About Guatemala

General Information

Area: 108,889 sq km (42,042 sq miles)
Population: 12,639,939 (July 2000 est.)
Population Density: 100.4 per sq km (1996)
Capital: Guatemala City. Population: 1,167,495 (1995)
Time Zone: GMT – 6
Electricity: 110 volts AC, 60Hz. Some regional variations.

Guatemala is located in Central America and shares borders to the north and west with Mexico, to the southeast with El Salvador and Honduras, to the northeast with Belize and the Caribbean Sea and to the south with the Pacific ocean. The landscape is predominantly mountainous and heavily forested.

A string of volcanoes rises above the southern highlands along the Pacific, three of which are still active. Within this volcanic area are basins of varying sizes which hold the majority of the country’s population. The region is drained by rivers flowing into both the Pacific and the Caribbean. One basin west of the capital has no river outlet and thus has formed Lake Atitlán, which is ringed by volcanoes.

To the northwest, bordering on Belize and Mexico, lies the low undulating tableland of El Petén, 36,300 sq km (14,000 sq miles) of almost inaccessible wilderness covered with dense hardwood forest. This area covers approximately one-third of the national territory, yet contains only 40,000 people.

Guatemala is a Republic. Gained independence from Spain in 1821. Head of State and Government: President Alfonso Antonio Portillo Cabrera since 2000.

Constitution: 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

Population: 12,639,939 (July 2000 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.63% (2000 est.)
Birth rate: 35.05 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)
Death rate: 6.92 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 47.03 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)
Ethnic groups: Mestizo (mixed Amerindian-Spanish or assimilated Amerindian – in local Spanish called Ladino), approximately 56%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian, approximately 44%

The official language is Spanish. English is widely spoken in tourist areas and major hotels and restaurants. Over 21 indigenous languages are also spoken.

The constitution guarantees freedom of worship, but Catholicism is the most widespread religion with a 20% Protestant minority. Some indigenous communities hold services combining Catholicism with pre-Columbian rites.

Telephone: IDD is available. Country code: 502. Outgoing international code: 00.

Mobile Telephone: Coverage is increasing in Guatemala; consult your network operator for details.

Fax: Most hotels have facilities.

Internet & E-mail: There are several cybercafés in Guatemala City and the main tourist areas. ISPs include GuateNet (website: www.guate.net).

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