Revolution Day in Guatemala takes place on October 20 every year. It commemorates a landmark moment in the country’s history; on this day in 1944, a democratic rebellion overthrew over ten years of oppressive rule under military dictator Jorge Ubico. The architects of the revolution? Students, teachers, and workers. They stood up and decided enough was enough. These brave protestors fought for liberty, their right to free speech and religion, and liberation from crippling fear and want. Revolution Day changed the scope of Guatemalan politics and society, paving the way for positive reform and human rights activism.
History of Revolution Day (Guatemala)
For most of its history, Guatemala saw successive regimes by unpopular dictators. In 1944, the country reeled under the rule of Jorge Ubico, a man who considered Adolf Hitler and Napoleon Bonaparte his inspirations. Anger against Ubico had risen over the years. Around spring of that very same year, change and revolution were in the air.
Students, workers, and teachers took charge, banding together to resist Ubico’s rule. As one of the first acts of defiance, Guatemala’s teachers refused to participate in the annual Teachers Day Parade scheduled for June 30. They demanded better working conditions and higher wages. In solidarity, hundreds of workers gathered in Guatemala City for a non-violent protest ahead of the parade. The government response? A military crackdown where 200 people died. This unprovoked attack triggered a nationwide strike. Ordinary citizens refused to endure Ubico’s rule any longer. The dictator surrendered power to his generals. Led by Federico Ponce Vaides, the military junta took Ubico’s place and continued enacting his oppressive policies.
The tipping point arrived when Alejandro Cordova, a prominent anti-government journalist, was assassinated on October 1. The event strengthened the resolve of an already-angry public, now determined to revolt more than ever before. Aided by a military officer named Jacobo Árbenz, the Guatemalans toppled the junta in a military coup, also known as the October Revolution.
Later, the coup called for free and open elections. The people of Guatemala responded by voting for Juan Jose Arevalo, a professor of Philosophy and champion of progressive social reforms. Arevalo won with a landslide victory. He implemented numerous labor and agriculture reforms that bolstered the country’s economy.
Revolution Day (Guatemala) timeline
The Guatemalans rise against Jorge Ubico.
Citizens react to Ubico’s armed response with a massive strike that shuts down the economy.
Faced with overwhelming opposition, Ubico resigns and leaves a military junta to rule in his place.
Guatemalan citizens, aided by young military officers, topple the military junta and take control of Guatemala City.
Revolution Day (Guatemala) FAQs
Why did the United States overthrow the president of Guatemala in 1954?
Threatened by the potential spread of communism in the Western Hemisphere, the U.S. intervened in Guatemala and removed its elected President, Jacobo Arbenz.
What is Guatemala known for?
Guatemala is widely known for its educational Mayan cultural heritage, fascinating volcanic landscapes, and the colorful colonial city of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What race are Guatemalans?
Guatemala is a multicultural country, where most people have varying degrees of European and Amerindian ancestry.
How to Observe Revolution Day (Guatemala)
Join the celebrations
Feast, dance, or unwind for today is a public holiday. Spend Revolution Day with some much-needed friends and family time.
Many Guatemalans still take to the streets to fight for human rights and social reform. These demonstrations honor what their forefathers fought for in 1944 and keep their legacy alive.
Watch the fireworks
When in Guatemala City, don’t miss out on the spectacular fireworks display. It’s one of the best ways to celebrate.
5 Facts About Guatemala City That Will Blow Your Mind
Central America’s largest city
There are an estimated 3.7 million people who call Guatemala City home.
The fear of sinkholes
The city’s weak soil and volcano pumice once created a sinkhole that swallowed a house and a three-story.
Shaped by natural disasters
Guatemala City was designated the capital since it was relatively less prone to earthquakes than others.
They have ash days
Volcanic activity and the resulting ash compel people to stay indoors, much like snow days.
Inspiration for a revolutionary
A large part of Che Guevara’s ideology was influenced by his time there.
Why Revolution Day (Guatemala) is Important
It’s about what “ordinary” people can do
Revolution Day commemorates a movement led by students and teachers. An inspiration for anyone who feels powerless or defeated.
It shines a light on ongoing resistance
Today reminds us to keep fighting for fundamental human rights. We stand to protect them in the face of adversity.
It honors multitudes
The world is better through collective will and action. Revolution Day is a celebration of democratic values at their best.
Revolution Day (Guatemala) dates