|The territory occupied by current Guatemala was the heart of the Maya empire which dominated the whole area more than a thousand years ago. But way before that, there are traces of human presence dating back to about 18,000 BC! The Mayan civilization and its offsprings are still living in Guatemala (they represent more than 40% of the population!) despite the Spaniards invasion and more recently a brutal civil war. |
area was a Spanish colony from 1519 to 1821 when it declared its
independence. It went through various alliances and federations
before assuming total independence as a republic in 1847. Guatemala
is the Western-most country of Central America, it's where this
sub-continent begins. It is bordered at the West and North by Mexico
and on the East side by Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. It has a
small Atlantic coast and a Pacific coast that makes the length of the
country. The roughly 109 000 sq km area
the country is divided in 22 departments, grouped in 8 regions,
including one for the capital itself. The terrain is pretty rough in
the South part of the country where you can find many mountains and
in more ways than one
country was shook on many occasions not only by natural disasters
(hurricanes, earthquakes, floods) but by many political disturbances
as well. For its first 150 years as a republic, it was the scene of
numerous coups d'etat, was ruled by many dictators, had a revolution
and went through a long terrible civil war from 1960 to 1996 which
claimed the life of many people, especially the Mayas. Since 1996, it
is enjoying democracy and a relative peace.
there are over 15 millions people living in Guatemala, including a
bit more than 2 millions living in the capital of Guatemala City.
Probably due to the civil war and extreme poverty, the Guatemalan
population is extremely young, with
half of the population being under 21 years-old!
Guatemala is truly a poor Third-World country and most of the
population is below the poverty line. Officially, the unemployment
rate is about 5% but the reality is much different.
currency is the Quetzal, from
the name of the national bird, which
roughly trades at 8 Quetzals for a US dollar. The bank notes you see
here come in the amounts of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Quetzals. The
cost of living is usually pretty low in Guatemala. You can get for
example a litre of milk (UHT), a dozen of eggs and a loaf of sliced
bread for about 15 Quetzals (about US$2). But
locals don't consume much of these industrial products... usually
getting their tortillas locally and eat very few bread. The gasoline
is relatively expensive at about Q33 for a gallon... thus a bit less
than Q9 (US$1,10) per litre. Yes, it's still cheaper than Canada and
US... but not by much.
Currency bills of Guatemala