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Guatemala: A Touch of Paradise

World  (tags: Guatemala, people, places, travel )

- 1600 days ago -
Guatemala lies to the south of Mexico in Central America. The country encompasses just over 42,000 miles, similar in size to Tennessee.

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Kit B (276)
Sunday February 2, 2014, 12:51 pm
Map Credit:

Guatemala lies to the south of Mexico in Central America. The country encompasses just over 42,000 miles, similar in size to Tennessee. Its population numbers approximately 13,250,000 residents, for a population density of approximately 315 persons per square mile. The terrain is coastal and mountainous. The climate along the coast is tropical, while its mountains are temperate.

---5 Facts You Might Not Know----

1) The highest mountain in Guatemala rises to 13,845 feet, making it home to the tallest mountain in Central America. Tajumulco has a hiking trail all the way to the top, with views of Mexico, Guatemala and the Pacific when the air is clear.

2) Natural resources in Guatemala include oil, timber, gold and nickel. The U.S. Department of State reports that the U.S. is the major importer of goods produced in Guatemala, which include coffee, bananas, crude oil, sugar and textiles.

3) The first people to inhabit Guatemala were the Mayans. Guatemala gained its current independence from Spain in 1821 and after decades of dictatorships and military rule, Guatemala currently enjoys a democratic republic. Like the U.S., the country has three divisions in its federal government: the executive, legislative and judicial.

4) Guatemala sees its share of natural disasters, since it lies between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The country has had volcanic eruptions that have forced moving the country's capitol three times. The country also experiences earthquakes, hurricanes and tropical storms.

5) The Maya Biosphere Reserve is the second largest forest in Central America. The country has five different ecosystems with substantial diversity, including 8,681 different vascular species of plants, 13,5 percent of which are native to this country. The country has 1,246 different animal species, some of which are endangered. The country was the original source for corn, potatoes, tomatoes, chili peppers, avocados and chocolate.


The name Guatemala, meaning "land of forests," was derived from one of the Mayan dialects spoken by the indigenous people at the time of the Spanish conquest in 1523. It is used today by outsiders, as well as by most citizens, although for many purposes the descendants of the original inhabitants still prefer to identify themselves by the names of their specific language dialects, which reflect political divisions from the sixteenth century. The pejorative terms indio and natural have been replaced in polite conversation and publication by Indígena . Persons of mixed or non-indigenous race and heritage may be called Ladino , a term that today indicates adherence to Western, as opposed to indigenous, culture patterns, and may be applied to acculturated Indians, as well as others. A small group of African–Americans, known as Garifuna, lives on the Atlantic coast, but their culture is more closely related to those found in other Caribbean nations than to the cultures of Guatemala itself.

Location and Geography.

Guatemala covers an area of 42,042 square miles (108,889 square kilometers) and is bounded on the west and north by Mexico; on the east by Belize, the Caribbean Sea, Honduras and El Salvador; and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. The three principal regions are the northern lowland plains of the Petén and the adjacent Atlantic littoral; the volcanic highlands of the Sierra Madre, cutting across the country from northwest to southeast; and the Pacific lowlands, a coastal plain stretching along the entire southern boundary.


Independence Day (15 September) and 15 August, the day of the national patron saint, María, are the most important national holidays, and together reflect the European origin of the nation–state, as does the national anthem, "Guatemala Felíz" ("Happy Guatemala"). However, many of the motifs used on the flag (the quetzal bird and the ceiba tree); in public monuments and other artwork (the figure of the Indian hero Tecún Umán, the pyramids and stelae of the abandoned and ruined Mayan city of Tikal, the colorful motifs on indigenous textiles, scenes from villages surrounding Lake Atitlán); in literature (the novels of Nobel laureate Miguel Angel Asturias) and in music (the marimba, the dance called son) are associated with the Indian culture, even when some of their elements originated in Europe or in precolonial Mexico.

Emergence of the Nation.

Guatemala, along with other Central American Spanish colonies, declared its independence on 15 September 1821. Until 1839, it belonged first to Mexico and then to a federation known as the United Provinces of Central America. It was not until 1945 that a constitution guaranteeing civil and political rights for all people, including women and Indians, was adopted. However, Indians continued to be exploited and disparaged until recently, when international opinion forced Ladino elites to modify their attitudes and behavior. This shift was furthered by the selection of Rigoberta Menchú, a young Maya woman, for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.

Severe repression and violence during the late 1970s and 1980s was followed by a Mayan revitalization movement that has gained strength since the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996. While Mayan languages, dress, and religious practices have been reintroduced or strengthened, acculturation to the national culture has continued. Today more Indians are becoming educated at all levels, including postgraduate university training. A few have become professionals in medicine, engineering, journalism, law, and social work. Population pressure has forced many others out of agriculture and into cottage industries, factory work, merchandising, teaching, clerical work, and various white-collar positions in the towns and cities. Ironically, after the long period of violence and forced enlistment, many now volunteer for the armed forces.


Guatemala does not have a national dish, but there are many foods that have become a part of the everyday diet. Just as during the time of the Mayans, corn continues to be a staple food. It is most often eaten in the form of a tortilla (a thin corn pancake). These are usually served warm and wrapped in cloth. Black beans ( frijoles) , another Mayan staple, are eaten at almost every meal. They are usually refried ( volteados ), mashed, or simply eaten whole ( parados ). Rice, eggs, and cheese are also widely consumed.

Chicken, turkey, and beef (roasted, grilled, or fried) are the country's most popular meats and are normally accompanied by beans and rice ( frijoles con arroz ). Meats are often served in stews ( caldos ) or cooked in a spicy chili sauce, though whole chickens may occasionally be served with the feet still attached. Pepián , a thick meat and vegetable stew, is a common dish in the area of Antigua (a town just outside of Guatemala City, the country's capital). Seafood is most common along the coasts, and is usually prepared with various spices.

Other popular dishes are bistec (grilled or fried beef), guacamole (mashed avocado with onions and spices), mosh (porridge), churrasco (charcoal-grilled steak), and chiles rellenos (chiles stuffed with meat and vegetables). Fresh fruits and vegetables, such as yucca, carrots, plantains, celery, cucumbers, and radishes, help to keep the Guatemalan diet healthy. However, snacks, such as doughnuts ( donas ), are also widely popular.

Guatemalan coffee, which is most often exported, is considered some of the best in the world. Most Guatemalans, however, tend to drink weak coffee loaded with plenty of sugar. Rich, savory coffee is more commonly found in tourist areas. Aguas , soft drinks, are also abundant. Sweetened fruit juice mixed with either water or milk, called licuado , is a refreshing alternative.

Basic Economy.

Guatemala's most important resource is its fertile land, although only 12 percent of the total landmass is arable. In 1990, 52 percent of the labor force was engaged in agriculture, which contributed 24 percent of the gross domestic product. Although both Ladinos and Indians farm, 68 percent of the agricultural labor force was Indian in 1989. Forty-seven percent of Indian men were self-employed as farmers, artisans, or merchants; the average income for this group was only about a third of that for Ladino men. Agriculture accounts for about one-fourth of the gross domestic product.


As of 1993, the president and vice-president and sixteen members of the eighty-member congress are elected by the nation as a whole for non-renewable four-year terms, while the remaining sixty-four members of the unicameral legislature are popularly elected by the constituents of their locales. Despite universal suffrage, only a small percentage of citizens vote.

There are twenty-two departments under governors appointed by the president. Municipalities are autonomous, with locally elected officials, and are funded by the central government budget. In areas with a large Mayan population, there have been two sets of local government leaders, one Ladino and one Mayan, with the former taking precedence. In 1996, however, many official or "Ladino" offices were won by Maya.

Leadership and Political Officials.

Political parties range from the extreme right to the left and represent varying interests. Thus, their numbers, size, and electoral success change over time. It generally is believed that most elected officials use their short periods in office to aggrandize their prestige and line their pockets. Most take office amid cheering and accolades but leave under a cloud, and many are forced to leave the country or choose to do so. While in office, they are able to bend the law and do favors for their constituents or for foreigners who wish to invest or do business in the country. Some national business gets accomplished, but only after lengthy delays, debate, and procrastination.

Read more:

JL A (281)
Sunday February 2, 2014, 1:00 pm
Stunning vistas and a marvelous range of sites and sights to see! Thanks for the journey

Cher C (1429)
Sunday February 2, 2014, 1:23 pm

Loved it! Thnx hun!


Nicole W (646)
Sunday February 2, 2014, 3:41 pm
enjoyable excursion as always, ty dear Kit

Past Member (0)
Sunday February 2, 2014, 4:09 pm
Not sure i'll make here but liked the lil tour! Thx Kit

Deb E (63)
Sunday February 2, 2014, 5:04 pm
Thanks. Another nice vacation :-)

pam w (139)
Sunday February 2, 2014, 7:56 pm
There are LOTS of great things about Guatemala! They have wonderful birds, mammals, PLANTS and very kind, friendly people! They also have maya ruins, volcanos and some interesting old buildings. Unlike quite a few countries, they also speak a beautiful Spanish (SIN ACCENTO) As a result, Spanish language schools are a big business there! could visit Guatemala while you're learning Spanish.

Did I mention that the food is lovely? :-)

Past Member (0)
Sunday February 2, 2014, 8:32 pm
my classmate's ex-wife makes USA dollars===73 hourly on the laptop . She has been fired for 8 months but last month her pay check was USA dollars===21761 just working on the laptop for a few hours. try this out ....,,,..,.

Ben O (153)
Monday February 3, 2014, 3:55 am
Once upon a time, when I was a seaman...
...I visited San José twice, Champerico twice, and Guatemala Ciudad (City) once...

Ben O (153)
Monday February 3, 2014, 4:01 am
Country profile (BBC)

Bob P (394)
Monday February 3, 2014, 7:19 am
Thanks Kit

Pat B (356)
Monday February 3, 2014, 7:26 am
Colorful buildings, crowded street markets, beautiful flora and playas, GREAT trip, Thanks, Kit for our journey.

Vallee R (280)
Monday February 3, 2014, 1:41 pm
Actually my daughter is more Mayan than Guatamalan - a gorgeous girl - thanks for the trip - truly appreciate these -

. (0)
Monday February 3, 2014, 3:58 pm

Angela J (61)
Monday February 3, 2014, 5:52 pm
Thank you.

Willie Winchester (0)
Monday February 3, 2014, 8:47 pm
my buddy's half-sister makes dollars➨➨➨74 /hour on the laptop . She has been without a job for six months but last month her pay check was dollars➨➨➨21392 just working on the laptop for a few hours. read here

Craig Pittman (52)
Tuesday February 4, 2014, 8:23 am
Thanks for this fascinating journey Kit.

John De Avalon (36)
Wednesday February 5, 2014, 2:28 am
Looks lovely...

Thank you, dear Kit.
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