Guatemala -Where Wonders Begin!

Maria, our guide at Lake Atitlán, sitting at a loom in front of the dramatic landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

All visitors need a passport and may need a visa depending on nationality. Tourism has rebounded since Guatemala’s return to civilian rule in 1986. In 2003, approximately 880,223 tourists arrived in Guatemala. There were 17,519 hotel rooms in 2002 with 44,579 beds and an occupancy rate of 47%. Guatemala’s main tourist attractions are the Mayan ruins, such as Tikal; the numerous colonial churches in Guatemala City, Antigua Guatemala, and other towns and villages; and the colorful markets and fiestas.

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In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily expenses of staying in Guatemala City at $200. Other areas were estimated at $156 per day.

HISTORY

All visitors need a passport and may need a visa depending on nationality. Tourism has rebounded since Guatemala’s return to civilian rule in 1986. In 2003, approximately 880,223 tourists arrived in Guatemala. There were 17,519 hotel rooms in 2002 with 44,579 beds and an occupancy rate of 47%. Guatemala’s main tourist attractions are the Mayan ruins, such as Tikal; the numerous colonial churches in Guatemala City, Antigua Guatemala, and other towns and villages; and the colorful markets and fiestas.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily expenses of staying in Guatemala City at $200. Other areas were estimated at $156 per day.

Situated in Central America, Guatemala has an area of 108,890 sq km (42,043 sq mi), with a maximum length of 457 km (284 mi) nnw–sse and a maximum width of 428 km (266 mi) ene–wsw. Comparatively, the area occupied by Guatemala is slightly smaller than the state of Tennessee. It is bounded on the e by Belize, Amatique Bay, and the Caribbean Sea, on the east by Honduras and El Salvador, on the south by the Pacific Ocean, and on the west and north by Mexico, with a total boundary length of 2,087 km (1,297 mi).

Near the boundaries of the Cocos and Caribbean plates, Guatemala is in a geologically active region with frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity. Of some 30 volcanoes in Guatemala, six have erupted or been otherwise active in recent years. A catastrophic earthquake in February 1976 left nearly 23,000 dead, 70,000 injured, and 1 million people whose homes were partially or completely destroyed.

Temperature varies with altitude. The average annual temperature on the coast ranges from 25 to 30°c (77 to 86°f); in the central highlands the average is 20°c (68°f), and in the higher mountains 15°c (59°f). In Guatemala City, the average January minimum is 11°c (52°f) and the maximum 23°c (73°f); the average minimum and maximum temperatures in July are, respectively, 16°c (61°f) and 26°c (79°f). The rainy season extends from May to October inland and to December along the coast, and the dry season from November (or January) to April. Because of its consistently temperate climate, Guatemala has been called the “Land of Eternal Spring.”

Flowers of the temperate zone are found in great numbers. Of particular interest is the orchid family, which includes the white nun (monja blanca), the national flower. There is also an abundance of medicinal, industrial, and fibrous plants. Overall, there are more than 8,600 plant species throughout the country.

Guatemala’s main environmental problems are deforestation—over 50% of the nation’s forests have been destroyed since 1890—and consequent soil erosion. As recently as 1993, the nation obtained 90% of its energy from wood, losing 40,000–60,000 hectares of forest per year. Between 1965 and 1990, Guatemala also lost over 30% of its mangrove area, which totaled 16,000 hectares in the early 1990. From 1990–2000 the rate of deforestation was about 1.7% per year. In 2000, about 26.3% of the total land area was forested.

POPULATION

All visitors need a passport and may need a visa depending on nationality. Tourism has rebounded since Guatemala’s return to civilian rule in 1986. In 2003, approximately 880,223 tourists arrived in Guatemala. There were 17,519 hotel rooms in 2002 with 44,579 beds and an occupancy rate of 47%. Guatemala’s main tourist attractions are the Mayan ruins, such as Tikal; the numerous colonial churches in Guatemala City, Antigua Guatemala, and other towns and villages; and the colorful markets and fiestas.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily expenses of staying in Guatemala City at $200. Other areas were estimated at $156 per day.

The population of Guatemala in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 12,701,000, which placed it at number 69 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 42% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 95 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–10 was expected to be 2.8%, a rate the government viewed as too high. Although the government implemented programs that provide access to subsidized contraception, only 31% of women used modern contraception and the fertility rate remained high at 4.9 births per woman. The projected population for the year 2025 was 19,962,000. The population density was 117 per sq km (302 per sq mi). Most of the population is concentrated in the southern third of the country.

Because of persecution and civil war, Amerindian peasants began emigrating across the Mexican border in 1981. Under the CIRE-FCA plan (International Conference on Central American Refugees), 18,000 Guatemalans repatriated between 1989 and 1994. In 1995, 9,500 repatriated from Mexico, and in 1996, another 3,974 repatriated from Mexico. In 1997, there were still 40,000 in Mexico and Belize. Between 1984, when the first repatriation movements took place, and 1999, a total of 43,663 refugees had returned to more than 160 communities throughout Guatemala. The Guatemalan government spent some $30 million on 36 farms purchased for collective returns. In 2004 there were 656 refugees, 4 asylum seekers, and 8 returned refugees. A population that remained of concern to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at the end of 2004 was 660 persons in Guatemala City.

LANGUAGE

All visitors need a passport and may need a visa depending on nationality. Tourism has rebounded since Guatemala’s return to civilian rule in 1986. In 2003, approximately 880,223 tourists arrived in Guatemala. There were 17,519 hotel rooms in 2002 with 44,579 beds and an occupancy rate of 47%. Guatemala’s main tourist attractions are the Mayan ruins, such as Tikal; the numerous colonial churches in Guatemala City, Antigua Guatemala, and other towns and villages; and the colorful markets and fiestas.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily expenses of staying in Guatemala City at $200. Other areas were estimated at $156 per day.

Guatemala has a larger proportion of Amerindians in its total population than any other country in Central America. In 2004, persons of mixed Amerindian and Spanish ancestry, called mestizos, constituted about 59.4% of the national total. Amerindians who have become assimilated and no longer adhere to a traditional Amerindian life-style are also called ladinos, but this term is sometimes used to refer to mestizos. There are at least 22 separate Mayan groups, each with its own language. The largest minority groups include the Quiché (9.1%), the Cakchiquel (8.4%), the Mam (7.9%), and the Q’equchi (6.3%). Other Mayan groups account for about 8.6% of the population. The Garifuna are de scendants of African slaves. The white population is estimated at less than 1% of the total.

Spanish, spoken by about 60% of the population, is the official and commercial language. Amerindians speak some 28 dialects in five main language groups: Quiché, Mam, Pocomam, and Chol—all of the Mayan language family—and Carib, Kekchi, Garifuna, Cakchiquel, and Xinca. Amerindian languages are spoken by about 40% of the populace. A 2003 Law of Languages mandates the use of Mayan languages in public sectors such as health, education, and justice.

RELIGIONS

Historically, Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion (between 50–60%), with an archbishopric at Guatemala City and bishoprics at Quezaltenango, Verapaz, and Huehuetenango. Many inhabitants combine Catholic beliefs with traditional Mayan rites. Protestants account for about 40% of the population. The largest Protestant denominations are the Full Gospel Church, the Assembly of God, the Church of God of the Central American Church, and the Prince of Peace Church. Other denominations represented are Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Minority groups and religions with small communities include Jews, Muslims, and followers of the Indian spiritual leader Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

TRANSPORTATION

In 2002, the total length of Guatemala’s road system was estimated at 13,856 km (8,610 mi), of which 4,370 km (2,715 mi) was paved, including 140 km (87 mi) of expressways. In 2003, there were approximately 127,800 passenger cars and 145,900 commercial vehicles registered. Two international highways cross Guatemala: the 824-km (512-mi) Franklin D. Roosevelt Highway (part of the Pan American Highway system) and the Pacific Highway. Guatemala Railways operates 90% of the nation’s 884 km (549 mi) railroad system, all of it narrow-gauge.

Few of the rivers and lakes are important to commercial navigation. Of the 990 km (615 mi) only 260 km (161 mi) are navigable year round, an additional 730 km (454 mi) are only navigable during high water. Puerto Barrios and Santo Tomás on the Caribbean coast are Guatemala’s chief ports. The Pacific coast ports are Champerico and San José. In 2002, Guatemala had no registered cargo ships.

There were an estimated 452 airports in 2004, but only 11 had paved runways as of 2005. La Aurora International Airport at Guatemala City, the first air terminal in Central America, serves aircraft of all sizes, including jumbo jets. The government-owned Aviateca has a monopoly on scheduled domestic service and also flies to other Central American countries, Jamaica, Mexico, and the United States. In 1998, (the latest year for which data was available) 508,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.

Photo: Pyramid II in the Maya city of Tikal

Tourists climb Pyramid II to reach the Temple of the Masks in the Maya city of Tikal.

-Credits to Encyclopedia
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