Photo: Guatemala Celebrates 190th Year of Independence
Today, all of Guatemala is celebrating and rejoicing its 190-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.
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent their congratulatory remarks to the people of Guatemala:
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Guatemala on the 190th anniversary of your independence this September 15.
As Guatemalans the world over celebrate this special day and honor the heroes of Guatemala’s independence, we stand with you in celebration. Americans have long enjoyed the beauty of Guatemala – from the ancient ruins of Tikal to the stunning volcanoes that surround Lake Atitlan – as well as the warmth and hospitality of the Guatemalan people. Your rich culture, diversity of languages, and traditions steeped in history are a special part of our region.
During my visit last June for the Central American security conference, President Colom and I renewed our commitment to building strong democratic institutions, promoting the rule of law, and expanding economic growth and opportunity to our nations’ citizens.
On this historic day, I send best wishes to all Guatemalans – in Guatemala, the United States, and around the globe. We look forward to deepening the ties between our two countries as we work to build a safer, more prosperous and democratic future for our peoples.