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Fiestas minervialis


So Manuel Estrada Cabrera, who ruled Guatemala from 1898 to 1920 during the long dictatorship of the Liberal Party … a modernizing, liberal type who gave vast concessions to United Fruit Co. (now Chiquita), tried like his Liberal Party predecessors to undermine the Catholic Church, and violently broke strikes … tried to make the worship of the ancient Roman goddess Minerva the state religion. His government built temples to Minerva in Guatemala’s 17 biggest cities at taxpayer expense in 1899-1901 and held large national celebrations in honor of Minerva. The apparent intent was to supplant Catholic worship and to promote the government’s education program (since Minerva was a goddess associated with education). Most people participated without enthusiasm, and Estrada’s government only celebrated the festivals in a perfunctory manner after 1901. Estrada was overthrown by conservative opposition in 1920 and died in prison in 1924, but 12 temples are still standing and are tourist attractions today.