This section gives a broad overview of Guatemala's generic characteristics, its Location, Capital, Area, Climate, Population, Ethnic make-up, Religions, Government, and Languages spoken including local dialects.
The Republic of Guatemala (Spanish: República de Guatemala), is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico (958km) to the north and west, Belize (266km) and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras (244km) to the east, El Salvador (199km) to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south.
Guatemala has a total area of 107, 159 sq. km. of which 1,730 km2 is water.
Climate is hot and humid in the Pacific and Petén Lowlands. It is more temperate in the highlands, to freezing cold at the high of the Cuchumatanes range, and hot/drier in the easternmost departments. Guatemala’s location on the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean makes it a target for hurricanes, including Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and Hurricane Stan in October 2005, which killed more than 1,500 people. The damage was not wind related but caused by flooding and landslides. A report by the Guatemalan System of Climate Change Sciences in 2019 indicated that rainy season is starting later as a result of climate change, putting subsistence farmers and indigenous people in poor communities at risk of food shortages resulting from poor harvests. Guatemala has joined the V20, a group of 48 developing economies working together with development banks towards climate resilience and 100% renewable energy.
Total population - 17,572,053 (2020 est). (With only 885,000 in 1900, this constitutes the fastest population growth in the Western Hemisphere during the 20th century) Density
161 people per Km2 (418 people per mi2)
Guatemala's sole official language is Spanish, spoken by 93 percent of the population as either the first or second language. Twenty-one Mayan languages are spoken, especially in rural areas, as well as two non-Mayan Amerindian languages: Xinca, which is indigenous to the country, and Garifuna, an Arawakan language spoken on the Caribbean coast. According to the Language Law of 2003, these languages are recognized as national languages. There are also significant numbers of German, Chinese, French and English language speakers
Guatemala is populated by a variety of ethnic, cultural, racial, and linguistic groups. According to the 2018 Census conducted by the National Institute of Statistics (INE), 56% of the population is Ladino reflecting mixed indigenous and European heritage. Indigenous Guatemalans are 43.6% of the national population, which is one of the largest percentages in Latin America, behind only Peru and Bolivia. Most indigenous Guatemalans (41.7% of the national population) are of the Maya people, namely K'iche' (11.0% of the total population), Q'eqchi (8.3%), Kaqchikel (7.8%), Mam (5.2%), and "other Maya" (7.6%). 2% of the national population is indigenous non-Maya. 1.8% of the population is Xinca (Mesoamerican), and 0.1% of the population is Garifuna (African/Carib mix).
White Guatemalans of European descent, also called Criollo, are not differentiated from Ladinos (mixed race) individuals in the Guatemalan census. Most are descendants of German and Spanish settlers, and others derive from Italians, British, French, Swiss, Belgians, Dutch, Russians and Danish. German settlers are credited with bringing the tradition of Christmas trees to Guatemala. The population includes about 110,000 Salvadorans. The Garifuna, descended primarily from Black Africans who lived and intermarried with indigenous peoples from St. Vincent, live mainly in Livingston and Puerto Barrios. Afro-Guatemalans and mulattos descended primarily from banana plantation workers. There are also Asians, mostly of Chinese descent but also Arabs of Lebanese and Syrian descent. A growing Korean community in Guatemala City and in nearby Mixco, numbers about 50,000.
47% Roman Catholic
8.9% Evangelical (independent)
3.1% Eastern Orthodoxy
2.7% Historical Evangelical Denominations
1.1% Seventh Day Adventists
0.8% Other Religions
0.4% Jehovah's Witnesses
0.4% Maya religion
Unitary Presidential Republic
Congress of the Republic
Grow Free and Fertile
The name "Guatemala" comes from the Nahuatl word Cuauhtēmallān (nahwiki), or "place of many trees", a derivative of the K'iche' Mayan word for "many trees" or, perhaps more specifically, for the Cuate/Cuatli tree Eysenhardtia. This was the name that the Tlaxcaltecan warriors who accompanied Pedro de Alvarado during the Spanish Conquest gave to this territory.