|Capital city||Guatemala City|
|Road network length||4,863 km|
|Length of highway network||10 km|
|License plate code||GCA|
Guatemala (Spanish: República de Guatemala) is a country in Central America, part of the continent of North America. The country is more than 2.5 times the size of the Netherlands and has more than 15 million inhabitants. The capital is Guatemala City.
According to ABBREVIATIONFINDER, Guatemala is the westernmost of the Central American countries, it has a longer coastline with the Pacific Ocean to the south and a shorter coastline with the Caribbean Sea to the north. It borders Mexico to the west and north, Belize to the northeast, and Honduras and El Salvador to the east. With borders with 4 countries, Guatemala has the most neighbors of all Central American countries. The country measures a maximum of 450 kilometers from north to south and 390 kilometers from west to east.
Guatemala is the most mountainous country of all Central American countries and also has its highest point, the 4,202 meter high Volcán Tajumulco. The highlands are inland, some distance from the Pacific coast. Almost all major cities are located here. Large parts of the highlands lie between 1,500 and 3,000 meters above sea level, with mountain ridges still rising above them. The Pacific coastal region is flatter, the transition from the lowland to the highland is abrupt. The Caribbean coastal region is smaller, but also flatter. The north of Guatemala consists of the department of Petén and also includes vast lowlands and jungles, different from the rest of Guatemala.
Guatemala’s rivers are quite short on the Pacific side, but longer on the Caribbean side. In the east of Guatemala are two large lakes. The country is located in the tropical zone, but due to the highlands, the climate there is considerably more tempered. The Pacific and Caribbean coastal regions, as well as Petén, have a humid tropical climate with high temperatures throughout the year. Guatemala City has maximum temperatures between 24 and 27°C, some higher cities are even cooler. Frost sometimes occurs in the high mountains.
Guatemala has more than 16 million inhabitants, it is the most populous country in Central America. The population grew during the 20th century from 885,000 in 1900 to 11 million in 2000, the largest growth of any country in the Americas. See Guatemala population density. The capital of the country is Guatemala of the same name, which is also called Ciudad de Guatemala or Guatemala City to distinguish it from the country. The city has 2.9 million inhabitants, making it the largest city in Central America. Most of the other major cities are also in the highlands, such as Quetzaltenango, Huehuetenango, and Chimaltenango. Elsewhere in the highlands are numerous small towns.
Striking, but in line with the rest of Central America, is that there are no larger towns on the coast. The main port city on the Pacific Ocean is Puerto Quetzal and the main port city on the Caribbean Sea is Puerto Barrios. There are few large towns in the northern Petén region.
The inhabitants of Guatemala are 41% Mestizo (mixed Indo-American and European) and 41% Indigenous, the highest proportion in Latin America after Peru and Bolivia. The proportion of indigenous population is much higher than in other Central American countries. Most of the indigenous population is descended from the Maya. White Guatemalans make up the remaining 18% of the population. This is also relatively high compared to the rest of Central America, making Guatemala the most ethnically diverse country in the region.
Spanish is spoken in Guatemala, which is spoken as a first or second language by most of the population. In addition, there are 21 indigenous languages that are spoken to a greater or lesser extent. Due to the sizeable indigenous population, indigenous languages are also more widely spoken in Guatemala than elsewhere in Central America.
Guatemala is the largest economy in Central America, especially because Guatemala is by far the largest country in terms of population. Per capita income is lagging behind, Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in Central America. Almost half of the population lives below the poverty line. Guatemala’s exports are relatively diverse, the largest part consists of agricultural products, which have relatively little added value to the economy, but the manufacturing industry is also present, with the export of textile products. Mining products play a somewhat smaller role, but more than in many other Central American countries.
Conflict and corruption have prevented the Guatemalan economy from developing properly. The difference between Guatemala City and the rest of the country is quite large. Guatemalan money in the United States is the main source of income in Guatemala, so the country is heavily dependent on foreign aid. Tourism is gradually playing a bigger role in the economy, especially for eco-tourism and to archaeological sites of the Mayan culture.
The Maya developed the first infrastructure in Guatemala, which is one of the oldest civilizations in the Americas. The Spaniards began to colonize the area from 1519. The country was mainly colonized from Mexico. The colony was governed as the Capitanía General de Guatemala from 1609, Guatemala was the main center of Spanish colonial power in Central America at the time, almost all of Central America except Panama was governed from Guatemala.
In 1821 Guatemala became independent from Spain, followed by an unstable period with conflict and various groups trying to take power. There was for a time the independent state of Los Altos, which eventually merged with the rest of Guatemala into the United States of Central America, a country that existed from 1823 to 1839. In 1840 Belgium attempted to gain control of the area, but failed. In the middle of the 19th century, many Germans came to the region. In 1847 Guatemala declared its independence. The remainder of the 19th and early 20th centuries was marked by the classic conflict between liberals and conservatives that was common in Latin America at the time.
In 1917, Guatemala City was destroyed in a massive earthquake. Guatemala was an ally of the United States and in 1941 arrested all German residents of the country. In 1945, the first free elections were held in Guatemala. Shortly after World War II, Guatemala became an important country in the fight against communism, leading to internal conflict. In 1954, a coup d’état, supported by the CIA, followed. In 1960 internal conflict escalated into a civil war by leftist rebels against the government. The civil war would eventually last 36 years and resulted in between 140,000 and 200,000 deaths. A peace agreement was signed in 1996, after which Guatemala was able to normalize and free elections followed.