Guatemala Culture

Guatemala Culture and Mass Media

Newspapers in Guatemala

According to HISTORYAAH.COM, Guatemala is a country located in North America. The spread of daily newspapers in Guatemala is modest (33 items per 1,000 residents, 2000). There are about ten daily newspapers. The largest are the independent Prensa Libre (edition: 120,000 copies), El Gráfico (60,000 copies) and Siglo Veintiuno (55,000 copies). There is freedom of the press, but journalism is considered to be characterized by great caution in political matters.

Of Guatemala’s approximately 100 radio stations, about 85 are commercial. There are five government stations and six with a focus on educational programs. Guatemala has four commercial TV channels and one state with a focus on culture and education. There are 79 radio and 61 TV receivers per 1,000 residents (2000).


According to CALCULATORINC, the heritage of the ancient Mayan civilizations is rich. This is evident in the large amount of archaeological remains and, not least, in contemporary Mayan culture. Despite centuries of oppression, Mayan culture has survived and developed.

A number of informal institutions still live alongside the formal ones, such as Mayor mayors, Mayan priests, village elders, midwives and in some cases also their own legal system. Traditional costumes are still used, both for everyday and for parties. Striking are the colorful textiles and the beautiful symbol-laden embroidery. Several old dances remain, as well as a fascinating mythology.

Common to all residents is a strong music tradition where the national instrument marimba is central. Marimba is a wood percussion, with roots in Africa.

According to SOFTWARELEVERAGE.ORG, the country’s writers have been almost exclusively Ladinos (see Population and Languages). Most famous is the poet, novelist and diplomat Miguel Ángel Asturias (1899–1974) who received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1967. Asturias’s works are rooted in Mayan culture and his magical realism has had a major impact on Latin American literature. Criticism against the long-standing oppression of the indigenous peoples is a common theme. Hombres de maíz (Maid People) is Asturias most famous work.



Ex-presidential candidate is arrested

2 September

One month after the decisive round in the presidential election, losing candidate Sandra Torres is arrested, suspected of violating campaign finance rules and having had illegal connections. Torres, who has run in three presidential elections without winning, had prosecutorial immunity as long as she was a candidate. She herself says she is exposed to a political witch hunt.


Giammattei wins the presidential election

August 11th

The Conservative Party of Vamo’s candidate Alejandro Giammattei wins in the second round of the presidential election with 58 percent of the vote, against 42 percent for Sandra Torres who is a candidate for the Social Democratic UNE. Giammattei, who has run in three previous presidential elections, is considered to have close ties to the military. He will take office in January 2020. The turnout is 42 percent.


Migrant settlement with the United States

July 26

The United States and Guatemala sign a settlement in which Guatemala is now considered a “safe third country” for asylum seekers. This means that asylum seekers on their way through the country must seek asylum there and not be allowed to continue to the US – and if they do, they can be sent back by US authorities. The aim, according to US President Donald Trump, is to stop the migration of migrants and to stop human trafficking and “asylum” in the region. Just days before, Trump has threatened tariffs, travel bans and money laundering charges unless Guatemala signed a deal. Exactly how Guatemala should go to live up to the commitment is unclear. The agreement must be ratified by Congress, and the Constitutional Court has previously blocked a similar settlement with the United States.


Nothing crucial in the first round of elections

June 16

In the first round of the presidential election, UNE candidate Sandra Torres gets 26 percent of the vote, while Alejandro Giammattei, candidate for Vamos, gets 14 percent. The two will meet in the decisive election round on 11 August. In third and fourth place are Edmond Mulet (Humanista) with 11 percent and Thelma Cabrera (MLP) with 10 percent. A total of 19 presidential candidates ran for office. In today’s congressional elections, the distribution of seats will be: National Union of Hope (UNE) 54, Vamos 16, Union for National Change (UCN) 12, Valor 9, Front for National Convergence (FCN) 8, National Prosperity (Bien) 8, Semilla 7, Viva 7, Todos 7, others 32. A total of 19 parties get at least one seat in Congress. The turnout is 62 percent.


Yet another presidential candidate suspended

15th of May

Former state prosecutor Thelma Aldana gives up her candidacy for the June presidential election, after the Constitutional Court ruled in lower courts that she may not stand. The reason is allegations of irregularities in connection with the purchase of a government building and the creation of false jobs during her time as a prosecutor (see also March 2019). Aldana could have appealed the decision further and initially tweeted that it would happen, but she and her party Semilla back then. Her intended Vice Presidential candidate Jonathan Menkos said at a press conference that those responsible for the corruption in the country have opposed Aldana’s candidacy. The party is now investing instead in winning seats in congress and municipal assemblies. Aldana herself takes refuge in the United States after being subjected to death threats.

Ex-dictator’s daughter turns off

May 13th

The Constitutional Court forbids Zury Ríos to stand in the June presidential election. She is disqualified because she is the daughter of ex-dictator Efraín Ríos Montt (see Modern History). According to the court, close relatives of coup leaders under the constitution may not be president. Relatives of victims of the military dictatorship welcome the message. Zury Ríos has previously said that a ban would mean a violation of rights both for her and her supporters. So far, she has been one of the three leading names in opinion polls. The other two are former Prosecutor General Thelma Aldana and former president’s wife Sandra Torres – who are both at risk of being shut down. Aldana is charged with fraud and tax fraud (see March 2019) and Torres for receiving illegal promotional funds.


US aid is withdrawn

March 30

The United States announces that aid to Guatemala, as well as to El Salvador and Honduras, for 2017 and 2018 will be fully withdrawn, according to an order from President Trump. It’s unclear how much money is involved, but Trump himself has spoken of $ 500 million. Trump is accusing the three Central American states of not doing anything to stop the widespread migration to the United States.

Presidential candidate risks being arrested

March 19

A judge issues an arrest warrant for former state prosecutor Thelma Aldana, the same day she is registered as a candidate in the June presidential election. As presidential candidate, she can have prosecutorial immunity. The suspicions apply to embezzlement, lies and tax fraud. Aldana was State Prosecutor in 2014–2018 and worked closely with the UN-supported Commission Cicig, which works against impunity and corruption.


Court stops trying to close Cicig

January 9

The Constitutional Court annulled President Jimmy Morale’s decision to close the UN-backed Cicig operation. The decision comes two days after the Foreign Ministry notified the UN that Morales had decided on his own not to extend Cicig’s mandate. The UN response was that Guatemala is obliged to leave Cicig behind. The tug-of-war around Cicig began when the Commission, together with prosecutors, requested that Morale’s prosecution be revoked (see August 2017). Morales has just tried to prevent a Ciciig investigator from entering the country, but that decision was also stopped in court.

Guatemala Culture

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