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15 September 2014

The Jews of Guatemala

The Jewish history within Guatemala is shorter and much smaller than most of its Central American neighbors. While there were certainly Jews in the country who came during the Inquisition, the present day community's roots begin in mid 1800's. Those first group of German immigrants were small in number and for the most part isolated from other Jews in the region, and because of this the did not have much influence with other Jews in other countries.
The second wave of Jewish immigrants, those whose impact is still visible in Guatemala started arriving in the early 1900's. The first arrived from Germany and various Middle Eastern countries, and were followed in the 1920's by Jews from Eastern Europe. Many of this latter group did not plan on staying long. They arrived in Guatemala from Cuba and were hoping to have visas from the United States so they could continue on their journey.
Being Jewish in Guatemala has not  
always been favorable. The country has at times acted to limit the arrival of new Jewish immigrants. In the early 1930's, the government ordered the expulsion of all peddlers from the country. This was meant to hurt the Jews as the majority of peddlers were Jewish. The order was not carried out, however laws were passed to ban peddling. This ban forced many Jews to emigrate elsewhere as they could no longer support their families.
In 1936, under pressure from the German community, laws were passed that would limit the number of immigrants of "Asian origin" which included people from Poland, the majority of who were Jewish. Due to these restrictions, the Jewish population was less than 1000 people in 1939. The majority of them lived in Guatemala City, Quezaltenengo and San Marcos.
Guatemala, even with their history of trying to restrict Jewish immigration, was the first country in Latin America to recognize Israel and it was also the first country to open its own embassy in Jerusalem. Today the majority of the 900 Jews still live in Guatemala City still struggle to maintain numbers as many of the Jews still seek ti immigrate for a better future.
Over the last few years more genealogical records of the people of Guatemala have become more accessible to researchers. As of today, FamilySearch has six databases of records from Guatemala, including Civil Registration from 1877-2008. The record shown below is the birth record of Augusta Stahl Cohen, daughter of Adolo Stahl and his wife Rosa Cohen. She was born on 28 Jun 1888 in Guatemala City.

The Stahl family were part of that first group of Jews who immigrated into Guatemala from Germany int the mid 1800's.

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