowered by war are also cases where rebel armies won political power, such as the Nicaraguan FSLN, Frelimo in Mozambique, and ZANU in Zimbabwe. Given powerful evidence that successful revolutions often result in significant social and economic transformations (Eckstein 1985, 1988; Fishman 2010), this makes it difficult to tease out whether so-called empowerment arose from women’s wartime activism or from the postwar actions of the winning rebel armies who now have an opportunity to put their revolutionary visions into action. It might also leave revolutionaries with a sense of “mission accomplished,” and account for possible declines in women’s activism. By contrast, the Salvadoran FMLN fought the Salvadoran state to a stalemate, and the negotiated peace settlement and subsequent elections left the FMLN in the role of political opposition rather than state leader. As such, gendered changes in society cannot be attributed to a new revolutionary agenda enacted by rebel victors, and FMLN activists have a clear (p.239) reason to continue to be active after the war has ended, given that the ultimate goal—taking state power and transforming society—had not been achieved. In sum, if warfare is to empower women, El Salvador is the case where we should see such empowerment.

Yet in other important ways, El Salvador is very similar to other cases of civil war. Women joined the insurgent army both willingly and unwillingly, participated in both combat and in support roles, and also comprised the vast majority of the civilian support system for the guerrillas. And although the FMLN seldom engaged in sexual and other brutal forms of violence against civilian women, it is well documented that the Salvadoran state troops did engage in massacres, torture, and sexual violence, particularly early in the war. Also like other cases, Salvadoran women experienced high levels of displacement, increases in single parent, female-headed households, increases in number of dependents, and other general sources of war distress. In these ways, the Salvadoran war was typical in its incorporation of women into violence.

There are also two practical reasons for choosing El Salvador. One, the timing of the Salvadoran civil war makes it an ideal case. I collected most data for this project in 2001 and 2002, ten years after the January 1992 peace accords formally ended the war. This allowed sufficient time to actually see how women’s lives had unfolded in the aftermath of the war, yet the war was not so long past that women’s wartime experiences would be too difficult to recall. Two, El Salvador is one of the few cases where official data exist about the number of women demobilized from the insurgent army, leaving us relatively certain that the estimated extent of women’s participation in this conflict is accurate.2

3. GainingAccessasaChelita inRural ElSalvador

I selected the municipios of Suchitoto, Perquín, and Jiquilisco for the 2002 interviews prior to entering the field. I chose these sites because they provided me with needed variation in respect to geography, economic landscapes, degree of FMLN control, and historical relationships with the five factions that comprised the FMLN. I had also worked in two of these three sites (Suchitoto and Perquín) in my preliminary investigations in 1998–1999, and thus had a sense of the historical and political composition of the areas, and several contacts with local NGOs operating there. I chose the individual communities within each municipio by first seeking variation in FMLN factions (i.e., literally asking municipal informants, “so where do the people from the FAL live?”) and then seeking an initial introduction to a village council member in one of the few designated communities. These initial introductions were in all but one case made by Salvadorans. As a white woman (a chelita, according to the Salvadorans) from the United States, I felt that such an introduction was useful for helping allay any fears (p.240) or misconceptions about my role in the community. On my first visit to each community, I sought out the village council president, asked for information on when the next village council meeting would occur, and if it might be okay for me to attend the meeting and discuss my research with them. I then returned to meet with the village council, explaining my project and asking their permission to proceed with my research in their community. I also used this second visit to discuss where I might live while conducting my research, and to set up a group interview with village leaders regarding the village history. Often, the history was told to me in this very meeting. Finally, I would return a third time and set up camp, usually staying in someone’s home or in a small guest house, while I conducted my interviews. I would generally spend a week or two in the village at one time, then return to my home base in San Salvador for a week to pick up new questionnaires, turn over recordings for transcription, and do preliminary data analysis.

My advanced knowledge of the Spanish language and my relatively youthful appearance eased my acceptance by rural Salvadorans. Although I was nearly 30 years old during my last year of full-time data collection, I was regularly told by Salvadorans that I looked more like I was 19 or 20, likely because I have had better nutrition, and have worked many fewer hours of hard labor under the intense sun, than most rural Salvadoran women of my age. I also had not achieved the milestones that most Salvadorans anticipated from a woman of my age—marriage and motherhood. I introduced myself as a student from the United States writing a thesis, and made very clear that I could offer no material benefits in exchange for my interviews (although I did try to contribute to the communities in some ways, such as by giving rides in my aging car, teaching English, or even offering a session on the basic rules of basketball. I also helped collect names of civilian casualties of war for a war memorial that was being built in San Salvador.) I feel that my perceived youth encouraged Salvadorans to see me as a relatively innocuous presence in their lives—neither a source of resources nor a source of danger, but rather a young person interested in learning the history of their remarkable lives.

4. Securing Participation, Categorizing Respondents

In each village, I hired a team of high school students to help me conduct initial surveys of each house in the village (or, in the largest community, a random subset of those houses). These surveys asked how many adult men and women lived in each home, what their ages were, and whether or not any of them lived and worked in the guerrilla camps during the civil war. Upon getting this information, I then made a list of all women who reported living in a guerrilla camp, from youngest to oldest, as well as their non-guerrilla counterparts. I made (p.241) similar lists for men. I then divided the total number of the woman guerrilla list by 7, and, closing my eyes, placed my pencil on the list to randomly select my first respondent. Finally, I counted off by the result of the above division from the randomly selected first respondent until I had identified six others. This method ensured that I did not select women according to any preexisting knowledge or criteria, but also assured that I talked to women who were relatively evenly spaced across the age distribution. (Of course, because there were more women guerrillas in their late 20s than, for example, in their late 50s, the distribution of respondent ages still approximated closely the distribution of guerrilla women ages more generally.) I then selected seven women from the non-guerrilla list who most closely matched the ages of the women selected to be guerrilla respondents. These were the 14 women that I then approached for interviews from each village. I conducted the same process for men, but only selected three guerrillas and three non-guerrillas. As noted in chapter 5, it was very difficult to find non-guerrilla men of similar ages to guerilla men, given that most men had felt compelled to take up arms for one side or the other.

This process was effective, but not perfect. Sometimes women whom I had classified as guerrillas because of the initial survey data were later reclassified as nonparticipants or collaborators upon conducting the in-depth interview. In these cases, women often had spent a few days in an FMLN camp while fleeing, or misunderstood the survey question and were referring to refugee camp life rather than guerrilla camp life. Likewise, some women who initially identified as non-guerrillas in the survey, upon participating in the interview, turned out to be classified as a guerrilla by my criteria. In these cases, women who “only” cooked in the guerrillas, or “only” were camp followers, had not identified themselves as guerrillas on the survey form, because they did not consider this type of participation worthy of full guerrilla status. As a result, the numbers of actual guerrilla and non-guerrilla women interviewed (as outlined in the table above) did not neatly match the expected distributions given my sampling design.

To encourage trust and increase my response rate, I lived in the villages where I was conducting interviews as much as possible. I tried to take part in community events—watching soccer games, attending festivities or women’s group meetings, or even just hanging out with cokes at the local store—to make myself as visible as possible. I also occasionally accompanied a family to pick corn, harvest coffee, visit a school, or tour a shrimp cooperative, with the intention of learning more about the lives of my respondents. By the time I knocked on each door for an interview, I had the sense that the targeted individual already had seen me around, and knew who I was and what I was doing through the community grapevine.

The individuals selected for interviews were overwhelmingly willing to talk to me. In fact, I had more difficulty explaining to those not selected why I would (p.242) not interview them than I had convincing those selected to take part! I believe this stems in large part from what Wood has documented as Salvadorans’ “pride in agency” (Wood 2003); these men and women have a sense that they have made history, and yet they have few means available to document that history, especially given their low literacy rates. Overwhelmingly, respondents expressed gratitude for my interest in their lives. In particular, non-guerrilla men and women were pleased to be asked for interviews, as they felt that foreigners were so often interested in the stories of the guerrillas that they failed to note how those who survived the war in other ways also had important stories to tell.

My respondents’ willingness to participate in interviews was gendered. Men were in almost all cases very excited to share their stories with me, and comfortable with the interview format. About half of the women were similarly enthusiastic, but the other half were a bit more reticent at the first request. In these cases, I would generally drop my request for an interview and simply chat with the woman about her life and her children. If the woman was making tortillas, as they were often doing throughout the day, I often asked if she would help me learn to make tortillas as well. Although frequently puzzled by this unusual request, the women always agreed to help, and the situation always quickly turned comical as I struggled earnestly to create poor, misshapen, unappealing tortillas. In the process of guiding my actions, and sometimes literally guiding my hands with their own, my relationship with the women became more relaxed. I believe that the very visual act of seeing how untalented I was at negotiating life in rural El Salvador lessened the power differentials between me and the women I hoped to interview, and resulted in them investing somewhat in the task of teaching me what it meant to be a woman in El Salvador. Upon returning a second time, I was always granted an interview. Only one woman negated participation altogether. This woman looked nervously at her compañero as she was telling me “no,” and through a later conversation with my host family, I learned that her compañero was often violent, so I did not persist in interviewing this woman but, rather, selected another woman of similar age and participation experience from the list.

5. Negotiating Timelines

Salvadorans, like all human beings, often struggled to remember the dates of their various life experiences. While some dates were burned into their psyche—such as when they could tell me the date and the hour when a loved one was killed or a repopulation began—others were muddled by time. This was complicated by the fact that the upheaval of war made referencing calendars or documenting births, deaths, or changes in place of residence especially difficult. (p.243) For example, when trying to remember how old she was at various moments in the war, Claudia noted that she was struggling in large part because she had only recently learned her actual age after a concerted effort to locate her birth certificate.

I have written about the challenges of memory elsewhere (Viterna 2006, 2008), but I note here that Salvadorans were very willing to negotiate lost dates with me through the course of the interviews. Specifically, I utilized my knowledge of the timing of key events in Salvadoran history (a nearby massacre, the paving of a key road, etc.) and asked individuals if they remembered walking on that road to a meeting or whether an event was before or after the massacre. For example, Alicia noted early in her interview the importance of Monseñor Romero in her life:

When Monseñor Romero would come to one village or another we always went to show our support. He came once to Buena Vista, and that was when I was able to meet the Monseñor, he gave me his hand. He was so nice and when he died, it was such a difficult thing, because there in the communities, we all knew him.

So later, when Alicia struggled with recalling the date of her displacement, I used my knowledge of Romero’s assassination in March of 1980 to narrow the window of when it could have occurred. When I asked, “In what year did they burn your house?” she replied, “Look, I don’t remember.”

“Was it before or after Monseñor Romero died?”

“It was before the Monseñor died, because when he died, we were already homeless.”

Likewise, women often utilized the ages of their children to reconstruct the timing of key events. By remembering that they were attending meetings with one baby in their arms and another in their belly, or that their oldest was just three years old when they fled to the mountains for the first time, we could then work back from their child’s present age to the date of the event. A typical conversation about dates often proceeded with the respondent posing a mathematical problem in response to my question (e.g., “When did we get to Mesa Grande? Well, let’s see, I was pregnant with [names child] when I arrived to the refugee camp, and she’s 18 now, so what does that mean?”), which I would then solve (that would have been in 1983), and the woman would concur (“Yes, it was 1983”). Using these techniques, we would cooperatively re-create the respondent’s war history. Although some of the dates reported in the text may be off by a year or two, I believe the timelines that we developed in the context of the interview provide an accurate recreation of the pattern of events of individuals lives amid the Salvadoran civil war. (p.244)

6. Negotiating Language

The Salvadorans whom I interviewed were highly intelligent with broad, colorful vocabularies; I hope this comes through clearly in the translations. However, what was harder to capture were the colloquialisms they frequently used. The original quotes in Spanish are available from the author upon request. I also refer the reader to the definitions of commonly used Spanish words at the beginning of the book.

Although I am nearly fluent in Spanish, there were a number of occasions where my nonnative abilities lessened the quality of the interview. For example, Julia told me in her interview that, when she and her siblings were fleeing the Armed Forces, they jumped a cerco to get away (literally, los brincamos un cerco para huir). At the moment of the interview, I did not know what cerco meant, but through the context of the rest of the sentence, I guessed that it must have been some sort of small fence. Only later, when translating with dictionary in hand, did I realize that a cerco is actually a military blockade. Had I realized in the moment of the interview what I was actually being told, I would have asked more questions about how such young children were able to break through a blockade. However, I failed to probe because of the misunderstanding.

Other language difficulties stemmed from the lack of a clear vocabulary to address concepts of interest. For example, when I would ask women about sexual harassment, they often immediately assumed that I was talking about rape, and would respond by saying that there were no rapes in a guerrilla camp. Words for lesser forms of sexual harassment made little sense to the women that I interviewed. Likewise, I quickly realized that the directly translated reclutar for “recruitment” was interpreted as forced recruitment, and my use of this word was generally met with strong resistance from my interviewers, who vehemently insisted that joining the FMLN was voluntary. To get around these difficult nuances, I worked hard to be as specific as possible in my questioning. Instead of asking about harassment generally, for example, I would offer specific examples of harassment and ask whether those concrete behaviors were the norm or not. Likewise, I would be very clear in asking if individuals received an “invitation” or “encouragement” to join the FMLN, and if so, how they made the decision to join, or why they felt “obligated.” Finally, I had all of my interviews transcribed by native Spanish speakers. The woman how translated the majority of my interviews was a university-educated Argentinian who had lived and worked among rural Salvadorans for many years and therefore was well versed in their colloquialisms and the nuances of words like “obligation.” Any time she felt that a misunderstanding had occurred between my respondent and me, she would note it in the transcription. Happily, such occurrences were rare. (p.245)

7. Maintaining Confidentiality

All names of individuals in this book are pseudonyms. All names of places are real. However, I never mention the name of a community in which my respondents’ live today, even though I might note where they lived and worked in the past. For example, many of my respondents passed through one of the large first repopulations (New Copapayo or Segundo Montes) prior to moving on to their present-day community, and so I leave references to these earlier repopulations intact. Nor do I mention communities if the reference might allow someone to be identified, such as when someone reports on the actions of the mayor of a particular municipality. Most respondents made clear to me that they had no problems letting their names be recorded either in writing or on the audio recordings. However, even when offered, I negated to take down such information, noting that university rules prohibited me from recording any names. Whenever a name came up in the context of an interview, I would stop and remind the person that I did not want to know names, and that I would not be recording any names, but preferred the use of descriptives like “mother,” “brother,” or “friend.” I felt that by establishing a high bar for anonymity early in the interview, then my respondents were more comfortable revealing sensitive information that might surface later in the interview, such as when women would talk about a child who deserted from the FMLN, or a compañero who would mistreat her. (p.246)


(1.) This is not to imply that the FMLN were saints. They were often harsh with their enemies, and were known to classify their “enemies” fairly broadly, as documented by their ajusticimientos (trials and executions) in the guerrilla camps (Americas Watch 1991).

(2.) Luciak (2001) and Kampwirth (2002) raise concerns that these “official” numbers may be overstated given the categorization of many demobilized individuals as “political” rather than “combatant” members, and given some discrepancies of reported ages. However, Vázquez, Ibánez, and Murguialday (1996) interview female commanders who verify the (p.268) 30% figure, and their data, as well as my own, suggest that women were actually less likely than men to go through the demobilization process (Vázquez et al. 1996, 217; also, chap. 8 this volume), indicating that women were under rather than over counted. Additionally, Verhey’s (2001) study of the demobilization process states that women’s “official” participation numbers were 38% of the FMLN demobilized forces.