I leave for Guatemala in three days and I thought my readers might want to learn more about the country and the people I will be serving. Also, I’ve been scolded for not posting enough…
Area: 108,890 sq. km. (42,042 sq. mi.); about the size of Tennessee.
Cities: Capital–Guatemala City (metro area pop. 2.5 million). Other major cities–Quetzaltenango, Escuintla.
Terrain: Mountainous, with fertile coastal plain.
Climate: Temperate in highlands; tropical on coasts.
Nationality: Noun and adjective–Guatemalan(s).
Population (2009 est.): 14.36 million.
Annual population growth rate (2009 est.): 2.4%.
Ethnic groups: Mestizo (mixed Spanish-Indian), indigenous.
Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, traditional Mayan.
Languages: Spanish, 24 indigenous languages (principally Kiche, Kaqchikel, Q’eqchi, and Mam).
Education: Years compulsory–6. Attendance–41%. Literacy–70.6%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2008/2009)—30/1,000. Life expectancy (2005)–69 yrs.
Work force salaried breakdown: Services–42%; industry and commerce–37%; agriculture–14%; construction, mining,
utilities, transportation, and communications–7%. Fifty percent of the population engages in some form of agriculture, often at the subsistence level outside the monetized economy.
Type: Constitutional democratic republic.
Constitution: May 1985; amended November 1993.
Independence: September 15, 1821.
Branches: Executive–president (4-year term; 1 term limit). Legislative–unicameral 158-member Congress (4-year term). Judicial–13-member Supreme Court of Justice (5-year term).
Subdivisions: 22 departments (appointed governors); 331 municipalities with elected mayors and city councils.
Major political parties: National Union for Hope (UNE), Grand National Alliance (GANA), Patriot Party (PP), Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG), National Advancement Party (PAN), Unionists (PU), Encounter for Guatemala (EG).
Suffrage: Universal for adults 18 and over who are not serving on active duty with the armed forces or police. A variety of procedural obstacles have historically reduced participation by poor, rural, and indigenous people, but implementation in 2007 of voting reform legislation nearly doubled the number of polling places, resulting in higher participation in rural areas, including among indigenous people.
Real GDP (2009 est.): $23.7 billion.
Real GDP growth (2009 est.): 0.6%.
Per capita GNI, PPP (2008): $4,690.
Natural resources: Oil, timber, nickel, gold.
Agriculture (13.4% of GDP): Products–coffee, sugar, bananas, cardamom, vegetables, flowers and plants, timber, rice, rubber.
Manufacturing (18.3% of GDP): Types–prepared food, clothing and textiles, construction materials, tires, pharmaceuticals.
Trade (2009): Exports–$7.2 billion: coffee, bananas, sugar, crude oil, chemical products, clothing and textiles, vegetables. Major markets–U.S. 40.7%, Central American Common Market (CACM) 27.5%, Mexico 5.9%. Imports–$11.5 billion: machinery and equipment, fuels, mineral products, chemical products, vehicles and transport materials, plastic materials and products. Major suppliers–U.S. 36.5%, CACM 11.4%, Mexico 10.3%, China 5.3%.
The people of Guatemala are mainly indigenous descendants of the Mayan people. The village of San Lucas, where I will be traveling, mainly consists of Kakchiquel Mayans. The sister who is leading our trip told us about how the people integrate traditional Mayan rituals into their Catholic faith. That should be very interesting to experience and is definitely one thing I’m looking forward to. The village I served in during my trip to Tanzania was becoming very westernized so I didn’t experience many native traditions and rituals. I’m looking forward to interacting with indigenous people who haven’t lost so much of that tradition and hopefully gaining insight into a completely different way of life.
Guatemala is often referred to as “the land of eternal spring” and I think I’m most excited about being warm for 10 days. The landscape looks breathtaking and I’m sure it’s more beautiful in real life. Keep me in your prayers as I make this journey and watch out for posts when I return. I can’t wait to share all that I learn with you.