A Brief History Of Guatemala

by Kim

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As the most highly populated and fastest growing country in Central America, the poverty in Guatemala is impossible to ignore. The vast majority of the citizens of Guatemala struggle as farmers, and problems like illiteracy, contraceptive awareness, and child mortality are nationwide epidemics. Nonetheless, Guatemala is home to a blossoming tourism industry that includes volcanoes, beautiful beaches, and scenic towns like San Pedro and Antigua. Learn more about the country in this brief history of Guatemala.

Themes Throughout Guatemala’s History

When considering the major events that influenced the history of Guatemala, it’s easy to see how the indigenous people have taken the brunt of the suffering. From a 33-year war to a series of dictators that each left their mark on the country, Guatemala has a complex history that began as home to one of the most influential civilizations known to man.

Ancient Guatemala – Home To The Mayans

The earliest evidence of humans in Guatemala has been traced to 3500 BC. Inventors of one of the world’s most accurate calendars, the Mayans are the most prominent civilization to settle in Guatemala. From 700 BC until the Spanish invasion, the Mayans thrived in Guatemala, building thousands of structures in the Tikal region.

1523 – The Spanish Conquer Guatemala

The man who was second in command to Hernando Cortez was given the order to go south, subdue the people, and take any riches for the Spanish. His name was Pedro de Alvarado, and starting in the early 1520’s, he ravaged the native tribes of Guatemala and eventually became governor. Known as a cruel and cunning general, Alvarado made allies with the Cakchiquel people, only to betray them when taking complete control of the region. The Spanish would continue to rule Guatemala until they attained independence three centuries later.

1821 – Guatemala Gains Independence

With political changes happening in Spain, the opportunity was ripe for Guatemala to gain its independence. In 1821, Guatemala joined El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras as an independent nation of Central America. The declaration was made by Captain General Gabino Gaínza at a time when Spanish power was threatened from numerous sources. The independence was short-lived, as General Morazan would invade just 8-years later.

1873 – Modernization & Coffee

After a series of generals who imposed various forms of rule, 1873 was the beginning of great advancements for Guatemala. Justo Barrios ordered coffee production to be greatly increased, and it quickly became a profitable cash crop. While in office, Barrios also enforced a distinct separation between church and state—an act that made further strides to modernize the nation.

36-years Of Civil War

From 1960 until a peace treaty was signed in 1996, Guatemala was involved in a violent civil war. The government forces destroyed more than 400 villages and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. Later considered war crimes, President Bill Clinton eventually apologized for US support of the Guatemalan military during this civil war.

Be A Hero To Guatemalan Children In Need

Guatemala is a nation with a tumultuous, war-torn past that has resulted in poverty for millions of its citizens. The children living there today didn’t choose to be born into these circumstances. They want normal lives where they can learn, play, and have a chance at a real future.

Hogar Heroes is working to support the orphaned children of Guatemala, and we need your help. We are currently supporting the operations of two orphanages outside of Guatemala city, with other projects including the development of schools and supporting village children. Explore our site for more information, and please consider donating or volunteering with us.

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