Photo: Guatemala Celebrates 191st Year of Independence
Today, all of Guatemala is celebrating and rejoicing its 191-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 am delighted to send best wishes to the people of Guatemala as you celebrate your independence this September 15. We join with you as you commemorate the founding of “the land of eternal spring.”
Our two nations are bound by our diversity, rich history, cultural traditions, and warm ties of family and friends. We share a commitment to important values like the respect for human rights and human dignity, democratic governance, and equal opportunity for all our citizens. We take particular inspiration in the story of María Dolores Bedoya, the hero of Guatemalan Independence, who also reminds us of the profound role women – and all members of society – play in building a better future.
Let us take this opportunity to renew the deep bonds of our friendship as we work together to build a safer, more prosperous and democratic future for all our people.