El Salvador Shoemakers win strike for higher wages, 1921


That their employers give them higher wages, put an end to arbitrary dismissals, and agree to treat their employees fairly.

Time period notes

The strike took place during the Catholic celebration of Holy Week in 1921.

Time period

February 20, 1921 to February 28, 1921


El Salvador

Location City/State/Province

San Salvador
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

Methods in 2nd segment

Methods in 3rd segment

Methods in 4th segment

Methods in 5th segment

Methods in 6th segment

Segment Length

Approximately 1.5 days

Notes on Methods

Information on specific strategies and the times in which they were employed are very scarce.


Gumercindo Ramírez


Not known

External allies

Not known

Involvement of social elites

Not known


Salvador Ricardo Merlos, employer of the shoemakers

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

None known

Repressive Violence

On the same day that the negotiations were approved, strike leaders were arrested and put in jail in response to a violent demonstration by a separate group protesting other issues.


Economic Justice



Group characterization


Additional notes on joining/exiting order

Joining order not known

Segment Length

Approximately 1.5 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

9 out of 10 points

Database Narrative

Prior to 1919 in El Salvador, labor unions were virtually nonexistent and even as they formed, they were not recognized by the government until 1923 and 1924. Living and working under the oppressive Meléndez-Quiñónez regime (in power from 1913 to 1931) made organizing particularly challenging. So when labor movements did begin to arise, they came in waves with many different groups working at the same time. Among these groups were the Zapateros (shoemakers).

Before launching their strike, the guild of Zapateros discussed and established their list of grievances: (1) low wages, (2) hunger, (3) mass, unjustified dismissals, (4) personal abuse and mistreatment. With that, they were able to agree, over time, on a list of demands: (1) higher wages, (2) a stop to arbitrary dismissals, (3) fair treatment for employees. 

In February of 1921, the Zapateros actualized their strike during the Catholic celebration of Holy Week. This week was chosen strategically because it is a time when shop owners prepare their storefront windows with displays of their nicest items to attract the passersby looking to purchase new outfits for the religious celebrations. By striking during Holy Week, the Zapateros drew much attention from their employers who were unable to supply new shoes to shopkeepers.

On 28 February, the Zapateros’ strike ended with the strikers walking away from negotiations triumphant. 

After 1931, Miguel Mármol, who, at the age of sixteen, had assisted in organizing the Zapateros strike, became president of the Alianza Nacional de Zapateros (National Alliance of Shoemakers) which reached a national level.


Many labor organizers in El Salvador during this time period were heavily influenced by the Russian Revolution of 1917. (1)


Pullin, Lara. "Miguel Marmol Memorial Dinner." Green Left Weekly. N.p., 28 July 1993. Web. 01 Oct. 2012. <http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/5930>.

"Servicio Inormativo Ecuménico Y Popular SIEP." Servicio Inormativo Ecuménico Y Popular SIEP. Servicio Informativo Ecuménico Y Popular SIEP – El Salvador, n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2012. <http://www.ecumenico.org/article/resena-historica-de-la-izquierda-en-el-salvador/>.


Handal, Schafik J. "La Experiencia Del PCS, El Más Rico Patrimonio Político De La Clase Obrera Y Del Pueblosalvadoreño." Schafik Handal (1975): La Experiencia Del PCS, El Más Rico Patrimonio Político De La Clase Obrera Y Del Pueblo Salvadoreño. N.p., 28 Mar. 1975. Web. Sept.-Oct. 2012. <http://www.marxists.org/espanol/handal/1975/001.htm>.

Hernandez, Yolanda, Elsy L. Lopez, and Jennie Gonzalez. Derecho Colectivo De Trabajo Según La Legislación Laboral Salvadoreña. Contratos Colectivos De Trabajo. Universidad Francisco Gavidia, Mar. 2006. Web. 30 Sept. 2012. <http://wwwisis.ufg.edu.sv/wwwisis/documentos/TE/344.01-A536d/344.01-A536d.pdf>.

Woods, Alan. "La Revolución Salvadoreña [1]." La Revolución Salvadoreña [1]. Centro De Estudios Socialistas, 25 May 1982. Web. 30 Sept. 2012. <http://www.centromarx.org/index.php/documentos/historia/latinoamerica/el-salvador/96-la-revolucion-salvadorena-1>.

Pineda, Roberto. "Simpatizantes FMLN » LAS LUCHAS POPULARES DEL SIGLO XX EN EL SALVADOR." Simpatizantes FMLN » LAS LUCHAS POPULARES DEL SIGLO XX EN EL SALVADOR. N.p., 6 Apr. 2011. Web. 30 Sept. 2012. <http://www.simpatizantesfmln.org/blog/archives/3991>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Patricia Gutierrez, 30/09/2012