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Useful Notes / Guatemala

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Guatemala is the most populous and third largest country in Central America, and the fourth most populated country in the continent of North America after the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Although the official language is Spanish, not everyone speaks it and the country is very diverse both culturally and linguistically. There are four major ethnic groups: the Ladinos, the Mayas, the Garifuna and the Xinca. It is also a very biologically diverse place, as one would expect from a place whose name means “place of many trees”.

The territory was once inhabited by Mayans, a civilization with noteworthy advances in the arts and sciences, especially astronomy. However, by the time the Spanish conqueror army came around, they were long gone,note  leaving only small kingdoms and city-states for the Spaniards to fight.

The Spanish established the Captaincy General of Guatemala, mostly comprising modern-day Central America, which in turned proclaimed its independence in 1821. After an annexation to the short-lived Mexican Empire, the territory once again reformed itself into the Federal Republic of Central America. At least until 1840 when the provinces had all declared themselves independent.

In 1898 the country fell into a dictatorship for the first time, and it would pass almost the entire 20th century alternating between political instability, coups d’état, military governments and guerrilla operations, resulting in a bloody civil war between the revolutionary armies and the government. Notably, it suffered a coup in 1954 orchestrated by the CIA on behalf of the United Fruit Company; this overthrew Guatemala's only second ever democratically elected leader, Jacobo Árbenz, on suspicions of communism, resulting in decades of authoritarianism.

Peace accords were signed in 1996 and since then, it has recovered political stability and democratic institutions. Sadly, the problems of the 36-year-long war (including widespread poverty, sky-high crime rates, economic inequality and ethnic clashes) still linger today. And many government officials and presidential candidates take pleasure in exploiting it to their own profit.

Guatemala has some kind of feud with Belize and, by extension, the United Kingdom. Turns out the territory of Belize was once part of the Spanish colony, something for which they have made a claim; actually, they only recognized the country in 1990, but the dispute, though civil, still remains active.

Useful Notes:

Famous Guatemalans

  • Manuel Estrada, dictator from 1898 to 1920, infamous for allowing the entry of the United Fruit Company to the country (the Trope Namer of the Banana Republic) and for trying to install a cult of Minerva (yes, that Minerva).
  • General Miguel Ydígoras, dictator from 1958 to 1963, who is notorious mainly because he once challenged the Mexican president to a duel because of a fishing issue (of course, it didn’t come to fruition).
  • Miguel Ángel Asturias, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1967. His most famous book is El Señor Presidente (Mister President), where he analyses the usual characteristics of a Latin American dictator (though his main inspiration was the aforementioned Manuel Estrada).
  • Doroteo "Mateo" Flores, long distant runner. Won gold in the Pan American Games in 1955 and First Place in the Boston Marathon in 1952. Considered the best athlete in the country.
  • Rigoberta Menchú, an indigenous woman of K’iche’ ethnicity (the same ethnicy detailed on the Popol Vuh), who won the Nobel Peace prize in 1992 for her work helping refugees of the Guatemalan Civil War.
  • Daphne Zuniga, who broke through in The Initiation, is of Guatemalan descent on her father's side.
  • Ricardo Arjona, one of the best-selling Latin singers of all time. His daughter, Adria, is also in the entertainment industry, albeit as an actress, rather than singer.
  • Colman Domingo was born to a Belizean father and a Guatemalan mother.
  • Actor Oscar Isaac is Guatemalan-American.
  • Tony Revolori was born in the United States to Guatemalan immigrants.

Works set in Guatemala

  • The first part of El Norte, a 1983 film about two Mayan youths who are driven out of Guatemala by ethnic persecution, only to find different suffering in the United States.

The Guatemalan flag
The central white stripe symbolizes peace and purity, while the sky blue side stripes signifies the skies and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. At the center is the coat-of-arms, featuring a scroll, upon which is written the date of Guatemala's independence (September 15, 1821), atop which is perched a Resplendent Quetzal, the country's national bird whose importance dates back to the Mayas. Behind the two are a pair of crossed swords, representing honor, a pair of crossed rifles, signifying the people's readiness to defend their homeland, and a pair of laurel wreaths, symbolizing victory.

The Guatemalan national anthem

¡Guatemala feliz...! que tus aras
no profane jamás el verdugo;
ni haya esclavos que laman el yugo
ni tiranos que escupan tu faz.

Si mañana tu suelo sagrado
lo amenaza invasión extranjera,
libre al viento tu hermosa bandera
a vencer o a morir llamará.

Libre al viento tu hermosa bandera
a vencer o a morir llamará;
que tu pueblo con ánima fiera
antes muerto que esclavo será.

De tus viejas y duras cadenas
tu forjaste con mano iracunda
el arado que el suelo fecunda
y la espada que salva el honor.

Viva a pátria gloriosa!
Floriu nos céus a bandeira da luta.
Avante, contra o jugo estrangeiro!
Nós vamos construir

Nuestros padres lucharon un día
encendidos en patrio ardimiento
y lograron sin choque sangriento
colocarte en un trono de amor.

Y lograron sin choque sangriento
colocarte en un trono de amor,
que de Patria, en enérgico acento,
dieron vida al ideal redentor.

Es tu enseña pedazo de cielo
en que prende una nube su albura,
y ¡ay de aquel que con ciega locura,
sus colores pretenda manchar!

Pues tus hijos valientes y altivos,
que veneran la paz cual presea,
nunca esquivan la ruda pelea
si defienden su tierra y su hogar.

Nunca esquivan la ruda pelea
si defienden su tierra y su hogar,
que es tan solo el honor su alma idea
y el altar de la Patria su altar.

Recostada en el Ande soberbio,
de dos mares al ruido sonoro,
bajo el ala de grana y de oro
te adormeces del bello quetzal.

Ave Indiana que vive en tu escudo,
paladión que protege tu suelo;
¡ojalá que remonte su vuelo,
más que el cóndor y el águila real!

¡Ojalá que remonte su vuelo,
más que el cóndor y el águila real,
y en sus alas levante hasta el cielo,
Guatemala, tu nombre inmortal!

Glad Guatemala! may your altar
Never be trampled by the tormentor
Nor may slaves lick the yoke
Nor may tyrants spit upon your face

If tomorrow your sacred soil
By foreign invasion is threatened
Free into the wind, your beautiful flag
To victory or death it shall call

Free into the wind, your beautiful flag
To victory or death it shall call
Your people will, with fiery soul,
die before being enslaved.

From your old and hard chains
You forged, with an ire-driven hand,
The plow that fertilizes the soil
And the honor-saving sword.

Our fathers fought one day,
Lit up in patriotic burning
And they managed, without bloody clash,
To place you on a throne of love.

And they managed, without bloody clash,
To place you on a throne of love,
And our Nation, in energetic assent,
Gave life to the redeeming ideal.

Your emblem is a piece of the sky
From which a cloud gets its whiteness
And woe onto him who dares in blind madness
your colours to stain!

For your sons, brave and zealous,
who adore peace as a great treasure
will never avoid the rough battle
to defend their land and their home.

They will never avoid the rough battle
to defend their land and their home
as well as the altar of the mother country,
their altar.

Lying upon the proud Ande,
of the two oceans, hearing its noise,
under the gold and crimson red wing of the beautiful quetzal
you will become entranced.

Native bird that lives in your seal
the protector of your soil
May it fly high
more than the condor and the royal eagle!

May it fly high
more than the condor and the royal eagle
And in its wings, may it raise up to the sky
Guatemala, your name, immortal!

  • Unitary presidential republic
    • President: Bernardo Arévalo
    • Vice President: Karin Herrera
    • President of the Congress: Nery Ramos
    • President of the Supreme Court: Oscar Cruz Oliva

  • Capital and largest city: Guatemala City
  • Population: 17,263,239
  • Area: 108,889 sq km (42,042 sq mi) (105th)
  • Currency: Guatemalan quetzal (Q) (GTQ)
  • ISO-3166-1 Code: GT
  • Country calling code: 502
  • Highest point: Volcán Tajumulco (4220 m/13,845 ft) (36th)
  • Lowest point: Caribbean Sea (7,686 m/25,217 ft) (-) and Pacific Ocean (10,911 m/35,797 ft) (-)