This essay analysis the labor movement in Puerto Triunfo and Greater San Salvador in 1979 and 1980. The common ideological bond linking both the port labor movement and the San Salvador movement was a rudimentary syndicalism that had no formal expression either locally or nationally. The evidence presented in this essay suggests that the local and national movements in late 1970s Salvador reflected some of the attitude, technique, and strategy but not necessarily the hope of classic syndicalism. Yet, those ideological forms remained as inchoate expressions. Moreover, the syndicalists of El Salvador labored under authoritarian and increasingly terroristic conditions unimaginable to the founders of the tradition. The arrests, tortures, and assassinations not only provoked militant responses but also imposed the necessity for semi clandestine action that made the full implementation of rank and file democracy —a sine qua non for syndicalism— extremely difficult to achieve. The disjunctions between the syndicalist ethos and formal ideological expressions in the port and in the capital had several consequences. First they led to misunderstandings and alienation between the different groups. But at the same time, these various dialectical interplays between formal and informal discourse, between rank and file and leadership, and between the port and the metropole all played significant roles in
the militant rise and expansion of the labor movement. The essay will trace this broader transformation while presenting a detailed examination of the political and social changes in Puerto El Triunfo, a quite distinct history that nevertheless reflected, influenced and paralleled the labor movement as a whole. I will make use of the concept of “desencuentro”.