30 Interesting Facts About Guatemala

  1. With a population of more than 16.5 million, Guatemala is the most populated country in Central America.
  2. Guatemala has one of the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) in the whole Latin American region. The country is just above Haiti and Honduras in this aspect. (Source)
  3. Guatemala has one of the highest rates of femicide (murder of a female due to gender) in the world, only behind El Salvador, Honduras, and South Africa. In 2008, it also became the first country to recognize femicide officially. (Source)
  4. It is generally recognized that human life started in Guatemala around 12,000 years ago. But there are few evidences that Guatemala is the first human settlement in Central America, with its initial human existence in 18,000 B.C. (Source)
  5. Guatemala’s politics after its independence came under the influence of American fruit companies (especially the United Fruit Company). Therefore like a few other Central American countries (e.g. Honduras), it was also labeled as a “banana republic.”
  6. Guatemalan Civil War between the US-backed government and leftist rebels lasted for 36 years (1960-1996) and resulted in the demise of around 200,000 people. It is known as one of the longest civil wars of the 20th Century.
  7. During this civil war, more than 40,000 people (mostly the indigenous Maya people) were killed in the event known as the Guatemalan genocide.  
  8. Guatemala has the highest percentage of Mayan speakers (around 35%) in the Central American region.
  9. The official language of Guatemala is Spanish. However, the local population also speak several Mayan languages.
  10. On May 30, 2010, an enormous hole opened up in the middle of Guatemala City. This hole was 60 feet wide and 30 stories deep, which resulted in at least one casualty. Construction on volcano pumice and underground water are the main factors that trigger such sinkholes in Guatemala City. (Source)
  11. Tikal National Park in Guatemala contains many magnificent Maya temples. Temple IV in Tikal is the highest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas.
  12. Volcan Tajumulco (4220 m) in Guatemala is the highest point in Central America. Moreover, 8 of the nine tallest mountains in Central America are also present in Guatemala. (Source)
    Eruption from a mountain in Guatemala
    Guatemala has tallest mountains and most volcanoes in Central America

  13. Guatemala has the highest number of volcanoes in Central America. There are 29 volcanoes in this Central American country. (Source)
  14. Guatemala City (the capital of the country) is the largest metropolitan area in Central America. Its population is ore than 3 million. 
  15. Guatemala has the highest percentage of Protestants (around 40%) in Central America. Nearly 50% of the population follows Roman Catholic Christianity. 
  16. George Constant Washington, an English chemist living in Guatemala, was the first person who invented the first mass-produced instant coffee process.
  17. Guatemala claims the southern half of neighboring Belize to be its territory. In 2019, both these countries asked the ICJ (International Court of Justice) to decide on this matter. (Source)
  18. More than 39% of people in Guatemala are indigenous. It is the highest percentage of indigenous people in any Central American country.
  19. Guatemala has the largest economy in Central America. The GDP per capita of the country is around $5,000. 
  20. The meaning of the word “Guatemala” in the Mayan language is “land of trees.” It has one of the largest tree reserves in Central America.
  21. Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) in Guatemala, covering 5 million acres, is the largest contiguous natural forest in Mesoamerica. The deforestation rate here is almost zero, thanks to its management by local communities. (Source)
  22. Guatemala is the world’s biggest exporter of nutmeg, mace, and cardamoms. The country is also the world’s biggest importer of iron ingots. (Source)
  23. There are 3 UNESCO world heritage sites in Guatemala. Out of these sites, Tikal National Park is one of the few mixed (natural and cultural) heritage sites in the world. (Source)
  24. Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is the deepest lake in Central America. The maximum depth of this lake is around 340 m (1,120 ft.). (Source)
    View of lake Atitlan from space
    Lake Atitlan is Central America's deepest lake

  25. People in Guatemala fly giant colorful kites annually on the 1st and 2nd of November to honor their dead. (Source)
  26. The murder rate in Guatemala is around 100 people per week. The country has one of the highest murder rates in the world.
  27. Guatemala’s currency, Quetzal, is named after the national bird (the Resplendent Quetzal) of the country. (Source
  28. The lyrics of Guatemala’s national anthem were written by a Cuban citizen, Jose Joaquin Palma.
  29. Guatemala receives 2nd highest amount of remittances in Latin America and the Caribbean after Mexico. (Source)
  30. Guatemala is one of few places known for introducing chocolate to Europeans during the 16th Century. (Source)

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