The history of Guatemala begins with the arrival of the first human settlers as early as 12,000 BC or even 18,000 BC. Civilization developed and flourished during the Pre-Columbian era with little to no contact with cultures from outside of Mesoamerica. The Maya civilization dominated the region for nearly 2000 years before the Spanish arrived in the early 16th century,although most of the Great Classic Maya cities of the Petén region of Guatemala's northern lowlands were abandoned by the year 1000 AD. The states of the central highlands, however, were still flourishing until the arrival of the Spanish Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado, who subjugated the native states, beginning in 1523.
Guatemala remained a Spanish colony for nearly 300 years. "La AntiguaGuatemala", the colonial capital of Central America was founded with the name of Santiago de Guatemala in 1543. It was the cultural, economic, religious, political and educational center for the entire region until the capital was moved to present day Guatemala City after the damaging earthquakes of 1773. The conquerors chose this location since the previous capital had flooded in 1541 and the valleyprovided a sufficient source of water and offers one of the best climates in the world. The fertile soil that surrounds Antigua was also an attraction.
Guatemala gained independence from Spain on September 15, 1821; it briefly became part of the Mexican Empire and then for a period belonged to a federation called The United Provinces of Central America, until the federationbroke up in civil war in 1838–1840 Guatemala's Rafael Cabrera was instrumental in leading the revolt against the federal government and breaking apart the Union. Cabrera dominated Guatemalan politics until 1865, backed by conservatives, large land owners and the church.
Guatemala's "Liberal Revolution" came in 1871 under the leadership of Justo Rufino Barrios, who worked to modernize the country,improve trade, and introduce new crops and manufacturing. During this era coffee became an important crop for Guatemala. Barrios had ambitions of reuniting Central America and took the country to war in an unsuccessful attempt to attain this, losing his life on the battlefield in 1885 against forces in El Salvador.
Early 20th century
The U.S.-based multinational United Fruit Company (UFC)started becoming a major force in Guatemala in 1901, during the long presidencies of Manuel José Estrada Cabrera and General Jorge Ubico. During the latter's dictatorship in the 1930s, Guatemala was further opened up to foreign investment, with special favours being made from Ubico to the United Fruit Company in particular. The UFC responded by pouring investment capital into the country, buyingcontrolling shares of the railroad, electric utility, and telegraph, while also winning control of over 40% of the country's best land and de facto control over its only port facility. As a result, Government was often subservient to the interests of the UFC. While the company helped with building some schools, it also opposed building highways because this would compete with its railroad monopolyThe Guatemalan Civil War (1960-96) involved the government, right-wing paramilitary organizations, and left-wing insurgents. A variety of factors contributed: social and economic injustice and racism against the indigenous population, the 1954 coup which reversed reforms, weak civilian control of the military, Marxist ideology advocating violent revolution instead of democratic participation andreform, the United States support of the government, and Cuban support of the insurgents. The Historical Clarification Commission (commonly known as the "Truth Commission") after the war estimated that more than 200,000 people were killed — the vast majority of whom were civilian indigenous people. 93% of the human rights abuses reported to the Commission were attributed to the military or other...