Guatemala means “land of forests.” From what I learned from the pictures shown in class, I noticed that Guatemala is a mountainous terrain, a tropical latitude, and small in size. Guatemala is located in Central America and is north and west of Mexico. It’s also the northernmost countries in Central America, according to the video posted on D2L and the PowerPoint slides. Guatemala covers an area of 42,042 square miles and bordering Mexico, El Salvador, Belize, and Honduras. The Sierra Madre Mountains stretch from Mexico into Guatemala forming most of the country’s territory. Peten region is about a third of Guatemala’s territory, but the climate is unsuitable for agriculture due to humidity and dense forestation. Southern highlands has a mild climate that is suitable for growing corn and beans, which means that it could support a reasonable population size. Due to Guatemala’s location, the country is able to trade on the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean. Guatemala’s climate has two seasons: from May to October is the rainy season and from November to April is the dry season.
Overall, Guatemala is known for its beautiful scenery which consists of cities and high elevation mountains. Even though Guatemala is small, its geography is still unique. There are two important religions of Guatemala which are Mayan and Protestant religions. In class, we talked a lot about the Mayan religion. Most Mayans practice Catholicism, some believe in the ancestral practice of the no Wallace. For this religion and science go together. For example, Chac is the god of rain, thunder, and lightening, and Ixchel is the earth and the moon goddess. The Mayans worshipped many gods, which could be for the good or for the bad, in order to try and please them. The Mayan rulers or kings were believed to be related to the Gods. Gods needed blood, which is used as a metaphor for control in order to prevent disasters. Mayan religion is based on cycles, which allows them to celebrate festivals for the lunar and solar eclipses. Mayans perform rituals to please the gods to provide crops, wood, other useful materials, and to cure or protect them from illnesses and danger. The sky, underworld, and the Earth are the three major worlds in Mayan religion. Finally, Mayan rule was started in 1500 B.C.E. and extended from 250 C.E. to 900 C.E. and their population was over ten million people. Religion is a huge part of Guatemala and its culture.
Guatemala has several different indigenous groups. Indigenous groups include Quiches, Mames, Cakchiqueles, Kechis, and Kaqchikel. Today, there are twenty-three indigenous groups in Guatemala. All groups speak different languages and not just Spanish. These languages include 59.4% speak European, 9.1% speak K’iche, 8.4% speak Kaqchikel, 7.9% speak Mam, 6.3% speak Q’eqchi, 8.6 speak other Mayan languages, and 0.2% speak non-Mayan languages. As you could see there is a variety of languages in Guatemala. The music in Guatemala is different and you probably won’t hear this type of music in the United States. While listening to some of the video of their music, i noticed that the music being played it happy, cheerful, graceful, tropical, and has a rhythm or beat that makes it easy to dance to. While listening to the music, it put a smile on my face. The national and most common instrument is the marimba. In most of the songs you hear the marimba. Also, you may hear percussion instruments in the music. There are some percussion bands in Guatemala. In the one video that I watched, the men and women were folk dancing, and part of the dancing and the way the men and women danced reminded me a little bit of square dancing in the United States.
Music is different around the world, but describes and tells you the culture of the particular country. The clothing in Guatemala is different from the clothing in the United States. Women weave to make clothing and other items. Indigenous weaving techniques and styles are being preserved because there is a risk that some styles and techniques will no longer be done or practice due to the civil war that last for thirty-six years. The materials used in weaving are 100% organic cotton and plants, not chemicals, to make the dye for the designs in the clothing. Weaving clothing or anything else takes months to make. Guatemalans wear native clothing that represents their identity and who they are. Both men’s and women’s clothing consists of bright, bold colors, which are red, blue, yellow, purple, and pink. A everyday out for a male is an open jacket, a locally made straw hat, and a western style sweater and trousers. A typical outfit for females is a square cut blouse called a huipil and long colorful skirts that have symbols on them. For women who have babies, a shawl is draped over their shoulders to carry their babies. Because Mayan women are proud of their culture and put a lot of hard work making their clothing and other items, it represent where they are from, their culture, and themselves.
Unemployment is very high in Guatemala. Men are usually the money makers and work in factories (meat packaging factories), and on farms picking food, planting, or taking care of domesticated farm animals. In Guatemala, women deal with inequality in labor rights and is very hard for them to get a job because women are seen has the housekeepers and take care and raise their families. If women do have a job, it is usually in factories that make textiles. The only problem with this job is that if the factory closes, the women are out of a job. Some women will sell fruits and vegetables at local markets. Also some women will work on farms. Most of these jobs are low paying, so men and women are fleeing to the United States to make more money in order to be able to take care of their families. The elderly in Guatemala are very poor. They are treated poorly. The elderly are not taken care of properly by the Guatemalan health care system and usually offer no medical care to help them, or the health care offered is terrible and useless. Unfortunately, the elderly rely on their children to help take care of them and send them money. Guatemala’s elderly is mistreated/ Unfortunately, Guatemala has several social problems that affect the country and its people. People in Guatemala face oppression, discrimination, and racism. There are several kinds/types of disease that may be deadly. Some disease in Guatemala are food/water borne diseases (bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever) and vector borne diseases (dengue fever and malaria). Genocide is a huge problem in the country even though the government denies it. During the civil war that lasted for thirty-six years killed over 200,000 people, including 626 villages massacred.
Guatemala suffers from severely high poverty rates. They also deal with high malnutrition rate due to poor water quality and agriculture. Due to poor agriculture, Guatemalan families have a hard time growing crops to feed their families. They lack or have no resources for education, especially schools in rural areas. Guatemala has a poor and underdeveloped health care system. Private health care providers are only available for the wealthy. 17% of Guatemalan workers, most of these workers live in urban areas, are covered by Social Security. 18% of Guatemala’s people will not recieve and form of health care. There is also a shortage on workers who are in the medical and medical care field. Gang violence is huge in Guatemala. There are two very dangerous gangs in Guatemala, which are the coyotes and the MS-13, and are not afraid to kill or hurt anyone that is in their way. In the slides, it is mentioned that people had to keep money in shoes to avoid violence. Finally, femicide is a serious problem in Guatemala. Sixty-two women are killed every month by being shot, asphyxiated, stabbed, or disremembered. Even though murder is a crime here in the United States, Guatemalan men are not charged or prosecuted with these crimes. Overall, I would like to say that I am very fortunate here in the United States. Guatemala’s people are suffering everyday and there is really nothing that we could do to help the problem. Here in the United States, we do deal with gangs, but not to the point of violence that Guatemala’s deal with to the point that they are fleeing to try and avoid the gang violence.
Learning about Guatemala really made me realize that I am very lucky with the life that I have and really opened up my eyes and not everybody in the world is fortunate as I am. Guatemala’s culture is very different and I learned a lot about Guatemala and that their culture is very interesting but the country has a lot to improve on to protect and care for its people.