|Guatemala||Introduction||Back to Top|
Guatemala, republic of Central America, bounded on the west and north by Mexico, on the east by Belize and the Gulf of Honduras (an arm of the Caribbean Sea), on the south-east by Honduras and El Salvador, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. The country has a total area of 108,889 sq km (42,042 sq mi). The capital is Guatemala City.Official Name- Republic of Guatemala
|Guatemala||Provinces||Back to Top|
22 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Chimaltenango, Chiquimula, El Progreso, Escuintla, Guatemala, Huehuetenango, Izabal, Jalapa, Jutiapa, Peten, Quetzaltenango, Quiche, Retalhuleu, Sacatepequez, San Marcos, Santa Rosa, Solola, Suchitepequez, Totonicapan, Zacapa
|Guatemala||People||Back to Top|
Guatemala’s population, the largest of any Central American country, is 12,974,361 (2001 estimate). It is almost evenly divided between Native Americans and ladinos, but also includes small groups descended from African and European immigrants. Within the population are widely varied ways of life, differing between ladinos and indigenous people, between urban and rural residents, between the more affluent and the very poor.
On the basis of cultural traits, the population is divided into two main ethnic groups—Ladinos and Amerindians. The Ladinos comprise those of mixed Hispanic-Amerindian origin in addition to those Amerindians who have adopted Western ways of life. While Amerindians account for some 45 percent of the nation's total population, they make up 75 percent of the population in the western highland provinces. The Ladinos are the more commercially and politically influential group, and they make up most of the urban population. Most of the small number of blacks, called Black Caribs, inhabit the Caribbean lowlands.
|Guatemala||History||Back to Top|
Maya civilization arose in the highlands of Guatemala centuries before the birth of Christ, forming thriving city-states and a trading network that stretched over a wide area. Many Maya leaders and people later migrated northward, into the Petén and Yucatán regions, where the civilization developed during the Classic period, between ad 300 and 900. During this period the Maya built impressive ceremonial cities at Tikal, Uaxactún, Quiriguá, Mirador, and at many other sites in northern Guatemala, as well as in Honduras and Mexico. These sites featured large temple pyramids and plazas, richly decorated with sculpture and carving. The Maya also developed sophisticated scientific knowledge, a complex calendar, and a hieroglyphic writing system.
After the collapse of Classic Maya civilization about ad 900, the Maya established new cities further north in the Yucatán Peninsula, which was the center of the Maya world during the Post-Classic period (ad 900 to 1521). Those Maya who remained in the Guatemalan highlands never achieved the scientific or architectural magnificence of the Classic or Post-Classic city-states, but their civilization survived longer. When the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century, several populous nations of Maya descent, notably the Quiché, the Cakchiquel, and the Zutujil, occupied the Guatemalan highlands.
After Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés conquered the Aztec Empire in Mexico in 1519, he sent his lieutenant, Pedro de Alvarado, to invade Guatemala in 1524. Alvarado led a small Spanish force and thousands of indigenous Mexican allies. Alvarado found the native Guatemalans engaged in civil war and already suffering from diseases introduced by Europeans, which were spreading over the Americas even more rapidly than Spain’s armies. He formed an alliance with the Cakchiquels to defeat the Quiché. Alvarado then faced a four-year rebellion of the Cakchiquels, which he suppressed by 1528, and established Spanish rule over the region.
|Guatemala||Culture||Back to Top|
The nation's society is marked by pronounced extremes in the conduct of daily life. In the capital city families live much as they do in the cosmopolitan centres of Europe, whereas within an hour's drive of the capital are Indians whose patterns of daily life remain those of past centuries. The pattern of culture is characterized by sharp contrasts, whether it be in the language spoken or in matters pertaining to the household, cuisine, attire, or family affairs.
The contrast between the modern ways of Guatemala City, the center of Guatemalan cultural activity, and the traditional customs and crafts of the Maya peoples gives Guatemala a colorful and dynamic culture. Spanish colonists gave Guatemala its official language and many architectural and art treasures. Magnificent buildings of the colonial period remain at Antigua Guatemala, the colonial capital, located about 40 km (about 25 mi) from Guatemala City. Contemporary crafts such as weaving, jewelry making, and ceramics combine indigenous design and color patterns with Spanish technical skills. Throughout Guatemala, the marimba remains the typical Guatemalan musical medium, although it is often challenged now by Mexican ranchera music and North American rock.
The nation's populace is increasingly exposed to the intrusion of foreign influences upon their way of life. All aspects of communication—periodical news, the comics, soap operas, film—are primarily of foreign origin. A multitude of products, from soaps and boxed cereals to automobiles and bottled drinks, bear foreign brand names.
|Guatemala||Life||Back to Top|
There is great variety in Guatemalan lifestyles, marked by differences between ladino and Maya ways and between urban and rural areas. In the capital, European culture and fashions have long been dominant. More recently North American styles—in cinema, music, politics, business, even fast-food franchises—have become a powerful influence that has diminished traditional Spanish customs. In urban areas, the ladino culture is a mixture of indigenous and Spanish traditions. Ladinos often blend the clothing and musical styles of the two cultures, and eat dishes from both groups: wheat bread and processed foods on one hand, traditional corn tortillas and rice and beans on the other.
|Guatemala||Land||Back to Top|
The surface of Guatemala is dominated by four major features. In the south is a landscape of volcanic origin that extends for a distance of 180 miles (290 kilometres) between neighbouring Mexico and El Salvador. It is bordered on its seaward margin by the Pacific Ocean. The Petén departamento, a large, somewhat rectangular area, juts northward to occupy a portion of the Yucatán Peninsula, a limestone platform shared with Mexico and Belize. Sandwiched between the volcanic landscape and the Petén are the high ranges and valleys of the sierras of northern Central America. These arc gently eastward from Mexico for a distance of 210 miles, extending into northern Honduras and continuing on beneath the surface of the Caribbean.
|Guatemala||Plants and Animal||Back to Top|
Deer, monkeys, and piglike mammals called peccaries are common in the sparsely populated lowlands. Other wild animals—including jaguar, tapir, and puma—are found in smaller numbers, and crocodiles inhabit some rivers. Bird life is extremely rich, but the brightly colored quetzal, Guatemala’s national bird, is rare. The government has established several national parks and recreational areas to preserve plant and animal life. Among these are Mario Dary Rivera Park in the Baja Verapaz, dedicated to preservation of the quetzal, and the Chocón Machacas reservation near Livingston, on the Caribbean coast, designated for the preservation of the manatee and the mangroves. Efforts are also being made to save the elusive waterfowl known as the Atitlán grebe, which lives on Lake Atitlán.
|Guatemala||Economy||Back to Top|
Guatemala has had a strong traditional, subsistence economy since before the Spanish conquest in the early 1500s, producing corn, beans, chocolate, cotton, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. To these indigenous products, the Spaniards added wheat, sugar, livestock, and European fruits and vegetables. Guatemala exported small quantities of cacao, sugar, cotton, and other crops early in the colonial period, but in the 18th century the Spanish government put greater emphasis on exports. Since then, Guatemala has steadily increased its dependence on foreign markets. In the 19th century, first cochineal dye derived from insects and then coffee became the principal Guatemalan export. Coffee revenues paid for early development of the country’s cities, roads, and other facilities, and the elite class of coffee planters became powerful in government and the military. In the early 20th century bananas became an important secondary export, and large foreign-owned banana companies contributed greatly to the nation’s network of railroads, ports, and communications systems.
Guatemala is a developing country largely dependent upon traditional commercial crops as the basis of its market economy. Vigorous economic growth during the 1960s and '70s was followed by a severe economic downturn during the '80s. The government has attempted to revitalize the economy by fostering the diversification and expansion of nontraditional exports, and free trade zones have been established to encourage the expansion and decentralization of manufacturing. The collection of personal income taxes has improved significantly; the government, however, continues to rely upon revenue from other tax sources, such as customs duties, sales taxes, and excises on liquor and tobacco.
The agricultural sector accounts for about one-fourth of GDP, two-thirds of exports, and half of the labor force. Coffee, sugar, and bananas are the main products. Former President ARZU (1996-2000) worked to implement a program of economic liberalization and political modernization. The 1996 signing of the peace accords, which ended 36 years of civil war, removed a major obstacle to foreign investment. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch caused relatively little damage to Guatemala compared to its neighbors. Ongoing challenges include increasing government revenues, negotiating further assistance from international donors, and increasing the efficiency and openness of both government and private financial operations. Despite low international prices for Guatemala's main commodities, the economy grew by 3% in 2000 and is forecast to grow by 4% in 2001. Guatemala, along with Honduras and El Salvador, recently concluded a free trade agreement with Mexico and has moved to protect international property rights. However, the PORTILLO administration has undertaken a review of privatizations under the previous administration, thereby creating some uncertainty among investors.
|Guatemala||Communications||Back to Top|
general assessment: fairly modern network centered in the city of Guatemala domestic: NA international: connected to Central American Microwave System; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)
|Guatemala||Languages||Back to Top|
Spanish is the official language of Guatemala and the primary language of 60 percent of the population. For the rest of the population, the primary language is one of the more than 20 Mayan languages, including Cakchiquel, Quiché, and Kekchí. Many Mayan speakers also know Spanish. English is widely understood among the upper class and business people, and there is a significant German-speaking community, descended from Germans who settled in Guatemala in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
|Guatemala||Politics||Back to Top|
Authentic Integral Development or DIA [Jorge Luis ORTEGA]; Democratic Union or UD [Jose Luis CHEA Urruela]; Green Party or LOV [Jose ASTURIAS Rudecke]; Guatemalan Christian Democracy or DCG [Vinicio CEREZO Arevalo]; Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity or URNG [Pablo MONSANTO, also known as Jorge SOTO]; Guatemalan Republican Front or FRG [Efrain RIOS Montt]; New Nation Alliance or ANN [leader NA], which includes the URNG; National Advancement Party or PAN [Leonel LOPEZ Rodas]; Progressive Liberator Party or PLP [Acisclo VALLADARES Molina] Political pressure groups and leaders: Agrarian Owners Group or UNAGRO; Alliance Against Impunity or AAI; Committee for Campesino Unity or CUC; Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial, and Financial Associations or CACIF; Mutual Support Group or GAM
|Guatemala||Government||Back to Top|
Strong executives have characterized Guatemalan government historically, with the military often playing a major role. The country is divided into 22 departments, and departmental chiefs, appointed by the president, traditionally exercised great authority. The 1945 constitution, adopted during a revolutionary period of political and social reform, provided for greater local autonomy, but military domination of the country after 1954 curtailed democracy. The constitution of May 31, 1985 (effective January 14, 1986) provides for a representative democracy with three independent branches: executive, legislative, and judicial, plus an autonomous Supreme Electoral Tribunal. It provides for universal suffrage for all citizens over age 18. Following the unsuccessful attempt of President Jorge Serrano Elías in May 1993 to assume dictatorial powers, several amendments were added to the constitution in 1994.
|Guatemala||Legal||Back to Top|
Legal system: civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal (active duty members of the armed forces may not vote) Executive branch: chief of state: President Alfonso Antonio PORTILLO Cabrera (since 14 January 2000); Vice President Juan Francisco REYES Lopez (since 14 January 2000); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government head of government: President Alfonso Antonio PORTILLO Cabrera (since 14 January 2000); Vice President Juan Francisco REYES Lopez (since 14 January 2000); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government cabinet: Council of Ministers named by the president elections: president elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held 7 November 1999; runoff held 26 December 1999 (next to be held NA November 2003) election results: Alfonso Antonio PORTILLO Cabrera elected president; percent of vote - Alfonso Antonio PORTILLO Cabrera (FRG) 68%, Oscar BERGER Perdomo (PAN) 32% Legislative branch: unicameral Congress of the Republic or Congreso de la Republica (113 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) elections: last held on 7 November 1999 (next to be held in November 2003) election results: percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - FRG 63, PAN 37, ANN 9, DCG 2, UD/LOV 1, PLP 1 note: for the 7 November 1999 election, the number of congressional seats was increased from 80 to 113 Judicial branch: Supreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justicia (thirteen members serve concurrent five-year terms and elect a president of the Court each year from among their number; the president of the Supreme Court of Justice also supervises trial judges around the country, who are named to five-year terms); Constitutional Court or Corte de Constitutcionalidad (five judges are elected for concurrent five-year terms by Congress, each serving one year as president of the Constitutional Court; one is elected by Congress, one elected by the Supreme Court of Justice, one appointed by the President, one elected by Superior Counsel of Universidad San Carlos de Guatemala, and one by Colegio de Abogados)
|Guatemala||organization||Back to Top|
BCIE, CACM, CCC, ECLAC, FAO, G-24, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITU, LAES, LAIA (observer), NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW (signatory), PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO
|Guatemala||Education||Back to Top|
The literacy rate for Guatemalans over the age of 15 stood at 80 percent of the population in 2001 (74 percent of females and 86 percent of males could read), among the lowest rates in Central America. Elementary education is free and compulsory, and 88 percent of school-age children, or 1.5 million pupils, attended primary school in 1997. The enrollment ratio dropped to 26 percent for secondary schools, which had an enrollment of 384,729 students. Enrollment figures are lower in rural areas than in urban areas. Many rural schools only go to third grade, and much of the nation’s education budget is spent in Guatemala City. In addition to public schools, there are also private and church schools, both Catholic and Protestant, among the nation’s 12,409 primary schools.
|Guatemala||Defence||Back to Top|
Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force
Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age
Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 3,092,050 (2001 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service: males age 15-49: 2,018,636 (2001 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually: males: 140,358 (2001 est.)
|Guatemala||International Disputes||Back to Top|
Guatemala periodically asserts claims to territory in southern Belize; to deter cross-border squatting, both states in 2000 agreed to a "line of adjacency" based on the de facto boundary, which is not recognized by Guatemala
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