Permalink to this Image | Gallery of Rachel's Works One Essay Response Niloufer De Silva | Sri Lankan Sociologist says: January 25, 2012 at 10:15 pm Rachel’s Guatemalan Arch powerfully evokes the arch as an architectural symbol of conquest. This massive, brooding archway in Guatemala hearkens to the monumental arches of ancient Rome that celebrate the triumphs of Roman emperors, such as, Severus Septimus, Augustus and Constantine. The Guatemalan Arch leads into an imposing Roman Catholic Church – legacy of Spanish conquest. Christian churches in Guatemala rose on the dust of the Mayan civilization that flourished during the first millennium A.D. The Catholic Church has supported human rights campaigns in Guatemala during the past two decades. However, over the 300 years of Spanish colonialism, churches in Guatemala, as in other Spanish colonies, helped to consolidate Spanish rule. Today, Mestizo (Amerindian and European mixed) populations and Europeans comprise 59.4% of Guatemala’s population (2001 Census) and 60% of Guatemalans are primarily Spanish speakers. It is estimated, that about 50-60% of Guatemalans are Roman Catholics. Land seized from indigenous Mayan and other tribes by the Spanish were often turned into coffee, banana and sugar plantations. The encomienda system established by the Spanish forced the Maya and other indigenous people to work on these plantations. Today, Guatemala’s poverty is partly rooted in an economy that continues to lean heavily on the export of coffee, banana and sugar. Independence from foreign rule in 1822 brought little relief to Guatemala’s poverty-stricken indigenous peoples, since wealth and political power was concentrated in the hands of elites, mostly of Spanish descent. In the 1940s and 1950s, the United Fruit Company – a powerful American company in Guatemala – and the United States Government too, conspired successfully with large landowners and the Guatemalan military to suppress reforms for strengthening workers’ rights and distributing land to the poor. In the 1960s, guerilla movements supported by large numbers of students and peasants rose against Guatemala’s military government. The bitter civil war that ensued killed around 200,000 Guatemalans and created over a million refugees. It is estimated that 80% of the victims of murder, torture and the Guatemalan government’s “scorched earth” policies were indigenous people. In 1996, a peace agreement was signed between President Álvaro Arzú and the guerrillas. This peace agreement acknowledged that Guatemala’s indigenous peoples had been exploited and discriminated against. It was agreed that human rights violations would be investigated and reforms initiated to achieve greater equality in the future. The peace agreement stopped the civil war, but Guatemala continues to face huge challenges in implementing these reforms successfully. You must be a Rachel Tanur Memorial Prize applicant to submit an essay response.