Leaders and Ideas in Social Movements: One Priest in El Salvador's Revolutionary Movement
18 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2010 Last revised: 3 Jun 2010
This paper is based on the life of Father David Rodríguez, a former Salvadoran priest who joined the popular movement in the 1970s and after the civil war was elected to the National Legislature (he's currently in the legislature). Rodriguez's history is barely known outside of El Salvador but his involvement and influence in the Catholic Church's liberationist movement is legendary in the country. Scholars who advance the political process model rarely look exclusively at specific individuals, since their goal is to generalize. However, analyzing the choices of key leaders in social movements provides a window into the importance of leadership and the ideas that motivate them. A focus on individual leaders also shows how followers are affected by leaders. Since many priests, nuns and lay workers in El Salvador, and Latin America in general, followed the same tactics and liberationist ideology, the focus on one priest, David Rodriguez, allows for generalization while yielding much more detail into a leader's strategic choices and ideological influences. The paper is based on extensive personal interviews with David Rodriguez (48 hours), in May 2007, as well as with about 70 people who have known him, December 2007-January 2008.
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