Guatemala Facts

Guatemala Facts and History

North America

Guatemala is often referred to as “The Land of Eternal Spring”. Although the country suffered earlier from the Spanish colonial policy and later from years of military dictatorships, it nonetheless developed into a country that is a worthwhile travel destination due to its many different faces. The varied nature of the country with its volcanoes, high plateaus, rainforests and lakes, the imposing Tikal archaeological site, among other numerous small Mayan sites, the colorful Indian markets and the Caribbean coast with the descendants of fled black slaves, leave an unforgettable impression on every visitor.

It should be noted that Guatemala, with around 4,000 citizens, is the largest German colony in Central America, which plays an important role in the country’s economic and cultural life.

Unfortunately, this country also has an extremely dark side: According to human rights activists, hundreds of girls and young women are not only raped every year, but also brutally tortured to death. The perpetrators come from all walks of life, including politicians, business people, judges and police officers. A special commission was set up to get these gruesome murders under control, but its clearance rate is around zero. But even if the perpetrators become known, as in the case of a girl who was 12 years old at the time of the crime, whom the perpetrator, a “respected” local politician, left behind in a cave after being raped with her stomach ripped open, nothing usually happens. The child was found by his mother at the time and could be saved and is now (Dec. 2006) 18 years old. However, it is not the perpetrator, let alone punishment, that has been and will be stigmatized, but the victim; the result of a society perverted by the civil war that lasted from 1960 to 1996!

According to investigator Nidia Aguillar Del Cid from the public prosecutor’s office in Guatemala City, she complains that in 2007 an average of 100 children disappeared per month in addition to the women who disappeared. There is evidence that they are either misused for child pornography, taken abroad for adoption, abused for satanic rites, or used as organ donors. The police and judiciary are considered incompetent in the best case or cowardly in the worst case as corruption and criminal. In about a third of the country, drug gangs have meanwhile replaced the government as the regulators.

Name of the country República de Guatemala
Form of government Presidential Republic
Geographical location Country in Central America
National anthem Guatemala Feliz/Happy Guatemala
Population around 17.2 million (Credit: Countryaah: Guatemala Population)
Ethnicities 60% Indians, 30% mestizos (Ladinos), the rest are blacks, mulattos, whites and zambos
Religions 60% Roman Catholic, 35% Protestant – most of them fundamentalist American evangelicals
Languages Spanish, indigenous languages (including Kekchí, Quiché)
Capital Ciudad de Guatemala/Guatemala City – with approx. 3.5 million residents
Surface 108,889 km²
Highest mountain Tajomulco volcano with a height of 4,220 m
Longest river Río Motagua with a length of 420 km
Largest lake Lago Izabal with an area of 590 km²
International license plate GCA
National currency Quetzal
Time difference to CET – 7 h
International phone code + 502
Mains voltage, frequency 120 volts, 60 hertz
Internet TLD (Top Level Domain) .gt

Guatemala: history

Until around the year 1000

The first signs of basic cultures appeared in 2000 BC. on the Guatemalan Pacific coast. Around 800-400 BC. the Olmec La Venta culture developed. During the heyday of Teotihuacan in Mexico, Kaminalyuyú was founded as a colony in what is now Guatemala in the years 300-650. From 250 AD, important Maya centers were established in Petén. Around the years 300-900, the classical Mayan culture developed, large ceremonial centers emerged that were theocratically ruled. Tikal became the center of the Maya Empire. The Maya developed and perfected script and calendars.

According to Abbreviationfinder website, around 950 the Mayan culture perished for reasons still unknown today.

From the year 1000 to the 17th century

In the 14th century, the Quiché who immigrated from Mexico took over political hegemony in the highlands. Resident tribes like the Cakchiquel were tributaries. Up to the year 1523 there were repeated wars and conflicts between the indigenous tribes.

In 1523, Hernan Cortés received an order from Pedro de Alvarado to march south and then conquered Guatemala. Almost 20 years later, the Agua volcano destroyed the Spanish capital Ciudad Vieja.

In the 18th and 19th centuries

In 1773 the capital (today Antigua) was hit by an earthquake, most of the very numerous monasteries, orders and churches were destroyed and the clergy lost power. The 300 years of the Spanish occupation were marked by political immobility and economic rigidity. Until 1821, Guatemala was a Spanish colony with an export-oriented economic system. During this time there were political conflicts between liberal-bourgeois and conservative circles. On September 15, 1821, Guatemala became independent without a fight. Two years later, the liberal movement succeeded in forming a federal association of the provinces to form the United Provinces of Central America. There were armed clashes between liberals and conservatives, from which the then twenty-three-year-old conservative Rafael Carrera emerged as the winner. In the middle of the 19th century, the economic system in Europe began to falter due to the invention of synthetic dyes. The crisis could no longer be stopped. In the 50s and 60s a popular movement emerged which made use of the liberal camp and brought about a change of power. The liberal revolution of 1871 ushered in a new era of economic impetus. Due to the intervention of the then President Juso Rufino Barrios, Guatemala began planting coffee and bananas. Barrios left the switch to coffee to German capital and the bananas to the Americans. From 1898-1921 under President Estrada Cabrera the influence of the USA in the country, the “United Fruit Company”

In the 20th and 21st centuries

The Great Depression of 1929 also shook Guatemala, coffee prices fell and unemployment rose. Jorge Ubico became president in 1931 and introduced the Vagabond Act, which obliged indigenous people to do forced labor.

In October 1944 the so-called “October Revolution” took place, which was supported by liberal sections of the military, the petty bourgeoisie and intellectuals. In 1945 Juan José Arévalo became president and introduced democratic rights such as freedom of the press, expression and assembly. Trade unions were founded and agrarian reform initiated. This law was passed in 1950 and over the next four years the United Fruit Company was expropriated. As a result, the American State Department launched a smear campaign and accused Guatemala of being a communist country. With the help of the CIA, Colonel Castillo Armas invades Guatemala in 1954. The Americans attacked the capital from the air, President Arbenz had to abdicate. By 1957, Armas reversed all democratic gains and was murdered in 1957. In 1960 the first guerrilla movement emerged from a failed coup attempt. Between 1963 and 1966 there were frequent changes of power and the guerrilla movement intensified its efforts. The Americans support the country against the guerrillas with military aid. The merciless chase under the military regime of Arana Osorios and General K. Laugerud killed thousands of people. A severe earthquake struck Guatemala in 1976, causing 30,000 deaths. In the 1970s until 1985, the number of victims increased dramatically, especially among the indigenous population, and priests and catechists from home and abroad were persecuted and executed. In 1983 there was a military coup, Mejia Victores took power, and in 1985/86 there were democratic elections. From 1990 the evangelical Jorge Serrano Elías took power. Corruption was still part of political business. There were several meetings between the government and guerrilla representatives for peace talks. Rigoberta Menchú received the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize. A year later, 2,500 refugees returned to the country. In 1994 there was a massacre by the military in a refugee camp.

On December 29th, a peace treaty was finally reached, and after more than 40 years peace finally reigned in Guatemala.

After the elections on November 9th or on December 28th 2003 (2 ballots) took office on January 14, 2004 Licenciado Oscar Berger Perdomo from GANA (GANA = Gran Alianza Nacional). Álvaro Colom Caballeros (born 1951 in Guatemala City) has been President of the country since January 14, 2008.

He received the most votes in the presidential election on September 9, 2007 for the successor to Perdomo with around 28%. Since he had not received an absolute majority, a runoff election took place on November 4, 2007, which he won with around 53% of the vote. This makes him the first social democratic president of Guatemala. But his reign has been very sobering so far (2009): drug trafficking, violent crime, lynching, a corrupt judiciary, administration and police have not become less but more. In about a third of the country, drug cartels have now taken over the state’s regulatory powers.

Guatemala Facts