Today, all of Guatemala is celebrating and rejoicing its 189-year old independence from Spain. The Spanish arrived in the 1500’s and stayed for nearly 300 years as it colonized the region, enslaved native populations and decimated the island with smallpox. Thirty-two years after Columbus come to the Americas, Guatemala’s population went from 800,000 to 100,000. Independence came in 1821 when Guatemala declared itself independent from Spain as did four other Central American countries.
Guatemala, once the site of the Mayan civilization, has endured and preserved through military dictatorships and protracted civil wars where many died and many others suffered human rights abuses. Its indigenous groups are beginning to play a leading part in shaping the destiny of the country and one of its most notable indigenous citizens, Rigoberta Menchu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.
Today the country’s estimated 13 million residents will celebrate its independence with many Mayan traditions. The whole country embraces this day with dances, fireworks and parades and in the city of Quetzaltenango you can find the largest independence day celebration.