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LIT 373 Valenzuela: Background Info

Brief History of Guatemalan Civil War

Timeline of some key events:

1954 – The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency backed a coup commanded by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas against the democratically-elected president, Jacobo Arbenz. He was considered a communist threat, especially after legalizing the communist party and moving to nationalize the plantations of the United Fruit Company.

Following the coup, Castillo was declared president, and set about reversing land reforms that benefited poor farmers. He also removed voting rights for illiterate Guatemalans.

1960- Guatemala’s 36-year civil war began as left-wing guerilla groups started battling government military forces. The country was now under autocratic rule by Gen. Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes, who assumed power in 1958 following the murder of Col. Castillo Armas.

1960-1995-- The long conflict was marked by abductions and violence, including mutilations and public dumping of bodies. 

1996 –The 36  year civil war ends when a new president, Alvaro Arzu, was elected and later signed peace negotiations in December of 1996

From: PBS

Menchu and Guatemalan Culture

Rigoberta Menchú Tum was born 9 January 1959. She is an indigenous Guatemalan woman, of the K'iche ethnic group. Menchú is a political activist and works to bring awareness to the issues of Guatemala's indigenous peoples during and after the Guatemalan War. She also champions ingidenous rights in the country.

Guatemalan Society:

  • Languages: Spanish 60%, Amerindian languages 40% (23 officially recognized Amerindian languages, including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca)
  • Ethnicity/Race: Mestizo (Ladino)—mixed Amerindian-Spanish ancestry—and European 59.4%, K'iche 9.1%, Kaqchikel 8.4%, Mam 7.9%, Q'eqchi 6.3%, other Mayan 8.6%, indigenous non-Mayan 0.2%, other 0.1% (2001)
  • Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Mayan beliefs
  • Literacy rate: 71% (2003 est.)
  • Unemployment: 4.1% (2011 est.).
  • Agriculture: sugarcane, corn, bananas, coffee, beans, cardamom; cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens.
  • Labor force: 5.571 million; agriculture 38%, industry 14%, services 48% (2011 est.).
  • Industries:sugar, textiles and clothing, furniture, chemicals, petroleum, metals, rubber, tourism

Work Plan


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