What year did the Guatemalan Civil War begin and end?
It began in 1960 and ended in 1996. That was 30 years of conflict, repression, violence and fighting.
A Guatemalan village
A Guatemalan village

Why did the war begin in the first place?
i ballerThe war began because the indigenous people were treated unfairly by the Spanish Guatemalan Government. For example, Rigoberta Menchu Tum's (a human rights activist) story. Her vampire hunterGuatemalan Maya family spoke Quiche.TROLL Their family trusted the government, so when the government came to have Rigoberta's family sign a legal paper, they were happy to. The Spanish Government told the family it was a paper stating that their land would be safe if only they signed it. The legal paper was in Spanish and Rigoberta's family could not speak Spanish. They signed the paper and after, learned that they had actually agreed to sell their land. The disturbing element of this story is that the government took advantage of the fact that these people could not speak Spanish. The Guatemalan Government outright lied to these people, saying that they would ensure the safety of their land when they were actually going to take it away. This was just one story of how indigenous people were treated unfairly by the government.
Indigenous people were being detained in prisons and camps. If your children were taken away or your village burnt and destroyed, you could not speak out. The court of law was disabled because the government was controlled by the military.

Rigoberta Menchu Tum
Rigoberta Menchu Tum
Guatemalan woman and her child
Guatemalan woman and her child

When an individual is killed because of his or her ethnicity it is called a hate crime. When large numbers of people are killed for this reason, it is called genocide. The UN defines genocide as "acts committed with intention to destroy, in whole or part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group." It is a crime under international law.

How did the indigenous people and the Spanish Guatemalan Government decide to stop fighting?
In 1985, after the election of a Constituent Assembly, like our House of Commons, a new constitution was drafted for Guatemala. Even though the USA was then stating that Guatemala was a post-transitional democracy, it took another ten years before the violence ended. In the years from 1986 to 1996, the army was still ruling the people, despite elected presidents. The violence was continuing because of the long standing tension between the Spanish Guatemalans (military) and indigenous Mayan Indians. In 1994 the United Nations became involved in the Peace Process. The government and the indigenous people signed agreements on resettlement of people who were in prisons and camps and agreements on indigenous rights and socioeconomic rights. This means the rights for society like occupation and education. Finally, in 1996, the indigenous people and the Spanish Government stopped fighting with the signing of the Peace Accords.

The Guatemalan flag
The Guatemalan flag

Pike, John. Military(Guatemala Civil War 1960-1996). 20 Feb. 2007. 11 Apr. 2010 <http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/guatemala.htm>

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Bookfanatic. 20 Mar. 2010. 11 Apr. 2010.

Walters, Eric & Bradbury, Adrian. When Elephants Fight. Victoria: Orca, 2008