Guatemala - geography
Guatemala has a varied landscape that to the south consists of a densely
populated mountain area and to the north of a sparsely populated lowlands. The
southern area alternates between mountain ranges and long chains with altitudes
of 2000 m east rising to 3500 m west. The highest peaks are conical volcanoes up
to 4220 m; most are active and the area has frequent earthquakes. The central
plateaus have fertile volcanic soils and a pleasant tropical climate with summer
rains. The lowlands are part of the Yucatán Peninsula and consist of a low
limestone plateau covered by tropical rainforest. The coastlines are sparsely
populated and contain large cattle farms and plantations.
Guatemala. Native American everyday clothes characterize the street scene.
The population consists of 60% Indians, 30-35% mestizos (of European-Indian
descent), 4-5% white descendants of the Spaniards and 2% blacks and Asians. Most
Indians speak their native language and follow traditional lifestyles; only a
few speak Spanish. There are 20 different Mayan tribes with as many languages
and over 100 dialects.
Do you know how many people there are in Guatemala? Check this site to see
population pyramid and resident density about this country.
The Indians live mainly in the central highlands, where in many places they
make up over 90% of the population. They live off agriculture and mainly grow
maize for their own consumption; many supplement the cultivation with seasonal
work in the plantations. Landino is the common name for the non-Indian
population and the Indians who have left their own culture and language. They
live mainly in the eastern part of the country and in the big cities. Many work
as cattle keepers and day laborers on the large farms. Population growth is
large, 3.1% per year, and 45% are under 15 years (1992). The influx to the
cities and especially to the capital has been great as a result of the political
violence in the early 1980's; in the same period left approximately 1/2mio. landed
and sought asylum in Mexico and the United States, while 1 million. became
internal refugees. Many hide in the slums of the cities and feed themselves as,
for example, street sweepers and shoemakers; unemployment is high and it is not
uncommon for children to be breadwinners. approximately 50,000 are still living in
exile in Mexico, according to Rigoberta Menchú, who in 1992 received the Nobel
Peace Prize for her work to achieve better economic and political conditions for
the Native American people.
A very large part of the population is attached to agriculture, and half of
the labor force is directly employed here. However, many are underemployed as
day laborers and seasonal workers. The land distribution is extremely skewed: 3%
of the landowners own 70% of the agricultural land.
This property structure dates back to colonial times, when the Spaniards
'ideas of private property collided with the Indians' traditional collective use
of land, and even now Indians are deprived of land. In addition to the white
upper class, the large landowners are international agro-business companies
such as United Brands. On the large farms, export crops such as coffee and
cotton are grown and on the Pacific coast sugar cane, while the banana
plantations are concentrated around Puerto Barrios on the Caribbean Sea.
On the small family farms, maize and beans are grown in particular. 90% of
the farms are too small to support a family and productivity is low. Food
production has not kept pace with population growth and food imports are rising.
Much of northern Guatemala is covered by rainforest. The demand for tropical
woods has increased deforestation and the rainforest is threatened. Landless
farmers who move or flee to the rainforest clear land for cultivation and also
contribute to the erosion and pollution problems.
Industrialization began in the 1930's, and industry contributes 20% of GDP and
employs 18% of the working population. The country is thus among the most
industrialized in Central America. Food (including canned meat and fish and
instant coffee), textiles, medicines, consumables and cement are processed. Much
industry is owned by foreign corporations, which are attracted by cheap labor
and the absence of unions. Since 1996, Guatemala has seen growth in both tourism
and exports of industrial goods from the so-called maquiladoras.(free zones). At
the same time, economic reforms have meant that large parts of the public sector
have been privatized through sales to foreign companies (railway operations,
telecommunications, electricity supply). For the majority of the population,
however, economic growth has not had a contagious effect, and opposition to the
rich upper class has intensified further.
Among other things. in the rainforest, a few small oil fields have been
found, but so far the production is insignificant.
Guatemala - language
The official language of Guatemala is Spanish. In addition, about 20 Mayan
languages are spoken by approximately 4.5 million, which is about as many who have
Spanish as their mother tongue. Additional languages are garifuna,
black carib, spoken by approximately 15,000, as well as the xinca languages, which
ceased to be used actively around the end of the 20th century.
Efforts are underway in Guatemala to make the Mayan languages official
languages alongside Spanish, partly derived from the Proyecto Lingüístico
Francisco Marroquín, where North American linguists from approximately 1970's have
trained Mayans in linguistics so that they now compile grammars and dictionaries
of their languages themselves. See also Maya (language).
Guatemala - religion
The majority of the population is Catholic. The traditional Native American
religions, however, live on to a large extent in the local communities.