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Lil Milagro


A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of
Master of Arts
in History

Northern Arizona University
December 2007


Ryan Wilson



This study examines the life and work of a Salvadoran woman named Lil Milagro Ramírez.  Born in 1946, Lil Milagro was a key member of a revolutionary struggle in El Salvador that began in the early 1970s.  When she died in 1979, her life became an example of how authoritarian governments dealt with radicals in Latin America during the Cold War.  Yet, there is so much more to her story than her tragic death.

Throughout her life, Lil Milagro assumed many roles.  She was a Catholic, a daughter, a student, a poet, a traveler, a teacher, a friend, an intellectual, and most of all a Salvadoreña.  Those who knew this woman saw her as a revolutionary and martyr whose compassion for the people of her country convinced her to lead a remarkably selfless life. Historicizing and humanizing her transformation from a young girl who enjoyed climbing trees into a revolutionary who challenged a repressive and violent society is the challenge of this study.  Framing this challenge will be key questions about power, agency, class, gender, intellectuals, and revolutionary culture.  Simultaneously, this study will reveal a fascinating saga set in the historical context of politics and culture in El Salvador as it explores how family, the church, personal travel, moral commitment, and the university worked together to facilitate Lil Milagro’s commitment to a revolutionary paradigm. 

While her life will be read as unique to both her and her circumstances, it is at times representative of the role intellectuals play in fomenting revolution and the revolutionary culture it requires.  By examining the choices made by Lil Milagro, students of revolution—in Central America and elsewhere—will find a narrative that addresses issues relating to intellectual agency, the pragmatic resilience of the oppressed, and the particular coincidence of domestic and external events that can create a space for the emergence of a revolutionary culture.



After spending the last two years writing this thesis, I realize that working on a project like this is a luxury that few individuals can afford, but it would not have been possible without assistance from many people.  Dr. Susan Deeds invested both her time and energy in my entire graduate experience.  Over the past four years, her guidance nourished and challenged my intellectual development, and for this, I am forever indebted.  I would also like to thank Dr. Sheryl Lutjens for helping me work through my ideas on Marx and gender.  Her expertise in these areas and her critical eye were instrumental in shaping my framework for examining Lil Milagro.  Finally, I am grateful for Dr. Leilah Danielson’s perpetual willingness to discuss my ideas on this project.  Our numerous conversations were key in keeping me excited about my work.

Above all, I am indebted to my wife, Robyn, who lent her support and expertise to this project.  Whether she was helping me with my Spanish, setting up interviews with former commanders of the FMLN, or introducing me to the country of El Salvador, she did more for me in this process than most spouses will ever do for their partner in an entire lifetime.  Thank you mi amor!

A mis amigos de El Salvador y la familia de Lil Milagro, no puedo explicar mi gratitud por su ayuda.  La historia de Lil Milagro es parte de mis pensamientos y mi alma.  Espero que esta tesis inspira más personas a continuar la lucha por la justicia, compasión, y igualdad en el mundo.  Muchísimas gracias a Alfredo Ramírez, José Napoleón Ramírez, Alfonso Huezo Cordova, Amada Bendeck, Luz América Choi, Kwan Choi, Gloria Videz Ramírez.  Finalmente, gracias a mi amigo y compañero Edgard S. Ramírez, el sobrino de Lil Milagro y el abogado de los pobres. 

Graduate Committee:
Chair:  Susan M. Deeds, Ph.D.
Sheryl Lutjens, Ph.D. 
Leilah Danielson, Ph.D.





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