Facts about Guatemala

World Facts Index > Guatemala > Guatemala City

The Maya civilization flourished in Guatemala and surrounding regions during the first millennium A.D. After almost three centuries as a Spanish colony, Guatemala won its independence in 1821. During the second half of the 20th century, it experienced a variety of military and civilian governments, as well as a 36-year guerrilla war. In 1996, the government signed a peace agreement formally ending the conflict, which had left more than 100,000 people dead and had created some 1 million refugees.

Geography of Guatemala

Middle America, bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between El Salvador and Mexico, and bordering the Gulf of Honduras (Caribbean Sea) between Honduras and Belize
15 30 N, 90 15 W
total: 108,890 sq km
water: 460 sq km
land: 108,430 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly smaller than Tennessee
Land boundaries:
total: 1,687 km
border countries: Belize 266 km, El Salvador 203 km, Honduras 256 km, Mexico 962 km
400 km
Maritime claims:
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
tropical; hot, humid in lowlands; cooler in highlands
mostly mountains with narrow coastal plains and rolling limestone plateau (Peten)
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Volcan Tajumulco 4,211 m
Natural resources:
petroleum, nickel, rare woods, fish, chicle, hydropower
Natural hazards:
numerous volcanoes in mountains, with occasional violent earthquakes; Caribbean coast extremely susceptible to hurricanes and other tropical storms
Environment current issues:
deforestation in the Peten rainforest; soil erosion; water pollution
Geography - note:
no natural harbors on west coast

Population of Guatemala

13,002,206 (July 2008 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)
Median age:
18.9 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
30.94 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 69.38 years
male: 67.65 years
female: 71.18 years
Fertility rate:
3.82 children born/woman
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%
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%


Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Guatemala
local long form: Republica de Guatemala
Government type:
constitutional democratic republic
Administrative divisions:
22 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Chimaltenango, Chiquimula, El Progreso, Escuintla, Guatemala, Huehuetenango, Izabal, Jalapa, Jutiapa, Peten, Quetzaltenango, Quiche, Retalhuleu, Sacatepequez, San Marcos, Santa Rosa, Solola, Suchitepequez, Totonicapan, Zacapa
15 September 1821 (from Spain)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 15 September (1821)
31 May 1985, effective 14 January 1986; note - suspended 25 May 1993 by former President SERRANO; reinstated 5 June 1993 following ouster of president; amended November 1993
Legal system:
civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal (active duty members of the armed forces may not vote and are restricted to their barracks on election day)
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Alvaro COLOM Caballeros (since 14 January 2008); Vice President Rafael ESPADA (since 14 January 2008); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Alvaro COLOM Caballeros (since 14 January 2008); Vice President Rafael ESPADA (since 14 January 2008)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a four-year term (may not serve consecutive terms); election last held 9 September 2007; runoff held 4 November 2007 (next to be held September 2011).
Legislative branch:
unicameral Congress of the Republic or Congreso de la Republica (158 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Constitutional Court or Corte de Constitutcionalidad is Guatemala's highest court (five judges are elected for concurrent five-year terms by Congress, each serving one year as president of the Constitutional Court; one is elected by Congress, one elected by the Supreme Court of Justice, one appointed by the President, one elected by Superior Counsel of Universidad San Carlos de Guatemala, and one by Colegio de Abogados); Supreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justicia (thirteen members serve concurrent five-year terms and elect a president of the Court each year from among their number; the president of the Supreme Court of Justice also supervises trial judges around the country, who are named to five-year terms)


Guatemala is the most populous of the Central American countries with a GDP per capita roughly one-half that of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. The agricultural sector accounts for about one-tenth of GDP, two-fifths of exports, and half of the labor force. Coffee, sugar, and bananas are the main products, with sugar exports benefiting from increased global demand for ethanol. The 1996 signing of peace accords, which ended 36 years of civil war, removed a major obstacle to foreign investment, and Guatemala since then has pursued important reforms and macroeconomic stabilization. On 1 July 2006, the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) entered into force between the US and Guatemala and has since spurred increased investment in the export sector. The distribution of income remains highly unequal with about 56% of the population below the poverty line. Other ongoing challenges include increasing government revenues, negotiating further assistance from international donors, upgrading both government and private financial operations, curtailing drug trafficking and rampant crime, and narrowing the trade deficit. Given Guatemala's large expatriate community in the United States, it is the top remittance recipient in Central America, with inflows serving as a primary source of foreign income equivalent to nearly two-thirds of exports.

$64.76 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 22.7%
industry: 18.8%
services: 58.5%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
3.76 million
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 50%, industry 15%, services 35%
revenues: $3.374 billion
expenditures: $4.041 billion
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 51.9%
hydro: 35.2%
other: 12.9%
nuclear: 0%
sugar, textiles and clothing, furniture, chemicals, petroleum, metals, rubber, tourism
sugarcane, corn, bananas, coffee, beans, cardamom; cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens
coffee, sugar, petroleum, apparel, bananas, fruits and vegetables, cardamom
Export partners:
US 48.3%, El Salvador 10.9%, Honduras 6.8% 
fuels, machinery and transport equipment, construction materials, grain, fertilizers, electricity
Import partners:
US 31.6%, Mexico 9.4%, South Korea 7.9%, China 5.3%, El Salvador 4.1%
quetzal (GTQ), US dollar (USD), others allowed

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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