Tucked among Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras, Guatemala is a country full of history. Farming and fishing villages date back to as early as 2000 B.C. and represent the beginning of the Mayan culture that dominated the area for centuries. In 1583, Pedro de Alvarado, sent by the king of Spain, conquered the lands of the remaining Mayans and took possession of the land. The year 1821 brought independence from Spanish rule but not an improvement in the lives of the Mayans. Various leaders and governments took power, and in the 1950s, Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán carried on the liberal inclinations begun by earlier leaders. The 1960s and 1970s brought many military presidents and an eventual civil war. Internal tensions rose between 1980 and 1989. During this time, conflict between the government and the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemala (UNRG) resulted in more than 100,000 deaths and created approximately one million refugees. In 1999, Guatemala held its first peacetime elections in 40 years and a new government was sworn in on January 14, 2000.



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