Guatemala
Overview
 
Guatemala is a country in Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

 bordered by Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

 to the southwest, Belize
Belize
Belize is a constitutional monarchy and the northernmost country in Central America. Belize has a diverse society, comprising many cultures and languages. Even though Kriol and Spanish are spoken among the population, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official...

 to the northeast, the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 to the east, and Honduras
Honduras
Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was previously known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize...

 and El Salvador
El Salvador
El Salvador or simply Salvador is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country's capital city and largest city is San Salvador; Santa Ana and San Miguel are also important cultural and commercial centers in the country and in all of Central America...

 to the southeast. Its area is 108,890 km² (42,043 mi²) with an estimated population of 13,276,517.

A representative democracy
Representative democracy
Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy...

, its capital is Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City
Guatemala City
Guatemala City , is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Guatemala and Central America...

. Guatemala's abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems contributes to Mesoamerica's designation as a biodiversity hotspot
Biodiversity hotspot
A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region with a significant reservoir of biodiversity that is under threat from humans.The concept of biodiversity hotspots was originated by Norman Myers in two articles in “The Environmentalist” , revised after thorough analysis by Myers and others in...

.
Timeline

1821    Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica jointly declare independence from Spain.

1851    Honduras and El Salvador, during their invasion of Guatemala, are repelled at the Battle of La Arada.

1902    Quetzaltenango, second largest city of Guatemala, destroyed by Earthquake.

1913    Guatemala becomes a signatory to the Buenos Aires copyright treaty.

1941    World War II: The Republic of China, Cuba, Guatemala, the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, and the Philippine Commonwealth, declare war on Germany and Japan.

1945    Diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Guatemala are established.

1957    Carlos Castillo Armas, dictator of Guatemala, is assassinated.

1976    In Guatemala and Honduras an earthquake kills more than 22,000.

1982    Río Negro massacre in Guatemala.

1982    Guatemala's government, headed by Fernando Romeo Lucas García is overthrown in a military coup by right-wing General Efraín Ríos Montt.

Encyclopedia
Guatemala is a country in Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

 bordered by Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

 to the southwest, Belize
Belize
Belize is a constitutional monarchy and the northernmost country in Central America. Belize has a diverse society, comprising many cultures and languages. Even though Kriol and Spanish are spoken among the population, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official...

 to the northeast, the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 to the east, and Honduras
Honduras
Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was previously known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize...

 and El Salvador
El Salvador
El Salvador or simply Salvador is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country's capital city and largest city is San Salvador; Santa Ana and San Miguel are also important cultural and commercial centers in the country and in all of Central America...

 to the southeast. Its area is 108,890 km² (42,043 mi²) with an estimated population of 13,276,517.

A representative democracy
Representative democracy
Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy...

, its capital is Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City
Guatemala City
Guatemala City , is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Guatemala and Central America...

. Guatemala's abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems contributes to Mesoamerica's designation as a biodiversity hotspot
Biodiversity hotspot
A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region with a significant reservoir of biodiversity that is under threat from humans.The concept of biodiversity hotspots was originated by Norman Myers in two articles in “The Environmentalist” , revised after thorough analysis by Myers and others in...

. The former Maya
Maya civilization
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

n civilization was a Mesoamerican civilization, which continued throughout the Post-Classic period until the arrival of the Spanish
Spanish conquest of Yucatán
The Spanish conquest of Yucatán was the campaign undertaken by the Spanish conquistadores against the Late Postclassic Maya states and polities, particularly in the northern and central Yucatán Peninsula but also involving the Maya polities of the Guatemalan highlands region...

. The Mayas live in Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, the southern part of Mexico and northern parts of El Salvador.

Guatemala became independent from Spain in 1821, joining the Mexican Empire
Mexican Empire
The Mexican Empire or rarely Gran Mexico was the name of modern Mexico on two brief occasions in the 19th century when it was ruled by an emperor. With the Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire from Spain in 1821, Mexico became an independent monarchy, but was soon replaced with the...

. After it became an independent country in its own right, it was ruled by a series of dictators, assisted by the United Fruit Company
United Fruit Company
It had a deep and long-lasting impact on the economic and political development of several Latin American countries. Critics often accused it of exploitative neocolonialism and described it as the archetypal example of the influence of a multinational corporation on the internal politics of the...

. The late 20th century saw Guatemala embroiled in a 36-year-long civil war
Guatemalan Civil War
The Guatemalan Civil War ran from 1960-1996. The thirty-six-year civil war began as a grassroots, popular response to the rightist and military usurpation of civil government , and the President's disrespect for the human and civil rights of the majority of the population...

. Following the war, Guatemala has witnessed both economic growth, and successive successful democratic elections, the most recent being in 2011.

Etymology

The origin of the name "Guatemala" is unclear, but several theories exist. "Guatemala" is derived from "Goathemala," which means "the land of the trees" in the Maya
Mayan languages
The Mayan languages form a language family spoken in Mesoamerica and northern Central America. Mayan languages are spoken by at least 6 million indigenous Maya, primarily in Guatemala, Mexico, Belize and Honduras...

-Toltec
Toltec
The Toltec culture is an archaeological Mesoamerican culture that dominated a state centered in Tula, Hidalgo in the early post-classic period of Mesoamerican chronology...

 language. Another theory is that it comes from the Nahuatl expression "Cuauhtitlan," meaning "between the trees." "Cuauhtitlan" was the name the Tlaxcaltecan
Tlaxcala
Tlaxcala officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Tlaxcala is one of the 31 states which along with the Federal District comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided into 60 municipalities and its capital city is Tlaxcala....

 soldiers who accompanied Pedro de Alvarado
Pedro de Alvarado
Pedro de Alvarado y Contreras was a Spanish conquistador and governor of Guatemala. He participated in the conquest of Cuba, in Juan de Grijalva's exploration of the coasts of Yucatan and the Gulf of Mexico, and in the conquest of Mexico led by Hernan Cortes...

 during the Spanish Conquest gave to this territory. Lastly, there is a theory that it is the Spanish corruption of a Nahoa word "coactmoct-lan," meaning "land of the snake eating bird."

Pre-Columbian

The first evidence of human settlers in Guatemala goes back to at least 12000 BC. There is evidence that may put this date as early as 18,000 BC, such as obsidian
Obsidian
Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed as an extrusive igneous rock.It is produced when felsic lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimum crystal growth...

 arrow heads found in various parts of the country. There is archaeological proof that early Guatemalan settlers were hunters and gatherers, but pollen samples from Petén
Petén Basin
The Petén Basin is a geographical subregion of Mesoamerica, located in the northern portion of the modern-day nation of Guatemala, and essentially contained within the department of El Petén...

 and the Pacific coast indicate that maize cultivation was developed by 3500 BC. Sites dating back to 6500 BC have been found in Quiché in the Highlands and Sipacate
Sipacate
Sipacate is a resort town on the Pacific coast of Guatemala, in Escuintla Department about 22 miles west of Puerto San José. It is promoted as a venue for surfing. Being roughly in the center of the Guatemalan coastline, it is used as a breakpoint for storm warnings...

, Escuintla
Escuintla
Escuintla is a city in south central Guatemala. It is the capital of the Escuintla Department and the administrative seat of Escuintla Municipality....

 on the central Pacific coast.

Archaeologists divide the pre-Columbian
Pre-Columbian
The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during...

 history of Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

 into the pre-Classic period (2000 BC to 250 AD), the Classic period (250 to 900 AD), and the Calistic from 900 to 1500 AD. Until recently, the Pre-Classic was regarded as a formative period, with small villages of farmers who lived in huts, and few permanent buildings, but this notion has been challenged by recent discoveries of monumental architecture from that period, such as an altar in La Blanca
La Blanca
La Blanca is a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican archaeological site in present-day Retalhuleu Department, western Guatemala. It has an occupation dating predominantly from the Middle Preclassic period of Mesoamerican chronology, and at its peak was one of the largest known Mesoamerican sites of that era...

, San Marcos, from 1000 BC; ceremonial sites at Miraflores and El Naranjo from 801 BC; the earliest monumental masks; and the Mirador Basin
Mirador Basin
The Mirador Basin is a geological depression found in the remote rainforest of the northern department of Petén, Guatemala. Mirador Basin consists of two true basins, consisting of shallowly sloping terrain dominated by low-lying swamps called bajos; one draining into the San Pedro River and the...

 cities of Nakbé
Nakbe
Nakbe is one of the largest early Maya archaeological sites, rivaled by El Mirador. Nakbe is located in the The Mirador Basin, in El Petén region of Guatemala, approximately 13 kilometers south of the Largest Maya city of El Mirador...

, Xulnal, El Tintal
El Tintal
El Tintal is a Maya archaeological site in the northern Petén region of Guatemala, about northeast of the modern-day settlement of Carmelita, with settlement dating to the Preclassic and Classic periods. It is close to the better known sites of El Mirador , to which it was linked by causeway,...

, Wakná and El Mirador
El Mirador
El Mirador is a large pre-Columbian Mayan settlement, located in the north of the modern department of El Petén, Guatemala.-Discovery:El Mirador was first discovered in 1926, and was photographed from the air in 1930, but the remote site deep in the jungle had little more attention paid to it until...

.

El Mirador was by far the most populated city in pre-Columbian America Both the El Tigre and Monos pyramids encompass a volume greater than 250,000 cubic meters. Mirador was the first politically organized state in America, named the Kan Kingdom in ancient texts. There were 26 cities, all connected by Sacbeob (highways), which were several kilometers long, up to 40 meters wide, and two to four meters above the ground, paved with stucco
Stucco
Stucco or render is a material made of an aggregate, a binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. It is used as decorative coating for walls and ceilings and as a sculptural and artistic material in architecture...

, that are clearly distinguishable from the air in the most extensive virgin tropical rain forest in Mesoamerica.
The Classic period of Mesoamerican civilization corresponds to the height of the Maya civilization
Maya civilization
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

, and is represented by countless sites throughout Guatemala, although the largest concentration is in Petén. 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
Classic Maya collapse
The Classic Maya Collapse refers to the decline and abandonment of the Classic Period Maya cities of the southern Maya lowlands of Mesoamerica between the 8th and 9th centuries. This should not be confused with the collapse of the Preclassic Maya in the 2nd century AD...

. The Maya abandoned many of the cities of the central lowlands or were killed off by a drought-induced famine. Scientists debate the cause of the Classic Maya Collapse, but gaining currency is the Drought Theory discovered by physical scientists studying lakebeds, ancient pollen, and other tangible evidence. A series of prolonged droughts in what is otherwise a seasonal desert is thought to have decimated the Maya, who were primarily reliant upon regular rainfall.

The Post-Classic period is represented by regional kingdoms, such as the Itzá and Ko'woj in the lakes area in Petén, and the Mam, Ki'ch'es, Kack'chiquel, Tz'utuh'il, Pokom'chí, Kek'chi and Chortí in the Highlands. These cities preserved many aspects of Mayan culture, but would never equal the size or power of the Classic cities.

The Maya civilization shares many features with other Mesoamerican civilizations due to the high degree of interaction and cultural diffusion
Cultural diffusion
In cultural anthropology and cultural geography, cultural diffusion, as first conceptualized by Alfred L. Kroeber in his influential 1940 paper Stimulus Diffusion, or trans-cultural diffusion in later reformulations, is the spread of cultural items—such as ideas, styles, religions, technologies,...

 that characterized the region. Advances such as writing, epigraphy
Epigraphy
Epigraphy Epigraphy Epigraphy (from the , literally "on-writing", is the study of inscriptions or epigraphs as writing; that is, the science of identifying the graphemes and of classifying their use as to cultural context and date, elucidating their meaning and assessing what conclusions can be...

, and the calendar
Maya calendar
The Maya calendar is a system of calendars and almanacs used in the Maya civilization of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, and in many modern Maya communities in highland Guatemala. and in Chiapas....

 did not originate with the Maya; however, their civilization fully developed them. Maya influence can be detected from Honduras
Honduras
Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was previously known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize...

, Guatemala, Northern El Salvador
El Salvador
El Salvador or simply Salvador is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country's capital city and largest city is San Salvador; Santa Ana and San Miguel are also important cultural and commercial centers in the country and in all of Central America...

 and to as far as central Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, more than 1000 km (621.4 mi) from the Maya area. Many outside influences are found in Maya art
Maya art
Maya art, here taken to mean the visual arts, is the artistic style typical of the Maya civilization, that took shape in the course the Preclassic period , and grew greater during the Classic period Maya art, here taken to mean the visual arts, is the artistic style typical of the Maya...

 and architecture, which are thought to result from trade and cultural exchange rather than direct external conquest.

Colonial

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
Epidemic
In epidemiology, an epidemic , occurs when new cases of a certain disease, in a given human population, and during a given period, substantially exceed what is expected based on recent experience...

 that devastated native populations. Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century...

, who had led the Spanish conquest of Mexico
Spanish conquest of Mexico
The Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire was one of the most important campaigns in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. The invasion began in February 1519 and was acclaimed victorious on August 13, 1521, by a coalition army of Spanish conquistadors and Tlaxcalan warriors led by Hernán Cortés...

, granted a permit to Captains Gonzalo de Alvarado and his brother, Pedro de Alvarado
Pedro de Alvarado
Pedro de Alvarado y Contreras was a Spanish conquistador and governor of Guatemala. He participated in the conquest of Cuba, in Juan de Grijalva's exploration of the coasts of Yucatan and the Gulf of Mexico, and in the conquest of Mexico led by Hernan Cortes...

, to conquer this land. Alvarado at first allied himself with the Kaqchikel nation to fight against their traditional rivals the K'iche' (Quiché) nation
K'iche' Kingdom of Q'umarkaj
The K'iche' Kingdom of Q'umarkaj was a state in the highlands of modern day Guatemala which was founded by the K'iche' Maya in the thirteenth century, and which expanded through the fifteenth century until it was conquered by Spanish and Nahua forces led by Pedro de Alvarado in 1524.The K'iche'...

. Alvarado later turned against the Kaqchikel, and eventually held the entire region under Spanish domination. Several families of Spanish descent subsequently rose to prominence in colonial Guatemala, including the surnames de Arrivillaga, Arroyave, Alvarez de las Asturias, González de Batres, Coronado, Gálvez Corral, Mencos, Delgado de Nájera, de la Tovilla, and Varón de Berrieza.

During the colonial period, Guatemala was an Audiencia and a Captaincy General
Captaincy
A captaincy is a historical administrative division of the former Spanish and Portuguese colonial empires. Each was governed by a captain general.-In the Portuguese Empire:...

 (Capitanía General de Guatemala
Captaincy General of Guatemala
The Captaincy General of Guatemala , also known as the Kingdom of Guatemala , was an administrative division in Spanish America which covered much of Central America, including what are now the nations of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and the Mexican state of Chiapas...

) of Spain, and a part of New Spain
New Spain
New Spain, formally called the Viceroyalty of New Spain , was a viceroyalty of the Spanish colonial empire, comprising primarily territories in what was known then as 'América Septentrional' or North America. Its capital was Mexico City, formerly Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire...

 (Mexico). It extended from the modern Mexican states of Tabasco
Tabasco
Tabasco officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Tabasco is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 17 municipalities and its capital city is Villahermosa....

 and Chiapas
Chiapas
Chiapas officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Chiapas is one of the 31 states that, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 118 municipalities and its capital city is Tuxtla Gutierrez. Other important cites in Chiapas include San Cristóbal de las...

 (including the then separate administration of Soconusco
Soconusco
Soconusco is a region of the Mexican state of Chiapas, located in the extreme south of the state and separated from Guatemala by the Suchiate River. It is a region of rich lowlands and foothills. The economic center is Tapachula. Soconusco consists of 16 municipalities.The name comes from the...

) to Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica , officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a multilingual, multiethnic and multicultural country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east....

. This region was not as rich in minerals (gold and silver) as Mexico and Peru, and was therefore not considered to be as important. Its main products were sugarcane, cocoa, blue añil
Añil
Indigofera suffruticosa, commonly known as Anil, Guatemalan indigo, Small-leaved indigo , West Indian indigo, and Wild indigo, is a flowering plant in the pea family, Fabaceae...

 dye, red dye from cochineal
Cochineal
The cochineal is a scale insect in the suborder Sternorrhyncha, from which the crimson-colour dye carmine is derived. A primarily sessile parasite native to tropical and subtropical South America and Mexico, this insect lives on cacti from the genus Opuntia, feeding on plant moisture and...

 insects, and precious woods used in artwork for churches and palaces in Spain.

The first capital was named Tecpan Guatemala
Tecpán Guatemala
Tecpán Guatemala is a municipality in the department of Chimaltenango, in Guatemala, on the Inter-American Highway CA-1.The climate is generally cold...

, founded on July 25, 1524 with the name of Villa de Santiago de Guatemala and was located near Iximché
Iximche
Iximche is a Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican archaeological site in the western highlands of Guatemala. Iximche was the capital of the Late Postclassic Kaqchikel Maya kingdom from 1470 until its abandonment in 1524. The architecture of the site included a number of pyramid-temples, palaces and two...

, the Kaqchikel capital city. It was moved to Ciudad Vieja
Ciudad Vieja
Ciudad Vieja is a municipality in the Guatemalan department of Sacatepéquez. According to the 2002 Guatemalan Census, the municipality has a total of 25,696 people.Ciudad Vieja was the second colonial capital of the country.- History :...

 on November 22, 1527, when the Kaqchikel attacked the city. On September 11, 1541 the city was flooded when the lagoon in the crater
Volcanic crater
A volcanic crater is a circular depression in the ground caused by volcanic activity. It is typically a basin, circular in form within which occurs a vent from which magma erupts as gases, lava, and ejecta. A crater can be of large dimensions, and sometimes of great depth...

 of the Agua Volcano
Volcán de Agua
Volcán de Agua is a stratovolcano located in the department of Sacatepéquez in Guatemala. It has been inactive since the mid 16th century. At 3,760 metres, Agua Volcano towers more than 3,500 metres above the Pacific coastal plain to the south and 2,000 metres above the Guatemalan...

 collapsed due to heavy rains and earthquakes, and was moved 4 miles (6 km) to Antigua
Antigua Guatemala
Antigua Guatemala is a city in the central highlands of Guatemala famous for its well-preserved Spanish Mudéjar-influenced Baroque architecture as well as a number of spectacular ruins of colonial churches...

, on the Panchoy Valley, now a UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

. This city was destroyed by several earthquakes in 1773–1774, 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 19th century

On September 15, 1821, the Captaincy-general of Guatemala (formed by Chiapas
Chiapas
Chiapas officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Chiapas is one of the 31 states that, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 118 municipalities and its capital city is Tuxtla Gutierrez. Other important cites in Chiapas include San Cristóbal de las...

, Guatemala, El Salvador
El Salvador
El Salvador or simply Salvador is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country's capital city and largest city is San Salvador; Santa Ana and San Miguel are also important cultural and commercial centers in the country and in all of Central America...

, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras) officially proclaimed its independence from Spain and its incorporation into the Mexican Empire
Mexican Empire
The Mexican Empire or rarely Gran Mexico was the name of modern Mexico on two brief occasions in the 19th century when it was ruled by an emperor. With the Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire from Spain in 1821, Mexico became an independent monarchy, but was soon replaced with the...

, which was dissolved two years later. This region had been formally subject to New Spain throughout the colonial period, but as a practical matter was administered separately. All but Chiapas soon separated from Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 after Agustín I from Mexico was forced to abdicate.

The Guatemalan provinces formed the United Provinces of Central America, also called the Central American Federation (Federacion de Estados Centroamericanos). That federation dissolved in civil war
History of Central America
The history of Central America is the study of the past of the region known as Central America.- Before European contact :In pre-Columbian times, most of modern Central America was part of the Mesoamerican civilization. The Native American societies of Mesoamerica occupied the land ranging from...

 from 1838 to 1840. Guatemala's Rafael Carrera
Rafael Carrera
José Rafael Carrera Turcios was the ruler of Guatemala from 1844 to 1848 and from 1851 until his death in 1865. During his military career and presidency, the new nations in Central America faced numerous problems...

 was instrumental in leading the revolt against the federal government and breaking apart the Union. During this period a region of the Highlands, Los Altos
Los Altos, Central America
Los Altos was an area of Central America, which was added as a sixth state to the Federal Republic of Central America in the 1830s. Its capital was Quetzaltenango...

, declared independence from Guatemala, but was annexed by Carrera, who dominated Guatemalan politics until 1865, backed by conservatives, large land owners and the church.

Guatemala's "Liberal Revolution" came in 1871 under the leadership of Justo Rufino Barrios
Justo Rufino Barrios
Justo Rufino Barrios was a President of Guatemala known for his liberal reforms and his attempts to reunite Central America....

, who worked to modernize the country, improve trade, and introduce new crops and manufacturing. During this era coffee became an important crop for Guatemala. Barrios had ambitions of reuniting Central America and took the country to war in an unsuccessful attempt to attain this, 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
Manuel Estrada Cabrera
Manuel José Estrada Cabrera was President of Guatemala from 8 February 1898 to 15 April 1920.Manuel Estrada forcibly took the presidency after the assassination of José María Reina. The Guatemalan cabinet called an emergency meeting to appoint a new successor, but declined to invite the General...

, whose access to the presidency was helped by the United Fruit Company
United Fruit Company
It had a deep and long-lasting impact on the economic and political development of several Latin American countries. Critics often accused it of exploitative neocolonialism and described it as the archetypal example of the influence of a multinational corporation on the internal politics of the...

. It was during his long presidency that the United Fruit Company became a major force in Guatemala.

1944 to present day

On July 4, 1944, Dictator Jorge Ubico Castañeda was forced to resign his office in response to a wave of protests and a general strike
General strike
A general strike is a strike action by a critical mass of the labour force in a city, region, or country. While a general strike can be for political goals, economic goals, or both, it tends to gain its momentum from the ideological or class sympathies of the participants...

. His replacement, General Juan Federico Ponce Vaides
Juan Federico Ponce Vaides
Juan Federico Ponce Vaides was the acting President of Guatemala from 4 July 1944 to 20 October 1944. He succeeded long-ruling dictator Jorge Ubico after Ubico's resignation, but the latter continued to exercise considerable influence during Ponce's acting presidency...

, was later also forced out of office on October 20, 1944 by a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 led by Major Francisco Javier Arana
Francisco Javier Arana
Francisco Javier Arana was one of the three leaders of the revolutionary junta that ruled Guatemala from 20 October 1944 to 15 March 1945....

 and Captain Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán
Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán
Colonel Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán was a Guatemalan military officer and politician who served as Defense Minister of Guatemala from 1944–1951, and as President of Guatemala from 1951 to 1954....

. About 100 people were killed in the coup. The country was led by a military junta
Military junta
A junta or military junta is a government led by a committee of military leaders. The term derives from the Spanish language junta meaning committee, specifically a board of directors...

 made up of Arana, Arbenz, and Jorge Toriello Garrido
Jorge Toriello Garrido
Jorge Toriello Garrido was one of the three leaders of the first government that ruled Guatemala from 20 October 1944 to 15 March 1945 as part of the October Revolution...

.

The Junta called Guatemala's first free election, which was won with a majority of 85 percent by the prominent writer and teacher Juan José Arévalo Bermejo, who had lived in exile in Argentina for 14 years. Arévalo was the first democratically elected president of Guatemala to fully complete the term for which he was elected. His "Christian Socialist
Christian socialism
Christian socialism generally refers to those on the Christian left whose politics are both Christian and socialist and who see these two philosophies as being interrelated. This category can include Liberation theology and the doctrine of the social gospel...

" policies, inspired by the U.S. New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

, were criticized by landowners and the upper class as "communist
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

."

This period was also the beginning of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 between the U.S. and the USSR, which was to have a considerable influence on Guatemalan history. From the 1950s through the 1990s, the U.S. government directly supported Guatemala's army with training, weapons, and money.
In 1954, Arévalo's freely elected Guatemalan successor, Arbenz, was overthrown in a coup orchestrated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 (CIA) in the 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état. He considered himself a socialist. After his land reform, the CIA intervened because it feared that a socialist government would become a Soviet beachhead in the Western Hemisphere. Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas
Carlos Castillo Armas
Carlos Castillo Armas was a Guatemalan Colonel who came to power in a CIA-orchestrated coup in 1954. He held the title of President of Guatemala from July 8, 1954 until his assassination in 1957.-The coup:...

 was installed as president in 1954 and ruled until he was assassinated by a member of his personal guard in 1957. Substantial evidence points to the role of the American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 United Fruit Company
United Fruit Company
It had a deep and long-lasting impact on the economic and political development of several Latin American countries. Critics often accused it of exploitative neocolonialism and described it as the archetypal example of the influence of a multinational corporation on the internal politics of the...

 (which changed its name in 1970 to Chiquita Brands International Inc
Chiquita Brands International
Chiquita Brands International Inc. is an American producer and distributor of bananas and other produce, under a variety of subsidiary brand names, collectively known as Chiquita. Other brands include Fresh Express salads, which it purchased from Performance Food Group in 2005...

) as instrumental in this coup, as the land reforms of Jacobo Arbenz were threatening the company's interests in Guatemala and it had several direct ties to the White House
Executive Office of the President of the United States
The Executive Office of the President consists of the immediate staff of the President of the United States, as well as multiple levels of support staff reporting to the President. The EOP is headed by the White House Chief of Staff, currently William M. Daley...

 and the CIA. (See United Fruit Company – History in Central America).

In the election that followed, General Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes assumed power. He is most celebrated for challenging the Mexican president to a gentleman's duel
Duel
A duel is an arranged engagement in combat between two individuals, with matched weapons in accordance with agreed-upon rules.Duels in this form were chiefly practised in Early Modern Europe, with precedents in the medieval code of chivalry, and continued into the modern period especially among...

 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
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

 Cubans
Cubans
Cubans or Cuban people are the inhabitants or citizens of Cuba. Cuba is a multi-ethnic nation, home to people of different ethnic and national backgrounds...

 in Guatemala. He also provided airstrips in the region of Petén
Petén (department)
Petén is a department of the nation of Guatemala. It is geographically the northernmost department of Guatemala, as well as the largest in size — at it accounts for about one third of Guatemala's area. The capital is Flores...

 for what later became the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion
Bay of Pigs Invasion
The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an unsuccessful action by a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba, with support and encouragement from the US government, in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. The invasion was launched in April 1961, less than three months...

 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
Enrique Peralta Azurdia
Alfredo Enrique Peralta Azurdia was President of Guatemala from 31 March 1963 to 1 July 1966.Enrique Peralta was born on June 17, 1908 in Guatemala City. He took over the presidency after a coup against president Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes...

.
In 1966, Julio César Méndez Montenegro
Julio César Méndez Montenegro
Julio César Méndez Montenegro was the Revolutionary Party President of Guatemala from 1 July 1966 to 1 July 1970. The only civilian to occupy Guatemala's presidency during the long period of military rule between 1954 and 1986, Méndez was not allowed to act independently of the military and was...

 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. It was during this time that rightist paramilitary
Paramilitary
A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not considered part of a state's formal armed forces....

 organizations, such as the "White Hand" (Mano Blanca), and the Anticommunist Secret Army, (Ejército Secreto Anticomunista), were formed. Those organizations were the forerunners of the infamous "Death Squads
Death squad
A death squad is an armed military, police, insurgent, or terrorist squad that conducts extrajudicial killings, assassinations, and forced disappearances of persons as part of a war, insurgency or terror campaign...

". Military advisers from the United States Army Special Forces (Green Berets) were sent to Guatemala to train troops and help transform its army into a modern counter-insurgency force, which eventually made it the most sophisticated in Central America.

In 1970, Colonel Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio
Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio
Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio was President of Guatemala from 1 July 1970 to 1 July 1974.Carlos Arana was born in Barberena, in the department of Santa Rosa....

 was elected president. A new guerrilla movement entered the country from Mexico, into the Western Highlands in 1972. In the disputed election of 1974
Guatemalan general election, 1974
General elections were held in Guatemala on 3 March 1974. No candidate received more than 50% of the vote in the presidential election, resulting in Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García being elected president by Congress on 12 March. The Congressional elections were won by an alliance of the...

, General Kjell Laugerud García
Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García
Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García was President of Guatemala from 1 July 1974 to 1 July 1978. He was the son of a Norwegian father and Guatemalan mother....

 defeated General Efraín Ríos Montt
Efraín Ríos Montt
José Efraín Ríos Montt is a former de facto President of Guatemala, dictator, army general, and former president of Congress. In the 2003 presidential elections, he unsuccessfully ran as the candidate of the ruling Guatemalan Republican Front .Huehuetenango-born Ríos Montt remains one of the most...

, a candidate of the Christian Democratic Party, who claimed that he had been cheated out of a victory through fraud. On February 4, 1976, a major earthquake destroyed several cities and caused more than 25,000 deaths. In 1978, in a fraudulent election, General Romeo Lucas García assumed power.

The 1970s saw the birth of two new guerrilla organizations, The Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP) and the Organization of the People in Arms (ORPA), who began and intensified by the end of the seventies, guerrilla attacks that included urban and rural guerrilla warfare, mainly against the military and some of the civilian supporters of the army. In 1979, the U.S. president, Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

, ordered a ban on all military aid to the Guatemalan Army because of the widespread and systematic abuse of human rights.
In 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 that killed almost everyone inside as a result of a fire that consumed the building
Burning of the Spanish Embassy
The Burning of the Spanish Embassy refers to the January 31, 1980 occupation of the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City, Guatemala, by indigenous peasants and their allies and the subsequent police raid that resulted in a fire which destroyed the embassy and left 36 people dead...

. The Guatemalan government claimed that the activists set the fire and immolated themselves
Self-immolation
Self-immolation refers to setting oneself on fire, often as a form of protest or for the purposes of martyrdom or suicide. It has centuries-long traditions in some cultures, while in modern times it has become a type of radical political protest...

. However, the Spanish ambassador, who survived the fire, disputed this claim, claiming that the Guatemalan police intentionally killed almost everyone inside and set the fire to erase traces of their acts. As a result of this incident, the government of Spain broke diplomatic relations with Guatemala.

This government was overthrown in 1982. General Efraín Ríos Montt
Efraín Ríos Montt
José Efraín Ríos Montt is a former de facto President of Guatemala, dictator, army general, and former president of Congress. In the 2003 presidential elections, he unsuccessfully ran as the candidate of the ruling Guatemalan Republican Front .Huehuetenango-born Ríos Montt remains one of the most...

 was named President of the military junta, continuing the bloody campaign of torture, forced disappearance
Forced disappearance
In international human rights law, a forced disappearance occurs when a person is secretly abducted or imprisoned by a state or political organization or by a third party with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of a state or political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the...

s, and "scorched earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

" warfare. The country became a pariah state
Pariah state
A pariah state is one whose conduct is considered to be out of line with international norms of behavior. This term is closely related to the term rogue state.-Definitions:...

 internationally. Ríos Montt was overthrown by General Óscar Humberto Mejía Victores
Óscar Humberto Mejía Victores
Óscar Humberto Mejía Victores was the 27th President of Guatemala from 8 August 1983 to 14 January 1986. A member of the military, he was President of Guatemala during a time of increased repression and death squad activity...

, 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 Arévalo, the candidate of the Christian Democracy Party.

In 1982, the four guerrilla groups, EGP, ORPA, FAR and PGT, merged and formed the URNG
Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity
The Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity is a Guatemalan political party that started as a guerrilla movement but laid down its arms in 1996 and became a legal political party in 1998 after the peace process after the Guatemalan Civil War.-Formation:Since the CIA-backed...

, influenced by the Salvador
El Salvador
El Salvador or simply Salvador is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country's capital city and largest city is San Salvador; Santa Ana and San Miguel are also important cultural and commercial centers in the country and in all of Central America...

an guerrilla FMLN
Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front
The Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front is, since 1992, a left-wing political party in El Salvador and formerly a coalition of five revolutionary guerrilla organizations...

, the Nicaragua
Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean...

n FSLN
Sandinista National Liberation Front
The Sandinista National Liberation Front is a socialist political party in Nicaragua. Its members are called Sandinistas in both English and Spanish...

 and Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

's government, in order to become stronger. As a result of the Army's "scorched earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

" tactics in the countryside, more than 45,000 Guatemalans fled across the border to Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

. The Mexican government placed the refugees in camps in Chiapas
Chiapas
Chiapas officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Chiapas is one of the 31 states that, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 118 municipalities and its capital city is Tuxtla Gutierrez. Other important cites in Chiapas include San Cristóbal de las...

 and Tabasco
Tabasco
Tabasco officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Tabasco is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 17 municipalities and its capital city is Villahermosa....

.

In 1992, the Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

 was awarded to Rigoberta Menchú
Rigoberta Menchú
Rigoberta Menchú Tum is an indigenous Guatemalan, of the K'iche' ethnic group. Menchú has dedicated her life to publicizing the plight of Guatemala's indigenous peoples during and after the Guatemalan Civil War , and to promoting indigenous rights in the country...

 for her efforts to bring international attention to the government-sponsored genocide
Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

 against the indigenous population.
The Guatemalan Civil War
Guatemalan Civil War
The Guatemalan Civil War ran from 1960-1996. The thirty-six-year civil war began as a grassroots, popular response to the rightist and military usurpation of civil government , and the President's disrespect for the human and civil rights of the majority of the population...

 ended in 1996 with a peace accord between the guerrillas and the government, negotiated by the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 through intense brokerage by nations such as Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 and Spain. Both sides made major concessions. The guerrilla fighters disarmed and received land to work. According to the U.N.-sponsored truth commission
Truth commission
A truth commission or truth and reconciliation commission is a commission tasked with discovering and revealing past wrongdoing by a government , in the hope of resolving conflict left over from the past...

 the ("Commission for Historical Clarification"), government forces and state-sponsored paramilitaries were responsible for over 93% of the human rights violations during the war.

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
Maya peoples
The Maya people constitute a diverse range of the Native American people of southern Mexico and northern Central America. The overarching term "Maya" is a collective designation to include the peoples of the region who share some degree of cultural and linguistic heritage; however, the term...

 farmers and non-combatants. More than 450 Mayan villages were destroyed and over 1 million people became displaced within Guatemala or refugees. Over 200,000 people, mostly Mayan, were killed during the civil war.

In certain areas, such as Baja Verapaz
Baja Verapaz
Baja Verapaz is a department in Guatemala. The capital is Salamá.Baja Verapaz houses the Mario Dary Biotope Preserve, preserving the native flora and fauna of the region, especially the endangered national bird of Guatemala, the Resplendent Quetzal....

, the Truth Commission considered that the Guatemalan state engaged in an intentional policy of genocide against particular ethnic groups in the Civil War
Guatemalan Civil War
The Guatemalan Civil War ran from 1960-1996. The thirty-six-year civil war began as a grassroots, popular response to the rightist and military usurpation of civil government , and the President's disrespect for the human and civil rights of the majority of the population...

.
In 1999, U.S. president Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

 stated that the United States was wrong to have provided support to Guatemalan military forces that took part in the brutal civilian killings.

Since the peace accords, Guatemala has witnessed successive democratic elections, most recently in 2011. The past government has signed free trade agreements with the United States and the rest of Central America through CAFTA, and other agreements with Mexico. In 2007 elections were held in Guatemala. The National Unity of Hope
National Unity of Hope
The National Unity of Hope is a political party in Guatemala. It was founded in 2002 and defines itself as a social-democratic and social-Christian party....

 and its president candidate Álvaro Colom
Álvaro Colom
Álvaro Colom Caballeros is the President of Guatemala for the 2008–2012 term and leader of the social-democratic National Unity of Hope .-Early years:...

 won the presidency as well as the majority of the seats in congress.

The current average age in Guatemala is 19.4 years old, 18.9 for males and 20 years for females. This is the lowest median
Median
In probability theory and statistics, a median is described as the numerical value separating the higher half of a sample, a population, or a probability distribution, from the lower half. The median of a finite list of numbers can be found by arranging all the observations from lowest value to...

 age of any country in the Western Hemisphere and comparable to most of central Africa and Afghanistan.

Politics

Guatemala is a constitutional democratic republic whereby the President of Guatemala
President of Guatemala
The title of President of Guatemala has been the usual title of the leader of Guatemala since 1839, when that title was assumed by Mariano Rivera Paz...

 is both head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 and head of government
Head of government
Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

, and of a multi-party system
Multi-party system
A multi-party system is a system in which multiple political parties have the capacity to gain control of government separately or in coalition, e.g.The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in the United Kingdom formed in 2010. The effective number of parties in a multi-party system is normally...

. Executive power
Executive Power
Executive Power is Vince Flynn's fifth novel, and the fourth to feature Mitch Rapp, an American agent that works for the CIA as an operative for a covert counter terrorism unit called the "Orion Team."-Plot summary:...

 is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Congress of the Republic. The judiciary
Judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

 is independent of the executive and the legislature.
Álvaro Colom
Álvaro Colom
Álvaro Colom Caballeros is the President of Guatemala for the 2008–2012 term and leader of the social-democratic National Unity of Hope .-Early years:...

 is the President of Guatemala as of 14 January 2008.

Departments and municipalities

Guatemala is divided into 22 departments
Department (subnational entity)
Department is the name given to the administrative and political subdivisions of many countries.As a territorial unit, "department" was first used by the French Revolutionary governments, apparently to emphasize that each territory was simply an administrative sub-division of the united sovereign...

 (departamentos) and sub-divided into about 332 municipalities
Municipality
A municipality is essentially an urban administrative division having corporate status and usually powers of self-government. It can also be used to mean the governing body of a municipality. A municipality is a general-purpose administrative subdivision, as opposed to a special-purpose district...

 (municipios).

The departments
Departments of Guatemala
||Guatemala is divided into 22 departments :#Alta Verapaz#Baja Verapaz#Chimaltenango#Chiquimula#Petén#El Progreso#El Quiché#Escuintla#Guatemala#Huehuetenango#Izabal#Jalapa#Jutiapa#Quetzaltenango#Retalhuleu#Sacatepéquez...

 are:

  1. Alta Verapaz
    Alta Verapaz
    Alta Verapaz is a department in the north central part of Guatemala. The capital and chief city of the department is Cobán. Verapaz is bordered to the north by El Petén, to the east by Izabal, to the south by Zacapa, El Progreso, and Baja Verapaz, and to the west by El Quiché.Also in Alta Verapaz...


  2. Baja Verapaz
    Baja Verapaz
    Baja Verapaz is a department in Guatemala. The capital is Salamá.Baja Verapaz houses the Mario Dary Biotope Preserve, preserving the native flora and fauna of the region, especially the endangered national bird of Guatemala, the Resplendent Quetzal....


  3. Chimaltenango
  4. Chiquimula
  5. Petén
    Petén (department)
    Petén is a department of the nation of Guatemala. It is geographically the northernmost department of Guatemala, as well as the largest in size — at it accounts for about one third of Guatemala's area. The capital is Flores...


  6. El Progreso
  7. El Quiché
  8. Escuintla
  9. Guatemala
  10. Huehuetenango
  11. Izabal
  12. Jalapa
  13. Jutiapa
  14. Quetzaltenango
  15. Retalhuleu
  16. Sacatepéquez
    Sacatepéquez (department)
    Sacatepéquez is one of the 22 departments of Guatemala. Population estimate 265,500 in 2000. The name comes from Sacatepéquez, a city from November 21, 1542 until July 29, 1773 when it was destroyed by the Santa Marta earthquake. Sacatepéquez means grasshill in the Pipil Maya dialect.The capital of...


  17. San Marcos
  18. Santa Rosa
  19. Sololá
  20. Suchitepéquez
  21. Totonicapán
  22. Zacapa


Guatemala is heavily centralized. Transportation, communications, business, politics, and the most relevant urban activity takes place in Guatemala City
Guatemala City
Guatemala City , is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Guatemala and Central America...

. 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).

Geography

Guatemala lies between latitudes 13°
13th parallel north
The 13th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 13 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, Central America, the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean....

 and 18°N
18th parallel north
The 18th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 18 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, Central America, the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean....

, and longitudes 88°
88th meridian west
The meridian 88° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, North America, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, Central America, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

 and 93°W
93rd meridian west
The meridian 93° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, North America, the Gulf of Mexico, Central America, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

.

The country is mountainous with small desert and sand dune patches, hilly valleys filled with people, except for the south coastal area and the vast northern lowlands of Petén
Petén (department)
Petén is a department of the nation of Guatemala. It is geographically the northernmost department of Guatemala, as well as the largest in size — at it accounts for about one third of Guatemala's area. The capital is Flores...

 department. Two mountain chains enter Guatemala from west to east, dividing the country into three major regions: the highlands, where the mountains are located; the Pacific coast, south of the mountains; and the Petén region, north of the mountains. All major cities are located in the highlands and Pacific coast regions; by comparison, Petén 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. Volcán Tajumulco
Volcán Tajumulco
Volcán Tajumulco is a large stratovolcano in the department of San Marcos in western Guatemala. It is the highest mountain in Guatemala and Central America at...

, at 4,220 m, is the highest point in the Central American states.

The rivers are short and shallow in the Pacific drainage basin, larger and deeper in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

 drainage basins, which include the Polochic
Polochic River
The Polochic River is a 194 km long river in eastern Guatemala. It flows eastwards through a deep valley and flows into Lake Izabal at . The river is navigable for length of 30 km to Panzós. It was used many years ago to transport coffee and timber, but most commercial transport in the river valley...

 and Dulce River
Dulce River
Río Dulce is a river in Guatemala, completely contained within the department of Izabal. It is part of a lake and river system that has become a popular cruising sailboat destination....

s, which drain into Lake Izabal
Lake Izabal
Lago de Izabal, also known as the Golfo Dulce, is the largest lake in Guatemala with a surface area of 589.6 km² and a maximum depth is 18 meters . The Polochic River is the largest river that drains into the lake...

, the Motagua River
Motagua River
The Motagua River is a long river in Guatemala. It rises in the western highlands of Guatemala where it is also called Río Grande, and runs in an easterly direction to the Gulf of Honduras. The final few kilometres of the river form part of the Guatemala/Honduras border...

, the Sarstún that forms the boundary with Belize, and the Usumacinta River
Usumacinta River
The Usumacinta River is a river in southeastern Mexico and northwestern Guatemala. It is formed by the junction of the Pasión River, which arises in the Sierra de Santa Cruz and the Salinas River, also known as the Chixoy, or the Negro, which descends from the Sierra Madre de Guatemala...

, which forms the boundary between Petén and Chiapas
Chiapas
Chiapas officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Chiapas is one of the 31 states that, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 118 municipalities and its capital city is Tuxtla Gutierrez. Other important cites in Chiapas include San Cristóbal de las...

, Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

.

Guatemala has long claimed all or part of the territory of neighbouring Belize, formerly part of the Spanish colony, and currently an independent Commonwealth Realm
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

 which recognises Queen Elizabeth II as its Head of State
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

. Due to this territorial dispute, Guatemala recognized Belize's independence until 1990, but the dispute is not resolved. Negotiations are currently underway under the auspices of the Organization of American States
Organization of American States
The Organization of American States is a regional international organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States...

 and the Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 to conclude it.

Natural disasters

Guatemala's location between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean makes it a target for hurricanes, such as Hurricane Mitch
Hurricane Mitch
Hurricane Mitch was the most powerful hurricane and the most destructive of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season, with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph . The storm was the thirteenth tropical storm, ninth hurricane, and third major hurricane of the season. Along with Hurricane Georges, Mitch...

 in 1998 and Hurricane Stan
Hurricane Stan
Hurricane Stan was the eighteenth named tropical storm and eleventh hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. It was also the sixth of seven tropical cyclones to make landfall in Mexico. Stan was a relatively weak storm that only briefly reached hurricane status...

 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
Mudflow
A mudslide is the most rapid and fluid type of downhill mass wasting. It is a rapid movement of a large mass of mud formed from loose soil and water. Similar terms are mudflow, mud stream, debris flow A mudslide is the most rapid (up to 80 km/h, or 50 mph) and fluid type of downhill mass...

. The most recent was Tropical Storm Agatha
Tropical Storm Agatha (2010)
Tropical Storm Agatha was a weak, but catastrophic tropical cyclone that brought widespread floods to much of Central America and was the deadliest tropical cyclone in the eastern Pacific since Hurricane Pauline in 1997. The first storm of the 2010 Pacific hurricane season, Agatha originated from...

 in late May 2010 that killed more than 200.
Guatemala's highlands lie along the Motagua Fault
Motagua Fault
The Motagua Fault is a major, active left lateral-moving transform fault which cuts across Guatemala. It forms part of the tectonic boundary between the North American Plate and the Caribbean Plate...

, part of the boundary between the Caribbean
Caribbean Plate
The Caribbean Plate is a mostly oceanic tectonic plate underlying Central America and the Caribbean Sea off the north coast of South America....

 and North American
North American Plate
The North American Plate is a tectonic plate covering most of North America, Greenland, Cuba, Bahamas, and parts of Siberia, Japan and Iceland. It extends eastward to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and westward to the Chersky Range in eastern Siberia. The plate includes both continental and oceanic crust...

 tectonic plates
Tectonic Plates
Tectonic Plates is a 1992 independent Canadian film directed by Peter Mettler. Mettler also wrote the screenplay based on the play by Robert Lepage. The film stars Marie Gignac, Céline Bonnier and Robert Lepage.-Plot summary:...

. 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
Middle America Trench
The Middle America Trench is a major subduction zone, an oceanic trench in the eastern Pacific Ocean off the southwestern coast of Middle America, stretching from central Mexico to Costa Rica...

, a major subduction zone lies off the Pacific coast. Here, the Cocos Plate
Cocos Plate
The Cocos Plate is an oceanic tectonic plate beneath the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Central America, named for Cocos Island, which rides upon it.-Geology:...

 is sinking beneath the Caribbean Plate, producing volcanic activity inland of the coast. Guatemala has 37 volcanoes, four of them are active: Pacaya
Pacaya
Pacaya is an active complex volcano in Guatemala, which first erupted approximately 23,000 years ago and has erupted at least 23 times since the Spanish conquest of Guatemala. Pacaya rises to an elevation of . After being dormant for a century, it erupted violently in 1965 and has been...

, Santiaguito, Fuego
Volcán de Fuego
Volcán de Fuego is an active stratovolcano in Guatemala. It is close to the city of Antigua Guatemala. It has erupted frequently since the Spanish conquest. "Fuego" is famous for being almost constantly active at a low level. Smoke issues from its top daily, but larger eruptions are rare. On...

 and Tacaná
Tacaná
Tacaná is a municipality in the Guatemalan department of San Marcos....

. Fuego and Pacaya erupted in 2010.

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.

Volcano 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 are 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. Tikal
Tikal
Tikal is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centres of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. It is located in the archaeological region of the Petén Basin in what is now northern Guatemala...

 National Park was the first mixed UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

. Guatemala is a country of distinct fauna
Fauna
Fauna or faunæ is all of the animal life of any particular region or time. The corresponding term for plants is flora.Zoologists and paleontologists use fauna to refer to a typical collection of animals found in a specific time or place, e.g. the "Sonoran Desert fauna" or the "Burgess shale 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.

In the department of Petén
Petén (department)
Petén is a department of the nation of Guatemala. It is geographically the northernmost department of Guatemala, as well as the largest in size — at it accounts for about one third of Guatemala's area. The capital is Flores...

 lies the Maya Biosphere Reserve
Maya Biosphere Reserve
The Maya Biosphere Reserve is a nature reserve in Guatemala managed by Guatemala's National Council of Protected Areas...

 of 2,112,940 ha, making it the second largest forest in Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

 after Bosawas.

Demographics

According to the CIA World Fact Book, Guatemala has a population of 12,728,111 (2007 est). About 59% of the population is Ladino
Ladino people
Ladino is a Spanish term used to describe various socio-ethnic categories in Latin America, principally in Central America.The term Ladino is derived from "latino" and usually refers to the mestizo or hispanicized population...

, also called Mestizo
Mestizo
Mestizo is a term traditionally used in Latin America, Philippines and Spain for people of mixed European and Native American heritage or descent...

 and European (mixed Amerindian
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 and Spanish
Spanish people
The Spanish are citizens of the Kingdom of Spain. Within Spain, there are also a number of vigorous nationalisms and regionalisms, reflecting the country's complex history....

). Whites
White people
White people is a term which usually refers to human beings characterized, at least in part, by the light pigmentation of their skin...

 are a noticeably much smaller community (>1%), primarily of Spanish, but also those of Italian
Italian people
The Italian people are an ethnic group that share a common Italian culture, ancestry and speak the Italian language as a mother tongue. Within Italy, Italians are defined by citizenship, regardless of ancestry or country of residence , and are distinguished from people...

, German
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

, British
British people
The British are citizens of the United Kingdom, of the Isle of Man, any of the Channel Islands, or of any of the British overseas territories, and their descendants...

 and Scandinavian
Scandinavians
Scandinavians are a group of Germanic peoples, inhabiting Scandinavia and to a lesser extent countries associated with Scandinavia, and speaking Scandinavian languages. The group includes Danes, Norwegians and Swedes, and additionally the descendants of Scandinavian settlers such as the Icelandic...

 descent. Amerindian populations include the K'iche' 9.1%, Kaqchikel 8.4%, Mam
Mam people
The Mam are a Native American people in the western highlands of Guatemala and in south-western Mexico.Most Mam live in Guatemala, in the departments of Huehuetenango, San Marcos, and Quetzaltenango...

 7.9% and Q'eqchi
Q'eqchi' people
Q'eqchi are one of the Maya peoples in Guatemala and Belize, whose indigenous language is also called Q'eqchi'....

 6.3%. 8.6% of the population is "other Mayan
Maya peoples
The Maya people constitute a diverse range of the Native American people of southern Mexico and northern Central America. The overarching term "Maya" is a collective designation to include the peoples of the region who share some degree of cultural and linguistic heritage; however, the term...

," 0.4% is indigenous non-Mayan, making the indigenous community in Guatemala about 40.5% of the population.

There are smaller communities present. The Garífuna
Garifuna
The Garinagu are descendants of Carib, Arawak and West African people. The British colonial administration used the term Black Carib and Garinagu to distinguish them from Yellow and Red Carib, the Amerindian population that did not intermarry with Africans...

, who are descended primarily from Black Africans
Black people
The term black people is used in systems of racial classification for humans of a dark skinned phenotype, relative to other racial groups.Different societies apply different criteria regarding who is classified as "black", and often social variables such as class, socio-economic status also plays a...

 who lived with and intermarried with indigenous peoples from St. Vincent's, live mainly in Livingston and Puerto Barrios
Puerto Barrios
Puerto Barrios is a city in Guatemala, located within the Gulf of Honduras at. The bay in which the harbour is located is called Bahia de Amatique. Puerto Barrios is the departmental seat of Izabal department and the administrative seat of Puerto Barrios municipality.Puerto Barrios was named after...

. Those communities have other blacks
Afro-Guatemalan
Afro-Guatemalan are Guatemalans of African descent. Afro-Guatemalans comprise 1-2% of the population. They are of mainly English speaking West Indian and Garifuna population. They are found in the Caribbean coast, in Livingston , Puerto Barrios and Santa Tomas...

 and mulatto
Mulatto
Mulatto denotes a person with one white parent and one black parent, or more broadly, a person of mixed black and white ancestry. Contemporary usage of the term varies greatly, and the broader sense of the term makes its application rather subjective, as not all people of mixed white and black...

s descended from banana workers. There are also Asians
Asian people
Asian people or Asiatic people is a term with multiple meanings that refers to people who descend from a portion of Asia's population.- Central Asia :...

, mostly of Chinese
Han Chinese
Han Chinese are an ethnic group native to China and are the largest single ethnic group in the world.Han Chinese constitute about 92% of the population of the People's Republic of China , 98% of the population of the Republic of China , 78% of the population of Singapore, and about 20% of the...

 descent.Other Asian groups include Arabs of Lebanese
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 and Syrian
Demographics of Syria
Syrians today are an overall indigenous Levantine people. While modern-day Syrians are commonly described as Arabs by virtue of their modern-day language and bonds to Arab culture and history...

 descent. There is also a growing Korean community in Guatemala City and in nearby Mixco
Mixco
Mixco is a municipality in the Guatemala department of Guatemala.Located next to the main Guatemala City municipality, over time it has become part of the Guatemala City Metropolitan Area. Most of Mixco is separated from the city by canyons, for which a multitude of bridges have been created. ...

, currently numbering about 10,000. Guatemala's German population is credited with bringing the tradition of a Christmas tree to the country.

In 1900, Guatemala had a population of 885,000. 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 emigration to the U.S. has led to the growth of Guatemalan communities in California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Texas, Rhode Island and elsewhere since the 1970s.

Diaspora

The Civil War forced many Guatemalans to start lives outside of their country. The majority of the Guatemalan diaspora
Diaspora
A diaspora is "the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from an established or ancestral homeland" or "people dispersed by whatever cause to more than one location", or "people settled far from their ancestral homelands".The word has come to refer to historical mass-dispersions of...

 is located in the United States, with estimates ranging from 480,665 to 1,489,426. The difficulty in getting accurate counts for Guatemalans abroad is because many of them are refugee
Refugee
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

 claimants awaiting determination of their status. Below are estimates for certain countries:
Country Count
 United States USA 480,665 – 1,489,426
 Mexico Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

23,529 – 190,000
 Belize Belize
Belize
Belize is a constitutional monarchy and the northernmost country in Central America. Belize has a diverse society, comprising many cultures and languages. Even though Kriol and Spanish are spoken among the population, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official...

14,693
 Canada Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

14,256 – 34,665
 Germany Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

5,989
 Honduras Honduras
Honduras
Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was previously known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize...

5,172
 El Salvador El Salvador
El Salvador
El Salvador or simply Salvador is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country's capital city and largest city is San Salvador; Santa Ana and San Miguel are also important cultural and commercial centers in the country and in all of Central America...

4,209
 Spain Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

2,491 – 5,000

Economy

According to the CIA World Factbook, Guatemala's GDP (PPP) per capita is US$
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

5,000; however, this developing country
Developing country
A developing country, also known as a less-developed country, is a nation with a low level of material well-being. Since no single definition of the term developing country is recognized internationally, the levels of development may vary widely within so-called developing countries...

 still 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
Poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

 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
Poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

.

Remittances from Guatemalans who fled to the United States during the civil war now constitute the largest single source of foreign income (more than the combined value of exports and tourism).

In recent years the exporter sector of nontraditional products has grown dynamically representing more than 53 percent of global exports. Some of the main products for export are fruits, vegetables, flowers, handicrafts, cloths and others.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in purchasing power parity
Purchasing power parity
In economics, purchasing power parity is a condition between countries where an amount of money has the same purchasing power in different countries. The prices of the goods between the countries would only reflect the exchange rates...

 (PPP) in 2006 was estimated at $61.38 billion USD. The service sector is the largest component of GDP at 58.7%, followed by the agriculture sector at 22.1% (2006 est.). The industrial sector represents only 19.1% of GDP (2006 est.). Mines produce gold, silver, zinc, cobalt and nickel. The agricultural sector accounts for about one-fourth of GDP, 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 5.7% in 2006.

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)
Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement
The Dominican Republic – Central America Free Trade Agreement, commonly called DR-CAFTA, is a free trade agreement . Originally, the agreement encompassed the United States and the Central American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and was called CAFTA...

 between several Central American nations and the United States. Guatemala also has free trade agreements with Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

 and Colombia
Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

.

Culture

Guatemala City
Guatemala City
Guatemala City , is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Guatemala and Central America...

 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 Marroquín
Universidad Francisco Marroquín
Universidad Francisco Marroquín is a private, secular, university in Guatemala City, Guatemala. According to the school's website, "the mission of Universidad Francisco Marroquín is to teach and disseminate the ethical, legal and economic principles of a sociey of free and responsible persons."...

 campus. Almost each of the 329 municipalities in the country has a small museum.

Art

Guatemala has produced many indigenous artists who follow centuries-old 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 Plásticas "Rafael Rodríguez Padilla"
Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas "Rafael Rodríguez Padilla"
The Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas "Rafael Rodríguez Padilla" is an art school in Guatemala City, that was founded as Academia de Bellas Artes in 1920...

 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 Vásquez, Luis Rolando Ixquiac Xicara
Luis Rolando Ixquiac Xicara
Luis Rolando Ixquiac Xicará is an indigenous artist born in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. He studied at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas in Guatemala, and continued his studies in Paris, France....

, Carlos Mérida
Carlos Merida
Carlos Mérida was a Guatemalan artist.-Early life:Mérida was born in Guatemala City to a family from Quetzaltenango, boasting a Maya and Zapotec heritage which was often an inspiration in his art. He began studying music but became hearing-impaired due to illness. He then changed to the visual arts...

, Aníbal López
Aníbal López
Aníbal López , full name Juarez Aníbal Asdrubal López, is an artist and a native of Guatemala. He began his career creating figurative art influenced by expressionism. He has worked in several media, including acrylic and oil on canvas, photography, and video...

, Roberto González Goyri
Roberto González Goyri
Roberto González Goyri was a Guatemalan painter, sculptor and muralist. His work was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, among other venues...

, and Elmar René Rojas.

Literature

The Guatemala National Prize in Literature
Guatemala National Prize in Literature
The Miguel Ángel Asturias National Prize in Literature is the most important literary award in Guatemala...

 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 Ángel Asturias
Miguel Ángel Asturias
Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales was a Nobel Prize–winning Guatemalan poet, novelist, playwright, journalist and diplomat...

 won the literature Nobel Prize in 1967. Among his famous books is El Señor Presidente
El Señor Presidente
' is a 1946 novel written in Spanish by Nobel Prize–winning Guatemalan writer and diplomat Miguel Ángel Asturias . A landmark text in Latin American literature, explores the nature of political dictatorship and its effects on society. Asturias makes early use of a literary technique now known...

, a novel based on the government of Manuel Estrada Cabrera
Manuel Estrada Cabrera
Manuel José Estrada Cabrera was President of Guatemala from 8 February 1898 to 15 April 1920.Manuel Estrada forcibly took the presidency after the assassination of José María Reina. The Guatemalan cabinet called an emergency meeting to appoint a new successor, but declined to invite the General...

.

Rigoberta Menchu
Rigoberta Menchú
Rigoberta Menchú Tum is an indigenous Guatemalan, of the K'iche' ethnic group. Menchú has dedicated her life to publicizing the plight of Guatemala's indigenous peoples during and after the Guatemalan Civil War , and to promoting indigenous rights in the country...

, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting oppression of indigenous people in Guatemala, is famous for her books I, Rigoberta Menchu and Crossing Borders.

Music

The Music of Guatemala
Music of Guatemala
The music of Guatemala is diverse. Music is played all over the country, even in the remotest corners. Towns also have wind and percussion bands -week processions, as well as on other occasions. The Garifuna people of Afro-Caribbean descent, who are spread thinly on the northeastern Caribbean...

 comprises a number of styles and expressions. Guatemalan social change has been empowered by music scenes such as Nueva cancion
Nueva canción
Nueva canción is a movement and genre within Latin American and Iberian music of folk music, folk-inspired music and socially committed music...

, which blend together histories, present day issues, and political values and struggles of common people. The Maya
Maya civilization
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

 had an intense musical practice, as is documented by iconography
Iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

. 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
Marimba
The marimba is a musical instrument in the percussion family. It consists of a set of wooden keys or bars with resonators. The bars are struck with mallets to produce musical tones. The keys are arranged as those of a piano, with the accidentals raised vertically and overlapping the natural keys ...

 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
Music of Guatemala
The music of Guatemala is diverse. Music is played all over the country, even in the remotest corners. Towns also have wind and percussion bands -week processions, as well as on other occasions. The Garifuna people of Afro-Caribbean descent, who are spread thinly on the northeastern Caribbean...

, in which every style is present, from the Maya, colonial period, independent and republican eras to current times. There are many contemporary music groups in Guatemala from Caribbean music
Caribbean music
The music of the Caribbean is a diverse grouping of musical genres. They are each syntheses of African, European, Indian and native influences, largely created by descendants of African slaves...

, salsa
Salsa music
Salsa music is a genre of music, generally defined as a modern style of playing Cuban Son, Son Montuno, and Guaracha with touches from other genres of music...

, punta
Punta
Punta is a Garifuna music and dance style performed at celebrations and festive occasions. Contemporary punta, including Belizean punta rock, arose in the last thirty years of the twentieth century in Belize, Honduras and Guatemala. It also has a following in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Southern Mexico...

 (Garifuna
Garifuna music
Garifuna music is quite different from the music of the rest of Central America. The most famous form is punta. Its associated musical style, which has the dancers move their hips from right to left in a circular motion...

 influenced), Latin pop
Latin pop
Latin pop generally refers to pop music that has what may be perceived a Latin American influence...

, Mexican regional
Music of Mexico
The music of Mexico is very diverse and features a wide range of different musical styles. It has been influenced by a variety of cultures, most notably indigenous Mexican and European, since the Late Middle Ages...

, and mariachi
Mariachi
Mariachi is a genre of music that originated in the State of Jalisco, in Mexico. It is an integration of stringed instruments highly influenced by the cultural impacts of the historical development of Western Mexico. Throughout the history of mariachi, musicians have experimented with brass, wind,...

. There is also a vibrant scene for what is known in the Hispanic world as rock en Español
Rock en Español
Rock en español is the Spanish-language rock music. While the term is used widely in English, it is used in Spanish mainly to distinguish such music from "Anglo rock." It is a style of rock music that developed in Latin American countries and Latino communities, along with other genres like...

 (Rock in Spanish).

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
Mayan languages
The Mayan languages form a language family spoken in Mesoamerica and northern Central America. Mayan languages are spoken by at least 6 million indigenous Maya, primarily in Guatemala, Mexico, Belize and Honduras...

 are spoken, especially in rural areas, as well two non-Mayan Amerindian dialects, Xinca
Xinca language
The Xinca language is a Mesoamerican language spoken by the indigenous Xinca people from communities in the southern portion of Guatemala, near its border with El Salvador and in the mountainous region to the north...

, an indigenous dialect, and Garifuna
Garifuna language
Garifuna is an Arawakan language spoken in Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize by the Garifuna people. The language is also spoken to a lesser extent in Nicaragua's Mosquito Coast. Historically it was referred to as Carib or Black Carib and Igñeri by Europeans. Garifuna has a vocabulary split between...

, an Arawakan dialect spoken on the Caribbean coast. According to Decreto Número 19-2003, twenty-three dialects are unrecognized as National Languages.

As a first and second language, Spanish is spoken by 93% of the population.
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

In Guatemala 50–60% of the population is Catholic, 40% Protestant
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

, 3% Eastern Orthodox and 1% follow the indigenous Mayan
Maya civilization
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

 faith. Catholicism was the official religion during the colonial era. However, Protestantism has increased markedly in recent decades. More than one third of Guatemalans are Protestant, chiefly Evangelicals
Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

 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 a phenomenon known as inculturation
Inculturation
Inculturation is a term used in Christianity, especially in the Roman Catholic Church, referring to the adaptation of the way Church teachings are presented to non-Christian cultures, and to the influence of those cultures on the evolution of these teachings....

.
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 that traditional ceremonies may be performed there.

There are also small communities of Jews estimated between 1200 and 2000, Muslims
Islam in Guatemala
The Muslim population of Guatemala is approximately 1,200. Of this population, 95% are Palestinian Arab immigrants. There is a mosque in the outskirts of Guatemala City called the Islamic Da'wah Mosque of Guatemala which is available for the five daily prayers and offers classes in Islamic...

 (1200), Buddhists
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 at around 9000 to 12000, 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. 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 Temple was dedicated in 1984, membership had risen to 40,000. By 1998 membership had quadrupled again to 164,000. The LDS Church continues to grow in Guatemala; it has announced and begun the construction of the Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple
Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple
The Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple is the second temple to be built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Guatemala. When completed, the temple will be the fifth temple of the church in Central America. Construction of the temple was announced by church president Gordon B...

, the LDS Church's second temple in the country.

Recently, it was announced that 520,000 members of the Orthodox Catholic Church of Guatemala (OCCG) were received into communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The OCCG has an approximate membership of 527,000 faithful and catechumens, overwhelmingly indigenous, with 334 churches in Guatemala and southern Mexico, with 12 (formerly OCCG) clergymen and 14 seminarians, who are assisted in their pastoral ministry by 250 lay ministers and 380 catechists. The administrative offices of the OCCG are located on 280 acre (113 ha) of land, with a community college and 2 schools with 12 professors / teachers. Additionally, the OCCG has an established monastery located on 480 acre (194 ha) of land. Fourteen students from Guatemala, with full scholarship, are now enrolled in the St. Gregory Nazianzen Orthodox Theological Institute Licentiate degree program. The seminary is fully accredited by the Holy Metropolis’ Department of Education.

Education

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
Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala
The Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala It is the biggest and oldest university of Guatemala, also it is the fourth founded in the Americas....

), and nine private ones (see List of universities in Guatemala). USAC was one of the first universities in America. It was officially declared a university on January 31, 1676 by royal command of King Charles II of Spain. Only 69.1% 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.
Schools such as Saint Joseph's College of Maine travel to villages such as Nueva de Concepcion to teach English and construct clinics in the village.

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 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 levels—those who speak Spanish—and 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.

Laureates

Rigoberta Menchú
Rigoberta Menchú
Rigoberta Menchú Tum is an indigenous Guatemalan, of the K'iche' ethnic group. Menchú has dedicated her life to publicizing the plight of Guatemala's indigenous peoples during and after the Guatemalan Civil War , and to promoting indigenous rights in the country...

 won the Nobel Peace prize in 1992 for her very important work in favor of the Mayan people, and the Mayan refugees in Mexico and the US. Miguel Ángel Asturias
Miguel Ángel Asturias
Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales was a Nobel Prize–winning Guatemalan poet, novelist, playwright, journalist and diplomat...

 won the Nobel prize in Literature in 1967 for his novel El Señor Presidente
El Señor Presidente
' is a 1946 novel written in Spanish by Nobel Prize–winning Guatemalan writer and diplomat Miguel Ángel Asturias . A landmark text in Latin American literature, explores the nature of political dictatorship and its effects on society. Asturias makes early use of a literary technique now known...

, which was controversial during Guatemala's civil war. Such novel portrayed the horrors endured by Guatemalans during their military-controlled governments.

Journalism

In Guatemala there are six national newspapers, five national television channels, two news programs, and many local radio news programs. Among the most known news programs in radio there are Patrullaje Informativo, Radio Sonora and radio periódico "El Independiente" from Nuevo Mundo Radio. The newspapers are: Siglo.21, Prensa Libre, Al Día, La Hora, and Nuestro Diario.
The news programs on TV are Noti7, Telecentro Trece and Noticiero Guatevision

See also



External links

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