The indigenous Guatemalan inhabitants were the Mayans, while the word Guatemala comes from the Spanish misinterpretation of the word Quauhlemallan.
1523 Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado led a Spanish expedition from Mexico and invaded Guatemala and established Spanish rule over the country.
1540 The Indigenous Guatemalan population was crushed and Guatemala became a Spanish colony under the control of the Captaincy General of Guatemala.
From 1543 The Palacio de los Capitanes on the island of Antigua became the centre for Spanish rule over Chiapas, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
1773 A large earthquake destroyed so much of Antigua that the Spanish moved away and built a new capital on a plateau 30 miles away that became Guatemala City.
1776 Spain encompassed all of its territories in south-east South America to create one large colony called the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata.
1821 Guatemala gains its independence from Spain, and became a part of the Mexican empire.
1823 Guatemala broke away from Mexico.
1823 The United Provinces of Central America was formed that included Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua all under control of General Manuel Jose Arce.
1840 Guatemala became fully independent following the dissolution of the United
Provinces of Central America.
1840 Rafael Carrerea took control and became the first of many Guatemalan liberal dictators leading up to 1945.
1859 A treaty between Britain and Guatemala defined the boundaries of Belize.
1898 to1920 President. Manuel Estrada Cabrera was one of the first Latin dictators to create his own secret police. He plundered the treasury, expanded the standing army and systematically oppressed his opponents.
1931-1944 Jorge Ubico took over Guatemala as dictator. He liked to ride around the country in his motorcycle and had all the potholes fixed. He ended debt peonage for Indians and clamped down on corruption.
1940 Guatemala declared the 1859 treaty void and reasserted its claim to Belize.
1944 A revolution in Guatemala occurred against the eccentric strongman Jorge Ubico.
1951-1954 Jacobo Guzman Arbenz served as president of Guatemala. Arbenz became president with the support of army and leftists, including the Communist Party. Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, aroused rightist opposition by allowing Communists in positions of power among the peasants, labour unions, even the government. His radical policies especially regarding expropriation of portions of the United Fruit Company holdings-led to a U.S. backed coup in 1954 and of his fleeing to Mexico.
27th January 1954 CIA-sponsored rebels overthrew the elected government of Guatemala. A US supported force of Guatemalan mercenaries invaded from Honduras. President. Arbenz was over thrown and replaced by 30 years of military rule. Arbenz spent much of his exile in Cuba, and died in 1971 in Mexico City. It was disclosed in 1997 to have been motivated by US economic interests with 58 Guatemalan politicians put on a list of potential targets for political killing. In 1982 “Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala” by Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer, was published by Doubleday.
8th July 1954 Carlos Castillo Armas of Guatemala became president. However, he was later assassinated in 1957.
On 26th July 1957 President Carlos Castillo Armas was assassinated.
1959 Belize and Guatemala signed a border treaty.
30th October 1960 Guatemala's "La Hora" reported a plan for the invasion on Cuba.
14th November 1960 US President Dwight Eisenhower ordered U.S. naval units into the Caribbean after Guatemala and Nicaragua charged Castro with starting uprisings.
1960 In Guatemala rebellious army officers took to the hills and began the long attempt to overthrow a tyrannical regime.
1960 The Central American Common Market was set up by a treaty between El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and later Costa Rica. However, it fell apart by the end of the decade.
From 1960 to 1996 During the civil war the military retained power and the first Marxist guerilla organization took up arms against them. While some 150,000 people fled to Mexico for refuge and as many as 50,000 hid out in the mountains and jungles for years.
4th January 1966 A US State Dept. security official wrote a memo describing how a safe house was set up in the presidential palace for use by Guatemalan security agents and their US contacts.
6th March 1966 Security forces arrested 32 people suspected of aiding Marxist guerrillas. They all disappeared. A later CIA cable identified 3 of the missing as terrorists executed by Guatemalan authorities on 6th March.
1966 The US sent in the Green Berets to help “train” the Guatemalan armed forces in counter-insurgency techniques.
23rd October 1967 A secret US State Department cable reported that covert Guatemalan security operations included "kidnapping, torture and summary executions."
1st July 1970 General Carlos Arana Osorio (1918-2003) a hard-line conservative of the National Liberation Movement, began serving as president and continued until 1974. He expanded efforts to bring armed rebels under control and prosecuted student radicals. He declared a state of siege in his 1st year.
1978-1983 Hundreds of residents from central Guatemala fled to the region north of Chajul and declared themselves neutral to the war. They organized themselves into the Communities of People in Resistance (CPR) and secretly cultivated their lands. They did not come out of hiding until 1998.
1979 Soldiers protecting the Chixoy River dam project attacked the villagers of Rio Negro, the only village of 15 that refused to move without adequate compensation.
31st January 1980 In Guatemala the Spanish Embassy was attacked and 37 people were killed. The dead included the father of Rigoberta Menchu, who later filed charges in Spain against Rios Montt, 5 Guatemalan generals and 2 civilians for war crimes. Peasant labour and student activists had taken over the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City to protest the rule of President Lucas Garcia.
1980 Villagers from Xococ near Rabinal volunteered to join the army and were recruited to help kill rebels.
21st September 1981 Belize gained independence from Britain and joined the UN under protests from Guatemala.
1981 In Cuarto Pueblo 15 cooperative leaders were killed by government troops.
1981 Some 100,000 Maya villagers were killed during the year in a government crackdown on a left-wing insurgency.
1981-1983 In the central part of the country 4,411 people were killed in the area of Rabinal during the civil war.
13th February 1982 73 men and women from Rio Negro were ordered by the local military commander to report to Xococ, a village upstream from the reservoir zone which had a history of land conflicts and hostility with Rio Negro. Only one woman out of the 73 villagers returned to Rio Negro, the rest were raped, tortured and then murdered by Xococ's Civil Defense Patrol, or PAC, one of the notorious paramilitary units used by the state as death squads. Later the Guatemalan army invaded Santa Maria Tzeja and massacred 13 people. Villagers fled their homes following the massacre.
13th March 1982 The Massacre of Rio Negro when 177 Achi Maya women and children were killed by Xococ patrolmen.
14th March1982 In Cuarto Pueblo 309 villagers were killed over three days by government troops.
26rd March 1982 General Efrain Rios Montt seized power from President. Lucas Garcia. Under his 17-month rule the army burned Indian villages and killed thousands of suspected leftists. Montt established the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG).
June 1982 The village of Chacalte was attacked by guerrillas and an estimated 120 people were killed. The attack was for apparent collaboration by the village with the military’s armed civil patrols.
18th July 1982 Soldiers and paramilitary troops massacred 267 people in the remote hamlet of Plan de Sanchez.
22nd August 1982 Alfonso Portillo a Guatemalan professor at Mexico’s Guerrero Autonomous University shot and killed 2 political adversaries outside a party.
27th September 1982 In San Martin Jilotepeque Maria Concepcion spoke with her husband for the last time. He was dragged from his bed by more than 40 soldiers and never seen alive again. In 1997 his body was identified in a mass grave.
13th October 1982 Guatemala’s army surrounded the mountain village of Santa Anita Las Canoas. 24 men were taken inside a church, where they were chained, tied with ropes and tortured all the night, their screams heard throughout the village. The following morning, 6 men were taken from the group, tied to the barbwire fence of the church and executed in front of the community.
4th December 1982 Guatemalan President Rios Montt met with US President. Ronald Reagan in Honduras. Reagan dismissed reports of human rights abuses in the region and lifted an arms embargo to resume sales to military rulers.
6th to 8th December 1982 A government massacre wiped out the village of Dos Erres.
8th August 1983 General Efrain Rios Montt was overthrown and replaced by a military government headed by Gen. Humberto Mejia Victores.
March 1985 US freelance journalist Nick Blake, and photographer Griff Davis were shot and killed by Guatemalan civil militia. Their remains were not found until 1992.
2nd December The 2nd round of free elections in Guatemala gave a decisive majority of almost 70% to the centrist Christian Democratic Party candidate, Vinicio Cerezo. The army still held much behind-the-scenes power.
2nd November 1989 Sister Diana Ortiz was raped and tortured in Guatemala. She has claimed that a man called Allejandro appeared in charge and that he spoke colloquial English and spoke of contacts with the US Embassy. The US government has denied any connection.
1990 American innkeeper Michael Devine was murdered in Guatemala. Allegations have been made that Guatemalan colonel, Julio Roberto Alpirez on the CIA payroll, was involved. A review in 1996 showed that Alpirez was on the CIA payroll from 1988-1992 and that he was involved in the cover-up of the murder of Devine and had participated in the interrogation and likely torture of Efraim Bamaca, a captured Guatemalan guerrilla married to an American lawyer.
1991 Guatemala recognised the independence of Belize and established full diplomatic relations.
1991 the US President Bush administration requested the extradition of Lt. Col. Carlos Ochoa Ruiz on cocaine trafficking charges.
May 1993 President Jorge Serrano Elias engineered a “self-coup.” He moved to live in Panama and faced extradition attempts. After the failed coup the Congress designated Ramiro de Leon Carpio as president and Arturo Herbruger as vice president to serve to Jan 1996.
1993 Rightist civil patrols killed peasants in Colotenango. 12 members of the paramilitary unit were later arrested, tried and sentenced in 1999 to 25 years in prison. They were sprung from jail a day after being sentenced.
1st April 1994 Judge Gonzalez Dubon was assassinated. He had recently signed an order to extradite to the US former Army Lt. Col. Carlos Ochoa Ruiz on drug trafficking charges.
March 1995 Senitor Robert Torricelli of the US House Intelligence Oversight Committee accused the CIA of a cover-up in 2 Guatemalan murders. A review in 1996 showed that Alpirez was on the CIA payroll from 1988-1992 and that he was involved in the cover-up of the 1990 murder of Michael Devine and had participated in the 1992 interrogation and likely torture of Efraim Bamaca, a captured Guatemalan guerrilla, killed in captivity and married to an American lawyer.
October 1995 The government army led a massacre in the region of Chajul.
January 1996 In a low turnout for presidential elections, Alvaro Arzu Irigoyen, a conservative former foreign minister, beat Alfonso Portillo, backed by ex-dictator, Efrain Rios Montt, by less than 3 %.
March 1996 The new president ordered the army to halt counterinsurgency operations against leftist guerillas, matching a cease fire offer by the Guatemalan national Revolutionary Unity (URNG) rebels who have fought a 35-year civil war.
5th October1996 An ongoing program to de-activate some 200,000 citizen soldiers included ceremonious weapons returns.
19th October 1996 Rafael Augusto Valdizon rebel commander was captured in connection with the kidnapping of 86-year-old Olga Novella, wife of a cement company owner, in September. He negotiated his freedom in exchange for her release. She was released and he disappeared.
11th November 1996 General Roberto Letona, the military attaché in Washington, was ordered home after being linked to the Moreno smuggling operation that cheated the government out of some $2.7 billion in taxes and duties over 15 years.
14th November 1996 Villagers in Momostenango broke into the town jail where 4 men were jailed on charges of assault and robbery of bus passengers. They were beat, doused with gasoline and burned to death. It was later learned that the victims were 2 artists, a dentist, and a minister from a neighboring state hunting rabbits.
1996 The New York based Kroll Associates reported that 900 kidnappings took place in Guatemala in 1996.
30th January 1997 More than 1,000 military police seized their own headquarters and demanded at least $7,000 severance pay each when the 4,000 member military police is dissolved later in the year.
January 1997 Bonifassi de Botran (80), the heir to a liquor distillery fortune, was kidnapped in Guatemala City. A ransom was paid but she was found dead. Two members of the kidnapping ring, Los Pasaco, escaped from prison but Luis Amilcar Cetino Perez and Tomas Cerrate Hernandez were executed in 2000.
10th March 1999 US President Clinton visited Guatemala and apologized for US support of rightist regimes that ruled the country for 3 decades.
30th April 1999 In Guatemala some 600 peasants stormed a police station in Huehuetenango and freed 12 former paramilitary members who had just been sentenced to 25 years in prison for killing peasants in Colotenango in 1993.
13th May 1999 Guatemala Roberto Belarino Gonzalez (40), ass't. sec. gen'l. for the opposition Democratic Front for the New Guatemala (FDNG), was shot and killed as he left his home.
15th June 2002 Despite accusations that he oversaw massacres in the 1980s and corruption scandals in the 1990s, durable former dictator Efrain Rios Montt won yet another term as leader of the ruling party.
2004 In Guatemala 527 women were murdered. Methods used in the murders were reminiscent of those employed against the guerrillas and the residents of rural indigenous villages during the 1960-1996 civil war.
24th March 2005 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld announced the US will release $3.2 million in aid to Guatemala for its progress in overhauling a military once blamed for human rights abuses.
June 2005 In Guatemala City police files were discovered by human rights prosecutors while they searched for explosives in a musty police building. The new files were expected to shed light on details of the abuses and possibly help relatives learn what happened to some of the estimated 40,000 people who disappeared during the war, most between 1975-85.
7th July 2006 A Spanish judge charged two former Guatemalan dictators with genocide and issued international warrants for their arrest. National Court Judge Santiago Pedraz issued warrants on charges of genocide, torture, terrorism and illegal detention against Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores and six other men.
19th August 2007 US Customs seized a submarine-like vessel filled with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cocaine off the Guatemalan coast.
Articles of interest