|Rep¨²blica de Guatemala
|Form of government
|Telephone area code
The Republic of Guatemala (Rep¨²blica de Guatemala) is
a country in Central America between the Caribbean Sea
and the Pacific. Guatemala has four neighboring
countries: north-west and north Mexico, north-east
Belize and south-east Honduras and El Salvador. In the
northeast, the country borders the Caribbean Sea with an
approximately 100 km long coast, in the southwest with
an approximately 300 km long coast to the Pacific Ocean.
Large parts of Guatemala are covered by two parts of
the Cordillera mountain system, which extends the entire
length of the South American continent. One part (Altos
Cuchumatanes) is located in northwest Central Guatemala
and reaches heights of up to 3,800 m. The second
Cordillera train is in the south of the country and is
an extension of the Mexican Sierra Madre. This part
consists of plateaus and chain mountains (this is where
the series of Central American volcanoes begins, which
extends parallel to the Pacific coast to Panama). Most
of these volcanoes are considered extinct, the Fuego (3
835 m) and the Santa Mar¨ªa (3 772 m) are demonstrably
Among the volcanoes is also the highest peak in the
country, the Tajumulco in the southwest at 4,211 m. It
is also the highest mountain in Central America. About a
third of the country's total area is occupied by a
lowlands (150 to 500 m) in the north called Pet¨¦n, which
belongs to the Yucat¨¢n peninsula. This is the largest
contiguous rainforest area in Central America.
The largest lake in the country is located in the
northeast and is called Lago de Izabal. Its surface
measures 590 km². Other large lakes are Lake Atitl¨¢n in
the southwest (127.7 km²) and Lake Pet¨¦n Itz¨¢ (100 km²)
in the north. The longest river in the country is the
R¨ªo Motagua, which flows in eastern Guatemala from the
Central Highlands to the Caribbean Sea and is the main
traffic route for the transport of bananas and coffee
from the east. Other rivers are the R¨ªo Polochic north
of Motagua and the R¨ªo Usamacinta, which is fed by two
rivers from the Sierra de Santa Cruz and the Sierra
Madre in Guatemala and forms the border with Mexico.
Guatemala has a tropical location. This results in a
climate that is characterized by up to five months with
little or no rain during the winter. The temperatures in
the capital Guatemala City, located at 1500 m in the
central highlands, average 16 ¡ãC in January and 19 ¡ãC in
July. In contrast, the temperatures in the lowlands are
considerably higher and average up to 26 ¡ãC.
The average annual rainfall in Guatemala City is
1,300 mm. The rainfall varies greatly. In the parts of
the country facing the winds from both seas (Caribbean
Sea: Passat; Pacific Ocean: monsoon), up to 3,500 mm can
fall annually; in extreme basin locations between the
mountain ranges, the annual precipitation is reduced in
places to 1,000 mm. In Guatemala (as in all of Central
America) there are always devastating hurricanes,
volcanic eruptions (the last eruption of the Pacaya was
in March 2000), earthquakes and flood disasters.
Flora and fauna
The region of the Pet¨¦n in the north of the country
is largely covered with dense rainforest. The central
part, however, consists of pine savannah due to the
greater dryness and height. The mountain sides facing
the rain-bearing winds from both seas feature tropical
mountain and cloud forests. The inland highlands, on the
other hand, are drier and have typical savannah
vegetation with grassy meadows and individual trees as
well as - in preferred places - mixed forests of oak and
pine. The lowlands on the Pacific coast are covered with
dry forest in the east, with tropical wet forests in the
west, and the lowlands on the Caribbean Sea also have
tropical wet forests.
In particular, the forest areas of the lowlands show
a rich animal life. Although rare, deer, monkeys and
tapirs can be found here as well as ocelots, jaguars and
umbilical pigs. Among the reptiles of the rainforest,
numerous snake species as well as crocodiles and iguanas
are particularly noteworthy. Countless bird species
inhabit the rainforests: For example, the approximately
35 cm tall Quetzal - the heraldic animal of Guatemala -
with its iridescent green feathers that can grow up to
one meter long, is one of the many colorful birds in the
According to COUNTRYAAH, 13.03 million people live in Guatemala. The
southern highlands are the main settlement area, whereas
the Pet¨¦n in the north and the coastal lowlands of the
Caribbean are hardly populated. The largest city and
capital at the same time is Guatemala City with about
2.54 million residents (agglomeration). The country's
second largest city, Mixco, is already significantly
The ethnic groups living in the country are divided
as follows: 60% are Indians and 30% are mestizos.
Furthermore, white and black people live in Guatemala,
the latter mainly living on the Caribbean coast. The
official language is Spanish, but about half of the
population speaks one of the 20 Maya languages; many are
bilingual. The largest Indian groups are the Mam in the
west of the country, the Quich¨¦ in the north and west of
Lago de Atitl¨¢n and the Cakchiquel in the region between
Lago de Atitl¨¢n and Guatemala City.
The Roman Catholic religion is the dominant faith in
Guatemala. In the case of the Indians, however, it is
strongly mixed with pre-Columbian rites. In addition,
the Protestant faith - especially among the poor - has
been growing rapidly since the middle of the past
century. The most important place of faith of the
Catholic faith in Central America is in the city of
Esquipulas 80 km east of Guatemala City in the form of a
figure of Christ carved out of dark wood, covered with
white silk and adorned with jewels. The "Black Christ"
is the destination of pilgrims from all over Latin
America every year.
The average life expectancy in the Central American
state is 65 years, the population is growing by around
2.5%. Almost a third of the Guatemalans cannot read and
According to the 1986 constitution, Guatemala is a
presidential republic with a multi-party system. The
head of state is the President (since January 2012 Otto
P¨¦rez Molina). He is directly elected by the people for
four years and is also head of government (no
re-election possible). His powers include appointing
ministers and commanding the army.
The legislature lies with the congress. Its 158
members are also elected by the people for four years.
The country is divided into 22 departments.
Economic reforms aimed at economic liberalization of
the country have been underway since the mid-1990s.
Nevertheless, according to official estimates, over half
of the population lives below the poverty line,
especially in the north of the country. There is a high
rate of unemployment and underemployment.
The focus of the Guatemalan economy on the
agricultural sector is problematic. Here, a third of the
population generates around a tenth of its gross
domestic product (GDP), primarily through the
cultivation of sugar cane, bananas, coffee, tobacco and
cotton and through the extraction of rubber. There is
also cattle, sheep, pig and poultry farming. The usual
form of organization is plantations that belong to large
landowners; most farmers are just agricultural workers.
Cardamom is also grown in the country, a ginger family
whose seeds are used as a spice for meat and sausage
products, liqueurs and baked goods. There are also
plantations with sapotilla trees, which supply a milk
sap that is used for the production of chewing gum. For
personal use, mostly small-scale farms mainly use maize,
Around a third of the country is covered by forest,
but there is no economic use of the valuable hardwoods,
as the regions are insufficiently developed for traffic.
Likewise, only some of the abundant raw material
deposits - above all ores and petroleum, but also lead,
zinc, chromium and copper - are exploited. Industry (20%
of GDP) is mainly located in the capital. It is limited
to sugar processing, textile production and the further
processing of crude oil and metal.
Tourism has been an important source of foreign
exchange since the political situation calmed down in
the mid-1990s. The focus here is on visiting the former
Mayan places of worship.
Two thirds of the energy comes from hydropower
plants, about a quarter from the combustion of fossil
energy. Over a third of the imports come from the United
States, followed by Mexico and the PRC. The country's
most important ports are Puerto Quetzal near San Jos¨¦
and the fishing port Champerico on the Pacific. Santo
Tom¨¢s de Castilla near Puerto Barrios is the most
important sea port on the Caribbean coast. Guatemala has
three international airports.
Currency is the quetzal (= 100 centavos).