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. [...]
[...] Nearing the end of the sixteenth century the birthrate dropped by as much as 90 percent (Foster, an astonishing and shameful statistic that was inarguably a direct result of the Spanish penetration of the Mayan territories. Nominally, the ethnic group produced from Spanish conquistadores and indigenous women was the mestizo, or ladino, as they were called in Guatemala. The Catholic Church actually encouraged interbreeding and intermarriage between the natives and Spaniards. These mestizo children would be baptized and raised as Catholics, thus increasing the Catholic faith. [...]
[...] The Spanish conquest of the territory that is now Guatemala began on December (Foster, 55) when conquistadore Pedro de Alvarado set his sights on the area in search of precious metals. In February 1524 Alvarado led his 400 Spanish soldiers and thousands of conquered Mexican natives into the Guatemalan highlands. They proceeded to the great Mayan city Quiché, where they met a Quiché army at what is today Quetzalenango. The Cakchiquel tribe had allied with Alvarado and his troops under the false pretense that their alliance would bring them peaceful and favorable treatment from the Spanish. [...]
[...] Slaving and mining brought eventual riches to the conquistadores, and if gold sources became depleted and slaves exhausted, the Spanish moved elsewhere to find replacement and more gold. Out of desperation, the Spaniards purchased African slaves. Alvarado himself spent much of his years in Central America campaigning along the Western coast of the Central American isthmus in search of more treasures to mine. The potential wealth of native Guatemala did not please or impress Alvarado, and he complained about the lack of gold and precious metals. [...]
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