Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast. Its area is 108,890 km2 (42,043 mi2). Guatemala is biologically diverse and has unique ecosystems.
Agriculture employs nearly half of the workforce and coffee, sugar, bananas and beef are the leading exports. But Guatemala still has to import food to feed its people. Tourism and manufacturing are growing in importance.
The climate of Guatemala is, for the most part, equable, although temperatures vary considerably according to altitude. Between about 915 and 2440 m (about 3000 and 8000 ft) above sea level, where the majority of the population is concentrated, the days are warm and the nights cool; the average annual temperature is about 20° C (about 68° F). The rainy season occurs between May and October, with a corresponding dry season from November to April.
Guatemala is divided into 22 states or departmentos, under which 331 municipos (townships) handle local affairs; and each departmento is headed by a governor. Under the current constitution, the president and vice president are elected by national vote and may serve only one term. Voting is compulsory for citizens 18 years or older.
On the basis of cultural traits, the population is divided into two main ethnic groups—Ladinos and Maya, who make up the vast majority of Indians in Guatemala and form several cultures. While the Maya account for slightly less than half of the country’s total population, they make up about three-fourths of the population in the western highland provinces. There are also some Spanish-speaking Xinca in southern Guatemala and more than 15,000 Garifuna (people of mixed African and Caribbean descent; formerly called Black Caribs) in the northeastern port towns of Livingston and Puerto Barrios.
Common and violent crime, aggravated by a legacy of violence and vigilante justice, presents a serious challenge. Impunity remains a major problem, primarily because democratic institutions, including those responsible for the administration of justice, have developed only a limited capacity to cope with this legacy. Guatemala's judiciary is independent; however, it suffers from inefficiency, corruption, and intimidation.
Major transit country for cocaine and heroin; in 2005, cultivated 100 hectares of opium poppy after reemerging as a potential source of opium in 2004. Guatemala has potential to produce about 1 metric ton of pure heroin; marijuana cultivation for mostly domestic consumption. Its proximity to Mexico makes Guatemala a major staging area for drugs (particularly for cocaine); money laundering is a serious problem; corruption is a major problem
Similar to the United States, the educational system in Guatemala is divided into three levels: primary (elementary), secondary (high school), and university. Education in Guatemala is free and compulsory through sixth grade, or between the ages of 7 and 14. Because public schools are often located sparsely in the rural areas of the country, there is an abundance of private schools in Guatemala
At more than 14 million, Guatemala is one of the most populous countries in Central America. Its growth rate is still high at 2.5 percent per year—the highest in all of Latin America.
Spanish is spoken by some 60% of the population and is the official language. Amerindians speak some 28 dialects in five main language groups: Quinche, Mam, Pocomam and Chol (all of the Mayan language family). Amerindian languages are spoken by about 40% of the population.
The constitution guarantees religious freedom. 60% of the population are Roman Catholic and Protestant churches were estimated to have fewer than 500 thousand adherents in 1980, but rapidly growing fundamentalists groups increased the number of Protestants to some 40% of the population in 1998.