[Forster's] thesis contradicts the standard interpretation of the 1944 Revolution that sees it essentially as an urban, petty bourgeois phenomenon until the 1950 election of Arbenz, who then 'granted' the Indians and rural ladinos reform, under the influence of his Communist wife and advisors. The research is impressive and makes use of new or little used archives and printed sources, as well as oral history in sophisticated ways. It fits well with much work currently in progress focusing on the regional histories of Guatamala.
“The time of freedom” was the name that plantation workers-campesinos-gave to GuatemalaÆs national revolution of 1944-1954. Cindy Forster reveals the critical role played by the poor in organizing and sustaining this period of reform.Through court records, labor and agrarian ministry archives, and oral histories, Forster demonstrates how labor conflict on the plantations prepared the ground for national reforms that are usually credited to urban politicians. She focuses on two plantation zones that generated exceptional momentum: the coffee belt in the highlands around San Marcos and the United Fruit Company’s banana groves near Tiquisate. Although these regions were unlike in size and complexity, language and race, popular culture and work patterns, both erupted with demands for workersÆ rights and economic justice shortly after the fall of Castau00f1eda in 1944. A welcome balance to the standard “top-down” histories of the revolution, Forster’s sophisticated analysis demonstrates how campesinos changed the course of the urban revolution. By establishing the context of grassroots mobilization, she substantially alters the conventional view of the entire revolution, and particularly the reforms enacted under President Albenz.
"This is a superb work which peels away the layers of misunderstanding that have shrouded the revolution in rural Guatamala and lets us understand what it meant for rural workers, campesinos, highland Maya, and women in San Marcos Tiquisate, and Guatamala City . . . This manuscript provides a much needed and very welcome balance to studies of the revolution that have focused on national and international politics and the actions of a few men.
Through court records, labor and agrarian ministry archives, and oral histories, Forster demonstrates how labor conflict on the plantations prepared the ground for national reforms that are usually credited to urban politicians. In The Time of Freedom, [she] peels away the layers of misunderstanding that have shrouded the revolution in rural Guatemala, and lets readers understand what it meant for rural workers, campesinos, highland Maya, and women in San Marcos, Tiquisate, and Guatemala City.
In contrast to many accounts that emphasize the top-down, urban-initiated nature of reforms, Forster places rural workers in the center of the political drama and demonstrates that they often were ahead of the revolutionary state... her skill in securely locating local histories in national contexts enables her to emphasize the complexities of the process without losing clarity.
Well-organized, well-written, coherent, and engaging...
A compelling and provocative contribution to the slowly expanding body of research on Guatemala's 1944-54 revolution.
Goes a long way to answering fundamental questions about the Guatemalan revolution. . . . provides excellent regional balance to other recent, innovative studies.
Exceptional. . . . Rich in ethnographic detail and covers many aspects of change triggered by the agrarian revolution of 1944-1954.
Cindy Forster has worked with immigrants rights networks in the San Francisco Bay area, with labor and human rights groups addressing problems in Central America, and as a union organizer with Justice for Janitors and the Silicon Valley Organizing Project. She is an assistant professor of history at Scripps College in Claremont, California.