Guatemala Population - History

12,293,545 (July 2006 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 41.1% (male 2,573,359/female 2,479,098)
15-64 years: 55.5% (male 3,353,630/female 3,468,184)
65 years and over: 3.4% (male 194,784/female 224,490) (2006 est.)
Median age:
total: 18.9 years
male: 18.5 years
female: 19.4 years (2006 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.27% (2006 est.)
Birth rate:
29.88 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Death rate:
5.2 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate:
-1.94 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.87 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 30.94 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 33.55 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 28.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 69.38 years
male: 67.65 years
female: 71.18 years (2006 est.)
Total fertility rate:
3.82 children born/woman (2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
1.1% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
78,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
5,800 (2003 est.)
noun: Guatemalan(s)
adjective: Guatemalan
Ethnic groups:
Mestizo (mixed Amerindian-Spanish - in local Spanish called Ladino) and European 59.4%, 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% (2001 census)
Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Mayan beliefs
Spanish 60%, Amerindian languages 40% (23 officially recognized Amerindian languages, including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 70.6%
male: 78%
female: 63.3% (2003 est.)


The Republic of Guatemala is one of seven countries located in Central America. Bordered by Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and the Pacific Ocean, Guatemala has a land area of 108,430 square kilometers (41,865 square miles or approximately the size of Tennessee) and a population of 13 million, representing over one third of Central America's entire population. The climate of Guatemala is primarily tropical, although it contains cool highlands in the north and tropical jungles in the south. The central terrain is largely mountainous, while the coastal region is bordered by plains. There are many active volcanoes in the country, and the area is also subject to hurricanes and earthquakes.

Approximately 40 percent of the population of Guatemala is urban. The most populated area is the country's capital, Guatemala City, which boasts a metropolitan population of over two million people. Guatemala is a leader in Central American's commerce and manufacturing. It produces and exports petroleum, minerals, tobacco, electrical goods, pharmaceuticals, food, and textiles. Tourism in Guatemala also thrives, particularly in Antigua, which is a major cultural center of Guatemala City. Agriculture represents about 25 percent of the Guatemala's income, and farming accounts for nearly half of the nation's workforce. Approximately 36 percent of the country's exports go to the United States, which in turn comprises about 40 percent of Guatemala's imports. Guatemala also exports to other Central American countries, as well as to Japan and Germany.

Guatemala has a rich and culturally distinctive history. More than 50 percent of Guatemala's population descended from Mayan ancestry. Historians believe that the region, which now comprises Guatemala, contained a series of small kingdoms and city-states during whose existence architectural accomplishments, many representations of which can still be found in Guatemala, flourished. In 1521, the area was claimed by Spain, under whose rule the Mayan Indians were suppressed. During the 300 year period which followed, the Mayan Culture diminished, although today it is a celebrated part of Guatemala's heritage. People of Mayan-Spanish descent today are referred to as Ladinos.

After winning its independence from Spain in 1821, Guatemala briefly became part of Mexico and later a member of the United Provinces of Central America. From that time until 1944, it was governed by a series of dictatorships until its first civilian president, Juan José Arevalo, was elected and promised to bring democratic political reform. The new form of government, however, was short-lived many of Arevalo's successors returned the country to a series of dictatorships, military rule, and civil wars until 1985 when Vinico Cerezo was elected to the presidency. Under Cerezo's leadership, the new 1985 Constitution (which was temporarily suspended and amended in 1993) provided for the separation of governmental powers and included provisions for the protection of human rights. Entering the twenty-first century, Guatemala enjoyed a progressive, human rights-oriented government that sought to provide for the protection, education, and cultural advancements of its people. Among the country's agendas in 2000 were the perpetuation of human rights within its borders, the modernization of its schools, and its diplomatic relations with other world governments.

The Conquest

The Maya civilization was already somewhat fragmented when Europeans arrived in the early 1500's, and the weak and divided Maya were easily conquered by the Spaniards. Pedro de Alvarado, sent by Hernán Cortés, was engaged in the conquest of the highlands of Guatemala from 1523 to 1527. Alvarado was a Spanish conquistador and governor of Guatemala, and was known for his skill as a soldier and his cruelty to native populations.

Alvarado first allied himself with the Cakchiquel nation to fight against their traditional rivals, the Quiché nation. Once he felt militarily secure, Alvarado turned against the Cakchiquels, meeting them in several battles until they were subdued in 1530. Battles with other tribes continued up to 1548, when the Kek'chí in Nueva Sevilla, Izabal were defeated, leaving the Spanish to rule.

Those of native blood descended to the bottom of the new social hierarchy. The lands were carved up into large estates and the people ruthlessly exploited by the new landowners. The last cities conquered were Tayasal, capital of the Itzá Maya, and Zacpetén, capital of the Ko'woj Maya, both in 1697. These cities endured several attempts, including a failed attempt by Hernán Cortés in 1542. In order to conquer these last Maya sites, the Spaniards had to attack them on three fronts, one coming from Yucatan, another from Belize, and the third one from Alta Verapaz.

Yax Mutal

Hieroglyphic records found at the site suggest it was seen as the seat of power for the Mayan ruler, Yax Ehb Xook, who ruled much of the surrounding lowland region at the time. The city thus took the name Yax Mutal in his honor.

By the early third century A.D., the leader Chak Tok Ich�k ruled Yax Mutal he is believed to have ordered construction of the palace that eventually formed the foundation of the city’s Central Acropolis, the remains of which are still standing today.

The next 300 or so years marked a period of near-constant warfare for the city and its occupants.

By the start of the fifth century A.D., the city’s rulers commissioned construction of an elaborate system of fortifications, including ditches and earthworks, along the northern periphery of the city, which joined with natural swampland defenses to the south, east and west to effectively form a protective wall around the city.

The fortifications protected the city center as well as its agricultural areas—in all, a total of more than 40 square miles.

Subsequent rulers continued to expand the city well into the eighth century A.D. and, at its peak, Yax Mutal is believed to have had a population as high as 90,000 people.

12 facts you probably don’t know about Guatemala

But, compared to its neighbors in Central America (we’re looking at you, Costa Rica), this beautiful country remains pretty under the radar.

So, to give you some insider tips, we’ve curated a bunch of surprising and curiosity-inducing Guatemala facts. They prove that Guatemala is worthy of the spotlight and maybe, just maybe, they’ll entice you to visit for yourself.

Guatemala local with travelers

There are 21 dialects spoken in Guatemala

Spanish is the official language and is spoken by 90% of the population. However, there are long-standing Mayan, Xinca, and Garífuna roots too. Since the Mayan civilization was first developed by the Maya (a group of Indigenous people of Mesoamerica), the language has evolved into 21 dialects that can be heard today on a true Mayan encounter .

Blue denim flourishes in Guatemala

Many Maya women are crafty textile producers. And Guatemala is actually a leader in blue denim production.

Today, textile weaving is still ever-present in towns like San Antonio Aguas Calientes, just outside of Antigua. Guatemalans wear Huipiles (an incredible garment typically woven by local women) that hold a sacred meaning based on region.

Guatemalans invented the first ever chocolate bar

All of us (well, the chocolate lovers among us) would agree with the Maya people who worship the cacao tree. They call chocolate “the food of the Gods”. And they believe that chocolate holds incredible nutritional benefits, like reducing blood pressure. Today, Guatemala is a mass producer and exporter of chocolate products.

But don’t worry – there’s still plenty of quality chocolate to enjoy while in the country. Many of the best places are in shops around Antigua. And when there, be sure to visit ChocoMuseo, a museum that’ll teach you about its history and nutritional values. (You can visit the museum and get some coffee to go along with it on this 13-day trip through Guatemala and Mexico!)

There are more than 30 volcanoes in Guatemala

The insane number of volcanoes in Guatemala is surely enough to put it on the map. Of these, the most noteworthy volcano is Tajumulco. It’s the highest peak in Central America at a whopping 4, 202 metres. And out of over 30 volcanoes, only three are active: Fuego, Pacaya and Santiaguito.

Agua volcano viewpoint in the streets of Antigua

An experience you won’t want to miss is a hike up Pacaya volcano. Whether you trek by foot or take a horse ride up, the view from the top of Pacaya is simply spectacular.

Dennis Asturias, one of Intrepid’s local leaders in Guatemala, shares a snippet of his experience on the hike:

Once at the base of the volcano, you have the opportunity to roast some marshmallows in a pit to celebrate all that effort you put in for climbing this active volcano. If you are lucky, you can even roast them over molten rock.

Oh, the beauty of Guatemala’s volcanoes. Extra fact: the bath by Quetzaltenango’s volcano is naturally heated by a volcanic vent.

Tikal National Park is the first mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site

Tikal National Park has earned its title as the first mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural and natural wonders. Tikal’s Mayan ruins are embedded in the jungle. From a distance you can spot them pop out of the rich green canopy – it’s breathtaking.

Climb to the top of the ruins to spot local residents (we’re talking toucans and macaws). Find out about the history behind the 5 granite temples by a fantastic local guide (we’ve got you covered on Intrepid’s 13-day small group adventure from Guatemala to Mexico).

Some Guatemalans worship a Saint named Maximón

Arguably one of the most mysterious Guatemala facts is one that exists around the worshipping of Maximón. A shocking legend about him says when the village men would head off to work, Maximón slept with all of their wives! Consequently, the men cut off Maximóns arms and legs in a fit of anger, which explains why most effigies of him are made without arms.

Coffee is Guatemalas biggest export business

Coffee is big in Guatemala. Like, really big. By 1880, coffee accounted for 90% of Guatemala’s exports and even today, it’s one of their main exports and sources of income for the country. The coffee has a distinct flavor to it, typically full-bodied and has rich chocolate and cocoa flavors.

Coffee beans being harvested in Guatemala

Coffee experience recommendation from Dennis, one of Intrepid’s local leaders in Guatemala:

If you are an avid coffee drinker like myself, I would recommend going to places that show you the whole process of acquiring coffee. About 2 km away from the main plaza in Antigua is a place called La Azotea. Take a tuk-tuk to this place for an authentic, yet practical experience. At La Azotea, you can visit the coffee museum as well the music museum. The coffee museum is set in an old mill and visitors are provided explanations of the history, processing, marketing and brewing of coffee.

A hurricane unveiled a ‘Rhode Island-sized’ jade mine

Guatemala is among the biggest jade producers in the world. The Maya people used these rare stones for ideological rituals. On a visit you can buy your own precious stones from the jewelry stores around Antigua.

Old American school buses live their second lives as ‘chicken buses’

When big yellow American school buses near 10 years or clock in 150,000 miles, some are auctioned off and driven down to Guatemala. The buses are revived by locals with strokes of paint in every color of the rainbow. Guatemalans then use it for local transport. Riding Guatemala’s public transit is a thrilling ride. Opting for this budget-friendly travel alternative will give you an eclectic local experience.

Traveler with a colorful chicken bus

At Tortugario Montericco, you can help release turtles into the sea

Who doesn’t want to see and help these cute creatures take their steps in life? At Tortugario Montericco, you have the opportunity to help with conservation efforts. They’ve set up nested protection for the eggs along the beach (an area that’s an important nesting site for olive ridley turtles).

Dennis, one of Intrepid’s local leaders in Guatemala, gives tips on when to go:

The nesting season runs from June to December and peaks in August and September. So if you are in Guatemala around this time, this is a fabulous opportunity for wildlife lovers to engage in releasing of the turtles.

Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America

Just as deep as it is beautiful! Only 4 hours away from Antigua, it’s a fantastic spot for enthusiastic photographers to capture some of the best volcano views.

San Jorge La Laguna is a small village that overlooks Lake Atitlan and is home to locals eager to let you in on their traditional crafts. Better yet, stay with a local host family to really immerse yourself in the culture.

A view of the sunset on Lake Atitlan.

Guatemalans fly kites to honour their dead

All Saints Day Kite Festival is Guatemalans’ way of honoring their dead. Every year on November 1st, Guatemalans partake in this ritual that has been around for more than 3000 years. People flock down to the cemeteries to clean and decorate the graves of their loves ones. Then, Guatemalans fly massive and intricately-decorated kites high in the sky — it’s quite the sight to behold.

A major thank you to Intrepid’s local Guatemala tour leader, Dennis Asturias, for his on-the-ground insights!

Ethnic Diversity

Guatemala is more or less divided evenly between the descendants of indigenous Maya groups (of which there are 21 different linguistic groups) and ladinos, who are of Mayan descent but have westernized their dress and culture and also speak Spanish. There are also a large number of mestizos, who are a mixture of Mayan and European, as well as a smaller amount of people with pure European lineages.

Indigenous Mayan descendants are strongly represented in the Western Highlands, whereas the Petén lowlands, Guatemala City, Pacific Slope and Caribbean Lowlands are mostly ladino. The main Mayan groups of Guatemala are the Kaqchikel, K’iche’, Tz’utujil, Mam, Ixil, Poqomchi’, Poqomam, Q’eqchi’, and Q’anjob’al. The K’iche’, with nearly one million speakers, are the largest group. The Kaqchikel have around 400,000 speakers and the Mam have some 686,000 speakers.

The Garinagu are a non-Mayan group in Guatemala that comes from African and Amerindian descent. They arrived in Guatemala in the 1800s via St. Vincent and the island of Roatán, Honduras and settled along the Caribbean coast in the town of Lívingston. Their Garífuna culture is fairly different from that of the rest of Guatemala.

Culture of Guatemala

On a trip to Guatemala you will discover a culture that reflects strong Mayan and Spanish influences, and that continues to be defined as a contrast between poor Mayan villagers in the rural highlands, and the urbanized and relatively wealthy mestizos population (known in Guatemala as ladinos) who occupy the cities and surrounding agricultural plains. With the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores, power was transferred to the foreigners, and their mixed-race descendants, the ladino, became the new powerful families of Guatemala. Unlike in much of the rest of the New World, however, the Europeans did not completely marginalize or supplant the indigenous people, but rather formed an uneasy alliance.

While Spanish became the official language mandated in schools, various Mayan languages never died out, and are still widely-spoken throughout the highlands today. The music of Guatemala comprises several styles and expressions. The Maya had an intense musical practice. Guatemala was also one of the first regions in the New World to be introduced to European music, beginning in 1524. Many composers from the Renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic, and contemporary music styles have contributed works of all genres, of very high quality. The marimba is Guatemala&rsquos national instrument. The marimba is made of keys or bars (usually made of wood) that produce musical tones when struck with mallets. The keys are arranged as those of a piano, with the accidentals raised vertically and overlapping the natural keys to aid the performer both visually and physically.

Although Spanish is the official language, it is not universally spoken among the indigenous population, nor is it often spoken as a second language. During a Guatemala trip you may hear up to twenty-one distinct Mayan languages are spoken, especially in rural areas. In addition, there are several non-Mayan Amerindian languages, such as the indigenous Xinca, and Garifuna, an Arawakan language spoken on the Caribbean coast.

The Maya peoples are known for their brightly colored yarn-based textiles, which are woven into capes, shirts, blouses, and dresses. Each village has its own distinctive pattern, making it possible to distinguish a person's hometown on sight. Women's clothing consists of a shirt (camisa) and a long skirt (falda).

Roman Catholicism combined with the indigenous Maya religion to form the unique syncretic religion that prevailed throughout the country and continues to do so in the rural regions. The unique religion is reflected in the local saint, Maximón, who is associated with the subterranean force of masculine fertility and prostitution. Always depicted in black, he wears a black hat and sits on a chair, often with a cigar placed in his mouth and a gun in his hand, with offerings of tobacco, alcohol, and Coca-cola at his feet. The locals know him as San Simon of Guatemala. Beginning from negligible roots prior to 1960, however, Protestant Pentecostalism has grown to become the predominant religion of Guatemala City and other urban centers and down to mid-sized towns.

1960 was also the approximate start of the long and brutal Civil War, which pitted the wealthier urban ladinos against the poorer rural Mayans. Both sides engaged in death squad tactics, although by all counts the losses were far greater on the villagers&rsquo side as the ladinos controlled the government and the military. The government hit squads were aided by the traditional practice of Mayan villagers wearing distinctive fabrics identifying their home village, allowing the government soldiers to kill suspected anti-government villagers on sight. The civil war forced moderates and the middle class to either take sides or flee the country, further polarizing the country. After 36 years of war and approximately 100,000 deaths, a peace agreement was brokered in 1996 and the country has been gradually healing since that time. Understandably, great animosity still exists between rich and poor, Maya and ladino, although they all identify themselves as Guatemalan.

Guatemala City is home to many of the nation&rsquos libraries and museums, including the National Archives, the National Library, and the Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, which has an extensive collection of Maya artifacts. There are private museums, such as the Ixchel, which focuses on textiles, and the Popol Vuh, which focuses on Mayan archeology. Both museums are housed inside the Universidad Francisco Marroquín campus. The Guatemala National Prize in Literature is a one-time only award that recognizes an individual writer's body of work. It has been given annually since 1988 by the Ministry of Culture and Sports. Miguel Angel Asturias, won the Literature Nobel Prize in 1967. Among his most famous books is "El Señor Presidente", a novel based on the government of Manuel Estrada Cabrera.

Guatemala Population - History

The African Legacy in Guatemala: Black Guatemalans?

Click to listen and learn!

Several years ago, someone showed me a photograph of a Black woman walking along the beach. I asked him where it was taken and he replied, "Livingston, Guatemala." I wondered to myself, 'Black Guatemalans?' Through my studies at Howard University, I knew that the African diaspora was widespread but hearing about Blacks in Guatemala still took me by surprise.

Livingston, Guatemala, is home to over 6,000 Black Guatemalans, also known as Garifuna. During the 1700's, the Europeans brought Africans to the Americas as slaves. It is believed that this particular group of Africans was brought over from Ghana. In 1795, the African slaves on the island of St. Vincent revolted. Led by Marcos Sanchez Diaz, they fled to the island of Rotan in Honduras. From there, the Garifuna spread out along the Caribbean to Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.

Hervan Morgan is an active member of "Peini," the Garifuna Community in Punta Gorda, Belize. He owns the local computer store in the town. Punta Gorda is the largest town in southern Belize. The majority of the residents are Garifuna. Talking to Morgan gave me insight into what it means to be Garifuna.

There are many people in the town who are still waiting for the government to deliver on its promise to provide over 15,000 new jobs. Although jobs can be scare and the average pay per day is only $5.00 Belize dollars ($2.50 USD), a strong sense of pride and unity make the Garifuna people rich in other ways. The warmth that the Garifuna people possess comes from what Morgan calls having a "Garifuna Heart." The Garifuna heart is open and loving in every aspect of the Garifuna culture. When I stepped off the bus in Punta Gorda, I knew exactly what Morgan was talking about. Everyone was kind and friendly I didn't pass a single person who didn't greet me in some way.

As a proud Garifuna, Morgan spends a great deal of time and energy working for the progress of his people. He wants to create economic independence among his people so that they can remain self-sufficient. One of the major problems in Belize is the number of foreigners that comes in offering financial assistance, but leaving many communities dependent on aid. Morgan is currently working on several initiatives to help Peini gain the economic independence it needs to prosper on its own.

The Guatemalan Garifuna, descendants of the African slaves and the Maya of Guatemala, have a distinct culture. They live mainly along the coast of the eastern tip of the country. They make up less than one percent of Guatemala's population. They language they speak is also called Garifuna. It is a mixture of French, indigenous languages, Creole, Bambu, and Patua.

As I walked down the streets of Livingston, I was surrounded by people speaking the Garifuna language. It was a strange experience for me because it was the first time since the beginning of our journey that I didn't understand anything that was being said. Luckily, I was able to get by because everyone is bilingual (Garifuna & Spanish). So, if I had a question, all I had to do was to ask it in Spanish. I was curious to know more about the Garifuna culture, so I started to ask the people around me if they could tell me more about it. A man on the beach told me that the best place for me to find out would be ONEGUA--he was afraid to tell me himself because he didn't want to give me any false information!

I took his advice and looked up ONEGUA. I learned that it is an acronym that stands for The Organization of Black Guatemalans. The organization is a community group that provides educational and cultural support for Black Guatemalans in Livingston. ONEGUA receives no financial support from the Guatemalan government. This lack of support is not surprising considering the fact that the Garifuna were not recognized as an ethnic group until the signing of the Guatemalan peace agreement three years ago. ONEGUA was founded because the elders of the community were concerned that the younger generation would lose their Garifuna culture and traditions. The elders wanted to provide their youth with educational support to enable them to deepen their cultural understanding. In addition, the elders began providing after-school tutoring to students who sought extra help.

Two of the problems facing the Garifuna community today are poverty and drugs. Drugs are of special concern since there has been an increase in drug abuse among teenagers over the past couple of years. However, the problem here is not nearly as bad as it is in many major U.S. cities. On a more positive note, ONEGUA has succeeded in bringing together a supportive group of youth that are active in making positive change for the community.

One of the major efforts that ONEGUA is pushing for is national educational reform in school curriculum. It has been proven that students perform better when their culture is validated through their curriculum. Currently, Garifuna language, culture and history are not taught in Guatemalan schools. ONEGUA is fighting to have these subjects included in the curriculum. ONEGUA would also like to see more teachers come out of the Garifuna community to serve as role models for Garifuna students.

ONEGUA coordinates traditional celebrations and events relating to Garifuna culture. The most important festival celebrated is "Garifuna Settlement Day" on November 19. Garifuna music is based on traditional African rhythms. Drums are an essential part of the music, and there are different drums for different songs. Certain drums are sacred and are only used for rituals and religious ceremonies. The other day, I saw the group Bahia Azul perform at the local restaurant. They were great - music to my ears! To make these magical sounds, the band used two tambores, two maracas, par de tortuga (turtle shell), and caracoles (they make a cool sound when you blow into them).

After I departed Livingston for Guatemala City, I began to understand why people never want to leave the town. Livingston is only accessible by boat, and, as a result, air pollution is almost non-existent. The only cars in town belong to the police, and those are few in number. To get around, most people ride a bicycle or walk. With the beach only a few steps away from almost any part of town, life here is wonderfully laid-back. No one is in a hurry to do anything.

Being in Livingston made me feel at home. As an African-American, I find it amazing that I can travel anywhere in the world, yet I continually find people who share many of my cultural values and traditions. I feel that we connect because we have a shared history that began in Africa.

Where is Guatemala?

Guatemala is a country located in Central America. It is positioned in the Northern and Western hemispheres of the Earth. It is bordered by Mexico to the north and west by Belize and the Gulf of Honduras (Caribbean Sea) to the northeast by Honduras to the east by El Salvador to the southeast and by the Pacific Ocean to the south.

Guatemala Bordering Countries: Mexico, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador.

Regional Maps: Map of North America

15 Cool Facts about Guatemala City

Guatemala City is the capital of Guatemala and the largest city in Central America. It is situated about 4,900 feet (1,500 meters) above sea level on a broad highland in the Sierra Madre, 50 miles (80 km) north of the Pacific coast. The climate is mild, with little seasonal variation in temperatures. Most of the rainfall occurs between May and October. Guatemala City has a population of 1.022 million (2001).

1. Guatemala City -known to residents simply as Guatemala- is the nation&aposs political, cultural, and commercial hub.

2. With its suburbs, Guatemala City holds more than 20% of the republic&aposs population.

3. Guatemala City has most of Guatemala&aposs government agencies, its leading banks, its major newspapers and broadcasting stations, and its most important schools, including the venerable University of San Carlos.

4. A diversified base of light industry in Guatemala City produces textiles, clothing, food, furniture, and other goods.

5. The city is divided into a number of urban zones, each with it own street grid. It lies on the Inter-American Highway and is connected by rail with Mexico and El Salvador and with most Guatemalan cities, including the port of San José on the Pacific and Puerto Barrios on the Caribbean.

Mercado Central, Guatemala City

6. An international airport in Guatemala City was opened in 1968.

7. Originally named Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, Guatemala City was founded in 1776 to serve as the colonial capital of Spanish Central America, replacing Santiago (modern Antigua), which had been leveled by earthquakes in 1773.

8. After the Spanish were expelled in 1821, Guatemala City became the capital of the Central American Federation (1823�) and subsequently of the Guatemalan republic.

9. Although it was built only 15 miles (24 km) northeast of the earlier capital, Guatemala City was thought to be safe from earthquakes however, serious shocks occurred in 1874. In 1917 and 1918 a series of major quakes left the city in ruins. It was largely rebuilt by 1921 but again suffered heavy damage in 1976.

Guatemala Earthquake 1976

10. Architecturally, the city is a blend of late colonial and more modern elements, although major buildings in the colonial style are mainly 20th-century reconstructions.

11. At or near the central plaza (Parque Central), from which broad avenues extend at right angles, are situated the imposing National Palace (now a museum), the Presidential Palace, and the cathedral (1782�), one of the few structures that survived the earthquakes of 1917�.

12. Dominating the skyline of Guatemala City are multistoried buildings of contemporary design.

13. La Merced, an early-19th-century church rebuilt after 1918, contains altars and other treasures transported from Antigua.

14. Other points of interest in Guatemala City include the modern Olympic Stadium, the Central Market, University City, and the Cerrito del Carmen, where a reconstruction of an old hermitage is set in a hillside park. In the western outskirts are the Mayan ruins of Kaminaljuyú.

15. The recent history of Guatemala City has been one of purposeful commercial development hampered by the chronic instability of the national government and by a tremendous influx of indigent people from rural areas. That influx peaked in the 1970s and 1980s, a period of intense guerrilla warfare. The growth of the city was accompanied by the spread of slum areas in the poorest districts. Renacentro, a project to restore and preserve the historic center of the city, was initiated in 1994.

Watch the video: Guatemala Population Pyramid 1950-2100 (January 2022).