Before the conquest, this territory contained a number of competing Mesoamerican kingdoms, the majority of which were Maya. Many conquistadors viewed the Maya as infidels who needed to be converted and pacified. Several Spanish expeditions followed in 1517 and 1519, making landfall on various parts of the Yucatán coast, the Spanish conquest of the Maya was a prolonged affair, the Maya kingdoms resisted integration into the Spanish Empire with such tenacity that their defeat took almost two centuries. Pedro de Alvarado arrived in Guatemala from the newly conquered Mexico in early 1524, commanding a force of Spanish conquistadors and native allies. Geographic features across Guatemala now bear Nahuatl placenames owing to the influence of these Mexican allies, the Kaqchikel Maya initially allied themselves with the Spanish, but soon rebelled against excessive demands for tribute and did not finally surrender until 1530. In the meantime the other major highland Maya kingdoms had each been defeated in turn by the Spanish and allied warriors from Mexico, Spanish and native tactics and technology differed greatly. The Spanish viewed the taking of prisoners as a hindrance to outright victory, whereas the Maya prioritised the capture of live prisoners and of booty. The Maya preferred raiding and ambush to large-scale warfare, using spears, arrows and wooden swords with inset obsidian blades, in response to the use of Spanish cavalry, the highland Maya took to digging pits and lining them with wooden stakes. These letters were despatched to Tenochtitlan, addressed to Cortés but with an audience in mind. Gonzalo wrote an account that mostly supports that of Pedro de Alvarado, Pedro de Alvarados brother Jorge wrote another account to the king of Spain that explained it was his own campaign of 1527–1529 that established the Spanish colony. His account was finished around 1568, some 40 years after the campaigns it describes, Hernán Cortés described his expedition to Honduras in the fifth letter of his Cartas de Relación, in which he details his crossing of what is now Guatemalas Petén Department. Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas wrote a critical account of the Spanish conquest of the Americas. The Brevísima Relación de la Destrucción de las Indias was first published in 1552 in Seville, other accounts were in the form of questionnaires answered before colonial magistrates to protest and register a claim for recompense. A letter from the defeated Tzutujil Maya nobility of Santiago Atitlán to the Spanish king written in 1571 details the exploitation of the subjugated peoples, Francisco Antonio de Fuentes y Guzmán was a colonial Guatemalan historian of Spanish descent who wrote La Recordación Florida, also called Historia de Guatemala. The book was written in 1690 and is regarded as one of the most important works of Guatemalan history, field investigation has tended to support the estimates of indigenous population and army sizes given by Fuentes y Guzmán. Christopher Columbus discovered the New World for the Kingdom of Castile, private adventurers thereafter entered into contracts with the Spanish Crown to conquer the newly discovered lands in return for tax revenues and the power to rule. In the first decades after the discovery of the new lands and they heard rumours of the rich empire of the Aztecs on the mainland to the west and, in 1519, Hernán Cortés set sail with eleven ships to explore the Mexican coast. By August 1521 the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had fallen to the Spanish, a single soldier arriving in Mexico in 1520 was carrying smallpox and thus initiated the devastating plagues that swept through the native populations of the Americas
The Pacific slope of Jutiapa was the scene of a number of battles with the Xinca.
The Castillo de San Felipe was a Spanish fort that guarded the entrance to Lake Izabal.