Guatemala is heavily centralized. Transportation, communications, business, politics, and the most relevant urban activity takes place in Guatemala City. 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).
The highlands of Quetzaltenango
Guatemala lies between latitudes 13 and 18 N, and longitudes 88 and 93 W.
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 Pet n 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 Pet n region, north of the mountains. All major cities are located in the highlands and Pacific coast regions; by comparison, Pet n 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. Volc n Tajumulco, 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 drainage basins, which include the Polochic and Dulce Rivers, which drain into Lake Izabal, the Motagua River, the Sarst n that forms the boundary with Belize, and the Usumacinta River, which forms the boundary between Pet n and Chiapas, Mexico.
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 which recognises Queen Elizabeth II as its Head of State. 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 and the Commonwealth of Nations to conclude it.
Guatemala's location between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean makes it a target for hurricanes, such as Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and Hurricane Stan 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. The most recent was Tropical Storm Agatha in late May 2010 that killed more than 200.
A town along the Pan-American Highway and in close proximity to a volcanic crater Guatemala's highlands lie along the Motagua Fault, part of the boundary between the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates. 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, a major subduction zone lies off the Pacific coast. Here, the Cocos Plate is sinking beneath the Caribbean Plate, producing volcanic activity inland of the coast. Guatemala has 37 volcanoes, four of them are active: Pacaya, Santiaguito, Fuego and Tacan . 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.
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 of ash and sand through all of Guatemala City. Cleaning works are done.
Lake Atitl n
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 National Park was the first mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guatemala is a country of distinct 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 Pet n lies the Maya Biosphere Reserve of 2,112,940 ha, making it the second largest forest in Central America after Bosawas.
Tz'utujil]] men in Santiago Atitl n Guatemalan women in Antigua Guatemala
According to the CIA World Fact Book, Guatemala has a population of 13,824,463 (2011 est). About 59% of the population is Ladino, also called Mestizo and European (mixed Amerindian and Spanish). Whites are a noticeably much smaller community (>1%), primarily of Spanish, but also those of Italian, German, British and Scandinavian descent. Amerindian populations include the K'iche' 9.1%, Kaqchikel 8.4%, Mam 7.9% and Q'eqchi 6.3%. 8.6% of the population is "other Mayan," 0.4% is indigenous non-Mayan, making the indigenous community in Guatemala about 40.5% of the population.
There are smaller communities present. The Gar funa, who are descended primarily from Black Africans who lived with and intermarried with indigenous peoples from St. Vincent's, live mainly in Livingston and Puerto Barrios. Those communities have other blacks and mulattos descended from banana workers. There are also Asians, mostly of Chinese descent.Other Asian groups include Arabs of Lebanese and Syrian descent. There is also a growing Korean community in Guatemala City and in nearby Mixco, 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.
The Civil War forced many Guatemalans to start lives outside of their country. The majority of the Guatemalan diaspora 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 claimants awaiting determination of their status. Below are estimates for certain countries:
An indoor market in Zunil
According to the CIA World Factbook, Guatemala's GDP (PPP) per capita is US$5,200; however, this developing country 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 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.
Remittances from Guatemalans who fled to the United States during the civil war now constitute the largest single source of foreign income (two thirds of exports and one tenth of GDP).
In recent years the exporter sector of nontraditional products has grown dynamically representing more than 53% 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 (PPP) in 2010 was estimated at $70.15 billion USD. The service sector is the largest component of GDP at 63%, followed by the industry sector at 23.8% and the agriculture sector at 13.2% (2010 est.). Mines produce gold, silver, zinc, cobalt and nickel. The agricultural sector accounts for about 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 3.9% in 2010.
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) between several Central American nations and the United States. Guatemala also has free trade agreements with Taiwan and Colombia.
Guatemalan girls in their traditional clothing in Chichicastenango
Guatemala City 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 Marroqu n campus. Almost each of the 329 municipalities in the country has a small museum.
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 Pl sticas "Rafael Rodr guez Padilla" 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 V squez, Luis Rolando Ixquiac Xicara, Carlos M rida, An bal L pez, Roberto Gonz lez Goyri, and Elmar Ren Rojas.
The Iglesia de Santo Tom s, a church built around 1545
The Guatemala National Prize in Literature 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 ngel Asturias won the literature Nobel Prize in 1967. Among his famous books is El Se or Presidente, a novel based on the government of Manuel Estrada Cabrera.
Rigoberta Menchu, 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.
The Music of Guatemala comprises a number of styles and expressions. Guatemalan social change has been empowered by music scenes such as Nueva cancion, which blend together histories, present day issues, and political values and struggles of common people. The Maya had an intense musical practice, as is documented by iconography. 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 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, 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, salsa, punta (Garifuna influenced), Latin pop, Mexican regional, and mariachi. There is also a vibrant scene for what is known in the Hispanic world as rock en Espa ol (Rock in Spanish).
Language Map of Guatemala, according to the Comisi n de Oficializaci n de los Dialectos Ind genas de Guatemala. The "Castilian" areas represent Spanish.
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 are spoken, especially in rural areas, as well two non-Mayan Amerindian dialects, Xinca, an indigenous dialect, and Garifuna, an Arawakan dialect spoken on the Caribbean coast. According to Decreto N mero 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.
Catedral Metropolitana in Guatemala City
In Guatemala 50 60% of the population is Catholic, 40% Protestant, 3% Eastern Orthodox and 1% follow the indigenous Mayan 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 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. 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 (1200), Buddhists 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, 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 of land, with a community college and 2 schools with 12 professors/teachers. Additionally, the OCCG has an established monastery located on 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. Church in San Andr s Xecul
When people pass away in Guatemala, they are usually buried as soon as possible, so as to provide a quick passage to heaven. Funerals generally include candles and rum, and despite the local superstition that loud mourning and crying will slow down the deceased's journey to the next world; mourners usually cry very loudly, except at funerals for children. Deceased are buried with their treasured items to dissuade them from returning to haunt the people. 
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), 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 74.5% 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.
Rigoberta Mench 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 ngel Asturias won the Nobel prize in Literature in 1967 for his novel El Se or Presidente, which was controversial during Guatemala's civil war. Such novel portrayed the horrors endured by Guatemalans during their military-controlled governments.
There are seven national newspapers in Guatemala, one of them online-only, all of them in Spanish. Also 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 peri dico "El Independiente" from Nuevo Mundo Radio. The newspapers are: Al D a, the government official ''Diario de Centroam rica'', ''La Hora'', ''Plaza P blica'', ''Prensa Libre'', ''Nuestro Diario'' and ''Siglo.21''. The news programs on TV are ''Noti7'', Telecentro Trece and ''Noticiero Guatevision''. The Guatemala Times is a Digital English news magazine. ''The Guatemala Times''
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