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Hernán Cortés, who had led the Spanish conquest of Mexico, granted a permit to Captains Gonzalo de Alvarado and his brother, Pedro de Alvarado, to conquer this land.
Alvarado at first allied himself with the Kaqchikel nation to fight against their traditional rivals the K'iche' (Quiché) nation.
The territory of modern Guatemala once formed the core of the Maya civilization, which extended across Mesoamerica.
After they arrived in the New World, the Spanish started several expeditions to Guatemala, beginning in 1519.
Before long, Spanish contact resulted in an epidemic that devastated native populations.
In 1944, authoritarian leader Jorge Ubico was overthrown by a pro-democratic military coup, initiating a decade-long revolution that led to sweeping social and economic reforms. S.-backed military coup in 1954 ended the revolution and installed a dictatorship.
Since a United Nations-negotiated peace accord, Guatemala has witnessed both economic growth and successful democratic elections, though it continues to struggle with high rates of poverty, crime, drug trade, and instability.