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The first evidence of inhabitants in the country are that of human settlers dating back to 12,000 BC. But evidence of human inhabitants from earlier than 18,000 BC were also found, through obsidian arrow heads found in many parts of the country.
When the first Spanish explorers arrived, states of the region's central highlands were still vibrant. In 1523, Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado claimed the land for Spain. For over 300 years, Guatemala was ruled by Spain.
On September 15, 1821, the country became free from Spain and formed part of the Mexican Empire. When the Mexican royalty was overthrown in 1823, Guatemala joined the United Provinces of Central America. However, civil war erupted between the Provinces, leading to the abolition of the union.
Guatemala became independent of any state or nation in 1839, when a liberal uprising occurred and the first Guatemalan leader was named, in the person of Rafael Carrera.
Guatemala borders Mexico to the north and west, Pacific to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, Caribbean to the east, as well as Honduras, and El Salvador to the southeast. The country is made up of 3 regions: the highlands, the Pacific coast regions, and the Peten region, which is the most sparsely populated. The land is characterized by mountainous regions, hilly valleys, with small deserts and sand dune patches.
Guatemala is a constitutional democratic republic run by a president. The president holds the position of head of state and head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government while legislative power is held by both the government and the Congress of the Republic. The Judiciary is independent of both the executive and legislative powers.
Guatemala is one of the most visitor-friendly and affordable destinations in Central America. It has plenty of beaches and Mayan ruins that are famous around the world.
A UNESCO Heritage Site, Antigua is one of the best-preserved colonial towns in all of Central America. This small town is packed with all the charms of a Spanish village, complete with cobble-stone streets, fountains, and plenty of colonial buildings. Located only 1 hour from the Guatemala airport, the most popular part of town is the line of 1-story pastel-colored beautiful houses with cobble-stone grounds and the backdrop of volcanoes looming over.
Tikal is by far the most popular site in Guatemala. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mayan ruins of this national park are the highest towering pyramids in Central America, hovering over the jungle like skyscrapers. This area was once the central capital of the Mayan world, and are regarded as the greatest and most important pieces of Mayan architecture in all of Central America.
Lake Atitlan is famous for the popular villages that cater to tourists. The Lake was created when the top lid of a volcano blew off from an explosion. The villages are located between 3 volcanoes, making the perfect backdrop for its tourist-friendly villages. Hotels, spas, saunas, bars, and yoga retreats can be found all over the area.
ChiChi is most famous in Guatemala for its vibrant Thursday and Sunday markets. Indigenous Mayans sell produce, trinkets, handicrafts, and traditional weaves in these open-air markets. Other sites in town are the brightly-colored cemetery overlooking town and the Pascual Abaj, which is a Mayan shrine.
Public elementary and high-school education is free in Guatemala but the cost of uniforms, books, and other supplies discourage poorer families from sending their children to school. Mid to higher-class families send their children to private schools.
For higher education, there are 8 universities across the country. Only one of them is public, which is the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala. It was built in 1676 by the royal command of King Charles II of Spain.
- Over 15 million people occupy Guatemala, which makes the country the most populous in the entire Central America.
- The first ever chocolate bar was invented by the Mayan tribes.
- Half of Guatemala's population are descendants of the Maya.
- The country is one of the poorest countries in Central America, with its literacy rate the lowest in the region.
Last Updated : July 25, 2015
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