Guatemala Country Profile
- Area: 42,042 square miles, roughly the size of Ohio
- Capital: Guatemala City (population: 2.5 million, including surrounding area)
- Natural Resources: Petroleum, nickel, rare wood, fish, chicle, hydro power
- Exports: Coffee, sugar, petroleum, apparel, bananas, fruits and vegetables, cardamom, and non-traditional crops like cauliflower, snow peas, strawberries, exotic flowers, and ferns
- Topography and Climate
Guatemala’s diverse topography includes tropical rainforests, mountains, valleys, lowland forests, beaches, and more than 30 volcanoes. In the highlands, the average high temperature is 77°F. The northern and western regions are much warmer year-round. The dry season lasts from October to early May and the rainy season lasts from late May until the end of September.
- Population: 13.3 million; 49% urban, 51% rural
- Ethnicity: 41% Indigenous (primarily Mayan), 59% Ladino/Mestizo
- Language: Spanish (official), 23 Mayan languages
- Religion: 76% Catholic, 24% Protestant
Land ownership and distribution in Guatemala is one of the most unequal in the hemisphere:
- 2% of landowners hold 65% of the arable land
- 78% of the farms use only 10% of the farmland
- About half of the working population—some 2 million people—work in agriculture, making this declining sector the single largest employer in Guatemala.
- Of those children who start school in 1st grade, only 60% finish 6th grade, and only 39% are the proper age when they complete it.
- The average number of years of completed education among the wealthiest 20% of Guatemalans (age 25-59) is 9.5 years, whereas among the poorest 20% it is only 1.3 years of schooling. The overall average is 4.9 years.
- In elementary school, an average of 7.71% of students drop out each year, and an additional 14.86% are held back.
- Only 38% of secondary school-aged students enroll in secondary school. This is the worst record in Latin America, which has an average enrollment rate of 69%.
- Malnutrition: 49% of children under 5 (and 68% of indigenous children in this age group) suffer from chronic malnutrition.
- Health Services: There is 1 doctor for every 1,031 people.
- National Debt: $6.5 billion
- Unemployment Rate: Officially, it is 3.2%. (Many say it is more than double that.)
- 21.5% of Guatemalans earn less than $1/day, classifying them as living in extreme poverty according to UN guidelines;
- 56.2% of Guatemalans live below the country’s poverty line. Almost half of these are children under age 14.
- Inequality: The wealthiest 20% of Guatemalans earn 54% of total household income, while the poorest 40% earn only 12%.
From 1960 to 1996, state-sponsored terror left 200,000 people dead (including 50,000 disappeared), which is 2% of the entire population; 1 million people or 10% of the population displaced; 200,000 orphans; and 40,000 widows. According to the Truth Commission, the army was responsible for 626 massacres and 93% of the documented violations. The guerrillas committed 3% of the violations, including 32 massacres.