The Republic of Guatemala border the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea in Central America, which is the southernmost part of North American continent. The capital is Guatemala City. The name Guatemala comes from a word that means ‘place of many trees’ which speaks of Guatemala’s heavily forested regions. Before the arrival of the Spanish explorers in the 14th century, Guatemala was inhabited mainly by Mayan tribes. The country earned independence from Spanish rule in the early years of the 17th century. Spanish remains the official language, but there are at least 21 Mayan languages still being spoken across the Guatemalan expanse.
Guatemala is located to the south and east of Mexico and northeast of the Pacific Ocean. It also shares a border with Belize which is to the northeast, El Salvador in the southeast, and Honduras which is to the east. This region is collectively known as Central America and includes Nicaragua and Panama as well. Central America is the southernmost part of North America, and for that reason, Guatemala and its neighboring states are considered to be on the North American continent. Guatemala covers an area of 42,043 square miles. The region occupied by the country today has been inhabited as early as 12,000 BCE.
The Guatemalan landscape is predominantly mountainous except the vast lowlands of Petén in the north and the coastal areas of the south. Two mountain ranges enter the country from the west to the east, and they split the country to three distinct areas which include the highlands, the Pacific coast which is to the south of the mountains, and the Petén region in the north. The biggest cities in Guatemala are located in the highland region. Guatemala is home to the highest mountains in Central America. The Tajumulco Volcano rises to 13,845 feet above sea level. Altogether, Guatemala has 37 volcanoes of which three are active. The most recent volcanic eruption of Mt. Pacaya in May 2010 forced a near-shutdown of the capital city after it engulfed the entire region in ash.
Guatemala is endowed with many rivers most of them springing from the highlands and draining in either the Caribbean, Pacific, or Gulf of Mexico. These rivers are generally shorter and shallower in the Pacific drainage basin compared to the drainage basins of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. The longest of these rivers is the Motagua River which flows for 302 miles from the western highlands and drains into the Gulf of Honduras.
Population and Demographics
Guatemala has diverse demographics consisting of people of European descent as well as Mestizos and Amerindians. Unlike most countries, the population in Guatemala is almost evenly divided between the urban and rural areas. Close to 65% of the population speaks Spanish, and the rest speak Amerindian languages. According to the official national statistics released in 2012, almost 40% of the population is indigenous. The total population of Guatemala in 2018 has been estimated to be 17,262,239 individuals. The capital, Guatemala City, accounts for less than 20% of this population.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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