The Guatemalan Civil War began in 1960 as a grassroots effort by the majority poor in Guatemala to protest poverty, oppression, and foreign corporations taking the land of indigenous farmers. The war was fought between guerilla insurgent groups and the military-controlled Guatemalan government (aided by the U.S. government). The fighting lasted for thirty-six years (1960-1996) and claimed approximately 200,000 lives. It was marked by bloody violence, restrictions of civil freedoms, ethnic persecution, torture, kidnapping, wholesale massacres, murder of civilians, and the “disappearance” of 40,000-50,000 people.
The long civil war ultimately ended with a peace accord, but it left the county war torn and devastated. It took a severe toll on Mayan families living in the rural Western Highlands. The vast majority of the dead or missing were indigenous Mayans who bore the brunt of the Guatemalan military’s violence. More than a million people were displaced from their land, families were broken and destroyed, and they were driven into poverty. The land stolen from native farmers had been reapportioned and surviving Mayans were left without any means of support.
Learn more about the Guatemalan Civil War
Silence on the Mountain: Stories of Terror, Betrayal, and Forgetting in Guatemala. Daniel Wilkinson
Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala. Stephen C. Schlesinger
Paradise in Ashes – A Guatemalan Journey of Courage, Terror, and Hope. Beatriz Manz