Information on Guatemala Central America

Learn Spanish in Guatemala.

Guatemala is a wonderful and interesting place to learn Spanish. Why study Spanish there?

Here's what Christopher Curran, who runs a language school in the country says:

"Because of some happy accidents of history and geography it is known for the high quality of its Spanish. Without as much English influence as Mexico, and so less Spanglish, the Spanish here holds more closely to proper grammar.

In general, the pronunciation of Spanish here is slow, well-enunciated, and easy to understand. They tend not to chop off syllables as in many other countries.

Advanced students will enjoy practicing the ‘vos’ form of the personal pronoun, which is commonly used in colloquial speech here to achieve a more informal register than the standard ‘tú’ form allows.

As the epicenter of Mayan culture and with a higher percentage of the population of indigenous heritage than almost any other Latin American country, Guatemala is a pluricultural and plurilingual nation.

Anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, and others will discover that indigenous languages remain strongly embedded in the culture here, especially in rural communities where Spanish is generally a second language.

For this reason, CELAS MAYA offers both K’iche and Mam as well as Spanish in its language course offerings.

Check out our website at to get an idea of the look and feel of the school.

Christopher Curran, Coordinator, CELAS MAYA
(This site receives no commission from any language school and is not affiliated with any school. This is not a paid advertisement).

Total immersion is an important part of your learning Spanish strategy, and should be incorporated at some point in your learning programme.

Total immersion is all the more effective when combined with:

a good grammar learning system,(see on the Grammar pages on this site...) - it can be in form of a book, a course, a piece of software, but whatever form it takes grammar does take some work.

an accelerated vocabulary learning system to help you learn Spanish words at 200 words a day (or more)to quickly lay down some solid vocabulary foundations.

. . .take just a few days to bolster up on the Spanish vocab before you launch off!

  . . . and an onsite course with a good trained teacher. A real, live teacher is important to help you learn. Yes modern software can be great, books can be great, but you should not rely on ONE source. A good human teacher is still a very powerful resource.

For more information on how to learn Spanish in Guatemala at one of the many total immersion schools click on the link.
Learn Spanish in Guatemala!
(If you would like to list your school or update info just contact us for a free listing).

Here are a few hundred fun facts for you to swat up on before you scoot off to Guatemala to learn Spanish.

A brief overview

Guatemala gained independence from Spanish rule in 1821, and experienced a variety of military and civilian governments in the later half of the last century. During this period it also endured thirty-six years of guerrilla war.

In 1996 the war ended with the government and rebels signing a peace accord, but not before the deaths of more than 100,000 people and creation of a million refugees, during the decades of turmoil.

Geography information on Guatemala

Geographical Position:Central America, on the shores of the North Pacific Ocean. Lies between Mexico and El Salvador. Also borders the Gulf of Honduras (Caribbean Sea) between Belize and Honduras.

Latitude & Longitude: 15 degrees 30’ North, 90 degrees 15’ West

Land and Water Area
Total: 108,900 square kilometres Water area: 460 square kilometres Land area: 108,440 square kilometres

Land boundaries:
1,697 kilometres Neighbouring Countries are: Belize 267 kilometres, El Salvador 204 kilometres, Republic of Honduras 256 kilometres, Republic of Mexico 960 kilometres

Coastline: 400 kilometres

Climate information on : tropical, humid and hot, cooler in uplands & highlands.

Terrain: mountainous with coastal plains and rolling limestone Peten plateau.

Elevation highs & lows -: lowest elevation: Pacific Ocean at sea levelhighest elevation: Volcan Tajumulco 4,200 metres

Natural resources: petroleum & petroleum processing, oil, nickel mining, rare woods, timber & lumber, fisheries, chicle, hydroelectric power

Land use:
cultivated land:
cropping land: 5%
other: 83% (1998 estimate)

Irrigated land: 1,300 square kilometres (1998 estimate)

Natural Hazards: volcanic activity in mountainous regions, periodic severe earthquakes; Caribbean coast is subjected to periodic damaging hurricanes and other severe tropical storms.

People information on Guatemala

Total Population: 13,910,000 (July 2003 estimate)

Age Distribution: under age 14 yrs: 42%
between 15 & 64 yrs: 53%
age 65+: 3%(2003 estimate)

Median age
18 years male: 18 years female: 18 years (2002)

Rate of Growth of Population: : 2% (2003 estimate)

Birth Rate: 35 births per thousand population (2003 estimate)

Mortality Rate: 6 deaths per thousand (2003 estimate)

Net Rate of Migration: -1 migrant per thousand population (2003 estimate)

Infant mortality rate:
37 deaths per thousand live births
female: 37 deaths per thousand live births (2003 estimate)
male: 38 deaths per thousand live births

Life Expectancy:
Total population: 65 years
male: 64 years
female: 66 years (2003 estimate)

Nationality: Guatemalan.

Racial groupings:
Mestizo (mixed Spanish-Amerindian – called Ladino) 55%, Amerindian 43%, other groups 2%.

Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Mayan.

Languages:Spanish 60%, indigenous Amerindian languages 40% (there are twenty three Amerindian languages officially recognized, including Quiche, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, Cakchiquel and Xinca).

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: 70%
male: 78%
female: 63% (2003 estimate)

Government information Guatemala

Republic of Guatemala - Republica de Guatemala

System of Government Constitutional Democracy - Republic

Capital City: Guatemala City

Date of Independence 15 September 1821

Legal & Law System: Civil law system

Voting System: Universal suffrage for 18 year olds

Head of State : President

Cabinet of country: Council of Ministers appointed by the president

Election system: President elected for a four year term.

Economy information on Guatemala

Economy - overview: Agriculture makes up a quarter of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, 2/3rds of exports, and ½ labour force. Main products are basic commodities sugar, coffee, bananas, making the country susceptible to swings in world demand and heavy competition.

There is considerably unequal distribution of income with most of the population (75%) living below the level of poverty.

Gross Domestic Product: $USD48 billion (2002 estimate)

Gross Domestic Product - real growth rate: 2% (2002 estimate)

Gross Domestic Product - per capita: $USD3,700 (2002 estimate)

Gross Domestic Product:
composition by sector: agriculture sector : 23%
industrial sector: 20%
service sector: 57% (2001 estimate)

Population below level of poverty: 75% (2002 estimate)

Household income by %age share:
lowest 10%: 1%
highest 10%: 46% (1998)

Labour force : 4 million (1999 estimate)

Labour force
by occupation: agriculture sector 50%, industry 15%, services 35% (1999 estimate).

Unemployment rate: 7% (1999 estimate)

revenues: $USD2 billion
expenditures: $USD2 billion, including capital spending of $USD750 million (2002 estimate).

Industries: sugar, apparel, textiles and clothing, furniture, chemicals, petroleum and oil products, metals, tourism, rubber.

Exports: $USD2 billion (2002 estimate).

Exports commodities: coffee, sugar, bananas, fruits,vegetables, primary products, meat, apparel, textiles, clothing, fabrics, petroleum, electricity.

Export partners:
United States 55%, El Salvador 9%, Costa Rica 3%, Nicaragua 3%, Germany 3% (2001 estimate)

Imports: $USD5 billion (2002 estimate)

Imports: fuel, transport equipment, construction equipment and materials, grain, fertilizers, machinery.

Imports: partners: United States 32%, Mexico 9%, South Korea 8%, El Salvador 6%, Venezuela 4%

Debt - external: $USD4 billion (2002 estimate)

Economic aid - recipient: $USD250 million (2000 estimate)

Currency: quetzal (GTQ), United States dollar (USD)

Currency code: GTQ; USD


Telephones - main lines in use: 690,000.

Radio broadcast stations: AM 130, FM 487, shortwave 15.

Television broadcast stations: 26

Internet Code : .gt

Travel Guatemala & Transportation information

Railways : Total: 890 kilometres

Roading : Total: 13,900 kilometres paved roading: 4,400 kilometres (including 140 kilometres of expressways) unpaved roading: 9,500 kilometres (1998)

Navigable Waterways : 990 kilometres

Pipeline Distances : crude oil pipeline 280 kilometres

Commercial Harbours/Ports : Puerto Champerico, Puerto Barrios, Puerto Quetzal, San Jose, Puerto Santo Tomas de Castilla

Airports-Aerodromes : 460 (2002)


Military groupings & departments : Army, Navy (includes Marines), Air Force

Military Spending: dollar figure: $USD120 million (Fiscal Year99)

Military Spending: percent of Gross Domestic Product: 0% (Fiscal Year99)

International Issues - Guatemala

Squatters from Guatemala settling in the border region of Belize are the basis of international dispute with their neighbour; Guatemala claims southern half of Belize

Guatemalan flag

Click here for the Flag of Guatemala and the history of its flag and other information and facts.

Maps of Guatemala

Click here for the Map of Guatemala and info on maps you can get if you want to know more about Guatemala or if you are visiting.

History of Guatemala

Click here for the History of Guatemala and historical facts.

Info sourced and adapted from the CIA Factbook .

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Facts and Information on Guatemala, Central America
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