Guatemala is a Spanish speaking country located in Central America. It is bounded by Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. In addition, Guatemala enjoys large coastlines with the Pacific Ocean to the southwest and the Caribbean Sea to the east, along with beautiful natural lakes such as Lago Atitlan.
Sophisticated civilizations have been established in Guatemala long before the period of colonization by European settlers. The Mayan civilization inhabited parts of Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador before Spanish explorers took over the region. In fact, there is evidence of settlers in the area going back to 12,000 B.C.
Guatemala declared its independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. Really significant changes did not occur until Guatemala’s “Liberal Revolution” in 1871 that was lead by Justo Rufino Barrios. Barrios’ main goal was to modernize Guatemala, which included improving trade and introducing new cash crops and manufacturing methods to the country.
Coffee beans became a very important crop for the Guatemalans during this part of their history. Barrios may have been a little too ambitious for his own good, however. He attempted to unite Central America by bringing other countries to war and eventually lost his own life in a battle.
In the 20th century, the government in Guatemala has been very unstable and several different regimes have been in charge. In recent years, Guatemala has been able to have successive democratic elections and its government appears to be more stable.
The geography of Guatemala is mainly mountainous. These mountain ranges divide the country into three unique regions. The highlands are the areas where the land is primarily mountainous. The Pacific Ocean coast is the area of the country south of the mountain ranges. Finally, the Petén region is located north of the mountains.
Given its location near the Caribbean, Guatemala is a target of many natural disasters. Hurricanes that cause major destruction through flooding and mudslides are common in the region. In addition, Guatemala is located along the Motagua Fault and Guatemalans have to deal with volcanic eruptions from the Pacaya volcano, near Antigua. This volcano has erupted as recently as May 17, 2010. This event shut down the airport in Guatemala City and left nearly three inches of ash throughout the city.
The population of Guatemala is fairly young, which fits its status as a developing country. The average age of males is just under 19 years old and the average age for females is approximately 20 year old. This is the lowest average age of any country in the Western Hemisphere and closer to the ages of citizens of African countries.