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Guatemala and the Spanish conquest

  1. Introduction.
    1. The sixteenth century - a crucial period in Central American history.
  2. The Mayan civilization - literate and complicated.
    1. A mild economic system.
  3. the time of Spain's interest in the Central American lands and industrialization.
  4. The Spanish conquest of the territory that is now Guatemala.
  5. Enslaving the Indians.
  6. More contributing factors to the decline of the Indian population.
  7. Alvarado's proclamation that Santiago was the capital of New Spain.
  8. The New Laws instituted by Alonso Lopez Cerrato.
  9. Conclusion - Spain's financial misfortunes.

Spain mercilessly imposed it control over the territories that today encompass Central America. Enslavement and European diseases severely depopulated the indigenous civilizations, and the territories that made up New Spain became heavily Iberian in nature not by influence but rather by force. Although this period meant drastic decimation for many natives, several original native populations have survived. Guatemala was by no means an exception to the atrocities that resulted from the Spanish infiltration, but more Guatemalans managed to salvage their Mayan cultures by hiding their religious practices and certain customs from the Spaniards. Many pre-Columbian traits still exist today in Guatemala, such as the names of places and objects, certain cultural traditions and even some of the ancient Mayan languages are still spoken.

[...] Indians of the native elite were taught the Spanish language in hopes that they would translate the religion and teach it to other Indians. Some Mayans readily accepted the Catholic religion without protest, because they familiarized much of Christianity with their own spiritual beliefs. For example, their symbol of a tree was a cross (Foster, 79) and the story of Jesus Christ was similar to their own story of the sacrifice and resurrection of the Mayan maize god. By teaching the indigenous peoples the Spanish language, Latin words slowly replaced pre-conquest Mayan hieroglyphics. [...]


[...] However, Indians were forced to work in order to pay tribute to the Spanish crown and to the Catholic Church. Not only did the Indians have to farm their own lands to provide food for themselves and their families, they were ordered to a specified period of days of servitude every year. Debt peonage was inevitable to Indians. Even when Indians worked to pay off their debts, they found that they could never completely pay them off. They were forced to purchase items and necessities at the hacienda, or company store, at inflated and very high prices, which would just put them back into debt again. [...]


[...] The problems and mistakes of the Spanish crown while it possessed Central America have had resounding and significant effects on the countries. Civil wars, dictatorships, terrorism, and poverty have wracked the countries, including Guatemala, all due to their damaged and underdeveloped economies that never were able to progress under the Spaniards’ dual class society. The richest hardly distributed the wealth throughout society, prompting poverty and unequal class relations. Irresponsible, corrupt, and greedy governments have also plagued Guatemala since its break from Spain. [...]

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