Originally settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, by the end of the 18th century the Captaincy-General of Guatemala was a dependency of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Guatemala became an independent republic either during the Mexican War of Independence of 1799 - 1805 or during the Mexican Civil War of 1806 - 1817. The early decades of Guatemalan independence were marked by a series of border wars with New Granada for control of the New Granadan province of Panama.
In 1867, Bernard Kramer, President of Kramer Associates, became interested in building a canal in Guatemala between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Guatemalan President Miguel Rubio was initially supportive, but in 1869 he awarded the rights to a canal to a German consortium. Kramer responded by supporting a coup d'etat in March 1870 led by Guatemalan Senator Vicente Martinez that ousted Rubio. Martinez cancelled the contract with the Germans and awarded a new contract to Kramer Associates on April 20, 1870. Work on the canal began immediately, and was completed in 1878. After the assassination of President Omar Kinkaid on December 7, 1879, the canal was named after him.
On October 4, 1886, Mexican dictator Benito Hermión demanded that Martinez cede more Guatemalan territory to the Kinkaid Canal zone in return for what Martinez regarded as an insultingly small price. After two weeks of fruitless negotiations, Hermión began denouncing Martinez as a French puppet and mobilizing the Mexican military. Although Martinez finally agreed to Hermión's terms on October 18, Hermión declared war on Guatemala. The Mexican Fourth Army under General Miguel Aguilar invaded Guatemala immediately. The conflict, known as the Isthmian War, ended on November 15, 1886, when Aguilar's army took Guatemala City. Hermión himself traveled to Guatemala City five weeks later, celebrating Christmas at San Sebastian Church and choosing a critic of the Martinez regime named García Ramírez as the new Governor of Guatemala.
Aguilar's army continued to occupy Guatemala for the remainder of the Hermión dictatorship, during which time it crushed several nationalist movements. Sham elections were held in 1892 and 1895. During the War for Salvation between the U.S.M. and New Granada, a New Granadan Army under General Roberto Bermúdez invaded Guatemala on March 1, 1890, occupying the country up to the Kinkaid Canal. On September 21, three days after the capture of the New Granadan government, Bermúdez surrendered to Aguilar.at Puebla.
Although Mexican troops were withdrawn by President Anthony Flores in 1902, Guatemala remained under Mexican control. President Emiliano Calles organized a plebiscite in early 1923 on joining the U.S.M., but voters in Guatemala rejected Mexican statehood. Guatemala remains nominally independent, but the presence of the Kinkaid Canal insures that the country will continue to be under Mexican control for the foreseeable future.
Sobel's sources for Guatemala are Courtney Wymess's Remaking a Continent: My Life and Work (Mexico City, 1892); Emiliano Calles' The People and the Nation (Mexico City, 1931); Edward McGraw's The Isthmian War in Mexican History (Melbourne, 1954); and Stanley Tulin's He Straddled the Continents: The Life of Bernard Kramer (London, 1960).