Guatemala Early History

By | June 21, 2021

From agriculture to high culture: the Maya

Between 18,000 and 10,000 BC settled in what is now Guatemala. First humans. They were hunters and gatherers and later settled down. The first Maya settled in 2000 BC. In Mesoamerica.

In Tikal was probably in the 7th century BC. A first settlement founded. A high culture developed from the people of arable farmers. From the 2nd century BC BC began to develop into a city in Tikal. Tikal had its greatest power between 300 and 900 AD. Pyramids and temples were built. Another Maya city in what is now Guatemala was Cival. The excavations did not begin until 2001.

The Maya culture ended around the year 1000. Why you don’t know. An epidemic, earthquake or drought could be the cause. The ancient Mayan cities were recaptured from the jungle and only exposed again many years later.

From the northern lowlands, today’s Petén, the Maya peoples migrated south, into the highlands of Guatemala. Here they founded several small empires, for example the empire of the Quiché, the empire of Tzutuhi around Atitlán and the empire of Cakchiquel. Quiché and Cakchiquel are Mayan peoples who still live in Guatemala today.

Spanish Colony – Viceroyalty of New Spain (1524-1821)

Pedro de Alvarado was a Spanish conqueror, a conquistador. Together with the better known Hernán Cortés, he conquered Tenochtitlán in what is now Mexico between 1519 and 1521 and subjugated the Aztecs. In 1523, Cortés sent Alvarado south, to what would later become Guatemala. In 1524 the Spaniards subjugated the kingdoms of the Quiché, the Cakchiquel and the other principalities of the Maya peoples in the highlands.

Xelajú, a city of the Quiché Indians, was renamed Quetzaltenango, a word from the Nahua language of the Tlaxcalteks, allied with the Spanish. Quetzaltenango developed into an important trading city during the colonial period.

The conquered land became part of the viceroyalty of New Spain in 1535. It was ruled by a viceroy, who was a kind of representative for the Spanish king. It extended over all of Central America and also part of today’s USA was part of it. More and more settlers from Spain came to the “New World”. They received large lands that they could cultivate. The natives were forced to work for the Spaniards there.

In 1639 the British settled in the eastern part of the Yucatán Peninsula. This area became the British colony of British Honduras, and later Belize. To this day there are disputes about the country’s affiliation.

Independence in 1821 and member of the Central American Confederation (1823-1839)

In 1810 the struggle for independence began in Mexico, which was victoriously ended in 1821. The area south of today’s Mexican state joined Mexico in 1821. In 1823 it broke away from Mexico and founded the Central American Confederation. It consisted of the states of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

The Republic of Guatemala – Conservatives versus Liberals – Raffael Carrera

In 1839, as a country located in Central America according to directoryaah, Guatemala declared itself a republic and thereby left the confederation. In the 19th century there were repeated attempts by liberal politicians to revive them, but these attempts failed. Conservatives and liberals fought for rule in the country. The country remained politically unstable.

The conservative Rafael Carrera fought his way to the head of the state with a squad of supporters after he brutally occupied Guatemala City in 1838. The liberal president fled; Carreras appointed men close to him as presidents. The Los Altos region renounced Guatemala in protest and joined the confederation as an independent state. In 1840, however, Carrera recaptured the area.

In 1844 Carrera became president of the country. The economy was modernized, but the old social order remained. In 1848 he had to go into exile under pressure from the Liberals, but returned in 1851 after several Liberal presidents failed to pacify the country.

Carrera remained President of Guatemala until his death in 1865. Vicente Cerna Sandoval was his successor, he too was a conservative. With the support of liberals from Mexico, Sandoval was expelled in 1871. Several liberal presidents followed.

Guatemala and Belize

In 1859 the border with Belize (then British Honduras) was established. That it is not a natural border, but that it was drawn by colonial rulers, can be seen from its dead straight course. To date, Guatemala has not completely given up claim to Belize.

Guatemala Early History