Guatemala 1769-1838

 

Guatemala, 1769: Eighteenth Century Colonialism

Archbishop Pedro Cortes y Larraz has been sent by the Spanish king to investigate the conditions of the indigenous people. In his report back to the king he writes;

This partitioning of Indians for labor service is done with great violence, without respect for the Indian’s own need to work his land, or for his own health, or life…

… they have experienced two years of calamitous starvation because of which many have died and many have fled the villages. Many have also died spinning cotton which the Spanish administrator makes the Indian women do all year long so they cannot do anything for their families…

The truth is, that at whoever’s command, these wretched Indians are tied to the whipping post; men, women, young and old, they are whipped with excessive cruelty, sometimes without any reason at all, and almost always for things which they would not be whipped for if they were not Indians...

Of this cruelty I cannot produce greater evidence except to say that frequently enough I hear screams and cries from my room or inn even though the beatings are taking place at a great distance…

Jonathan Fried, et al., ed., Guatemala in Rebellion: Unfinished History, 23

 

Guatemala City, 1838: Revolt from the Mountains

On February 1, the rebel forces of Raphael Carrera march into Guatemala City, and the Spanish and ladinos cower behind their doors. They have been taught that the “Indians” are “savages,” so they expect the worst. The four thousand rebels are wearing green bushes in their hats so they look like a moving forest. The rebels treat the population well, only wanting their basic rights.

Carrera and the rebels are protesting the “liberal reforms” that, from the perspective of the local village, only mean more taxes and less land. At first, Carrera leaves the politicians in power, but by 1839 he sees the interest of the indigenous are not being met. He triumphantly re-enters Guatemala City in that year and assumes the presidency until his death in 1865.

This is the only time in the history of Guatemala, that peasants, ladinos, and the indigenous are able to effect legislation in their own interests.

See Jim Handy, Gift of the Devil, 34-54