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name Guatemala comes from the Nahuatl language word cuauhtemallan, which
means "place of many trees."
Guatemala is a land of mountains and forests, making sustainable agriculture somewhat
difficult. None-the-less, the Mayans found these forests ideal for their city of
Tikal with an ample water supply and the Spanish found the land rich in natural
resources, so people have always called the region home.
As the Spanish settled the region, Guatemala became a center of power for the Spanish.
This led to some harsh battles with the locals, destroying many of the local cultures
and people. It also led to numerous indigenous groups maintaining solitude and avoiding
these Spanish at all costs. Unlike many countries in the region in which the indigenous
population was almost entirely killed, many people in Guatemala today are pure Mayan,
Kaqchikel, or K'iche and maintain their historic cultures, primarily in more
rural areas. These wholly indigenous people, who make up nearly 40% of the population,
continue to wear traditional clothing, partake in historic traditions and rituals,
continue to eat their historic foods, and speak their local languages (there are
23 recognized regional languages in Guatemala).
The flag of Guatemala is somewhat
based on the former flag of Central America, which also consisted of blue and white
stripes. In both flags the blue strips represent the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean
Sea, while the white stripe symbolizes the land of Central America and in this case
it also represents peace and purity. In the middle of the flag is the country's
coat of arms, which includes a red quetzal, the national bird, the inscription Libertad
15 de Septiembre de 1821, the country's date of independence (September
15, 1821), rifles representing the people's willingness to defend their country,
swords symbolizing honor, and a laurel wreath for victory.
Name: Republic of Guatemala
Independence: September 15, 1821
Capital: Guatemala City
Population: 14,373,472 (2013 estimate)
Ethnicity: Mestizo, European, K'iche, Kaqchikel,
& other Mayan
Religion: Roman Catholic & Protestant
However, many other locals also intermarried the Spanish and today much of the population
is a mix of these people, often referred to as "mestizo." These people
make up just over half of the population and hold on to a mix of local and Spanish
traditions. Spanish language, religion, and customs dominate the lives of these
people as they are more urbanized and tend to focus more on economic prosperity
rather than historic traditions. In more recent years this urban growth has been
even more pronounced.
One commonality among all the people is that nearly everyone in Guatemala is Catholic.
The version of Catholicism among the people varies as Mayan beliefs are often incorporated
into the Catholic Church in Guatemala. Another similarity across the people tends
to be food; while there is a very distinct line between pure Spanish food and indigenous
foods, most foods in the country today are a fusion of these two influences, often
times using local foods in Spanish-inspired dishes.
Another commonality amongst the people is the recent history and economic trends
that have altered the people's way of life in Guatemala. The economy has shifted
more towards coffee and fruit exports as a large percentage of the population works
in these industries. However, the unity among the people and among the country's
largest trading partners has led to regular conflicts as these items have been exploited
and the local government has been fairly instable. However, this division has also
helped hold on to many historic cultures and customs that might have otherwise been
lost in this rapidly changing world, which seems to be losing many cultures due
to the advancement of technology and communication.
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