Guatemala is located to the southeast of Mexico and to the Northwest of the rest of Central America, on the thin sliver of land that joins the continental masses and separates the Pacific from the Atlantic Ocean.
Its topography produces a variety of microclimates. The majority of Guatemalans live in the valleys of the mountainous region in the central highlands where the climate is cool. That region, and its beautiful lakes and stunning volcanoes identify Guatemala to the world.
In this small country of only 108,889 square kilometers, the Maya civilization flourished at the beginning of the first century. In 1821 Guatemala and Central America declared its independence from Spain. Since 1985 Guatemala has been involved in the search for peace and democracy.
The greater part of the Guatemalan population is composed of 21 Maya groups, and other ethnic population such as Xinca, Kaqchiquel, Mam, Keqchí y Kííche. The mestizos or ladinos are the product of blending indigenous people and Europeans. These make up about one half of the population. Added to these are the Garifunas of Afro-Caribbean origin and some Europeans.
Although the official language is Spanish, each ethnic group and the Garífunas speak their own language.
Freedom of worship is guaranteed by the Guatemalan constitution.
The country is principally Catholic although many protestant denominations can be found. Maya rituals and customs continue to be seen in some rural communities.
GNP: US$56.53 billions
GNP per capita: US$4,100
Main Products: Coffee, bananas, cardamom and textile industry.
Mayor trading partners: United States, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Mexico, Germany, Japan, Venezuela
Visas: Visa regulations changed in 1996 and citizens of nearly all countries no longer require a visa or tourist card to visit the country. Depending on the country of origin the length of stay varies between 60 and 90 days. Citizens of some countries still require a visa or tourist card and it is recommended to contact the the Guatemalan Consulate in your country.
Currency: Quetzal (aprox. Q8.00 for 1 US$)
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The Republic of Guatemala in Central America has a very special location since it is the geographic center of the American Continent. Politically it is divided into 22 departments.
Its neighbors are: to the north and west, Mexico; to the southeast, El Salvador and Honduras; to the northeast, Belize and the Caribbean; and to the south, the Pacific Ocean.
The 108,889 square kilometers (67,674 square miles) of Guatemalan territory shows a surprising variety of geographic characteristics. Nearly two thirds of the country is mountainous and volcanic. Parallel to, but some distance from the Pacific the Sierra Madre rises up to 12,000 feet above sea level.
The Guatemalan landscape is dominated by thirty seven volcanoes, which blend with exuberant tropical forests to the north and fertile valleys to the east and south. Guatemala’s beautiful lakes and rivers make it a country of natural contrasts.
Guatemala is located in the tropics, although its different regions have variable climates depending on elevation above sea level they go from hot, warm, average to cold. There are two main seasons, the rainy season from May to October and the dry season from November to April. The average temperature is 75 deg. F (27 deg. C).
Among the factors that contribute to Guatemala’s particular beauty are the marvelous colors and patterns of the Maya textiles. The illustrations on these textiles range from flowers to depiction of daily and religious life.
The various styles and designs cover blouses or “huipiles”, skirts, trousers, and bands worn wrapped around the head, tablecloths and many other forms of weaving.
Each ethnic group or town has its own dress that is woven by the women following ancestral traditions which merge a chromatic symbolism representing their history, their ancient deities and the environment.
Names like Miguel Angel Asturias, Nobel Literature Prize winner and Rigoberta Menchú, Nobel Peace Prize winner add to Guatemala’s international fame.
Additionally the country has other great examples of art forms. The ‘Marimba’ is the national instrument by excellence, built of extremely hard woods with keys that produce an extraordinarily mellow sound. It looks like a huge xylophone.
The ancient forms of ‘Marimba’ had resonance chambers made of gourds. A modern ‘Marimba’ requires up to nine players.
Guatemala’s symbol bird is the extraordinarily beautiful Quetzal, which dies if placed in captivity and therefore represents our country’s liberty.
Area: 108,890 sq.kms
Population: 13.9 million (yearly growth rate: 2.5%)
Capital: Guatemala (Population 2 million)
People: 55% descendants of the spaniards, 43% descendants of the mayas, 2% Europeans.
Religion: Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Union of Maya and Catholic.
President: Otto Perez