Guatemalan Genocide Essay

2214 words - 9 pages

The Guatemalan Genocide was part of the thirty-six year long Guatemalan civil war, which lasted from 1960 to 1996. Throughout those thirty-six years of civil unrest, the genocide was committed from 1981-1983. A genocide is defined as “the deliberate killing of people who belong to a particular racial, political, or cultural group” by the Merriam Webster Dictionary. The Mayan Indians were the targeted group in the Guatemalan Genocide. It is estimated by the Peace Pledge Union that about, “200,000 people were killed or “disappeared”” in the Guatemalan Genocide, which was about 3% of Guatemala’s population at the time. The United States was also involved in the genocide because it helped the Guatemalan government to find and kill their targets, the Mayan Indians. The reason for sympathizing with the Guatemalan government was that the United States was keen on protecting an American company’s investment in Guatemala. The Guatemalan Genocide is a relatively recent event, and the trial to convict the perpetrators of genocide is still in progress. (Thesis)
The Ixil Mayans, an indigenous people of Guatemala, were the main group targeted in the Guatemalan genocide, and their story must first be understood to see how brutal and unnecessary their murders were. The Mayans had created one of the most successful ancient civilizations in the world before the Spanish came to the Americas. Pedro de Alvarado, a Spanish conquistador, claimed Guatemala for Spain, enslaved the entire population, and forced the Ixil to work for Spain. Guatemala eventually won independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. Mayan Indians, particularly the Ixil tribe, were not given the same rights as Spanish-descended Guatemalan citizens even after receiving independence from Spain. The Mayans continued to lose much of their land even after independence. President Juan Rufinao Barrios “abolished communal ownership of the land” in 1877. This made it very easy for foreign countries to take Mayan land and build large coffee plantations on it.The plantation owners eventually wanted more land to grow more coffee, so they ended up taking large pieces of the Mayan’s land. Barrios also put a system in place that divided the Native Indians into three groups, “One were 'colonos,' who contracted to live and work on the plantations. The second were 'jornaledos habilitados,' who had to work as indentured servants to pay off debts to the plantation owner. The third became 'jornaledos no habilitados,' who promised to work for a number of years without any advance.” President Barrios was considered to be a liberal leader, and his reforms are remembered as being beneficial to Guatemala. His policies toward Mayan Indians, however, treated them like they did not even belong to Guatemala. The Mayan’s loss of land set up the terrible events that they had in store in the future.
The United States became involved when the United Fruit Company (UFCO), an American company, became deeply invested in Guatemala....

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