The largest and most populous nation on the Central American isthmus, Guatemala returned to civilian rule in 1986 after 32 years of violent and repressive military rule.
Geography: Narrow Pacific coastal plain. Central highlands with volcanoes. Short coast on the Caribbean Sea. Tropical rain forests in the north.
Climate: Tropical: hot and humid in coastal regions and north. More temperate in central highlands.
People and Society: Amerindians, concentrated in the highlands, form a majority. Power, wealth, and land are controlled by ladinos (Westernized Amerindians and mestizos). Catholicism is predominant, mixed with Amerindian beliefs. A third of the population lives on less than $2 a day. Literacy levels are low.
The Economy: Coffee, sugar, and bananas are top exports. Tourism. Damage from natural disasters. Marked wealth inequalities inhibit domestic market.
Insight: Guatemala, which means “land of trees,” was the center of the ancient Mayan civilization
Official Name: Republic of Guatemala
Date of Formation: 1838
Capital: Guatemala City
Population: 14 million
Total Area: 42,042 sq. miles (108,890 sq. km)
Density: 335 people per sq. mile
Languages: Quiché, Mam, Cakchiquel, Kekchí, Spanish*
Religions: Roman Catholic 65%, Protestant 33%, other 2%
Ethnic Mix: Amerindian 60%, Mestizo 30%, other 10%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Quetzal = 100 centavos