1 minute read


Guatemala (Republic of), northernmost republic of Central America, bordered by Mexico on the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean Sea on the east, Honduras and El Salvador on the southeast, and the Pacific Ocean on the southwest. The capital is Guatemala City.

Land and climate

Guatemala is a mountainous country composed largely of volcanic highland. The eastern and western highlands are not very fertile. To the north is the Petén, a rain forest plateau with areas of savanna, covering a third of the country. The climate varies from the tropical Petén and coastal areas to the subtropical and temperate highlands.


The Native Americans (predominant Mayans) account for more than half the population; most of the rest are a mixture of Spanish and Mayan. The official language is Spanish, but many Native American languages are also spoken. The main religion is Roman Catholicism.


Coffee accounts for almost half the nation's revenues. Cotton is also an important product, having superseded banana cultivation since the 1930s. Other exports are tobacco, vegetables, fruit, and beef. Manufacturing industries are mainly devoted to the processing of local produce. Although Guatemala joined the Central American Common Market in 1961, the United States remains its principal trading partner.


The Mayas ruled the area from about A.D. 300, but they were unable to offer much resistance to the invading Spaniards in 1524. Guatemala became independent in 1821 and subsequently was a member of the Central American Federation (1824–39). The post-World War II governments, especially under Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, had socialist tendencies. After a U.S.-supported military coup in 1954, Guatemala was plagued by political violence and coups. In 1985 Marco Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo became the first civilian to be elected president of Guatemala in 15 years. In 1996 the government and the guerrilla movement signed a peace treaty, which brought an end to the civil war.


Additional topics

21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - Grand Rapids to Hadron