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Guatemala
Facts
Area: 108,889 sq km
Population: 14 million
Languages: Spanish
Religions: Christian
GNI per capita: US$2,680
Currency: 1 quetzal = 100 centavos
 
After almost three centuries as a Spanish colony, Guatemala won its independence in 1821. During the second half of the 20th century, it experienced a variety of military and civilian governments, as well as a 36-year guerrilla war. In 1996, the government signed a peace agreement formally ending the conflict.
 
Although the country is peaceful now, it still suffers the consequences of some 36 years of fighting. During the brutal conflict, 140,000 people lost their lives and 400 villages were destroyed. Guatemala is in the process of rebuilding its communities, and there is much work to be done.
 
Guatemala’s landscape varies from rugged mountains, including active volcanoes, to coastal plains. The climate is tropical along the shoreline and cooler inland throughout the mountains. The major urban centers, including the capital of Guatemala City, are located in the highland area of the south.
 
Guatemalans live in one of the most inequitable societies in the region. Poverty is particularly widespread in the countryside and among indigenous communities. 
 
Two-thirds of Guatemala’s residents are peasants who struggle to survive through subsistence farming. They supplement their meager incomes through seasonal labor on large coffee, cotton, and sugar plantations.
 
Illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition are among the highest in the region, life expectancy is among the lowest and, in common with many of its neighbors, the country is plagued by organized crime and violent street gangs. It is a major corridor for smuggling drugs from South America to the United States.

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