Let’s Settle Down / Beyond the Green Pines
Pathways: The Green Line > Los Turcos > Mestizaje
The Green Line
The pine trees in Palestine appeared with the establishment of the state of Israel. The pine is generally a European species which before the 20th century was not seen in the Middle East.
Palestinians from Bethlehem and Jerusalem, came to El Salvador during the early 20th century. These immigrants were looking for economic opportunities, as well as escaping conscription into Ottoman Army during the waning years of the Ottoman Empire. Initially, these migrants came to the country with the intention of going back to their homelands, but some decided to stay and start their families in El Salvador. Because of their Ottoman passports, Middle Easterners in Central America were labeled as "Turcos" (Turks), and barred from civil society, public organizations and government posts. In the 1930s and 1940s, laws barred them from immigrating into the country, as they were looked down among the elite. Discrimination and xenophobia ran deep; legacies of Spain's racially obsessed colonial policies in Latin America divided subjects into more than a dozen different ethnic classifications. As the Palestinians achieved economic success, they were seen as economic rivals by the local elite and were socially and politically isolated by them. In El Salvador, Maximiliano Hernández Martínez issued laws that banned Palestinians, among other ethnicities and nationalities, from immigrating and/or starting a business in the country. While discrimination against Palestinians died down considerably, as recently as 2000, a conservative Salvadoran political commentator, Rafael Colindres, wrote an essay suggesting, "Perhaps a pogrom would be the solution to the Turk problem."
In the immediate aftermath of El Salvador’s civil war (1980–1992), there arose fresh attention to questions of national culture, history, and identity. Postwar official textbooks and museums emphasized mestizaje (defined here as the historical mixing of Spanish and Indigenous populations that accompanied the colonial experience). The discourse of mestizaje, based on an idealized vision of an integrated national population, not only eclipsed the ongoing presence of Indigenous populations, but also excluded other groups that make up El Salvador’s diversity.