guatemala facts

Guatemala Facts

One of the most populous countries in Central America, Guatemala, is the land of trees, mountains and volcanoes. In fact the name Guatemala means 'land of trees'. Find out more such interesting facts about the country of the ancient Mayas.

Guatemala is a country located in Central America, sandwiched between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The countries bordering Guatemala are Mexico in the north, as well as in the west, while Belize, El Salvador and Honduras lie to the east. Guatemala has a rich and distinctive culture, as a result of the long mix of elements from Spain and the native Mayan people. Its diverse history and natural beauty contribute in making Guatemala a destination rich in interesting and scenic sites. Here are some Guatemala facts that will give you more information and a broader perspective about this beautiful country. Quick Facts Official Name : Republic of Guatemala Form of Government : Democratic Republic Capital : Guatemala City Population : 13,677,000 Area : 108,890 square kilometers Currency : Quetzal, US dollar accepted History
  • The evidence of human settlement in Guatemala dates to around 9000 B.C. It is believed that earliest settlers crossed the Bering Strait from Asia 14,000 years ago.
  • These people were the Mayans, they began farming and forming villages around 1000 B.C. The city of Tikal began to decline at A.D 850 and was abandoned about 50 years later.
  • The Spanish invaded and fought the remaining group called the Quiche. They succeeded in establishing their colony in the 16th century.
  • The first Spanish settlement in Guatemala was in Iximché (the city of Santiago), but was destroyed by an earthquake. The second colonial capital, Almolonga, flooded in 1542.
  • Guatemala gained independence from Spain on Sept. 15, 1821, but was officially established as a Republic in 1847 after a brief annexation by Mexico.
  • Guatemala is largely a mountainous nation except for the southern coastal area and the lowlands of Peten, which is located in the north of the country. The largest lake is Lago de Izabal near the Caribbean coast.
  • Three of Guatemala's 30 volcanoes are still active. Pacaya volcano, located near Guatemala City, is the most active volcano of the country.
  • This country has around 252 listed wetlands and around 100 rivers and 5 lakes, 60 lagoons and 3 to 4 swamps. The main rivers flowing through this country are Motagua, Usumacinta, Dulce, Polochic, and Sarstun.
  • Guatemala's location makes it a target for hurricanes. Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and Hurricane Stan in October 2005 killed more than 1,500 people. The most recent was the tropical storm Agatha in May 2010.
  • Guatemala lies in a disaster prone area, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are frequent in this geologically active part of the world.
  • Guatemala has a hot tropical climate and it gets drier as one moves to the east and more temperate in the highlands.
  • One-third of the population lives in the cool highlands, the coastal lowlands are warm and humid.
Economy and Government
  • Guatemala's economy boomed around the 1870's, mainly because of coffee exports. However, Mayan communities suffered as their land was taken to make way for more coffee plantations.
  • This led to a civil war and repression of indigenous people. Hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans were killed in the 20th century.
  • The civil war ended after Alvaro Arzu, the new president, signed a peace agreement with the rebels.
  • Presently, agriculture is one of the main occupation of the people and they mainly grow coffee, sugar and bananas.
  • Other major industries include chemicals, petroleum, metals, rubber and textile. Thanks to the rich Mayan civilization, active volcanoes and beautiful beaches, the country gets a fair amount from tourism.
People and Culture
  • There is no such national religion in this country, but the main religions followed, along with ancient beliefs of Mayan Culture, is Christianity, Roman Catholic, as well as Protestant.
  • Maya women continue to weave brightly-colored cloth and fashion the traje (suits that their ancestor wore).
  • More than half the population is indigenous. There are around 20 existing Mayan groups in the country, the largest one being Quiche.
  • The other half of the population is made up of Ladinos (mixed Maya-Spanish ancestry) and the Whites which consists of people of British, Spanish, German, Scandinavian and Italian descent.
  • Ladinos speak Spanish and wear Western clothing, while Mayans speak indigenous languages and retain traditional dress and customs
  • The literacy rate for males is around 76%, while for females is around 65%.
  • Guatemala is known for its hand-woven Indian textiles as well as its pottery and wooden carvings. Guatemalans are also good musicians and are also known for their self-made music instruments.
  • Guatemalan food prominently features corn, chilies and beans as key ingredients, Guatemalan Tostadas and fried corn tortillas being famous preparations.
  • The official language of this country is Spanish and besides that, 21 Mayan languages, as well as non-Mayan languages, are also spoken here.
Interesting facts
  • Tikal National Park, located in Peten, north of Guatemala City, was the first mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Lake Atitlán, located in the Guatemalan Highlands, was formed when a volcano exploded 84,000 years ago. It is the deepest lake in Central America and is believed to be 900 feet (300 meters) deep.
  • Many believe that the name Guatemala comes from the word Guhatezmalh, which means "Mountain that vomits water", describing the mountain in Antiqua.
  • Mayan civilization is noted for possessing the only known, fully developed, written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, mathematical and astronomical systems. Artifacts of the civilization are still present in Tikal Mayan Ruins.
  • Guatemala is the world's leading producer of jade from the mineral jadeite. The Mayans often buried rulers with jade items and jade masks.
  • Tikal, in northern Guatemala, has some 3,000 Mayan buildings dating from 600 B.C. to A.D. 900. Tikal's Temple IV is the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas at 65 meters (212 feet).
If you visit a new place it's always best to know more about the past and the present of that country, about its people, their government, things that country is popular for, and so on. Knowing all these Guatemala facts, will make your travel easier as well as interesting.

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