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Guatemala Information - Page 2
History
The Maya people were early inhabitants of Guatemala. The Maya also lived in southern Mexico, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras.

By the time the Spanish arrived in the Americas the Mayan civilization had declined. Pedro de Alvarado defeated the Maya (1524) and became the first governor of Guatemala.

In 1821 Guatemala gained independence from Spain but was annexed by Mexico. Two years later, Guatemala left the Mexican union and joined Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras in the United Provinces of Central America. Guatemala became a fully independent country in 1839.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the US owned United Fruit Company invested in banana plantations in Guatemala becoming a powerful force within the country.

Governments which came to power in 1944 and 1951 forced plantation owners to sell unused land back to Guatemala for redistribution. Land reform came to a halt in 1954 following a military coup.

Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, the political history of Guatemala was dominated by the military. In 1996 a civil war, which spanned thirty-six years, formally came to an end.

In 1999 Alfonso Portillo became the President of Guatemala, followed by Oscar Berger in 2003.

Economy
Guatemala is a member of the the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR).

Agriculture produces the smallest percentage of the country's GDP - the Gross Domestic Product - but employs around half of the working population. The main agricultural products are coffee, sugarcane and bananas. Other crops are beans, corn and cardamom. Chicle gum, used to make chewing gum, is produced.

The agricultural sector includes cattle ranches. Chickens, pigs and sheep are also reared. Guatemala's fisheries provide shrimps, snapper and tuna.

Industry's contribution to the GDP has increased. Industries include petroleum, chemicals, metals, rubber, furniture, textiles, clothing and sugar.

The services sector earns the largest percentage of the country's GDP. Tourism is a growing industry.

Money remitted from Guatemalans living in the USA is an important source of foreign exchange. (2011)

Arts
Guatemala is particularly well known for weaving with designs dating back many centuries. Other crafts are ceramics and jewellery.

Music is important in Guatemalan culture. Most towns have a marimba band (the marimba is an instrument similar to a xylophone). Other traditional instruments are drums and flutes. Stringed instruments, such as guitars, were introduced by the Spanish.

Guatemala has a long literary tradition. Popul Vuh, the history of the Quiche people, was written in the sixteenth century.

In 1967, Miguel Angel Asturias, was awarded the Nobel Prize. His works included novels (El Senor Presidente) and poetry.

Sport
Football is the most popular sport in Guatemala. Baseball, basketball and volleyball are also played.

Bicycle racing takes place in many towns and cities.

Holidays
All religious holidays are celebrated in Guatemala including Christmas, Easter and All Saints' Day. Other holidays are New Year's Day - 1 January, Labour Day - 1 May, Independence Day - 15 September (1821) and Revolution Day - 20 October.

News
News from Guatemala is available from Newslink.

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