There is much gnashing of teeth and flowering of fulminations over the desire of migrants from Central America to migrate northward, ultimately to the United States. Those who bemoan immigration, particularly immigration of persons with (ahem) darker skin and foreign accents, want them stopped, ofttimes forgetting that, a generation or two or three ago, persons who were already here wanted to forbid their own ancestors from arriving on these shores.
Aviva Chomsky reminds us that the United States is neither an innocent bystander nor a blameless victim in this current northward migration.
For the past century and a half, Central America has been subject to the whims of U.S. corporations backed by the U.S. government. In the 19th century, U.S. adventurers and filibusters invaded Central America, settled there and advertised the region as an easy route to the California Gold Rush. Starting at the end of the century, the United Fruit Company developed massive banana plantations along the Caribbean coast and established regular shipping routes in the region, taking advantage of cheap land and labor and creating a market for bananas in the United States.
In Nicaragua, the Sandinista revolution succeeded in overthrowing the U.S.-supported Somoza dictatorship in 1979. Somoza’s corruption and violence had alienated even Nicaragua’s business classes, and a broad popular front implemented a mixed economy promoting popular organization, land reform and the socialization of basic services. But the Reagan administration saw this and similar revolutionary projects in El Salvador and Guatemala as stalking horses for communism. It helped Central American elites and militaries to overthrow governments and crush popular movements.