About Guatemala, its people and beauty.
Guatemala is Central America's largest and most populous country. It has a large population of indigenous Mayans who, for the most part, live in what is called the Western highlands.
Lake Atitlan and Panajachel are in the heart of the Western highalds and are about a two and a half hours by car from Antigua and Guatemala City.
20,000 years ago hunters and gatherers wandered the land. Some 1300 years ago Mayan cities were established. They flourished and eventually collapsed (about 800 years ago) leaving the majority of people who live here today.
The Spanish rule lasted from around 1530 to 1821 when Guatemala declared independence. The country has experienced much racial, political, religious, economic and geological turmoil throughout its history. Only in the last decade has peace and stability become reasonably well established. Guatemala's future looks much brighter than its past.
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Guatemala has an area of 109,000 sq. km. There are 30 large volcanoes, some still active, rising as high as 4220 m in altitude. Northern Guatemala is largely jungle. The Western Highlands, where most people live, are mountainous. There the soil is good and rainfall plentiful.
Guatemala is called "The Land of Eternal Spring". Needless to say, this is a bit of an exaggeration. It can freeze high in the mountains and the lowlands are hot, to say the least. However most cities (including Panajachel) lie between these two extremes and are almost always comfortable.
It is recommended to bring a sweater when traveling in Guatemala and, from May through October a rain coat. During those months the rain can be heavy, though for many of us who live here year round, the rainy season is the best time of the year.
13 million people live in Guatemala. Over half of them are of Mayan decent, the rest are of Spanish or mixed (Ladino) with some Blacks on the Caribbean coast. Significantly, most Mayans speak one of 22 Mayan languages at home and the women continue to wear Mayan dress. Most Mayan men farm small plots of land in the traditional manor.
Chac, god of rain
Dos & Don'ts
Politeness is very important to Guatemalans. Men almost always shake hands when they meet. "Buenos dias" (Good morning) and "Buenas tardes" (Good afternoon) are commonly said. Any attempt to speak Spanish, no matter how bad your Spanish may be, is always appreciated, if not necessarily understood.
© Duncan Aitken
Jardin de America Spanish School