Causes of the Guatemalan War

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After the American Civil War, General William Sherman stated, “War is hell!” All war, any war, takes a deadly toll on the two or more countries involved. A civil war, however, is a special kind of hell, for those who die are all citizens or residents of the same country. Wars, civil or otherwise, are usually fought over similar issues: racism, land, money, power, or fear. Oftentimes, conflicts occur over a combination of these issues. One such confrontation was the thirty-six-year civil war waged from 1960 to 1996 in the small Central American country of Guatemala. The many parties involved in the war would state different reasons for it. A careful scrutiny of the issue, however, reveals that the causes of the Guatemalan Civil War were racism towards and oppression of the native Mayan citizens, disputes regarding the use and ownership of land, and a desire for economic and political power. Mayans have been oppressed and systematically eradicated since Spain conquered Guatemala in 1520 (“Guatemala: A Brief History”). Although cruelty by the Spaniards ceased with Guatemala’s liberation in 1821, new groups arose to continue the oppression. Sadly, these groups were composed of Ladinos, who were part Mayan themselves. The first group of Ladinos who tormented the Mayans was those in the military. Being part European, Spanish speaking, and trained by the United States, they felt they were superior to the Mayans (Handy 191). The Ladino military tried to force the Mayans to assimilate into the current culture and forgo the traditions of their ancestors. They also forced them off of the land that Mayans attempted to farm. Being simple, illiterate people who did not speak Spanish, the Mayans were unaware the land they cultivated to provide for their families now belonged to others (Pando). Plot by plot they were forced to leave their farms by the
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