About Guatemala [ Country ]

Here we've distilled information and facts from various sources about the location, size, population, geography, transport, climate, economy, history, government, law, and so on, of Guatemala; into a view that makes sense for a traveller to, or within, this country.

Location

Central America, bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between El Salvador and Mexico, and bordering the Gulf of Honduras (Caribbean Sea) between Honduras and Belize

Climate

Tropical; hot, humid in lowlands; cooler in highlands

Terrain

Mostly mountains with narrow coastal plains and rolling limestone plateau

Elevation

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Volcan Tajumulco 4,211 m

Geo Notes

No natural harbors on west coast

Approved Official Names

conventional long form: Republic of Guatemala
conventional short form: Guatemala
local long form: Republica de Guatemala
local short form: Guatemala

Capital City

name: Guatemala City
geographic coordinates: 14 37 N, 90 31 W
time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in April; ends last Friday in September; note - there is no DST planned for 2010

Administrative Divisions

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

Natuaral Hazards

Numerous volcanoes in mountains, with occasional violent earthquakes; Caribbean coast extremely susceptible to hurricanes and other tropical storms
volcanism: Guatemala experiences significant volcanic activity in the Sierra Madre range; Santa Maria (elev. 3,772 m, 12,375 ft) has been deemed a "Decade Volcano" by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, worthy of study due to its explosive history and close proximity to human populations; Pacaya (elev. 2,552 m, 8,373 ft), which erupted in May 2010 causing an ashfall on Guatemala City and prompting evacuations, is one of the country's most active volcanoes; the volcano has frequently been in eruption since 1965; other historically active volcanoes include Acatenango, Almolonga, Atitlan, Fuego, and Tacana

Environmental Issues

Deforestation in the Peten rainforest; soil erosion; water pollution

Infectious Diseases

degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2009)

Life Expectancy

total population: 70.59 years
male: 68.76 years
female: 72.51 years (2010 est.)

Sex Ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2010 est.)

Languages Spoken

Spanish (official) 60%, Amerindian languages 40% (23 officially recognized Amerindian languages, including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca)

Religions Practiced

Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Mayan beliefs

Legal System

Civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

National Holiday

Independence Day, 15 September (1821)

Illicit Drugs

Major transit country for cocaine and heroin; in 2005, cultivated 100 hectares of opium poppy after reemerging as a potential source of opium in 2004; potential production of less than 1 metric ton of pure heroin; marijuana cultivation for mostly domestic consumption; proximity to Mexico makes Guatemala a major staging area for drugs (particularly for cocaine); money laundering is a serious problem; corruption is a major problem

Telephone System

general assessment: fairly modern network centered in the city of Guatemala
domestic: state-owned telecommunications company privatized in the late 1990s opening the way for competition; fixed-line teledensity roughly 10 per 100 persons; fixed-line investments are being concentrated on improving rural connectivity; mobile-cellular teledensity exceeds 100 per 100 persons
international: country code - 502; landing point for both the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1) and the SAM-1 fiber optic submarine cable system that together provide connectivity to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; connected to Central American Microwave System; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2008)

Broadcast Media

4 privately-owned national terrestrial TV channels dominate TV broadcasting; multi-channel satellite and cable services are available; 1 government-owned radio station and hundreds of privately-owned radio stations (2007)

Background

The Mayan civilization flourished in Guatemala and surrounding regions during the first millennium A.D. After almost three centuries as a Spanish colony, Guatemala won its independence in 1821. During the second half of the 20th century, it experienced a variety of military and civilian governments, as well as a 36-year guerrilla war. In 1996, the government signed a peace agreement formally ending the conflict, which had left more than 100,000 people dead and had created, by some estimates, some 1 million refugees.

Economy Overview

Guatemala is the most populous of the Central American countries with a GDP per capita roughly one-half that of the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. The agricultural sector accounts for nearly 15% of GDP and half of the labor force; key agricultural exports include coffee, sugar, and bananas. The 1996 peace accords, which ended 36 years of civil war, removed a major obstacle to foreign investment, and since then Guatemala has pursued important reforms and macroeconomic stabilization. The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) entered into force in July 2006 spurring increased investment and diversification of exports, with the largest increases in ethanol and non-traditional agricultural exports. While CAFTA has helped improve the investment climate, concerns over security, the lack of skilled workers and poor infrastructure continue to hamper foreign direct investment. The distribution of income remains highly unequal with the richest decile comprising over 40% of Guatemala's overall consumption. More than half of the population is below the national poverty line and 15% lives in extreme poverty. Poverty among indigenous groups, which make up 38% of the population, averages 76% and extreme poverty rises to 28%. 43% of children under five are chronically malnourished, one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. President COLOM entered into office with the promise to increase education, healthcare, and rural development, and in April 2008 he inaugurated a conditional cash transfer program, modeled after programs in Brazil and Mexico, that provide financial incentives for poor families to keep their children in school and get regular health check-ups. Given Guatemala's large expatriate community in the United States, it is the top remittance recipient in Central America, with inflows serving as a primary source of foreign income equivalent to nearly two-thirds of exports. The economy contracted in 2009 as export demand from US and other Central American markets fell and foreign investment slowed amid the global recession. The economy will likely recover gradually in 2010 and return to more normal growth rates by 2012.

People Trafficking

current situation: Guatemala is a source, transit, and destination country for Guatemalans and Central Americans trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor; human trafficking is a significant and growing problem in the country; Guatemalan women and children are trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation, primarily to Mexico and the United States; Guatemalan men, women, and children are also trafficked within the country, and to Mexico and the United States, for forced labor
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - for a second consecutive year, Guatemala is on the Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking in persons, particularly with respect to ensuring that trafficking offenders are appropriately prosecuted for their crimes; while prosecutors initiated trafficking prosecutions, they continued to face problems in court with application of Guatemala's comprehensive anti-trafficking law; the government made modest improvements to its protection efforts, but assistance remained inadequate overall in 2007 (2008)

National Anthem

name: "Himno Nacional de Guatemala" (National Anthem of Guatemala)
lyrics/music: Jose Joaquin PALMA/Rafael Alvarez OVALLE
note: adopted 1897, modified lyrics adopted 1934; Cuban poet Jose Joaquin PALMA anonymously submitted lyrics to a public contest calling for a national anthem; his authorship was not discovered until 1911

Guatemala location map
Size

total: 108,889 sq km
land: 107,159 sq km
water: 1,730 sq km

Guatemala flag
Population

13,550,440 (July 2010 est.)

Nationality

noun: Guatemalan(s)
adjective: Guatemalan

Ethnic Groups

Mestizo (mixed Amerindian-Spanish - in local Spanish called Ladino) and European 59.4%, K'iche 9.1%, Kaqchikel 8.4%, Mam 7.9%, Q'eqchi 6.3%, other Mayan 8.6%, indigenous non-Mayan 0.2%, other 0.1% (2001 census)

HIV/AIDS Rate

0.8% (2007 est.)

Independence Date

15 September 1821 (from Spain)

Government Type

Constitutional democratic republic

Voting Rights

18 years of age; universal; note - active duty members of the armed forces may not vote and are restricted to their barracks on election day

Internet Users

1.96 million (2008)

Internet Hosts

196,870 (2010)

Internet Country Code

.gt

Refugees & IDPs

IDPs: undetermined (the UN does not estimate there are any IDPs, although some NGOs estimate over 200,000 IDPs as a result of over three decades of internal conflict that ended in 1996) (2007)

Number Airports

372 (2010)

Number Paved Airports

total: 13
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 3 (2010)

Railways

total: 332 km
narrow gauge: 332 km 0.914-m gauge (2008)

Roadways

total: 14,095 km
paved: 4,863 km (includes 75 km of expressways)
unpaved: 9,232 km (2000)

Inland Waterways

990 km
note: 260 km navigable year round; additional 730 km navigable during high-water season (2007)

Ports & Terminals

Puerto Quetzal, Santo Tomas de Castilla

National Budget

revenues: $4.169 billion
expenditures: $5.355 billion (2009 est.)

Account Balance

-$267.4 million (2009 est.)
-$1.844 billion (2008 est.)

Exchange Rates

quetzales (GTQ) per US dollar - 8.1613 (2009), 7.5895 (2008), 7.6833 (2007), 7.6026 (2006), 7.6339 (2005)

Inflation Rate

1.9% (2009 est.)
11.4% (2008 est.)

Main Industries

Sugar, textiles and clothing, furniture, chemicals, petroleum, metals, rubber, tourism

Agricultural Products

Sugarcane, corn, bananas, coffee, beans, cardamom; cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens

Labor Force

4.157 million (2009 est.)

Main Occupations

agriculture: 50%
industry: 15%
services: 35% (1999 est.)

Unemployment Rate

3.2% (2005 est.)

GDP (USD Parity)

$67.78 billion (2009 est.)
$67.37 billion (2008 est.)
$65.22 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars

GDP Per Capita

$5,100 (2009 est.)
$5,200 (2008 est.)
$5,100 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars

Family Income Percent

lowest 10%: 1.3%
highest 10%: 42.4% (2006)

Family Income Gini

55.1 (2007)
55.8 (1998)

Below Poverty

56.2% (2004 est.)