Guatemala Old History

By | January 2, 2023

Guatemala is an independent nation in North America. With the capital city of Guatemala City, Guatemala 2020 population is estimated at 17,915,579 according to countryaah. In the area today, Guatemala flourished the high culture of the Maya people between the 300 and 900 AD. It had stagnated when Spain colonized the region in the 1520s. After independence in 1821, Guatemala was first included in the empire of Mexico, then in the Central American Union and eventually became an independent republic in 1838.

  • Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Guatemala, covering history, economy, and social conditions.

A couple of thousand years before our times, people became settled in what is today Guatemala. Eventually, the high-ranking Mayan culture grew in the highlands. It spread to what is now southern Mexico and neighboring countries to the south. Mayans were eminent mathematicians, astronomers and architects. During the glamorous period of Mayan culture between the 300 and 900 century, the temple town of Tikal in northern Guatemala was built. For Guatemala political system, please check diseaseslearning.

When the Spanish conquerors came to the area in the 1520s, the Maya civilization had long since passed its peak. The kingdom had been divided into a number of smaller city states that fought among themselves. The Spaniards were able to quickly take control of the entire region, which was proclaimed to the Viceroy of New Spain. The military superiority of the Europeans and the diseases they brought with them had devastating consequences for the Maya people, even though some of them sought refuge in the inaccessible mountains. Spanish settlers gradually seized land and ruthlessly exploited the indigenous peoples as labor.


The Mexicans’ revolt against colonial power in 1821 also led Central America to become independent. The area was first included in Mexico, but after two years the Central American Union was formed. However, this was characterized by contradictions between local leaders (caudillos). The Union collapsed beginning in 1838, when Rafael Carrera entered Guatemala City. Carrera was a conservative caudillo who came to dominate politics in Guatemala until his death in 1865.

Independence meant no change in the social structure established during the colonial era. Power remained with a small group of landlords who, with the support of the Catholic Church and the military, used the poor Guatemalans as labor. The economy was unilaterally based on plantation cultivation and growth was slow.

In 1871 the so-called liberal revolution began. The economy was modernized by investing in improved infrastructure, growing export crops and increasing foreign investment. The power of the church was broken and its large lands were sold to private stakeholders, often German immigrants. Coffee began to grow in the highlands.

The indigenous peoples lost in connection with this vast land area, which they owned collectively, and they became even more dependent on day labor. In the early 1900s, bananas started growing in the lowlands. The American banana company United Fruit Company became one of Guatemala’s most influential landowners.

The coup ends the period of democracy

The last representative of the era was General Jorge Ubico, who was elected president in 1931. During Ubico, political repression increased and during World War II he succeeded in beating both nationalists in the army and progressive intellectuals. It paved the way for a popular rise and in 1944 Ubico was forced to resign.

Now Guatemala’s first democratic period began. A new constitution was written that guaranteed basic civil liberties and rights. President Juan José Arévalo and his successor Jacobo Árbenz modernized the economy and implemented social reforms. Great efforts were made to build hospitals, schools and housing. A campaign was launched to increase literacy among the population. Trade unions were formed.

Attempts were also made to break the US grip on the country’s foreign policy and economy. A law on land redistribution was passed in 1952 and became a threat to major landowners, including the United Fruit Company. The US then stopped all aid with the motivation that Communists threatened Guatemala’s stability. When a group of exile Guatemalans with US support in 1954 marched into the country to overthrow Árbenz, the president did not receive the support of the army.



Official apology for massacre

President Colom sends an official apology to the relatives of the victims of the massacre in the village of Dos Erres in 1982. He calls the incident a shame in Guatemala’s history (see August 2011). Around 250 people were murdered in the massacre that lasted for a couple of days.


Pérez Molina elected president

November 6

In the second round of the presidential election, the right-wing party PP’s Otto Pérez Molina wins with 54 percent of the vote against 46 percent for Manuel Baldizón, who belongs to the relatively newly formed party Líder (see May 2009). In the second round, Baldizón is supported by UNE / Ghana.


No winner in the first round

11 September

In the first round of the presidential election, PP candidate Otto Pérez Molina receives 36 percent of the vote, which is a significantly lower figure than the opinion polls pointed out and far from the 50 percent required to win already in the first round. Two come Líder’s candidate, businessman Manuel Baldizón, with 23 percent. In the contemporary congressional elections, PP becomes the largest with 56 seats. UNE-Ghana receives 48 seats, Líder and Union for National Change (UCN) receive 14 each, Engagement, Renewal and Order (Creo) receive 12, and the other 14 seats.


Jail sentences for 1980s massacres

A court sentenced four former government soldiers to lengthy prison sentences for a massacre of civilians in the village of Dos Erres in 1982. The soldiers receive 30 years in prison for each of 201 murder victims, many of whom were women, the elderly and children. In practice, they cannot sit in jail for more than 50 years under the law. The villagers were shot or beaten to death because they were suspected of cooperating with the left guerrillas who were then active in the country.


The president’s wife is refused to stand for election

An appeals court rejects Sandra Torres as presidential candidate, stating that her divorce from President Colom is “legal fraud” in order to circumvent the constitutional ban on the president’s close relatives to run for election (see March 2011). Shortly thereafter, the Constitutional Court comes to the same conclusion. Thus, Torres, who has been two in the opinion polls, is disqualified from the presidential election in September, and the ruling party UNE and the allied Ghana are thus left without a candidate. The right-wing PP candidate Otto Pérez Molina is clearly the favorite for the election victory.


27 dead in massacres

A massacre in northern Guatemala is another reminder that drug-related violence seems to be moving across the border from Mexico. 27 farm workers are found murdered, most beheaded, on a large farm. The Mexican drug cartel Zetas is suspected to have carried out the massacre as the landlords were unable to state where the farm’s owner was. An emergency permit is introduced in the province of El Petén (see also December 2010).

Ex-President is freed

A court acquits ex-President Portillo of the corruption charges in the absence of evidence (see October 2008 and January 2010). However, Portillo is banned from leaving the country pending the appeal and the US request to have him extradited has been processed. Two co-accused former ministers are also released. The verdict is a severe setback for Cicig, who is investigating the organized crime’s infiltration of state power.


The president’s wife candidate in the election

President Colom’s wife Sandra Torres de Colom confirms that she is running for UNE and Ghana in the September presidential election. However, the candidacy contravenes the constitution which states that a close relative of a sitting president must not stand in presidential elections – and a few days after the announcement, the presidential couple is applying for divorce. Torres says she leaves a loving marriage for the nation. Opposition candidate Otto Pérez Molina accuses the pair of trying to circumvent the Constitution.


The state of emergency is canceled

The state of emergency in the province of Alta Verapaz is lifted (see December 2010). Over 20 suspected members of the Mexican drug league Zetas have been arrested without arrest warrant during the state of emergency.

Valallians should stop violence

In an attempt to avoid electoral violence, similar to the one that erupted during the 2007 election campaign (see Modern History), 21 of the 25 parties that registered for the September 2011 elections agreed on an “ethics pact” to uphold a number of “democratic principles” “.

Guatemala Old History