Understandind Guatemala and it's violent history
For those who wish to understand this history and the issues surrounding it - I have providing a partial listing of articles that are available on-line to the general public.
The following articles should provide you with a basis of knowledge on Guatemala's past and current issues. A note of warning though - I have found from personal experience and research that when it comes to war and violence there are many sides of the story and in many instances people will defend their side to the death. I am assuming this is also true for Guatemala – so when reading the following remember….
The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.
- Oscar Wilde
I will add more articles as I come across them and will delete links from less reliable sources as I find better sources
These articles are about violence issues and are therefore for mature audiences only
Fondest memory: Guatemala's homicide rate is among the highest in Latin America, one of the most violent regions in the world. Particularly troubling is
Genocide during the civil war
http://www.ceri-sciencespo.com/themes/re-imaginingpeace/va/country/guatemala_research.pdf (36 pg research paper - reliable source)
Land reform conflict & Refugees
It has been ten years since the Peace Accords that ended a debilitating 36-year civil war were signed. The World Bank (to my surpise) defines Guatemala as a middle income country.
In 2000 -
- 56% of all Guatemalans (and 76 percent of indigenous groups) lived in poverty
- 16% of Guatemalans lived in extreme poverty (defined as poverty that kills - at this level people lack the basics for life - food, clothes and shelter - the UN often defines this group as living on less than $1 to $2 US a day)
Poverty and therefore the poverty indicators that we track are improving
+ Gross national income has increased from $1740 in 2000 to $2400 in 2005
+ Childhood mortality have decreased from 53/1000 children under 5 dying in 2000 to 45/1000 childhood deaths in 2004
+ Secondary school enrolment (Jr High) has increased from 38% in 2000 to 48.6% in 2005 (meaning 48.6% of secondary school aged children are attending school)
However, social indicators for Guatemala fall below those of countries with lower per-capita incomes.
- Average schooling of the adult population is 5.4 years and only 1.9 years for the indigenous population.
- Overall health outcomes are poor - including life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality rates, and and childhood malnutrition.
The economy is growing, which is a good sign for the future of Guatemala
+ Real GDP growth was 2.7 percent in 2004 and 3.2 percent in 2005. Growth projections are 4.5 percent per year in 2006 and 2007
The world bank attributes most of this growth to a variety of internal and external factors. Positive internal factors include the goverments work in improving governance and credibiltiy part of which is responsible fiscal and monetary management, a low debt to equity ratio and investment in social programs and some judical reforms
Fondest memory: Reference: World Bank Source: Millennium Development Goals 2006
I truly love the people, and the environment. I was lucky to live here 4 years when I was younger and have traveled here numerous times. I always enjoy my trips to Tikal so if you have the chance to go I highly recommend it. The same goes with the beaches like the Puerto San Jose. Antigua is a must go with colonial style culture and delicious food. Panajachel is an enourmous lake with a touristy town. Lots to do here and plenty of treasures to buy and experience.
Fondest memory: My fondest memory in Guatemala is traveling to a family owned fruit and coffee plantation in the back of my uncles run down green ford truck. I loved traveling like that. We would always have fruit in the back and would make the occasional stop for coconuts and to chop down a few sticks of cane to chew on. I'd watch all the different people and landscape pass buy relaxed in the back of that truck. Those were some of the few times I can say that my mind was truly not thinking about anything and just feeling and taking in my surroundings..
5ta. Avenida 5-55 Edificio "EUROPLAZA", Nivel 17, Oficina 1703, zona 14
Ap. postal 120 - F
Tel: +502 2385-3786/87/88/89/90
Fax: +502 385-3790
E-Mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Avenida Reforma 7-01, Zona 10
Tel: + 502 331 1541/55
Fax: + 502 334 8477
Dirección: 2a. Avenida 7-57 Zona 10
Tel: (502) 2420 3400
Fax: (502) 2420 3410
Favorite thing: Although English is said to be THE universal language itself, it is highly recommendable to know some basic words and phrases by entering Guatemala, as, besides tourist resorts, it is fairly difficult to find English-speaking people. No need to speak Spanish fluently, though. Also should be mentioned that even little knowledge of the local language can open doors throughout the country and if you once entered the local society be aware of their kindness ;-)
- Dirección General de Migración
4 Calle 4-37, Zona 9
- Control Migratorio
4 Calle 4-55, Zona 9
(next to Parque Industria)
11 Av. y 4 Calle, Zone 1
20 Calle, Zone 10
- Ministerio Público
7 Av. 11-20, Zona 1
Tel.: 2232 4651/8
- Ministerio de Gobernación
6 Av. 4-64, Zona 4
Tel.: 2362 00 20
- Ministerio de RR.EE.
2 Av. 4-17, Zona 10
Tel.: 2348 00 00
- Dirección General de la Policia Nacional Civil
6 Av. 13-71, Zona 1
Tel.: 2232 0221
- Dirección General de Aduanas
10 Calle 13-92, Zona 1
Tel.: 2238 0651/3
- El Correo
Av. Reforma 15-24, Zona 9
- Instituto Guatemalteco de Turismo
7 Av. 1-17, Zona 4
Tel.: 2331 3075
- Western Union:
Zentrale 3 Av. 12-59, Zona 9
Tel.: 2360 1737
- im Flughafen (Banquetzal)
Unicentro (Wechsel von Euro bei Banco Uno) 19 Calle 5-47, Zona 10
American Express 12 Calle 0-93, Zona 9, Local 22
Lost cheques: 1-800-999-0158 oder (1) 801-964 6665
Master Card & Eurocard 7 Av. 6-26, Zona 9
Tel.: 2331 7436
Lost cards: 1-800-999-1480
In general shops in Guatemala are open from 8am to noon and 2pm to 6pm, Monday to Saturday, but there are many variations. The little tiendas in my street for example are open until 8 or 9 pm, so is the Supertienda Paiz, as well on Sundays.
Many banks are also open like 10am to 1pm Saturday and Sunday.
Official business with government offices is recommended to be done in the morning hours.
Bars close around 1pm in the City of Guatemala, and there cannot be found after-parties like elsewhere in the world, despite you organize one yourself.
Favorite thing: Crossing the border from Mexico to Guatemala by bus you (usually!!!) don’t get controlled by officials. They won´t look seriously in your luggage if so at all. Prepare, though, that at some border points officers want to get tipped: big tip – no search, little tip – big search. The big your anger about mordida may be getting into Guatemala: do always keep it formal!
The official money in Guatemala is the Quetzal. Plural is Quetzales. I did find it beneficial to change a few dollars in to quetzales, but you could probably use US dollars in most tourist areas.
Fondest memory: Everything seemed very inexpensive compared to US dollars and I bought a few souvenirs for good prices. As of today, the currency exchange is $1 = 7.89 quetzales, so this picture of the 5 quetzales below is worth less than a dollar. Due to this, they didn't use coin money very much. Mostly paper money
Miguel Asturias won the Nobel Laureate in 1967. His novels, such as El Presidente, will prepare your imagination for Guatemala.
See what I mean in the brief excerpt below:
Fondest memory: "The imagination reels. There are reliefs, pyramids, temples in the extinguished city. The damp murmur of the arroyos, voices, crepitations of the intertangling vines, the sound of flapping wings, trickle into the immense sea of silence. Everything palpitates, breathes, exhausting itself in green above the vast roof of Peten."
Miguel Angel Asturias, The Mirror of Lida Sal: Tales Based on Mayan Myths & Guatemalan Legends, p. 13-14.
Favorite thing: Academia De Espanol Guatemala - I went to this school.. the teachers are EXCELLENT! the staff is incredibly professional. the prices are great. And if you do a homestay, ask for your own room and you will be taken very well care of. BUT if you are a blonde Female, beware of the principal. HE LOVES BLONDES. ALL OF THEM!!!!! if you want more details you can contact me directly. If you have a hearty personality and a healthy sense of humor, this will not be an issue for you. he's basically harmless if you do not believe ANYTHING he says......
UNLESS PROHIBITED, as it is here, Guatemala's male citizens may use almost any available wall for relief ***.
THE BILLBOARD above for Belmont cigarettes is typical of the advertising campaigns that blanket the roads nation-wide with light skinned and scantily clad women with marketing messages aimed at Westernized Ladino men.
THE UPPER of the two painted notices (apparently more effective than the prohibition on urinating) prohibits drivers (other than Luciano's) from parking their trucks and buses here.
*** I have heard claims that in Mexico this custom is a right written into the Constitution (!) Non-citizens may not have the same freedom as citizens.
Without a doubt my favorite thing about Guatemala is Panajachel (or rather, San Marcos....see below). It is really like another world when you arrive. The city itself is a fairly busy city with people always moving around, buses roaring past and Mayan women following you trying to sell something. However, even though so much (all) is guatemalan in every aspect, there is something particular about Panajachel. Beyond Panajachel is San Marcos, a small town about 20 min ride from Pana. This place is my most favorite of the entire area. It is so quite and so peaceful, you would think that you were in paradise.
Fondest memory: The posada I stayed in while in San Marcos creates the greatest memories I have of that place. I stayed there a few times and it was amazing everytime. I guess I would say my fondest memory was when Steve and I sent there for the weekend just to 'get away from it all.' (I was living,at the time, in Guatemala in a small town called Mazatenango-not recommended for visiting...). I had so much fun there, and in the evening, after an amazing dinner, we went a layed on the docks. There are these trees that kinda loom over the docks, and at night there are fire flies in them. That night there must have been a billion. It looked like christmas lights that were twinkling all over through the trees, it truely was breathtaking. (then we managed to catch one....).
I must add that the people of San Marcos are as precious as the place itself. There are always small boys playing around the dock, willing to take you to a posada (of which there are 3) or just talk to you. They speak Spanish and their Mayan language, which they love to teach to passers-by. I had many good laughs trying to learn and remember what they taught me, and theyt hought it was great.
Favorite thing: Antigua guatemala is a wonderfull colonial city, now cultural heritage of the Unesco, and the former capital of the country. Buildings are restored by lightspeed. While the tourists colonialize the historical city, the real Guatemaltecos have to move to the favelas around the city. The real Guatemalean athmosphere unfortunately disapeared more than anywhere in Guatemala. Although Antigua is a must when you visit the country!
The cultural beauty of the old mayans wich is being reflected on the life of the 'new' mayans, the natural beauty of the Guatemalean highlands, ... together with many other things made me travel to this country.
The diversity of the country is big. As well cultural as natural. In the north you find jungle, jungle and jungle while getting to the south you'll et over the highlands before you come on the tropical coasts on the Pacific coast. In the northwest you find a very small caribbean coast, Guatemala got after peace negotiations to force the peace treaty between Guatemala and Belize. However peace between these two nations is now reality, Guatemaleans still claim Belizean territory as theirs. Every Guatemalan map you will see, will show Belize as a province of Guatemala. But the military conflict is past.
There was not only a militar conflict with Belize, but also in the country itself there was civil unrest. Untill 1996 the URNG guerrillas fighted against the ruling government. Although the conflict only 'solved' in 1996, the country now politicaly quite seems stable. Also the economy seems to recover, but there is still a huge pooverty. Guatemala is one of the poorest countries of the region and the differences between poor and rich are huge! I met people who earned less than $2 a day for a whole family of 6 children and that while the small group of rich industrials in the capital have a limousin and a villa in Miami. It's painfull to be confrontated with all that. And even more when you now you can't do a lot to chanche it.
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More Regions in Guatemala