Guatemala is the Mayan heartland of Central America, with the Caribbean Sea
to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Mostly mountains with narrow
coastal plains, the country is generally tropical, but the highlands tend to be
cooler. The population is approximately 55% Mestizo (mixed Amerindian-Spanish),
43% Amerindian, and 2% whites and other. Most are Roman Catholic, Protestant, or
hold indigenous Mayan beliefs.
Guatemala gained independence from Spanish colonial rule in 1821 and has had
a variety of military and civilian governments. The country spent most of the
20th century embroiled in a 36-year guerrilla war. A peace agreement was signed
in 1996; however, moves to bring those responsible for atrocities to justice
have only just begun.
The Guatemalan economy struggled during years of war; however the 1996 peace
agreement has cleared a major obstacle to foreign investment. The agricultural
sector accounts for about one-fourth of GDP, two-thirds of exports, and half of
the labor force. Coffee, sugar, and bananas are the primary cash products in
addition to petroleum, metals and tourism. Major trading partners include other
Central American countries, Germany, Japan and the U.S. Ongoing challenges
include increasing government revenues, negotiating further assistance from
international donors, and increasing the efficiency and openness of both
government and private financial operations.
CDCвЂ™s program in Guatemala is focused on community development around a
future mining site to ensure the local community benefits as much as possible
from the incoming capital investment.