Some Guatemala Facts to get your heart rate going...

Actually, it's climbing Guatemala's mountains that's going to get your heart pumping, but we've got to get you here first! Everyone wants to know the basics of a country they're helps to add a little context to the rest of the marbles rolling around in your head.

Background: Guatemala was largely populated by the Mayan civilization during the first millennium A.D. The country then spent about 300 years as a Spanish colony before independence was achieved on September 15, 1821 (now a national holiday, Guatemala Independence Day). The fact of the matter is, it's is still largely populated by those of Mayan ancestry (almost 40% of the population) while most of the other 60% is mestizo, also known as ladino.

The official name of the country is República de Guatemala (Republic of Guatemala in English). It is mostly referred to simply as Guatemala, but this term is also used locally for the Guatemala capital, Guatemala City...don't worry, that sounds more confusing than it really is.

Though Spanish is the official language of Guatemala, there is no shortage of Guatemala languages. This Central American country has over 20 indigenous languages, plus several other languages spoken by prominent immigrant groups, such as English and Korean. Some of the other languages indigenous to Guatemala are Mayan languages such as Mam, Quiché, Kaqchikel and Garifuna.

Ok, let's talk a little about the Guatemala government. The government of Guatemala is a constitutional democratic republic, headed by the President, Álvaro Colom. There are three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. There are, of course, various political parties, and the nation is a member of many international organization and maintains diplomatic relations with many countries.

Since 1925, the Guatemala currency has been the quetzal, which also happens to be the national bird. This means that belt loops also happen to be a bit larger here so that the bird's feet can fit through for easy carrying (just kidding, folks...don't get excited, we don't actually spend the birds...we use coins and bills instead.)

The population of Guatemala is about 13 million (not including chickens and quetzales) as of July 2009. About half of the population lives in major cities, and many immigrate north, sometimes for years at a time.

The Guatemala flag is composed of light blue and white vertical stripes, with the escudo in the middle. The current flag of Guatemala was adopted in 1871 after a series of other flags dating from their break from Spain in 1821.

Adopted in 1896, the National Anthem of Guatemala or Himno Nacional de Guatemala (with the dubious honor of being one of the longest I've ever heard) can be heard all over the country, and is generally accompanied by the flag of Guatemala, especially during sports events, rallies or school assemblies. It was preceded by the Himno Popular de Guatemala and the original Guatemala National Anthem.

If you're accustomed to having Daylight Savings Time (you know..."spring forward" and "fall back") forget about it in Guatemala. We don't have it. This makes living here a little simpler, although it can be tricky when trying to coordinate phone calls to other countries.

Guatemala's time zone is UTC-6, which is two hours behind Eastern time during US Standard time, and one hour behind during US Daylight Savings Time.

The geography of Guatemala is incredibly diverse, ranging from mountain ranges to lowlands. It's in Central America (I know, pretty obvious) and borders Mexico, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The area of Guatemala is 108,890 km2. See more Guatemala maps here and don't miss out on our free printable map of Guatemala!

Looking for more info? Check out the links to the left or use our All-About-Guatemala Search Box to search our site for more info.


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