Guatemala is a country in Central America. The country’s contemporary capital, Guatemala City, is a major metropolitan centre.
The old town of Antigua.
The dominance of an Indian culture within its interior uplands distinguishes it from its Central American neighbours. The origin of the name is Indian, but its derivation and meaning are undetermined.
Some hold that the original form was Quauhtemallan (indicating an Aztec rather than a Mayan origin), meaning “land of trees,” and others hold that it is derived from Guhatezmalha, meaning “mountain of vomiting water”— referring no doubt to such volcanic eruptions as the one that destroyed modern-day Antigua.
After gaining independence from Spain in the 1820s, the country had a long history of government by authoritarian rule and military regimes until it came under democratic rule in 1985.
Starting in 1954, the government has faced formidable guerrilla opposition that sparked civil war that lasted for 36 years until peace accords were signed in 1996. The struggles of Guatemala’s Indians during the war years were illuminated when Rigoberta Menchú, a Quiché Maya and an advocate for indigenous people throughout Latin America, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.
A slow political and economic recovery continued into the early 21st century. Elections have been held regularly since 1996, but, because there are many political parties, which tend to be small and short-lived, convergence on political solutions has been rare. Fear of a military return to power has preoccupied voters in the first years of the 21st century.