The same small ruling class of economic and political elite has monopolized power in Central America since the time of the Spanish Conquest. Planters, cattle ranchers, doctors, lawyers, industrialists and presidents are all descendents of a group of conquistadors upon whom the Spanish crown bestowed power and privileges in the 16th century. The dynasty of conquerors has persisted across national boundaries through family alliances that are evident in contemporary political organizations. This study demonstrates that the regimes of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are rooted in a common ancestry. Samuel Stone's genealogical history of the Central American ruling families raises questions, in the second part of the book, as to why the five countries are so different. The ways in which the ruling classes came to organize production in their respective territories led to the development of separate classes and national values, in spite of trans-national family ties. Stone connects scarcity and abundance with the fostering of either democratic or authoritarian systems of government.
In addition, he considers how the divisions of ruling classes, effacing kinship and common social background have led to the bloody power struggles of recent years.