GUATEMALAN Facts & Figures

Size: 42,042 square miles

Population: 13,824,463

Capital:  Guatemala City

Currency: Quetzal

Weather / Climate:

Guatemala lies between latitudes 13° and 18°N, and longitudes 88° and 93°W.

The country is mountainous with small desert and sand dune patches, hilly valleys filled with people, except for the south coastal area and the vast northern lowlands of Petén department. Two mountain chains enter Guatemala from west to east, dividing the country into three major regions: the highlands, where the mountains are located; the Pacific coast, south of the mountains; and the Petén region, north of the mountains. All major cities are located in the highlands and Pacific coast regions; by comparison, Petén is sparsely populated. These three regions vary in climate, elevation, and landscape, providing dramatic contrasts between hot, humid tropical lowlands and colder, drier highland peaks. Volcán Tajumulco, at 4,220 m, is the highest point in the Central American states.

The rivers are short and shallow in the Pacific drainage basin, larger and deeper in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico drainage basins, which include the Polochic and Dulce Rivers, which drain into Lake Izabal, the Motagua River, the Sarstún that forms the boundary with Belize, and the Usumacinta River, which forms the boundary between Petén and Chiapas, Mexico.

Guatemala has long claimed all or part of the territory of neighbouring Belize, formerly part of the Spanish colony, and currently an independent Commonwealth Realm which recognises Queen Elizabeth II as its Head of State. Due to this territorial dispute, Guatemala recognized Belize's independence until 1990, but the dispute is not resolved. Negotiations are currently underway under the auspices of the Organization of American States and the Commonwealth of Nations to conclude it.

Taken from wikipedia


GUATEMALAN languages

Spanish - 60%

Amerindian languages (23 officially recognized languages, all from the Mayan language family except Garifuna and Xinca) - 40%:

-K'iche' (Quiché)






Guatelmalan Sign Languageis the national deaf sign language used in Guatemala. The first dictionary was published in 2000. It is distinct from the sign languages used in Mexico and other neighboring Spanish speaking countries, and from Highland Maya Sign Language, which is used among K'iche' Maya of rural Guatemala.

The Mayan language family is one of the best documented and most studied in the Americas.[4] Modern Mayan languages descend from Proto-Mayan, a language thought to have been spoken at least 5,000 years ago; it has been partially reconstructed using the comparative method.

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According to the CIA World Fact Book, Mestizo (mixed Amerindian-Spanish - in local Spanish called Ladino) and European made 59.4% of the population, and K'iche 9.1%, Kaqchikel 8.4%, Mam 7.9%, Q'eqchi 6.3%, other Mayan 8.6%, indigenous non-Mayan 0.2%, other 0.1%.[1] Therefore, 40% of the population is Amerindian. Pure European population is not known because the country combines mestizos with whites.

Most of Guatemala's population is rural, though urbanization is accelerating. The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism, once the main faith of the population, into which many indigenous Guatemalans have incorporated traditional forms of worship. Protestantism and traditional Maya religions are practiced by an estimated 40% and 1% of the population, respectively.

Though the official language is Spanish, it is often the second language among the indigenous population. However, the Peace Accords signed in December 1996 provide for the translation of some official documents and voting materials into several indigenous languages (see summary of main substantive accords).

Racial stratification is complex and fluid in Guatemalan politics, culture and identity. Guatemala City, the largest city in Central America, is home to over 3 million inhabitants.

Other racial groups include small numbers of Afro-Guatemalans and Garifuna of mixed African and indigenous Caribbean origins who live in the country's Eastern end. Asians, mostly of Chinese descent are descendants of farm workers and railroad laborers in the early 20th century. And thousands who are Middle Easterner descendants: Arabs, Lebanese, Palestinians, Syrians and Turks came to Guatemala after World War I.

In 1900, Guatemala had a population of just 885,000. [2] Over the course of the twentieth century, the population of the country grew by a factor of fourteen. No other western hemisphere country saw such rapid growth. This has brought on difficulties for Guatemala as more people puts pressure in the nation's economic progress in a country where 70% live in dire poverty, and political stability was weakened by an inability to have effective population growth programs.

Over a million Guatemalan emigrants went to the US in the 1980s and 1990s for a better life mostly because of the Civil War. Guatemalans are the 2nd largest national subgroup of Central Americans in the USA numbering 1,081,858 in 2009(after the El Salvadorans).[2]

The largest population of Guatemalans is in Los Angeles, but there are also established Guatemalan communities in Dallas, Houston, Miami, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco area, and Washington, DC. There are also Guatemalan immigrants living abroad in Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Europe, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Japan, South Korea and Australia as well.

Taken from:


Many traditional foods in Guatemalan cuisine are based on Maya cuisine and prominently feature corn, chiles and beans as key ingredients.

There are also foods that are commonly eaten on certain days of the week. For example, it is a popular custom to eat paches (a kind of tamale made from potatoes) on Thursday. Certain dishes are also associated with special occasions, such as fiambre for All Saints Day on November 1 and tamales, which are common around Christmas.

Varieties of Guatemalan tamales

There are reportedly hundreds of varieties of tamales throughout Guatemala. They key variations include the ingredients in the masa or dough (corn, potatoes, rice), in the filling (meat, fruits, nuts), and what it is wrapped with (leaves, husks). Tamales in Guatemala tend to be wrapped in green 'maxan' leaves (Calathea lutea), while Chuchitos — which resemble Mexican tamales — are wrapped in corn husks. The masa is made out of corn that is not sweet, such as what is known as feed corn in the U.S. In Guatemala, this non-sweet corn is called maize and the corn that Americans are used to eating on the cob (sweet corn), Guatemalans call elote. Tamales in Guatemala are more typically wrapped in plantain or banana leaves and maxan leaves than corn husks. Additionally Guatemalan tamales use cooked masa, which is prepared in a time-consuming process that requires a significant amount of work.

  • Tamales colorados("red tamales") owe their name to the tomato and achiote (annato seed) that give them their color, wrapped with corn masa and are stuffed with tomato recado -a flavorful thick sauce-, roasted red bell pepper strips, capers, green olives, and chicken, beef or pork.

  • Tamales negros("black tamales") are darker and sweeter than their red counterparts due to the chocolate, raisins, prunes and almonds which are added to them. Other black tamales are not sweet but are simply made out of blue/black corn.
  • Tamales de elote("sweet corn tamales") do not use the typical masa but instead are made out of sweet corn. These may contain whole kernels of corn in the masa and do not generally contain meat.
  • Chuchitos("small dogs") are a very typical kind of Guatemalan tamale made using the same corn masa as a regular tamale but they are smaller, have a much firmer consistency and are wrapped in a tuzas (dried corn husks) instead of plantain leaves. Chuchitos are often accompanied by a simple tomato salsa and sprinkled with a hard, salty white cheese traditional from the Zacapa region. Chuchitos are a very common and are commonly served at luncheons, dinners and celebrations. The masa can be mixed with tomato recado or with a meat broth.
  • Tamalitos de masa("small dough tamales") are smaller than the typical tamales because they are usually plain in taste, with no filling and are used to dip in other foods such as soup, salsa or beans, rather than eaten alone.
  • Tamalitos de chipilínand tamales de loroco are other variants of the aforementioned tamalitos de masa, that have said ingredients added to the mix.
  • Pachesare a kind of tamale made from potatoes instead of corn.

List of typical foods

Main dishes

  • Tapado, seafood soup with green plantain slices
  • Chiles rellenos, bell peppers stuffed with meat and vegetables, covered in whipped egg whites and fried
  • Gallo en chicha, rooster stew
  • Pepián de indio(19th century recipe), meat and vegetable stew in a thick recado sauce
  • Subanik, meat and vegetable stew in spicy sauce [1]
  • Kak'ik, turkey soup with "ik" a spicy chile from Cobán often eaten on New Year's Day)
  • Caldo de resor cocido, beef and vegetable soup
  • Caldo de gallina, hen soup
  • Jocón, chicken stewed in a green sauce
  • Hilachas, shredded beef meat in a red sauce
  • Güicoyitos rellenos, stuffed zucchini
  • Pollo a la cerveza, chicken in a beer sauce
  • Pollo guisado, Spanish chicken stew
  • Carne guisada, meat stew
  • Chuletas fascinante - "Fascinating Chops", a breaded pan-fried pork chop
  • Ensalada en escabeche, picked vegetable salad
  • Pollo encebollado, chicken in an onion-based sauce
  • Estofado, beef, potato and carrot stew
  • Revolcado, tomato-based stew with spices and cow’s underbelly
  • Pollo en crema, chicken in cream-based sauce
  • Carne adobada, marinated preserved beef
  • Pulique, yet another kind of meat and vegetable stew


  • Pastel de banano, a type of banana bread
  • Tortitas de yuca, yucalatke
  • Chancletas de güisquil, sweet chayote covered in whipped egg whites and fried
  • Arroz con leche, the Spanish version of rice pudding
  • Quesadilla, a kind of flat rice cake
  • Atolde elote, sweet corn atole
  • Buñuelos, torrejas y molletes, different kinds of sweet bread soaked in syrup, which may or may not have a filling
  • Mole de platanos, fried plantain slices in a chocolate-based sauce
  • Rellenitos de plátano, small balls of mashed plantains filled with sweetened black beans, fried and sprinkled with sugar
  • Garbanzos en dulce, chickpeas in sweet syrup
  • Repollitos con dulce de leche


  • Tamales de frijol con chiltepe
  • Shucos("dirties"), the Guatemalan version of a hot dog, which includes guacamole
  • Chicharrones y carnitas, fried pork meat chunks and fried pork skins, respectively
  • Tostadas de guacamol, frijol, o salsa, fried corn tortilla with guacamole, fried black beans or tomato sauce
  • Enchiladas, fried corn tortilla topped with lettuce leaves, pickled vegetables, meat, tomato sauce, boiled egg and onion slices, and sprinkled with cheese and chopped parsley
  • Tacos de carne o pollo, fried rolled up corn tortillas filled with meat or chicken
  • Yuca con chicharrón, boiled cassava served with fried pork chunks

Traditional food "Día de todos los Santos" (Nov 1st)

  • Fiambre, which can be "white" or "red", depending on whether the pickled vegetable salad in it contains beets
  • Ayote en dulce, a type of squashed boiled in a special sweet syrup
  • Jocotes en miel, a variety of Spondias purpurea fruit boiled in syrup
  • Empanadas de ayote, a type of squash pupusa


  • Salpicón, chopped meat, raddish and mint leaves served with lemon juice
  • Chojín, a version of salpicón made with fried pork skins
  • Caldo de huevos, an egg-based Consome typically eaten as a remedy for hangovers
  • Guatemalan ceviche of fish, shrimp, snail, clams or a mixture of all
  • Chirmol Chapín (Chirmol de huevos)

Taken from wikipedia

Places to go in GUATEMALA

By far one of the most visitor-friendly and affordable destinations in Central America, Guatemala is a land of bright colours, indigenous faces and Mayan ruins plus striking green countryside, erupting volcanoes, soothing, peaceful lakes and many budget-traveller friendly hostels. These are the must-see destinations.


Set in a spectacular valley of three looming volcanoes (one of which, Fuego, releases puffs of smoke daily), Antigua is one of the best-preserved colonial towns in Central America, and an absolute must on any Guatemala itinerary and at one hour from the airport in Guatemala City, a perfect place for visitors to acclimatise to Guatemalan life.

Its well-maintained one-storey pastel-colour houses lining a grid system of streets with the Parque Central in the canter make Antigua also one of the easiest towns in Guatemala to explore on foot. The city’s ruins resulting from the most severe 1774 earthquake remain to reveal their magnificence and the importance Antigua held as the one-time capital of both Guatemala and Central America.

In spite of its relatively small size, Antigua has much more to offer visitors than its cobble-stone streets and pretty colonial buildings with yards filled with flowers and fountains. The city also has a buzzing restaurant and bar scene where locals, travellers and ex-pats alike meet to speak ‘Spanglish’ and enjoy authentically prepared international food from Indian and Thai to French (including fondue), American bagels and German bread. While Antigua might be your first stop in Guatemala, it’s also a great place to rest and relax after time on the road visiting the rest of the country, as the range of budget hotels and hostels in Antigua is by far the best in the country. Careful, though, as many of the permanent ex-pats were also once just visitors, until Antigua slowly became home!

Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan, famously described by Aldous Huxley as ‘the most beautiful lake in the world’, should be on the list of every visitor to Guatemala. Formed when the lid of a volcano was blown off during an explosion, Lake Atitlan is located in the scenic Highlands of Guatemala, and like Antigua, is also surrounded by three volcanoes. These three can be climbed, as can Indian’s Nose mountain.

For less steep hikes, try hiking between the dozen little villages spread out along the shores of Atitlan. The three most popular villages for tourists each have a distinct feel: San Pedro tends to be for backpackers looking to have a good time, with plenty of restaurants, bars, and ways to relax including saunas, heated pools and swimming pools. Nearby San Marcos is known to target those in the market for meditation and yoga retreats, and many of the small village’s restaurants cater to a vegan/vegetarian diet. Panajachel, by default the ‘big city’ to which most travellers arrive, has the most hotels, restaurants, bars, and streets are lined with typical Guatemalan trinkets and handicrafts. Boats leave from ‘Pana’ to most of the other villages around the lake, including those that most tourists never see.

Despite rising tourism numbers, Lake Atitlan is home to a massive Maya population who go about their traditional daily lives alongside selling handicrafts. Catch a glimpse of the ladies making tortillas and weaving the traditional costumes or washing clothes in the lake. While the men carry wood on their backs strapped to their heads, pick coffee and sell their product at local village markets.


The Maya ruins of Tikal are often described as one of the greatest – if not even the greatest – and most important in all of Central America. Once the capital of the Mayan world when built in the late-classic Maya period between AD 550-AD900, Tikal is spread out across more than 2.5sq km, offering visitors some of the highest towering pyramids of the entire Maya world, jutting like skyscrapers above the jungle tree-line.

Even if you are not a huge fan of ancient ruins or, like many backpackers, have been following the trail of Mayan through Mexico’s Yucatan and Belize, Tikal still manages not to disappoint. The temples and pyramids are enormous, and literally take your breath away while you climb the hundreds of steps to the top of each. Once at the top, listen for and try to spot the many howler monkeys, spider monkeys, jaguars’ coatis, crocodiles, pacas, tarantulas and the great variety of beautiful birds that call the national park home.


Often connected to a trip to Tikal, the little town of Flores is located on an island in Lake Peten, and is reached by bridge from its ‘sister city’ of Santa Elena (itself as dusty and dirty as Flores is charming) – make the journey using the distinctive Guatemalan chicken bus.

Wining and dining

With its red-roofed houses painted all the colours of the rainbow and the bright white church on top of the hill, Flores is one of the most beautiful towns in all of Guatemala, especially when seen from a boat out on the lake. Dine at one of the restaurants on the shore and witness the spectacular sunrises and sunsets over the lake every single day. A well-constructed promenade surrounding the island town is inviting for long strolls along the water, and the various piers are perfect for sunbathing or jumping off for a swim in the lake.

Sleep and Relax

Flores is not only the ideal base for your trip to Tikal; it’s also an enjoyable place to relax for a few days. Connect with other travellers’ at Las Gardenias hostel and hang in a hammock and read. Make sure to take a boat ride to one of the nearby beaches or to Petencito, a small zoo on an island in the lake which is home to animals indigenous to the region.


Chichicastenango, or just ‘Chichi’, as it is commonly called, is most famous for its colourful market, held on Thursdays and Sundays. A visit to the market should not be missed, as it is the showcase market in a country of amazing markets. Get great bargains on typical clothes, souvenirs and jewellery.

At the market

The market is not only considered the best for tourists though, as the indigenous Maya come long distances to sell (in areas off the main square) everything from fruit and vegetables to live chickens, turkeys, flowers and even kittens.

Sacrificial coca cola

Just make sure to stay the extra day or two in Chichi, as the town itself is an entirely different place on non-market days. Take the chance to chat with locals, visit the brightly-colour cemetery overlooking the town, or take a hike out of town to Pascual Abaj, a Mayan shrine on a hill above town. Meaning Sacrificial Stone in a local Mayan language, Pascual Abaj is a shrine to Huyup Tak’ah, the Mayan earth god. Visitors are welcome here as the local indigenous Mayans come here regularly to bring good luck or good health, and ‘sacrifice’ everything from corn to Coca Cola, or if you are lucky to catch the real deal, even a rooster may be sacrificed.

Taken from:

Doing business in GUATEMALA

According to the CIA World Factbook, Guatemala's GDP (PPP) per capita is US$5,200; however, this developing country still faces many social problems and is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. The distribution of income remains highly unequal with more than half of the population below the national poverty line and just over 400,000 (3.2%) unemployed. The CIA World Fact Book considers 56.2% of the population of Guatemala to be living in poverty.[25][39]

Remittances from Guatemalans who fled to the United States during the civil war now constitute the largest single source of foreign income (two thirds of exports and one tenth of GDP).[25]

In recent years the exporter sector of nontraditional products has grown dynamically representing more than 53% of global exports. Some of the main products for export are fruits, vegetables, flowers, handicrafts, cloths and others.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in purchasing power parity (PPP) in 2010 was estimated at $70.15 billion USD. The service sector is the largest component of GDP at 63%, followed by the industry sector at 23.8% and the agriculture sector at 13.2% (2010 est.). Mines produce gold, silver, zinc, cobalt and nickel.[40] The agricultural sector accounts for about two-fifths of exports, and half of the labor force. Organic coffee, sugar, textiles, fresh vegetables, and bananas are the country's main exports. Inflation was 3.9% in 2010.

The 1996 peace accords that ended the decades-long civil war removed a major obstacle to foreign investment. Tourism has become an increasing source of revenue for Guatemala.

In March 2006 Guatemala's congress ratified the Dominican Republic – Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) between several Central American nations and the United States.[41] Guatemala also has free trade agreements with Taiwan and Colombia.

Taken from wikipedia

GUATEMALA: useful links

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