Guatemala, the land of eternal spring. Or how are things really?
Guatemala has almost 14 million inhabitants and deep social inequalities. While a small elite dominates the country in terms of ownership and political influence, the majority of the population live in poverty. A clear example of this injustice is that Guatemala has one of Central America's highest average incomes, while 13 percent of the population lives on less than a dollar a day, according to Human Development Report 2011. Poverty is greatest in rural areas, and it is mainly Guatemalan indigenous, Mayan Indians, who live in a social, economic and political exclusion.
This exclusion and widespread poverty was one of the root causes of the 36-year civil war, the regime in Guatemala Mayan population subjected to systematic persecution - a genocide. Approximately 200 000 people died or disappeared. Since Guatemala for decades has been ruled by military dictatorships, civil society is now very weak. Corruption is widespread and state institutions are weak and ineffective. People are still afraid to get involved in politics because it was endangering the lives during the war. Threats and killings of human rights representative are still present. In recent years, violence has increased and in 2007 about 6000 murder took place. The vast majority of murders are never solved.
Both racism and "el machismo" are widespread in Guatemala and leads to the indigenous people and especially women are discriminated against at all levels of society. Indigenous women are among the most vulnerable among the poor. While there is strong potential among them to get involved in local development and poverty reduction.
Spanish is the administrative language and mother tongue of mestizos, the people of European descent. In addition to Spanish, spoken by about 60 percent of the population, there are 21 Mayan languages that partly exhibit strong regional variations. Overall it’s spoken 23 different indigenous languages in Guatemala. Agriculture accounts for about one quarter of GDP, two thirds of exports and employs half the workforce. The main products are coffee, sugar and bananas.
As early as 1000 years before Christ Maya beliefs where established with rituals and several gods. Catholic Christianity was the only religion in colonial times. The main religion is Catholicism of the Latin Church. About 40 percent of the population is Protestant. Protestantism has grown rapidly in recent decades, especially during the dictatorial period and the evangelical pastor General Efraín Ríos Montt. More than a third of the inhabitants of the country are Protestant, the rest evangelistic or Pentecostals. Mayan beliefs are often involved in Christian ceremonies and gatherings, a phenomenon known as syncretism where you mix religion and collects the best of two or more religions.
The state operates several undergraduate and colleges in the country. These schools are free, although the cost of school uniforms, books, transportation and the like are applicable. This makes it difficult for the poorer population to receive training. Many middle and upper class children attend private schools. The country has a public university (Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala), and 9 private. Only 69 percent of the population aged over 15 are literate, the lowest figure in all of Central America.