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Guatemala - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Guatemala
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Guatemala,[6] officially the Republic of


Guatemala (Spanish: Repblica de Guatemala
[repulika e watemala]), is a country in
Central America bordered by Mexico to the north
and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest,
Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east,
Honduras to the east and El Salvador to the
southeast. It spans an area of 108,890 km2
(42,043 sqmi) and has an estimated population of
15,806,675,[3] making it the most populous state
in Central America. A representative democracy,
its capital is Nueva Guatemala de la Asuncin,
also known as Guatemala City.
The former Mayan civilization was a
Mesoamerican civilization, which continued
throughout the Post-Classic period until the arrival
of the Spanish. They had lived in Guatemala,
Honduras, Belize, the southern part of Mexico and
eastern parts of El Salvador. After independence
from Spain in 1821, Guatemala was a part of the
Federal Republic of Central America and after its
dissolution the country suffered much of the
political instability that characterized the region
during mid to late 19th century. Early in the 20th
century, Guatemala had a mixture of democratic
governments as well as a series of dictators, the
last of which were frequently assisted by the
United Fruit Company and the United States
government. From 1960 to 1996, Guatemala
underwent a civil war fought between the
government and leftist rebels. Following the war,
Guatemala has witnessed both economic growth
and successful democratic elections. In the most
recent election, held in 2011, Otto Prez Molina of
the Patriotic Party won the presidency.
Guatemala's abundance of biologically significant
and unique ecosystems contributes to
Mesoamerica's designation as a biodiversity
hotspot.[7]

Republic of Guatemala
Repblica de Guatemala

Flag

Coat of arms

Motto:
"Libre Crezca Fecundo"[1]
"El Pas de la Eterna Primavera"
"The Land of the Eternal Spring"[2]

Anthem: Himno Nacional de Guatemala


National anthem of Guatemala

Capital
and largest city

Guatemala City

Official languages

Spanish

Ethnic groups (2001)

1438N 9030W

59.4% Mestizo
9.1% K'iche'
8.4% Kaqchikel
7.9% Mam
6.3% Q'eqchi'
8.6% other Mayan
0.2% indigenous non-Mayan
0.1% others

Contents

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Contents

Demonym

Guatemalan

Government
- President

Unitary presidential constitutional


republic
Otto Prez Molina

2.1 Pre-Columbian

- Vice President

Roxana Baldetti

2.2 Colonial (1519-1821)

Legislature

Congress of the Republic

2.3 Independence and the 19th

Independence from the Spanish Empire


- Declared
15 September 1821
- Declared from the
1 July 1823
First Mexican Empire
- Current constitution
31 May 1985

1 Etymology
2 History

century
2.4 1944 to 1996
2.5 Since 1996
3 Governance
3.1 Political system

Area
- Total

3.2 Departments and municipalities

- Water (%)

108,889 km2 (107th)


42,042 sq mi
0.4

4.1 Natural disasters

Population
- 2014 estimate

15,806,675[3] (66th)

4.2 Pacaya

- Density

129/km2 (85th)
348.6/sq mi

GDP (PPP)
- Total

2012 estimate
$78.681 billion[4]

- Per capita

$5,208[4]

6 Economy

GDP (nominal)
- Total

2012 estimate
$49.880 billion[4]

7 Culture

- Per capita

$3,302[4]

Gini (2007)

55.1
high

HDI (2011)

0.574[5]
medium 131st

7.5 Language

Currency

Quetzal (GTQ)

7.6 Religion

Time zone

CST (UTC6)

7.7 Funeral traditions

Drives on the

right

7.8 Education

Calling code

+502

ISO 3166 code

GT

Internet TLD

.gt

4 Geography

4.3 Biodiversity
5 Demographics
5.1 Largest cities
5.2 Diaspora

7.1 Art
7.2 Literature
7.3 Music
7.4 Cuisine

7.9 Health
7.9.1 Medical anthropology
and pluralism
7.10 Laureates
7.11 Journalism
8 Sports
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9 See also
10 References
11 Further reading
12 External links

Etymology
The name "Guatemala" comes from Nahuatl Cuauhtmalln, "place of many trees", a translation of K'iche' Mayan
K'iche' , "many trees".[8][9] This was the name the Tlaxcaltecan soldiers who accompanied Pedro de Alvarado
during the Spanish Conquest gave to this territory.[10] Guatemala is from words in a native language, variously
identified as "Quauhtemellan," "land of the eagle" or "Uhatzmalha," "mountain where water gushes." Hence it is also
translated as "land of eternal spring."

History
Pre-Columbian
The first evidence of human settlers in Guatemala dates back to 12,000 BC. Some evidence suggests human
presence as early as 18,000 BC, such as obsidian arrow heads found in various parts of the country.[11] There is
archaeological proof that early Guatemalan settlers were hunters and gatherers, but pollen samples from Petn and
the Pacific coast indicate that maize cultivation was developed by 3500 BC.[12] Sites dating back to 6500 BC have
been found in Quich in the Highlands and Sipacate, Escuintla on the central Pacific coast.
Archaeologists divided the pre-Columbian history of Mesoamerica into the Preclassic period (2999 BC to 250
BC), the Classic period (250 to 900 AD), and the Postclassic from 900 to 1500 AD.[13] Until recently the
Preclassic was regarded as a formative period, with small villages of farmers who lived in huts, and few permanent
buildings. However, this notion has been challenged by recent discoveries of monumental architecture from that
period, such as an altar in La Blanca, San Marcos, from 1000 BC; ceremonial sites at Miraflores and El Naranjo
from 801 BC; the earliest monumental masks; and the Mirador Basin cities of Nakb, Xulnal, El Tintal, Wakn and
El Mirador.
Both the El Tigre and Monos pyramids encompass a volume greater than 250,000 cubic meters,[14] and the city lay
at the center of a populous and well-integrated region.
The Classic period of Mesoamerican civilization corresponds to the height of the Maya civilization, and is
represented by countless sites throughout Guatemala, although the largest concentration is in Petn. This period is
characterized by heavy city-building, the development of independent city-states, and contact with other
Mesoamerican cultures.
This lasted until around 900 AD, when the Classic Maya civilization collapsed.[15] The Maya abandoned many of
the cities of the central lowlands or were killed off by a drought-induced famine.[16] Scientists debate the cause of
the Classic Maya Collapse, but gaining currency is the Drought Theory discovered by physical scientists studying
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lakebeds, ancient pollen, and other tangible evidence.[17] A series of


prolonged droughts, among other reasons (such as overpopulation), in
what is otherwise a seasonal desert is thought to have decimated the
Maya, who were primarily reliant upon regular rainfall.[18]
The Post-Classic period is represented by regional kingdoms, such as the
Itza, Ko'woj, Yalain and Kejache in Petn, and the Mam, Ki'che',
Kackchiquel, Chajoma, Tz'utujil, Poqomchi', Q'eqchi' and Ch'orti' in the
Highlands. Their cities preserved many aspects of Mayan culture, but
would never equal the size or power of the Classic cities.

Tikal Mayan ruins

The Maya civilization shares many features with other Mesoamerican civilizations due to the high degree of
interaction and cultural diffusion that characterized the region. Advances such as writing, epigraphy, and the
calendar did not originate with the Maya; however, their civilization fully developed them. Maya influence can be
detected from Honduras, Guatemala, Northern El Salvador and to as far as central Mexico, more than 1,000 km
(620 mi) from the Maya area. Many outside influences are found in Maya art and architecture, which are thought to
result from trade and cultural exchange rather than direct external conquest.

Colonial (1519-1821)
After arriving in what was named the New World, the Spanish started
several expeditions to Guatemala, beginning in 1519. Before long,
Spanish contact resulted in an epidemic that devastated native
populations. Hernn Corts, who had led the Spanish conquest of
Mexico, granted a permit to Captains Gonzalo de Alvarado and his
brother, Pedro de Alvarado, to conquer this land. Alvarado at first allied
himself with the Kaqchikel nation to fight against their traditional rivals the
K'iche' (Quich) nation. Alvarado later turned against the Kaqchikel, and
eventually held the entire region under Spanish domination.[19] Several
families of Spanish descent subsequently rose to prominence in colonial
Guatemala, including the surnames de Arrivillaga, Arroyave, Alvarez de
las Asturias, Gonzlez de Batres, Coronado, Glvez Corral, Mencos,
Delgado de Njera, de la Tovilla, and Varn de Berrieza.[20]

Calle del Arco in the city of Antigua


Guatemala

During the colonial period, Guatemala was an Audiencia and a Captaincy General (Capitana General de
Guatemala) of Spain, and a part of New Spain (Mexico).[21] The first capital was named Tecpan Guatemala,
founded on July 25, 1524 with the name of Villa de Santiago de Guatemala and was located near Iximch, the
Kaqchikel capital city. It was moved to Ciudad Vieja on November 22, 1527, when the Kaqchikel attacked the
city. On September 11, 1541 the city was flooded when the lagoon in the crater of the Agua Volcano collapsed
due to heavy rains and earthquakes, and was moved 6 km (4 mi) to Antigua Guatemala, on the Panchoy Valley,
now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This city was destroyed by several earthquakes in 17731774, and the
King of Spain granted the authorization to move the capital to the Ermita Valley, named after a Catholic church to
the Virgen de El Carmen, in its current location, founded on January 2, 1776.

Independence and the 19th century


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On September 15, 1821, the Captaincy-general of Guatemala (formed


by Chiapas, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and
Honduras) officially proclaimed its independence from Spain which was
dissolved two years later.[22] This region had been formally subject to
New Spain throughout the colonial period, but as a practical matter was
administered separately. It was not until 1825 that Guatemala created its
own flag.[23]

Zunil, a regional city

The Guatemalan provinces formed the United Provinces of Central


America, also called the Central American Federation (Federacion de Estados Centroamericanos), which dissolved
in civil war from 1838 to 1840. Guatemala's General Rafael Carrera was instrumental in leading the revolt against
the federal government and breaking apart the Union.[24] As of 1850, it was estimated that Guatemala had a
population of 600,000.[25] During this period a region of the Highlands, Los Altos, declared independence from
Guatemala, but was annexed by General Carrera, who dominated Guatemalan politics until 1865, backed by the
President-Elect Juan Matheu, conservative National Assembly members, large land owners and the church.[26]
Guatemala's "Liberal Revolution" came in 1871 under the leadership of Justo Rufino Barrios, who worked to
modernize the country, improve trade, and introduce new crops and manufacturing. During this era coffee became
an important crop for Guatemala.[27] Barrios had ambitions of reuniting Central America and took the country to
war in an unsuccessful attempt to attain it, losing his life on the battlefield in 1885 against forces in El Salvador.
From 1898 to 1920, Guatemala was ruled by the dictator Manuel Estrada Cabrera, whose access to the
presidency was helped by the United Fruit Company. It was during his long presidency that the United Fruit
Company became a major force in Guatemala.[28]

1944 to 1996
On July 4, 1944, dictator Jorge Ubico Castaeda was forced to resign
his office in response to a wave of protests and a general strike inspired
by brutal labor conditions among plantation workers.[29] His
replacement, General Juan Federico Ponce Vaides, was forced out of
office on October 20, 1944 by a coup d'tat led by Major Francisco
Javier Arana and Captain Jacobo rbenz Guzmn. About 100 people
were killed in the coup. The country was led by a military junta made up
of Arana, rbenz, and Jorge Toriello Garrido.
A view of Antigua Guatemala from

The Junta organized Guatemala's first free election, which was won with
Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross),
a majority of 86% by the prominent writer and teacher Juan Jos
2009
Arvalo Bermejo. He had been living in exile in Argentina for 14 years.
Arvalo was the first democratically elected president of Guatemala to
complete the term for which he was elected. His "Christian Socialist" policies were inspired to a large extent by the
U.S. New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. Amongst his major policies was a
new labor code designed to "right the balance" between workers and Landowners/Industrialists, that was criticized
by landowners and the upper class as "communist."[30]

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Arvalo was succeeded by Jacobo rbenz Guzmn, who was elected in 1951. rbenz adopted a major land
reform policy implemented under Decree 900, passed in 1952. It ordered redistribution of uncultivated (fallow)
lands of large estates to peasants, including indigenous Mayans. It was intended to increase production of crops
and provide many peasants with income. His popular program of land reform, credit, and literacy began to diminish
the extreme inequality in Guatemala, although the process of redistributing land created some conflicts.
In 1954, rbenz was overthrown in a coup orchestrated by the U.S.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on the pretext that a socialist
government would become a Soviet puppet in the Western Hemisphere.
Historians have alleged the CIA overthrew rbenz to protect the
property of the United Fruit Company (later Chiquita Brands
International Inc.), a major US company that faced losing large amounts
of land due to agrarian reform, and was dissatisfied with the
compensation it received.[30][31] Carlos Castillo Armas, a former military
officer who led the CIA-backed invasion from Honduras, was installed
as president in 1954. Castillo reversed Decree 900 and ruled until July
26, 1957, when he was assassinated by Romeo Vsquez, a member of
his personal guard.

Guatemala City at night

After the rigged[30] election that followed, General Miguel Ydgoras Fuentes assumed power. He is celebrated for
challenging the Mexican president to a gentleman's duel on the bridge on the south border to end a feud on the
subject of illegal fishing by Mexican boats on Guatemala's Pacific coast, two of which were sunk by the Guatemalan
Air Force. Ydigoras authorized the training of 5,000 anti-Castro Cubans in Guatemala. He also provided airstrips
in the region of Petn for what later became the US-sponsored, failed Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961. Ydigoras'
government was ousted in 1963 when the Guatemalan Air Force attacked several military bases; the coup was led
by his Defense Minister, Colonel Enrique Peralta Azurdia.
In 1963, the junta called an election, which it permitted Arevalo to return from exile and contest. However a coup
from within the military, backed by the Kennedy Administration, prevented the election from taking place, and
forestalled a likely victory for Arevalo. The new regime intensified the campaign of terror against the guerrillas that
had begun under Ydgoras-Fuentes.[32]
In 1966, Julio Csar Mndez Montenegro was elected president of
Guatemala under the banner "Democratic Opening". Mendez
Montenegro was the candidate of the Revolutionary Party, a center-left
party which had its origins in the post-Ubico era. During this time rightist
paramilitary organizations, such as the "White Hand" (Mano Blanca),
and the Anticommunist Secret Army (Ejrcito Secreto Anticomunista)
were formed. Those groups were the forerunners of the infamous "Death
Squads". Military advisers from the United States Army Special Forces
(Green Berets) were sent to Guatemala to train these troops and help
transform its army into a modern counter-insurgency force, which
eventually made it the most sophisticated in Central America.[33]

Calle Santander tourist street in


Panajachel, 2009

In 1970, Colonel Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio was elected president. By 1972, members of the guerrilla
movement entered the country from Mexico and settled in the Western Highlands. In the disputed election of 1974,
General Kjell Laugerud Garca defeated General Efran Ros Montt, a candidate of the Christian Democratic Party,
who claimed that he had been cheated out of a victory through fraud.
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On February 4, 1976, a major earthquake destroyed several cities and caused more than 25,000 deaths, especially
among the poor, whose housing was substandard. The government's failure to respond rapidly to the aftermath of
the earthquake and to relieve homelessness, gave rise to widespread discontent, which contributed to growing
popular unrest. In 1978, in a fraudulent election, General Romeo Lucas Garca assumed power.
The 1970s saw the rise of two new guerrilla organizations, the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP) and the
Organization of the People in Arms (ORPA). They began guerrilla attacks that included urban and rural warfare,
mainly against the military and some of the civilian supporters of the army. The army and the paramilitary forces
responded with a brutal counter-insurgency campaign that resulted in tens of thousands of civilian deaths.[34] In
1979, the U.S. president, Jimmy Carter, who had until then been providing public support for the government
forces, ordered a ban on all military aid to the Guatemalan Army because of its widespread and systematic abuse of
human rights.[30] However, documents have since come to light that suggest that American aid continued throughout
the Carter years, through clandestine channels.[35]
On January 31, 1980, a group of indigenous K'iche' took over the Spanish Embassy to protest army massacres in
the countryside. The Guatemalan government launched an assault with armed forces that killed almost everyone
inside due to a fire that consumed the building. The Guatemalan government claimed that the activists set the fire,
thus immolating themselves.[36] However, the Spanish ambassador, who survived the fire, disputed this claim,
saying that the Guatemalan police intentionally killed almost everyone inside and set the fire to erase traces of their
acts. As a result, the government of Spain broke diplomatic relations with Guatemala.
This government was overthrown in 1982 and General Efran Ros Montt was named President of the military junta.
He continued the bloody campaign of torture, forced disappearances, and "scorched earth" warfare. The country
became a pariah state internationally. Ros Montt was overthrown by General scar Humberto Meja Victores,
who called for an election of a national constitutional assembly to write a new constitution, leading to a free election
in 1986, which was won by Vinicio Cerezo Arvalo, the candidate of the Christian Democracy Party.
In 1982, the four guerrilla groups, EGP, ORPA, FAR and PGT, merged and formed the URNG, influenced by the
Salvadoran guerrilla FMLN, the Nicaraguan FSLN and Cuba's government, in order to become stronger. As a
result of the Army's "scorched earth" tactics in the countryside, more than 45,000 Guatemalans fled across the
border to Mexico. The Mexican government placed the refugees in camps in Chiapas and Tabasco.
In 1992, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Rigoberta Mench for her efforts to bring international attention to
the government-sponsored, US backed genocide against the indigenous population.[37]

Since 1996
The Guatemalan Civil War ended in 1996 with a peace accord between the guerrillas and the government,
negotiated by the United Nations through intense brokerage by nations such as Norway and Spain. Both sides
made major concessions. The guerrilla fighters disarmed and received land to work. According to the U.N.sponsored truth commission the ("Commission for Historical Clarification"), government forces and statesponsored, CIA trained paramilitaries were responsible for over 93 percent of the human rights violations during the
war.[38]

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Over the last few years, millions of documents related to crimes


committed during the civil war were found abandoned by the former
Guatemalan police. Among millions of documents found, there was
evidence that the former police chief of Guatemala, Hector Bol de la
Cruz had been involved in the kidnapping and murder of 27-year-old
student Fernando Garcia in 1984. The evidence was used to prosecute
the former police chief. The families of over 45,000 Guatemalan activists
are now reviewing the documents (which have been digitized) and this
could lead to further legal actions. Paradoxically, the current
democratically elected president, Otto Prez Molina, could be a barrier
to further legal action as he, a retired general, was the head of intelligence
in Guatemala during the civil war.[39]

Outdoor market in Chichicastenango,


2009

During the first ten years, the victims of the state-sponsored terror were primarily students, workers, professionals,
and opposition figures, but in the last years they were thousands of mostly rural Mayan farmers and noncombatants. More than 450 Mayan villages were destroyed and over 1 million people became displaced within
Guatemala or refugees. According to the report Recuperacin de la Memoria Histrica (REMHI), some 200,000
people died. More than one million people were forced to flee their homes and hundreds of villages were
destroyed. The officially chartered Historical Clarification Commission attributed more than 93% of all documented
violations of human rights to Guatemala's military government, and estimated that Maya Indians accounted for 83%
of the victims. It concluded in 1999 that state actions constituted genocide.[40][41]
In certain areas, such as Baja Verapaz, the Truth Commission considered that the Guatemalan state engaged in an
intentional policy of genocide against particular ethnic groups in the Civil War.[38] In 1999, U.S. president Bill
Clinton stated that the United States was wrong to have provided support to Guatemalan military forces that took
part in the brutal civilian killings.[42]
Since the peace accords, Guatemala has witnessed both economic growth and successive democratic elections,
most recently in 2011. In the 2011 elections, Otto Prez Molina of the Patriotic Party, won the presidency. He
assumed office on January 14, 2012. He named Roxana Baldetti as his vice president.
On January 12, 2012, Efrain Rios Montt, former President of Guatemala during the military dictatorship, appeared
in a Guatemalan court on genocide charges. During the hearing, the government presented evidence of over 100
incidents involving at least 1,771 deaths, 1,445 rapes, and the displacement of nearly 30,000 Guatemalans during
his 17-month rule from 1982-1983, according to the Washington Post, BBC, Siglo XXI (Spanish), and the LA
Times. The prosecution wanted him incarcerated because of his potential for flight but the judge ruled that he can
remain out on bail. He was placed under house arrest and was watched by the Guatemalan National Civil Police
(PNC). On May 10, 2013, Rios Montt was found guilty and sentenced to 80 years in prison. It marks the first
time, a former head of state was found guilty for genocide by national court.[43] The conviction was overturned,
however, and Montt's trial is scheduled to resume in January 2015. [44]
The estimated median age in Guatemala is 20 years old, 19.4 for males and 20.7 years for females.[45] This is the
lowest median age of any country in the Western Hemisphere and comparable to most of central Africa and Iraq.

Governance
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Political system
Guatemala is a constitutional democratic republic whereby the President
of Guatemala is both head of state and head of government, and of a
multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government.
Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Congress of
the Republic. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the
legislature.
Otto Prez Molina is the current President of Guatemala.

Departments and municipalities


Guatemala is divided into 22 departments (departamentos) and subdivided into about 335 municipalities (municipios).

Congress of the Republic of


Guatemala.

The departments are:


1.

Alta Verapaz

2.

Baja Verapaz

3.

Chimaltenango

4.

Chiquimula

5.

Petn

6.

El Progreso

7.

El Quich

8.

Escuintla

9.

Guatemala

10.

Huehuetenango

11.

Izabal

12.

Jalapa

13.

Jutiapa

14.

Quetzaltenango

15.

Retalhuleu

16.

Sacatepquez

17.

San Marcos

18.

Santa Rosa

19.

Solol

20.

Suchitepquez

21.

Totonicapn

22.

Zacapa

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Internal departments of Guatemala

A map of Guatemala

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Guatemala is heavily centralized. Transportation, communications, business, politics, and the most relevant urban
activity takes place in Guatemala City. Guatemala City has about 2 million inhabitants within the city limits and more
than 5 million within the urban area. This is a significant percentage of the population (14 million).[45]

Geography
Guatemala lies between latitudes 13 and 18N, and longitudes 88 and
93W.
The country is mountainous with small desert and sand dune patches, hilly
valleys, except for the south coastal area and the vast northern lowlands
of Petn department. Two mountain chains enter Guatemala from west to
The highlands of Quetzaltenango
east, dividing the country into three major regions: the highlands, where
the mountains are located; the Pacific coast, south of the mountains and
the Petn region, north of the mountains. All major cities are located in
the highlands and Pacific coast regions; by comparison, Petn is sparsely populated. These three regions vary in
climate, elevation, and landscape, providing dramatic contrasts between hot, humid tropical lowlands and colder,
drier highland peaks. Volcn Tajumulco, at 4,220 m, is the highest point in the Central American countries.
The rivers are short and shallow in the Pacific drainage basin, larger and deeper in the Caribbean and the Gulf of
Mexico drainage basins, which include the Polochic and Dulce Rivers, which drain into Lake Izabal, the Motagua
River, the Sarstn that forms the boundary with Belize, and the Usumacinta River, which forms the boundary
between Petn and Chiapas, Mexico.
Guatemala has long claimed all or part of the territory of neighboring Belize, currently an independent
Commonwealth realm that recognises Queen Elizabeth II as its Head of State. Due to this territorial dispute,
Guatemala did not recognize Belize's independence until 1990, but the dispute is not resolved. Negotiations are
currently under way under the auspices of the Organization of American States and the Commonwealth of Nations
to conclude it.[46][47]

Natural disasters
Guatemala's location between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean makes it a target for hurricanes, such as
Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and Hurricane Stan in October 2005, which killed more than 1,500 people. The damage
was not wind related, but rather due to significant flooding and resulting mudslides. The most recent was Tropical
Storm Agatha in late May 2010 that killed more than 200.
Guatemala's highlands lie along the Motagua Fault, part of the boundary
between the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates. This fault
has been responsible for several major earthquakes in historic times,
including a 7.5 magnitude tremor on February 4, 1976, which killed more
than 25,000 people. In addition, the Middle America Trench, a major
subduction zone lies off the Pacific coast. Here, the Cocos Plate is
sinking beneath the Caribbean Plate, producing volcanic activity inland of
the coast. Guatemala has 37 volcanoes, four of them are active: Pacaya,
Santiaguito, Fuego and Tacan. Fuego and Pacaya erupted in 2010.
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A town along the Pan-American


Highway in close proximity to a
volcanic crater

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Natural disasters have a long history in this geologically active part of the world. For example, two of the three
moves of the capital of Guatemala have been due to volcanic mudflows in 1541 and earthquakes in 1773.

Pacaya
On Thursday May 27, 2010, the Pacaya volcano started erupting lava and rocks, blanketing Guatemala City with
black sand (and forcing the closure of the international airport). It was declared a "state of calamity." The Pacaya
volcano left about 8 cm (3 in) of ash and sand through all of Guatemala City. Cleaning works were done.

Biodiversity
The country has 14 ecoregions ranging from mangrove forests to both
ocean littorals with 5 different ecosystems. Guatemala has 252 listed
wetlands, including 5 lakes, 61 lagoons, 100 rivers, and 4 swamps.[48]
Tikal National Park was the first mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Guatemala is a country of distinct fauna. It has some 1246 known
species. Of these, 6.7% are endemic and 8.1% are threatened.
Guatemala is home to at least 8681 species of vascular plants, of which
13.5% are endemic. 5.4% of Guatemala is protected under IUCN
categories I-V.

Lake Atitln

In the department of Petn lies the Maya Biosphere Reserve of


2,112,940 ha,[49] making it the second largest forest in Central America after Bosawas.

Demographics
According to the CIA World Fact Book, Guatemala has a population of
13,824,463 (2011 est). About 59% of the population is Ladino, also
called Mestizo and European descendants, also called Criollo.
Amerindian populations include the K'iche' 9.1%, Kaqchikel 8.4%, Mam
7.9% and Q'eqchi 6.3%. 8.6% of the population is "other Mayan", 0.4%
is indigenous non-Mayan, making the indigenous community in
Guatemala about 40.5% of the population.[45]
There are smaller communities present. The Garfuna, who are
Tz'utujil men in Santiago Atitln
descended primarily from Black Africans who lived with and intermarried
with indigenous peoples from St. Vincent, live mainly in Livingston and
Puerto Barrios. Those communities have other blacks and mulattos descended from banana workers. There are
also Asians, mostly of Chinese descent. Other Asian groups include Arabs of Lebanese and Syrian descent. There
is also a growing Korean community in Guatemala City and in nearby Mixco, currently numbering about
10,000.[50] Guatemala's German population is credited with bringing the tradition of a Christmas tree to the
country.[51]
In 1900, Guatemala had a population of 885,000.[52] Over the course of the twentieth century the population of the
country grew, the fastest growth in the Western Hemisphere. The ever-increasing pattern of immigration to the U.S.
has led to the growth of Guatemalan communities in California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, New York, Texas,
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Rhode Island and elsewhere since the 1970s.[53]

Largest cities
Diaspora
The Civil War forced many Guatemalans to start lives outside of their
country. The majority of the Guatemalan diaspora is located in the United
States, with estimates ranging from 480,665[54] to 1,489,426.[55] The
difficulty in getting accurate counts for Guatemalans abroad is because
many of them are refugee claimants awaiting determination of their

Indigenous Guatemalan women in


Antigua Guatemala

status.[56] Below are estimates for certain countries:


Country

Count

USA

480,665[54] 1,489,426[55]

Mexico

23,529[55] 190,000
14,693[55]

Belize
Canada

14,256[55] 34,665[57]

Germany

5,989[55]

Honduras

5,172[55]

El Salvador

4,209[55]

Spain

2,491[55] 5,000[58]

Economy
According to the CIA World Factbook, Guatemala's GDP (PPP) per
capita is US$5,200; nevertheless, this developing country faces many
social problems and is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. The
distribution of income remains highly unequal with more than half of the
population below the national poverty line and just over 400,000 (3.2%)
unemployed. The CIA World Fact Book considers 56.2% of the
population of Guatemala to be living in poverty.[45][59]

Fields in Quetzaltenango

Remittances from Guatemalans who fled to the United States during the civil war now constitute the largest single
source of foreign income (two thirds of exports and one tenth of GDP).[45]
In recent years the exporter sector of nontraditional products has grown dynamically representing more than 53%
of global exports. Some of the main products for export are fruits, vegetables, flowers, handicrafts, cloths and
others. In the face of a rising demand for biofuels, the country is growing and exporting an increasing amount of raw
materials for biofuel production, especially sugar cane and palm oil. Critics say that this development leads to higher
prices of staple foods like corn, a major ingredient in the Guatemalan diet. As a consequence of the subsidization of
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US American corn, Guatemala imports nearly half of its corn from the
United States that is using 40 percent of its crop harvest for biofuel
production.[60] The government is considering ways to legalize poppy
and marijuana production, hoping to tax production and use tax revenues
to fund drug prevention programs and other social projects.[61]
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in purchasing power parity (PPP) in
2010 was estimated at $70.15 billion USD. The service sector is the
An indoor market in the regional city
largest component of GDP at 63%, followed by the industry sector at
of Zunil
23.8% and the agriculture sector at 13.2% (2010 est.). Mines produce
gold, silver, zinc, cobalt and nickel.[62] The agricultural sector accounts
for about two-fifths of exports, and half of the labor force. Organic coffee, sugar, textiles, fresh vegetables, and
bananas are the country's main exports. Inflation was 3.9% in 2010.
The 1996 peace accords that ended the decades-long civil war removed a major obstacle to foreign investment.
Tourism has become an increasing source of revenue for Guatemala.
In March 2006, Guatemala's congress ratified the Dominican Republic Central American Free Trade Agreement
(DR-CAFTA) between several Central American nations and the United States.[63] Guatemala also has free trade
agreements with Taiwan and Colombia.

Culture
Guatemala City is home to many of the nation's libraries and museums,
including the National Archives, the National Library, and the Museum of
Archeology and Ethnology, which has an extensive collection of Maya
artifacts. There are private museums, such as the Ixchel, which focuses
on textiles, and the Popol Vuh, which focuses on Maya archaeology.
Both museums are housed inside the Universidad Francisco Marroqun
campus. Almost each of the 329 municipalities in the country has a small
museum.

Art

Guatemalan girls in traditional dress,


Chichicastenango, 1996

Guatemala has produced many indigenous artists who follow centuriesold Pre-Columbian traditions. However, reflecting Guatemala's colonial
and post-colonial history, encounters with multiple global art movements also have produced a wealth of artists who
have combined the traditional so-called "primitivism" or "naive" aesthetic with European, North American, and other
traditions. The Escuela Nacional de Artes Plsticas "Rafael Rodrguez Padilla" is the country's leading art school,
and several leading indigenous artists, also graduates of that school, are in the permanent collection of the Museo
Nacional de Arte Moderno in the capital city. Contemporary Guatemalan artists who have gained reputations
outside of Guatemala include Dagoberto Vsquez, Luis Rolando Ixquiac Xicara, Carlos Mrida,[64] Anbal Lpez,
Roberto Gonzlez Goyri, and Elmar Ren Rojas.[65]

Literature
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The Guatemala National Prize in Literature is a one-time only award that


recognizes an individual writer's body of work. It has been given annually since
1988 by the Ministry of Culture and Sports.
Miguel ngel Asturias won the literature Nobel Prize in 1967. Among his famous
books is El Seor Presidente, a novel based on the government of Manuel
Estrada Cabrera.
Rigoberta Mench, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting oppression of
indigenous people in Guatemala, is famous for her books I, Rigoberta Mench
and Crossing Borders.

Music

Miguel ngel Asturias.

The music of Guatemala comprises a number of styles and expressions.


Guatemalan social change has been empowered by music scenes such as Nueva cancion, which blends together
histories, present day issues, and the political values and struggles of common people. The Maya had an intense
musical practice, as is documented by iconography. Guatemala was also one of the first regions in the New World
to be introduced to European music, from 1524 on. Many composers from the Renaissance, baroque, classical,
romantic, and contemporary music styles have contributed works of all genres. The marimba is the national
instrument that has developed a large repertoire of very attractive pieces that have been popular for more than a
century.
The Historia General de Guatemala has published a series of CDs of historical music of Guatemala, in which
every style is represented, from the Maya, colonial period, independent and republican eras to current times. There
are many contemporary music groups in Guatemala from Caribbean music, salsa, punta (Garifuna influenced), Latin
pop, Mexican regional, and mariachi.

Cuisine
Many traditional foods in Guatemalan cuisine are based on Maya cuisine and prominently feature corn, chilies and
beans as key ingredients. There are also foods that are commonly eaten on certain days of the week. For example,
it is a popular custom to eat paches (a kind of tamale made from potatoes) on Thursday. Certain dishes are also
associated with special occasions, such as fiambre for All Saints Day on November 1 and tamales, which are
common around Christmas.

Language
Although Spanish is the official language, it is not universally spoken among the indigenous population, nor is it often
spoken as a second language by the elderly indigenous. Twenty-one Mayan languages are spoken, especially in
rural areas, as well as two non-Mayan Amerindian dialects, Xinca, an indigenous dialect, and Garifuna, an
Arawakan dialect spoken on the Caribbean coast. According to Decreto Nmero 19-2003, twenty-three dialects
are unrecognized as National Languages.[66]
As a first and second language, Spanish is spoken by 93% of the population.

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The peace accords signed in December 1996 provide for the translation of some official documents and voting
materials into several indigenous languages (see summary of main substantive accords) and mandate the provision
of interpreters in legal cases for non-Spanish speakers. The accord also sanctioned bilingual education in Spanish
and indigenous languages. It is common for indigenous Guatemalans to learn or speak between two to five of the
nation's other languages, and Spanish.

Religion
5060% of the Guatemalan population is Roman Catholic, 30-40% Protestant, 5% Syriac Orthodox, 3% Eastern
Orthodox and 1% follow the indigenous Mayan
faith.[67] Catholicism was the official religion during
the colonial era. However, the practice of
Protestantism has increased markedly in recent
decades. Nearly one third of Guatemalans are
Protestant, chiefly Evangelicals and Pentecostals. It
is common for relevant Mayan practices to be
incorporated into Catholic ceremonies and worship
when they are sympathetic to the meaning of
Catholic belief; this phenomenon is known as
inculturation.[68][69] The practice of traditional
Mayan religion is increasing as a result of the
cultural protections established under the peace
accords. The government has instituted a policy of
providing altars at every Mayan ruin found in the
country, so traditional ceremonies may be
performed there. Among the Mayan population the
National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of
Guatemala is an important denomination. The
church has 11 indigenous-language Presbyteries.

A language map of Guatemala, according to the Comisin de


Oficializacin de los Dialectos Indgenas de Guatemala. The
"Castilian" areas represent Spanish.

Recent growth of Eastern Orthodoxy in Guatemala


has been nothing less than explosive, with hundreds
of thousands of converts in the last five
years,[70][71][72] making it almost overnight the most Orthodox nation (in
proportion to its population) in the western hemisphere.
There are also small communities of Jews estimated between 1200 and
2000,[73] Muslims (1200), Buddhists at around 9000 to 12000,[74] and
members of other faiths and those who do not profess any faith.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints currently has over


215,000 members in Guatemala, accounting for approximately 1.65% of
the country's estimated population in 2008.[75] The first member of the
LDS Church in Guatemala was baptized in 1948. Membership grew to
10,000 by 1966, and 18 years later, when the Guatemala City

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Catedral Metropolitana, Guatemala


City

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Temple[76][77] was dedicated in 1984, membership had risen to 40,000. By 1998 membership had quadrupled
again to 164,000.[75] The LDS Church continues to grow in Guatemala; it has announced and begun the
construction of the Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple,[78] the LDS Church's second temple in the country.[79]

Funeral traditions
When people pass away in rural Guatemala, they are usually buried as
soon as possible, so as to provide a quick passage to heaven. Funerals
generally include candles and rum, and despite the local superstition that
loud mourning and crying will slow down the deceased's journey to the
next world; mourners usually cry very loudly, except at funerals for
children. Deceased are buried with their treasured items to dissuade them
from returning to haunt the people.

Education

Church in San Andrs Xecul

The government runs a number of public elementary and secondary-level schools. These schools are free, though
the cost of uniforms, books, supplies, and transportation makes them less accessible to the poorer segments of
society and significant numbers of poor children do not attend school. Many middle and upper-class children go to
private schools. The country also has one public university (USAC or Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala),
and nine private ones (see List of universities in Guatemala). USAC was the first universities in Guatemala and one
of the first Universities of America. It was officially declared a university on January 31, 1676 by royal command of
King Charles II of Spain. Only 74.5% of the population aged 15 and over are literate, the lowest literacy rate in
Central America. Although it has the lowest literacy rate, Guatemala is expected to change this within the next 20
years.[80] Organizations such as Child Aid, which trains teachers in villages throughout the Central Highlands region,
are working to improve educational outcomes for children. Lack of training for rural teachers is one of the key
contributors to the country's low literacy rates.

Health
Medical anthropology and pluralism
In the 1950s, medical anthropologists such as Richard N. Adams, Benjamin D. Paul, and Lois Paul wrote
monographs dedicated to the Maya medical beliefs and practices. Richard N. Adams, albeit secondary to his
work, described the chasm between Maya medical beliefs and practices and Western science, and showed why
Mayans rejected projects applied by the Institute of Nutrition for Central America and Panama (INCAP). His
work is seen as setting the stage for four decades for medical anthropology in Guatemala by diagnosing the
communication breakdown caused by "ignorance of local beliefs and practices." Many of those once affiliated with
INCAP have since published works on various topics of interest to medical anthropology in Guatemala.
In the 20th century, several things came to undermine the indigenous way of practicing medicine. First, the religious
persecution first administered by Catholic Action, then Protestant evangelical religions, and finally by Catholic
Charismatics resulted in the prohibition of their members from consulting traditional healers. Secondly, certain
elements of Guatemalan society systematically killed the upper rank of the Maya priests. Third, starting in the

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1980s, the Guatemalan national health care system, based heavily on Western medicine, began to suppress
traditional healers by banning them from practicing. While the health care system made efforts to train local
midwives, some persons accused those programs of not giving culturally appropriate, high-quality services.
The disparity between Western biomedicine and traditional care has created tensions, i.e., NGO programs
primarily focus today on those with higher education levelsthose who speak Spanishand rivalries hamper
communication between Western-trained health care providers and traditional practitioners. Additionally, the
medical professionals of Western biomedicine neglect the social experience of the patients, as well as the social
construction of disease. Studies conducted in Mexico, Guatemala, and other rural areas support the position that
many Western biomedical practitioners shun remote areas either because they cannot earn enough money there or
because they discriminate against ethnic minorities.
Today, patients must choose between the two systems based on the complex conditions surrounding the ailment
and decide which medical system most likely will provide a cure for their ailment.[81]

Laureates
In 1967 Miguel ngel Asturias won the Nobel prize in Literature for his body of
work, including the novel El Seor Presidente, which was controversial during
Guatemala's civil war. It portrayed the horrors of life under authoritarian rule.
Rigoberta Mench won the Nobel Peace prize in 1992 for her work to gain civil
rights for the Mayan people, and for assisting Mayan refugees in Mexico and the US,
driven there because of the long civil war.

Journalism
There are seven national newspapers in TV, some of them being Noti7, Telecentro
Trece and Noticiero Guatevision. The Guatemala Times is a digital English news
magazine.[82]

Rigoberta Mench.

Sports
Football is the most popular sport in Guatemala.

See also
Index of Guatemala-related articles
Outline of Guatemala
International rankings of Guatemala
LGBT rights in Guatemala
List of Guatemalans
List of places in Guatemala

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s/CDs%20leyes/2003/Leyes%20en%20PDF/Decretos%202003/Decreto%2019-2003.pdf) (PDF) (in Spanish). El
Conreso de la Republica de Guatemala. Retrieved June 10, 2007.
67. ^ "state department" (http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2006/71462.htm). State.gov. September 15, 2006.
Retrieved June 1, 2010.
68. ^ From Guatemala: the focolare, a school of inculturation (http://www.focolare.org/en/news/2011/07/28/dalguatemala-il-focolare-scuola-d%E2%80%99inculturazione/). Focolare. July 28, 2011. Retrieved on 2012-01-02.
69. ^ Duffey, Michael K Guatemalan Catholics and Mayas: The Future of Dialogue
(http://www.docstoc.com/docs/56028436/Guatemalan-Catholics-and-Mayas-the-future-ofdialogue%28Report%29)
70. ^ "Orthodox Catholic Church of Guatemala" (http://www.goarchmexico.org/news_121231_4.html). Orthodox
Metropolis of Mexico. 2013. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
71. ^ Brandow, Jesse (27 Aug 2012). "Seminarian Witnesses Explosion of Orthodox Christianity in Guatemala"
(http://www.svots.edu/headlines/seminarian-jesse-brandow-gives-first-hand-account-explosion-orthodoxchristianity-guatemal). St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
72. ^ Jackson, Fr. Peter (13 Sep 2013). "150,000 Converts in Guatemala"
(http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/features/150000_converts_in_guatemala/print). Interview Transcript.
Ancient Faith Radio. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
73. ^ "Guatemala" (http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2007/90255.htm). State.gov. April 3, 2007. Retrieved June 1,
2010.
74. ^ Country Profile: Guatemala (Republic of Guatemala)
(https://web.archive.org/web/20091023130901/http://www.religiousintelligence.co.uk/country/?CountryID=64) at
the Wayback Machine (archived October 23, 2009). religiousintelligence.co.uk
75. ^ a b [2] (http://www.dccalendar.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/contact-us/guatemala)
76. ^ "Guatemala City Guatemala Temple Main" (http://lds.org/church/temples/guatemala-city-guatemala?lang=eng).
Lds.org. Retrieved June 1, 2010.
77. ^ "Temples LDS Newsroom" (https://web.archive.org/web/20101222131747/http://betanewsroom.lds.org/topic/temples). Newsroom.lds.org. December 22, 2010. Archived from the original (http://betanewsroom.lds.org/topic/temples) on 2010-12-22. Retrieved June 1, 2010.
78. ^ "Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple Mormonism, The Mormon Church, Beliefs, & Religion"
(http://www.mormonwiki.com/Quetzaltenango_Guatemala_Temple). MormonWiki. Retrieved June 1, 2010.
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79. ^ "Templo Quetzaltenango" (http://www.mormones.org.gt/TemploQetzgo.htm). Mormones.org.gt. Retrieved June


1, 2010.
80. ^ Education (all levels) profile Guatemala (http://stats.uis.unesco.org/unesco/TableViewer/document.aspx?
ReportId=121&IF_Language=eng&BR_Country=3200&BR_Region=40520). UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
Retrieved on 2012-01-02.
81. ^ Walter Randolph Adams and John P. Hawkins, Health Care in Maya Guatemala: Confronting Medical
Pluralism in a Developing Country (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), 410.
82. ^ "''The Guatemala Times''" (http://www.guatemala-times.com/). Guatemala-times.com. Retrieved 2013-09-22.

Further reading
Harry E. Vanden; Gary Prevost, ed. (2002). "Chapter Ten: Guatemala". Politics of Latin America: The
Power Game. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-512317-4.

External links
Guatemala After the War 1996-2000, Photographs by Jorge Uzon (http://uzonreport.com/?page_id=124)
Guatemala Map Search with Longitude and Latitude (http://www.latitudylongitud.com/)
Guatemala - Country Article (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/701217/Guatemala)
Encyclopdia Britannica
Government of Guatemala (http://www.guatemala.gob.gt/) (Spanish)
Chief of State and Cabinet Members (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/world-leaders-1/worldleaders-g/guatemala.html)
Guatemala (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gt.html) entry at The World
Factbook
Guatemala (http://ucblibraries.colorado.edu/govpubs/for/guatemala.htm) at UCB Libraries GovPubs.
Guatemala (http://www.dmoz.org/Regional/Central_America/Guatemala) at DMOZ
Guatemala profile (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/country_profiles/1215758.stm) from the BBC News.
Wikimedia Atlas of Guatemala
Key Development Forecasts for Guatemala (http://www.ifs.du.edu/ifs/frm_CountryProfile.aspx?
Country=GT) from International Futures.
The National Security Archive: Guatemala Project (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/guatemala/)
Guatemala Tourism Commission (http://www.inguat.gob.gt/)
World Bank Summary Trade Statistics Guatemala
(http://wits.worldbank.org/CountryProfile/Country/GTM/Year/2012/Summary)
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Guatemala&oldid=613117845"
Categories: Guatemala Countries in Central America Former Spanish colonies Republics
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Spanish-speaking countries and territories States and territories established in 1821


Member states of the United Nations
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