Find out about these fascinating famous people from Guatemala

Jürg Widmer Probst - famous people from Guatemala

Guatemala has a long and varied history. From civil war and politics to cultural and artistic heights, there is so much to learn about this fascinating country.

Indigenous people who have contributed to Guatemala’s history are many and varied. From those who fought – and still fight – for justice and awareness for indigenous people in Guatemala to musicians and famous sports heroes, here are five of the most fascinating famous people from Guatemala.

5 famous people from Guatemala that you should know about

Carlos Mérida, 1891 to 1984

Born in Guatemala City, Carlos Mérida was one of the most important and well-known indigenous Guatemalan artists to break through to the mainstream. Primarily a printmaker and mural painter, he studied art in Paris between 1910 and 1914.

While in Europe, he got to know the likes of Pablo Picasso, before returning to Guatemala on the outbreak of the first world war in 1914. Shortly after his return, he launched his first art show.

By 1919, he moved to Mexico City having become interested in the artistic and social revolution there. And it was in Mexico City that he began working as an assistant to Diego Rivera (husband of the great Freda Kahlo) and became involved in Mexico’s renaissance of mural painting. His early art represented this kind of figurative and politically focused style.

After another trip to Europe in 1927, Mérida’s work developed into his own abstract style. Consisting of geometrically shaped forms and figures, this style came to characterise his art. Later on, he combined more of the contemporary European art influences, including Surrealism and Cubism into his work along with Mayan art.

Mérida was massively influential, and his murals continue to be loved to the present day in Guatemala. His heritage is Quiché Guatemalan, and this can be seen throughout his art. You can see lots of his work on display at the Museum of Modern Art in Guatemala City, and on a number of public and government buildings.

Rigoberta Menchú Tum, 1959 to present day

Rigoberta is famous for fighting for the rights of Guatemala’s indigenous people both internally and externally. She is a powerhouse, a human rights activist, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. She is of K’iche Guatemalan descent and one of the most impressive famous Guatemalan women.

She has dedicated her life to bringing international awareness to the plight of the indigenous people of Guatemala, both during and after the civil war which ran from 1960 to 1996. As well as being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the early 90s, she was also the recipient of the Prince of Asturias Award in 1998.

Rigoberta founded the first indigenous political party in Guatemala (Winaq) and ran for President in 2007 and 2011. Of all her many important achievements, she is probably best known and most loved for her strident defence and activism advocating on behalf of the people who died and suffered at the hands of the Guatemalan army during the civil war.

Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales, 1899 to 1974

Guatemala has been home to many exceptional poets and writers, and Nobel Prize winner Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales is one of the finest. A poet/diplomat, playwright and journalist, Asturias was (and is) key to establishing the significant contribution Latin America has made to Western culture.

He also threw a light on indigenous cultures within Guatemala and other countries. Born in Guatemala, Asturias spent his childhood there before moving to Paris as an adult. While in France, he became linked with Surrealism and became one of the main drivers of the Latin American Bloom in the 60s and 70s. This is the name given to a group of Latin American novelists who became famous around the world, including the likes of Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

One of his best-known novels is called El Senor Presidente and is a story about living under a ruthless dictator. Its mixture of fantasy and realism influenced later novelists from the region and reflects his political stance. Another much lauded novel is Hombres de maiz, which represents a defence and analysis of Mayan customs and culture. In 1966 he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union, followed the next year by the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was the second Latin American writer to receive this after Gabriela Mistral in 1945.

Carlos “Pescado” Ruiz, 1979 to present day

We can’t write a list of famous Guatemalans without including one of its finest football players. Ruiz is widely considered one of the finest players ever to come from Guatemala.

Nicknamed El Pescadito (Little Fish) when he played, Ruiz was named the most valuable player in the Major League Soccer (MLS) league in 2002. He played for Los Angeles Galaxy, FC Dallas, Toronto FC, DC United and Philadelphia Union and, of course, as a member of the Guatemalan national side from 1998 to 2016.

In September 2016, he became the biggest scorer of all time in World Cup Qualifiers with 39 goals (although Guatemala has never made it into the finals).

Ricardo Arjona (Edgar Ricardo Arjona Morales), 1964 to present day

Singer songwriter Arjona is not only Guatemala’s biggest ever pop star, but he also used to play basketball on the national team. One of the biggest selling Latin American pop stars in history, Arjona has sold more than 40 million records worldwide.

Nicknamed ‘El Animal Nocturno’ (meaning ‘the Nocturnal Animal) after his breakthrough album title, his music combines a variety of sounds and styles. You’ll hear Cuban music, rock, pop and Latin pop, as well as a mix of Norteno and Tehano music in his records.

Going back to his sporting prowess, he also played for two major basketball teams – TRIAS and Leones de Marte. He also played for the Guatemalan national team in a tour of central America, where he scored an impressive 78 points in just one game.