Empire and Resistance: Transisthmian Views of Central America
“Empire and Resistance” demonstrates the long, contentious history that links the United States and the seven countries of Central America: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panamá. The exhibition focuses on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but the objects on display date from the sixteenth to twenty-first centuries, reflecting the shifting contours over time of empire and resistance to empire.
The regions of the isthmus were not always known as Central America. After gaining independence from Spain in 1821, they unified as the Federal Republic of Central America. The territory soon became a center of global attention. In the 1840s and 1850s, U.S. military expeditions invaded the region to secure a canal through Nicaragua; U.S. companies later built the Panama Canal Railway and Panama Canal. From the mid-twentieth century into the 1990s, civil wars drove Central Americans to immigrate to the United States, inspiring an international solidarity movement against U.S. imperialism. Today, U.S. intervention continues to provoke violence, create instability, and displace Central Americans from their homelands.
This exhibition’s central themes—activism and solidarity, movement and travel, forced migration, and religion—provide a transisthmian perspective that looks beyond national boundaries and across centuries of Central American history.
Curated by Nancy Escalante, PhD student, Department of American Studies, Yale University