Recent violence, civil war, revolution, and economic crises have focused attention on Central America. Analyses of these crises vary widely. Class struggle, Soviet or U.S. imperialism, geopolitical balance of power, the energy crisis, and the general malaise of the West all contribute to the turmoil on the isthmus. Yet the bitter political and economic realities of contemporary Central America are deeply rooted in the past. The present conflicts are neither recent in origin nor conducive to short-term military, economic, or political solutions. This article offers a historical interpretation of modern Central America as an explanation of the current crises. The hypothesis of this overview is that the current crises all represent the inevitable collapse of political, economic, and cultural structures erected in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to serve the interests of the elites who commanded the Liberal Reforms or Revolutions of that era, but that fail to meet the demands of the societies they created.