The Sixth State of Los Altos
By: Christian Díaz
During the colonial period, the Kingdom of Guatemala was one of Spain’s principal sources of wealth. Its vast territories contained a broad range of natural resources that enriched the criollo elite. (Criollo: European-descended but born in the Americas.) This elite did what it wanted with the classes below it. The region called Los Altos, which encompasses today’s Quetzaltenango, Totonicapán, Sololá, Quiché, Retalhuleu, Huehuetenango, San Marcos, and Suchitepéquez, as well as the Soconusco province of Mexico, was part of the Kingdom of Guatemala and provided most of its wealth. It boasts great hydrological, geological, geographical, agricultural, and other resources. Its privileges also include fertile soils and a striking diversity of microclimates.
Though Los Altos produced the Kingdom’s greatest treasures, there was regular conflict between the City of Quetzaltenango and Guatemala City. They had distinct ideological and political traditions. Those from Los Altos, the Altenses, sought independence from Guatemala, and achieved it during the time of the Federal Central American Republic. Faced with the instability and corruption of the Guatemalan government, it declared Independence and named itself Los Altos. This new nation saw itself destined for quick wealth and success. However, political divisions quickly brought it to its end.
The central government violated the Republic’s federal laws and the sovereignty of the new nation and destroyed the national peace by crushing what the Altenses called independence. They executed the leaders of Los Altos by firing squad and submitted its territories to administrative subservience. This treatment endures, and it hurts efforts for holistic development in the region.
The creation of The Sixth State of Los Altos dutifully adhered to the law and the norms of the era. It was the central government that violated the law to destroy it. It never provided a legal justification for its assault on this dream. This is why I decided to conduct the deep historical-judicial investigation that turned into my book: “Chronicles of Los Altos: The Sixth State of the Federal Central American Republic.” In the book, I analyze the impacts of these momentous events, from the conception of Los Altos through the present day. I also analyze the judicial context of these events and shed new light on the new nation’s constitution, which is rarely studied and was one of the most important initiatives that the repression of Los Altos cut short.
To write this book, I consulted the legal documents that Los Altos used as its foundation to justify its creation. These documents date from the discovery of the Americas by Columbus and the Conquest of American civilizations to the present day. Further, in addition to the relevant legal documents, I reviewed and made us of broader doctrines that allowed me to clarify the current status of Los Altos. This investigation led me to various sources, from books and teaching resources to a range of public libraries and private collections in Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, and Spain.
I have written this book, to which I have dedicated over ten years, and which I began when I was very young, out of deep respect for all the nations I’ve named, in the hopes of raising awareness of these events from an objective and especially a legal perspective. I often found it impossible not to invoke the law and legal frameworks to understand the history of Los Altos, especially because I practice law. It is a gift to my native city, eternal Xelajú, Quetzaltenango de Los Altos.
Interview with Cristian Díaz, Author of Crónicas de Los Altos: “El Sexto Estado de la República Federal de Centroamérica”
EM: Why the title “Chronicles of los Altos: The Sixth State of the Federal Republic of Central America”?
Christian: Despite the title being perhaps long, it was necessary to place the context of the Highlands to avoid confusion with respect to the content of the book. That’s why I mention the RFC (Federal Republic of Central America), so the book is not only destined for quetzalteco/a readers familiar with the term “the Highlands” but also for all nationals or foreigners who don’t know the story and want to put at their disposal this historical knowledge by way of chronicles, that is, a story related from its origins and background that evolve according to their time period, without the complications of time or space so that it’s appropriate and comprehensible for everyone, that it’s not just a book for those who study or enjoy historical or anthropological science.
EM: Was there a particular person or situation that inspired you?
Christian: This is a project that began quite a long time ago, in fact, from when I was an adolescent I took an interest in local, national, and Central American history. The history of Quetzaltenango always interested me a lot, which is why I had the inspiration to look more deeply into this historical fact. I think the fact of me being a quetzalteco motivated me to finally create a historical compendium on los Altos.
EM: Why should people read your book?
Christian: There are several reasons for which I invite the public to read this book. One of them is that, although there are many books on the history of Quetzaltenango, most of them only dedicate one or two paragraphs to this story. My book is dedicated entirely to it, and today it’s the first and only historical compendium on The Sixth State of the Highlands. It’s a complete historical-legal investigation; however, it’s written so that it’s appropriate for all the public interested in the Highlands, be it from a historical or cultural perspective.
Another reason to read the book is that it’s written in an objective manner, placing the successes and failures of the involved States. My opinion stays out of the way of the true story, based on evidence and documents, giving my opinion only on the points that are necessary for a better understanding of the book. Lastly, I also invite people to read the book because it’s written with the deepest love and respect for this region which our leaders of old named “The Highlands” and I’m sure that highlander and foreigner alike can come to identify with the sublime and heroic ideals that I relate there.
EM: When can copies be purchased?
Christian: The book is currently in the process of publication, and some details of the edition are being finalized. for more information, you can write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cover picture: Flickr Harry D.
In 2020, EntreMundos will be supporting Guatemalan writers to publicize their literary works through this magazine. If you are currently in the process of finishing a book or literary project, or if you’ve already published and would like to announce it, write to email@example.com