101 Guatemala Facts That Will Take You Back In Time

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Jan 23, 2023 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Dec 15, 2021
Edited by Lara Simpson
Guatemala facts are all about a unique country in Central America.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.4 Min

Guatemala is a country of diverse landscapes, including rainforests, farmlands, and active volcanoes.

The word Guatemala comes from 'Cuauhtemallan,' the Nahuatl word that translates to a place full of trees. It has earned the nickname of 'Land of Eternal Spring' for its pleasant tropical climate and natural beauty.

Guatemala is the largest country in Central America, bordered by the Pacific Ocean in the south. The northern and western part of the country shares their borders with Mexico.

It is surrounded by Belize and the Gulf of Honduras, an inlet of the Caribbean Sea in the northeast, and El Salvador in the southeast. Two mountain ranges divide the country into three major geographical regions: the highlands and mountainous terrain, the Pacific coast, and the low-lying Peten region between the mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

The mountainous country of Guatemala was discovered in 1524 with the Spanish invasion under the leadership of Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado. Before the invasion, accounts of a few explorative expeditions led by foreign nations have been recorded.

In Latin America, the Guatemalan economy has been hitting an all-time low, and several factors contribute to its poverty. One of the sole factors responsible for its poor economic growth is the people's dependence on farming and other informal jobs.

The uneven distribution of wealth is another factor behind the poverty-stricken economy. Bigger cities in the urban areas prosper while the rural areas have limited access to opportunities and education.

Keep on reading to know more about Guatemala facts! If you enjoyed reading about Guatemala facts, then look at interesting facts about Argentina and Belize facts!

Fun Facts About Guatemala

Guatemala is famous for its sumptuous, mouth-watering delicacies that have gained international fame.

Guatemalan dishes like Tostada and Enchilada have certainly ruled worldwide for their lip-smacking taste. Some of the more popular Guatemalan food include Tapado, Pepian, and Garnacha.

A famous Guatemalan dessert is Polvorosas that is a delicious shortbread cookie. Did you know that it was in the country of Guatemala that the very first chocolate bar in the whole world was invented?

The official language spoken by the people of Guatemala is Spanish. Apart from the widely spoken official language, there are several other native languages spoken by its people. It includes a multitude of Mayan languages along with a few indigenous languages. The languages spoken in Guatemala are a legacy from the past that is passed on to future generations.

Historical Facts About Guatemala

The national bird of Guatemala is a colorful species of bird known as the Resplendent Quetzal, belonging to the Trogon family. Guatemalan currency is named after the national bird of the country.

Well, there is a riveting history behind the naming of the currency. Back in Mayan times, almost 4,000 years ago, the feathers of Quetzal were used as a form of currency.

The snake god, Quetzalcoatl of Maya culture, adorned the bird's feathers. Thus, the bird was considered sacred in the Maya civilization, and killing one was a punishable offense that led to the death penalty.

Even in today's times, national parks and sanctuaries are built to protect the population of this species of bird in Central and South America. During the presidential term of Jose Maria Orellana in 1925, Quetzal was reintroduced as the country's national currency.

Interesting facts about Guatemala must include a brief history of Guatemala City and the symbolism of its national flag. The capital of Guatemala, known as Guatemala City, was founded in the year 1776.

It is the epicenter of all political and cultural happenings of Guatemala. It has been chosen for its strategic location amidst mountainous valleys that offer protection against earthquakes. Earthquakes impose a formidable danger to the country as the former capital city Antigua was destroyed by the Santa Marta earthquake in 1773.

This led to the shift of the capital from Antigua to Guatemala City in 1776. In 1821, following the independence of Central America from Spanish colonial rule, Guatemala city was declared as the capital.

The Guatemalan flag was adopted in 1871 and is represented by a triband with the national emblem of the country imprinted at the center. The two blue stripes symbolize the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean that borders Guatemala on either side.

The white stripe in the middle is a representation of peace. The emblem consists of two rifles symbolic of defense and two crossed swords that stand for honor. It was designed by Swiss artist Johan Baptist Ferner who spent the last few years of his life in Guatemala.

A species of orchid, known as the 'monja blanca,' is the national flower of Guatemala.

The events that have shaped the nation can be regarded as the attributing factors for its uniqueness. The Guatemalan civil war is one such formative event that has ruled the pages of history.

The Guatemalan Civil War had two opposing factions: the ruling government and various left-winged rebel groups backed by the indigenous inhabitants of Guatemala. The war was declared as a form of protest against the government's oppression, uneven land distribution, and the interference of foreign companies who controlled most of the land.

This, in turn, affected the livelihood of the inhabitants of Guatemala, who rebelled against the injustice.

The war went on from 1960 to 1996, followed by the signing of the Peace Accord in 1996. Millions of people lost their lives and livelihood in the war, and the state military forces committed a massive human rights violation against its people.

Lake Atitlan is the deepest lake in Guatemala.

Facts About Guatemala's Culture

The cultural background of Guatemala has both native and foreign influences. The Spanish colonial rule has significantly impacted its culture. However, the indigenous people of Guatemala strongly connect to their Mayan roots. People from diverse ethnicities, races, socio-economic backgrounds, and religious backgrounds inhabit the country and enrich its culture.

Guatemala is predominantly a multicultural society consisting of diverse ethnic origins and religious backgrounds. Ethnic lineages of most of its inhabitants can be traced back to their European and Amerindian ancestors.

Amerindians are the indigenous people who resided in the country before the arrival of European settlers, especially Spanish inhabitants, in the 15th century. Human settlements have been recorded since the advent of the Mayan civilization, and the native people belonging to this area are descendants of the same.

Thus, Guatemalans are a mixed-race and a blend of both European and Amerindian ethnicities.

Facts About Mayan Civilization

The Maya civilization flourished in 1800 BC in the southeastern part of Mexico and North of Central America. It was one of the most progressive civilizations in world history that made significant developments in arts, astronomy, mathematics, science, and technology.

The strategic geographical location combined with the influences of various cultures led to the advancements of the Mayan civilization. The logosyllabic script developed by them is considered one of the most advanced writing systems in the pre-Columbian era.

The ruins of the Mayan empire include numerous pyramids, tombs, monuments, and Mayan art located at various heritage sites of modern-day Guatemala. Quirigua is a famous archaeological park of the Mayan civilization that holds the remnants of the culture.

The city of Antigua is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site that encourages tourism by showcasing the relics of a bygone era. Tikal National Park is another such heritage site that should not be missed when visiting Guatemala.

This place brilliantly displays the artistry of the Maya culture, with many thousands visiting the Tikal National Park. A trip to Guatemala wouldn't be complete without visiting these important cultural sites.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created many interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 101 Guatemala Facts That Will Take You Back In Time, then why not take a look at facts about Spain or facts about Peru?

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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