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Guatemala is a Central American country bordering Mexico to the north, Belize to the northeast, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast. It has a small coastline on the Caribbean to the east and faces the Pacific Ocean along its southern border.

During Guatemala’s 36-year-long (1960–1996) civil war, approximately 200,000 people perished, untold thousands disappeared, and tens of thousands fled the country for safe refuge elsewhere. Understanding Guatemala’s civil war requires a grasp of the sociohistorical context, as well as the complex internal and external identity dynamics that define this conflict. The depth and breadth of this brutal war derived from an elaborate construction and entrenchment of multifaceted and complex social identities that, in turn, perpetuated long-standing divisions within Guatemalan society.

Sociohistorical Contexts

Guatemala’s rural poor were ...

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