Monday, April 4, 2011

Historical Background of my Topic

Ok, I’ve searched my inner being (hah) and I think I want to research Guatemala. I will briefly talk about the colonial history of Guatemala (and perhaps make references and comparisons to the colonization of Northern Africa? – would that be too much?), but I want the main focus of the paper to be “postcolonial”, as in what has happened since their independence from Spain (the last official colonizer) in 1821. What has happened since then? Well, not surprisingly it’s the same as what always (or at least most of the time) happens after a country is “liberated” from a colonizer – dictatorships, powerful and violent ones.

Before invasions from across the sea, the people of Guatemala were part of the powerful Mayan empire, which existed from about 250 to 900 CE (referred to as the Classic period). In 900, the empire collapsed, and the possible reasons are currently debated among historians and archeologists (drought is one of the most accepted theories). Then until 1500 the empire was divided into regional kingdoms, which is now known as the Calistic Period. The 1500s was when the Spanish Conquistadors came to Central and South America starting with the infamous Hernán Cortés. One of his top lieutenants Pedro de Alvarado was the leader of the conquest of Guatemala in 1519. As in Assia Djebar’s Fantasía, there were numerous local tribes and not all fought against the invaders. Some of them (for example, the Kaqchiquel) actually sided with the Spanish and fought to bring down other tribes. But of course in due time the Spanish would take advantage of them, they would rebel, the Spanish would crush the rebellions, and in the end the Spanish force was just strengthened. Then there was more colonization similar to that of Northern Africa, but of course there were some notable differences, like the emphasis in religion (the spread of Catholicism via the Inquisition).

So there’s a tiny bit of history for you! I’ll do some more along this vain, then talk about liberation, then (as I mentioned before) I’ll spend most of my time talking about postcolonial issues (and the postcolonial relationship between Guatemala and the US). Does this sound good? Do you think I should spend more (or less) time talking about the early colonization vs. postcolonialism? I think I could actually write a whole 12-page paper on either. Should I pick just one? Or maybe include both but focus on one, as was the original plan? Your brilliant thoughts are always appreciated!


  1. I'm very excited that you are writing about this topic, because I don't know that much about Guatemala, past or present. I think it would be interesting if you would focus on postcolonialism, but also talk about early colonization. I think it's always easier to understand and appreciate the present once you have a grasp of the past. I'm excited to read the rest of your blogs! Happy researching!

  2. I agree with Taelor. I like your idea of including both but focusing in on one. I think including colonization, post colonialzation, and current relations helps give your reader a clear understanding and appreciation of your topic. Then again, it could end up being a little too long...sorry I'm useless :)

  3. thanks so much taelor and jamie! i'm totally with you on the desire to always delve further into the past to understand the present. it's totally necessary, but like jamie said, that can get a little long. i've come up with a solution that i'm happy with though. read my latest post to find out! :)