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A Quiche indian, he was born 11 February 1920 in Cotio, Mixco, Guatemala. His real name was Doroteo Guamuch Flores, but when he became famous he was asked to change it because it sounded too Mayan.

He is often considered Guatemala's greatest athlete. He won the marathon for Guatemala in the Barranquilla Games (1946), and in "los Juegos Deportivos Centroamericanos y del Caribe" (1950) and in 1952 he won the Boston Marathon.

During his lifetime the Guatemalan national stadium was named for him (El Estadio Mateo Flores), and he was granted the honorary title of Professor of Physical Education. Nevertheless, he lived out his post-marathon life as a golf caddie, barely above the poverty line.

Today he is often seen as a case study in the Guatemalan attitude toward its native people: The ruling classes are willing to hold them up as mascots or tourist attractions, but unwilling to give them any equal footing.

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