Information about the Guatemala Country

guatemala facts

Posted 4 years ago

General Facts:

Population15.47 million (2013) World Bank,

Official Languages : Spanish

Capital: Guatemala City

Area:108,889 km²

Introduction

Guatemala officially the Republic of Guatemala (Spanish: República de Guatemala), is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, Honduras to the east and El Salvador to the southeast.

Guatemala, a Central American country south of Mexico, is distinguished by its steep volcanoes, vast rainforests and ancient Mayan sites. The capital, Guatemala City, is home to the stately National Palace of Culture, institutions such as the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, and the lively Zona Viva nightlife area. Antigua, west of the capital, contains cobblestone streets and preserved Spanish colonial buildings.

Currency: The Guatemalan Quetzal is the currency of Guatemala.  The currency code for Quetzales is GTQ, and the currency symbol is Q.

 

Culture
The culture of Guatemala reflects strong Mayan and Spanish influences and continues to be defined as a contrast between poor Mayan villagers in the rural highlands, and the urbanized and relatively wealthy mestizos population (known in Guatemala as ladinos) who occupy the cities and surrounding agricultural plains.

Guatemala’s national instrument is the marimba, an idiophone from the family of the xylophones, which is played all over the country, even in the remotest corners. Towns also have wind and percussion bands that play during the Lent and Easter-week processions, as well as on other occasions. The Garifuna people of Afro-Caribbean descent, who are spread thinly on the north-eastern Caribbean coast, have their own distinct varieties of popular and folk music. Cumbia, from the Colombian variety, is also very popular, especially among the lower classes.

Religion

Roman Catholicism combined with the indigenous Maya religion to form the unique syncretic religion which prevailed throughout Guatemala and still does in the rural regions. Beginning from negligible roots prior to the 1960s, Protestant Pentecostalism has grown to become the predominant religion of Guatemala City and other urban centers and down to mid-sized towns.

The unique religion is reflected in the local saint, Maximón, who is associated with the subterranean force of masculine fertility and prostitution. Always depicted in black, he wears a black hat and sits on a chair, often with a bible in one hand, rosary in another, and religious food in his mouth at his feet. The locals know him as San Simon of Guatemala.

Economy
Guatemala is the most populous of the Central American countries with a GDP per capita roughly one-third that of Brazil’s. Coffee, sugar, and bananas are the main products. The 1996 signing of peace accords, which ended 36 years of civil war, removed a major obstacle to foreign investment, and Guatemala since then has pursued important reforms and macroeconomic stabilization. On 1 July 2006, the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) entered into force between the US and Guatemala and has since spurred increased investment in the export sector. The distribution of income remains highly unequal with 12% of the population living below the international poverty line. Given Guatemala’s large expatriate community in the United States, it is the top remittance recipient in Central America, with inflows serving as a primary source of foreign income equivalent to nearly two-thirds of exports.

Government
Politics of Guatemala takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, where by the President of Guatemala is both head of state, head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government.Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Congress of the Republic. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Guatemala’s 1985 Constitution provides for a separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

Health

Today, there have been many reforms to the health care system, but the current system continues to have significant problems. The country is on its way to develop a solid health care system, and is working toward achieving many of the Millennium Development Goals in place. However, the inequalities that are associated with outcomes and access have not been addressed, making it difficult for Guatemala to move forward in the field of health care. The ratio of doctors to residents is low, at .9 doctors per 1,000 citizens. The system requires a lot of change in order to serve the whole Guatemalan community.

Drink only purified water (Agua Pura Ecológica is recommended by most of hospitals and hotels). CDC states that malaria risk exists in rural areas at altitudes lower than 1,500 metres, with no risk in Antigua or Lake Atitlán. Preventative anti-malarial medication can and should be purchased ahead of visiting malaria-endemic areas. Dengue fever is endemic throughout Guatemala. Hepatitis A&B vaccinations are recommended.

Safety Tips

Do not go to areas known to be hotbeds of drug trafficking activity (ie: some parts of the Peten), and do not go to the most dangerous neighborhoods in Guatemala City (zones 3, 6, 18, and 21). Be careful in Zone 1 in Guatemala City, especially after dark, and do not stay in any hotels there. Using the slightly more expensive hotels in Zone 10 or Zone 13 (near the airport) is a better idea if you intend to visit Guatemala City.

Women should be especially careful around men, even if the men present themselves as local hotel employees. Over the last year, several tourists have been the victims of brutal sexual assaults in the beach community of Monterrico and the town of Panajachel. In one case, a local man pretended to be a hotel employee before torturing, raping, and attempting to kill a young woman staying in the area.

Do not use buses at night in Guatemala City, as buses are frequently robbed by gangs. Instead, radio-dispatched taxis (Taxi Amarillo) are a safer way to get around the city. Another note is that when traveling by chicken bus, beware of anyone sitting next to you.

Never take photos of children without permission. Some Guatemalans are extremely wary of this and will think that you are mixed in with kidnappers and planning to take the child for ransom. Kidnapping is a common occurrence in Guatemala. The country also has many problems with children being kidnapped and sold for adoption on the black market. Taking pictures of adults at a distance with a few children included is generally fine. In the major cities, people are somewhat more open towards picture taking, but still avoid it.

It is dangerous to travel between cities after dark. Doing so significantly increases your risk of being the victim of an armed robbery.

Pickpocketing is common in markets, so never keep anything in your back pocket and take as little with you as possible.

Transport 

Busses: Guatemala has several first-class (or Pullman) inter-city bus companies. It’s hard to miss the colourfully decorated buses that crowd the streets of major cities and highways of Guatemala. These are chicken buses, or camionetas in Guatemalan dialect Spanish, and are a common form of travel for Guatemalans and a travel adventure for tourists. They are much cheaper than tourist vans or taxis and are usually very crowded, with three people squeezed into seats barely big enough for two children, and more people standing in the aisles. You can board a chicken bus almost anywhere along its route. If you put out your arm, it will stop. You board and find a space to sit or stand. The conductor will come back to you after the bus is under way, and collect your fare. You need to recognize where your stop is, and move to the door in time. You ask the bus to stop, more or less wherever you want to get off.

Van: Prepare to travel by van around central and north-western Guatemala, especially the Ixil Triangle region and the area surrounding Coban. The Ixil Triangle lacks any real infrastructure, and what is there is unkempt. As well, Central Guatemala’s population does not warrant chicken bus existence. Public transportation van rides are only slightly more expensive than bus fare. However, be warned, the equality in price rule of buses does not apply to vans. Public buses are truly public transportation, the vans are not; they are privately owned. Plan to pay more than the domestic next to you in these vans. This price difference will be obvious and the assistant will blatantly ask for it. Attempting to haggle is worthless, you might as well pay the requested fare.

Picops:Private “picops” (pick-up truck) operators will drive around the rural areas of Guatemala. These are small Toyota (mostly), Hyundai or Ford trucks that have a metal frame placed in the bed so people can hold on during travel while standing. For a very low fee, cheaper than bus and van, you can travel to remote locations. Like bus and van, people are packed in tight. In some places these are the only thing available for public transportation.

Plane: Regular domestic flights only operate between Guatemala City and Flores. Service is provided by Avianca (Merged from Grupo Taca which included Taca Regional and Aviateca) and TAG (Transportes Aereo Guatemaltecos).

Trolley: The closest thing to having a trolley for regular public transportation are the green Transmetro buses in Guatemala City that run on dedicated lanes to bypass the parallel traffic and stopping at a limited number of stops along the road. There’s also has a local trolley tour (actually a bus made to look like trolley) service aimed at tourists.

Train: There is a rail network but, aside from the occasional steam charter aimed at tourist groups, no trains – neither freight nor passenger – have run since 2007.

 

 

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