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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Health care played an important role in the revolutions of El Salvador and Nicaragua. Both the Sandinistas and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) prioritized popular health throughout the 1980s. Clinics and hospitals served as sites of revolution that drew healthcare solidarity activists from the United States. These health internationalists worked to build community-level networks that relied upon trained medical volunteers. In both El Salvador and Nicaragua, women comprised a bulk of the community health workers. These women chose to interact with revolution by building on radical promises of universal healthcare access. Healthcare solidarity activists trained community volunteers and encouraged women to pursue their own needs within the revolutionary frameworks. Health internationalists actively undermined United States’ policies toward Central America. In the 1980s, the United States implemented economic policies and supported military violence that targeted healthcare infrastructure. In training community health workers, treating civilians, sharing knowledge through international exchange, and sending funds and medical supplies, health activists mitigated some of the damage being done. This thesis posits that health care was an important site of revolution for Central Americans and internationalists alike. By choosing to mend bodies, medical activists stood in direct opposition to the violence of the decade. They also served as fundamental to the revolution because they helped carry out the will of the people. The revolutions rested on the hope of improving the lives of every day Nicaraguans and Salvadorans. As the violence of the 1980s forced the guerillas of El Salvador and the leaders of Nicaragua to focus on war, the people continued to implement revolutionary health goals at the community level. This thesis argues that understanding how health internationalists, women, and community activists engaged revolutionary ideas of medicine is vital to the study of 1980s Central America.


First Advisor

Kevin A. Young

Second Advisor

Christian Appy

Third Advisor

Joel Wolfe

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.