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Interesting facts about Guatemala

1. Guatemala became independent in 1821. Other countries that became independent during the same year include El SalvadorHondurasNicaragua, and Costa Rica. All these countries gained their independence from Spain. 
2. The national anthem of Guatemala was not written by a Guatemalan, but by a Cuban – José Joaquín Palma. However, it was composed by Rafael Álvarez Ovalle.

3. The Quetzal is the national bird, and White Nun Orchid (Monja Blanca) is the national flower of Guatemala.

Quetzal in Guatemalan Jungle
Quetzal – the national bird of Guatemala. Image credit – Sven Breitkopf

4. There are 21 Mayan languages (a language family spoken in Mesoamerica and northern Central America by at least 6 million Maya peoples) spoken in Guatemala. However, Spanish is their official language.
5. The currency of Guatemala—Guatemalan Quetzal—is named after the beautiful Quetzal bird. In ancient Mayan times, the feathers of this bird were used as currency.

6. One interesting fact about Guatemala is that Blue denim comes from the country!

7. The instant coffee process was invented in Guatemala by George Washington, an inventor, and businessman of Anglo-Belgian origin.

8. Do you like chocolate bars? The first ever chocolate bar was also invented in Guatemala during the Mayan times.

9. Chocolate residue dating back to 460-480 AD was found in a vessel in Guatemala.

10. The country has the second-largest concentration of Ozone. Ozone is a gas which is available both in the Earth’s upper atmosphere (stratosphere) and at ground level (troposphere).

11. Guatemala was conquered by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado in 1524.

12. The longest civil war in the history of Latin America, which was fought between military governments, right-wing vigilante groups and leftist rebels lasted a good 36 years.

13. By the end of the civil war, 200,000 citizens were dead.14. Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, which is also the largest and capital city of Guatemala, is known as Guatemala City.

15. Guatemala is known for its steep volcanoes, vast rainforests, and ancient Mayan sites.

16. Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales (October 19, 1899 – June 9, 1974) was a Nobel Prize-winning Guatemalan poet-diplomat, novelist, playwright and journalist.

17. Guatemala has one of the highest violent crime rates in Latin America. The country saw 6,000 violent deaths in 2014. And an average of 101 murders per week were reported in 2016. For a detailed report on crime in the country, as well as some safety tips, read this page.

Geographical facts about Guatemala
18. Motagua River is the longest river in Guatemala. It measures approximately 250 miles. The river is a major transportation artery for coffee, bananas and other fruits that are raised in the valleys of the country’s eastern region.

19. Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America, with a maximum depth of about 340 meters. It is also regarded as the most beautiful lake in the world, serving as the country’s most important national and international tourist attraction.

A Beautiful view of Lake Atitlán
A Beautiful view of the Lake Atitlán. Image credit – Christopher William Adach

The beauty of the lake was praised by two prominent people in history: one being the German explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, and the other being Aldous Huxley.
20. Tajumulco Volcano, the highest point in the country and Central America, is 4203 m above sea level.

Volcanoes in Guatemala

21. There are more than 30 volcanoes in Guatemala, out of which three are active.

22. Suchitan, Ixtepeque, Acatenango, Atitlan, Moyuta, Agua, Cerro Santiago, Tajumulco, Chingo, Quezaltepeque, Chiquimula, Cuilapa-Barbarena, Flores, Fuego, Ipala Volc Field, Santa Maria, Almolonga, Santo Tomas, Tahual, Pacaya, Tecuamburro and Toliman are the names of some of the volcanoes from the region.

23. The active volcanoes in Guatemala include – Fuego, Pacaya and Santiaguito.

Flag of Guatemala

Guatemala flag
The National flag of Guatemala. Image credit – CIA

Facts about trade, tourism, and economy

24. The export of coffee is the country’s biggest business. Almost 50% of Guatemalans are employed in agricultural activities.

25. Tourism is the second-largest industry in the country, employing approximately 35% of its population.

26. Guatemala City is the industrial and commercial center of the country, employing the remaining 15% of the population.   
27. The unequal distribution of land and wealth in the country is the biggest reason for uneven development in the region.

28. The country is also the world’s leading producer of Jade.

A Piece of Green jade from Guatemala
A Piece of Green jade from Guatemala. Image credit – James St. John

29. Fourteen percent (14%) of Guatemalans live on less than $1.25 US a day.

30. Guatemala is the top remittance recipient in Central America as a result of Guatemala’s large expatriate community in the US.

31. There are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Guatemala. These sites include Antigua Guatemala, Tikal national Park, Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua.

32. Tikal National Park is the world’s first mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site.

33. More than 1.2 million people visit Guatemala every year.

34. If you are interested in seeing the lava flow, you may want to visit the Pacaya volcano. Visitors flock to this site to take glimpses of the red-hot lava.