Fascinating Facts About Guatemala

(Source: listverse)

There used to be a joke in Guatemala, when the country was ruled by the military dictatorship. Instead of greeting his subjects with “Good afternoon” or any other such common pleasantries, the president would say, “I see you have all survived . . . ”

There Are A Lot Of Volcanoes

There are three active volcanoes in Guatemala, one of which, the awesomely named Volcan de Fuego, erupted for the sixth time in 2017 this past June. There are 37 volcanoes in total, rising out of the crust of the planet thanks to Guatemala’s location on the Ring of Fire—the area where all the inside planet juice seeps out and gets all melty in our business.[1]Apparently, the three active volcanoes, Pacaya, Fuego, and Santiaguito, are so active that you are almost guaranteed to witness an explosion or lava flow just by visiting the area. Just 35 kilometers (22 mi) from Guatemala City, Volcan de Fuego is closely monitored by authorities in case it decides to kill everyone, which, alone, it is unlikely to do. However, the volcano Pacaya is a mere 30 kilometers (19 mi) from Guatemala City, so a double-team scenario is possible. A September 2012 eruption of the Volcano of Fire saw an evacuation of 10,000 people ordered. In February 2015, another eruption forced the closure of the capital’s main airport.

The Poorest Central American Nation With The Highest Crime

Carjacking, daylight sexual assault, armed holdups with automatic weapons conducted by MS-13 and other hardcore gangs, and fake police officers for good measure—all available in sunny Guatemala. Guatemala sees over 5,000 violent deaths a year, primarily from the aforementioned gang crime, but tourists are a natural source of free money for those desperate enough to risk it.[2]And the risks pay off, as there is a very low arrest and conviction rate, and resisting criminal attempts on your wallet is likely to cost you more than a handful of quetzals. The problems are deeply rooted and multifaceted. The effects of the civil war are still being dealt with, and the literacy rate is just 75 percent. (Only Haiti has a lower rate in the Western Hemisphere.) These surface issues are compounded by Guatemala being such a diverse nation that there are 24 different recognized languages, including Spanish.


Giant Holes

On May 30, 2010, an enormous hole, 18 meters (60 ft) wide and 30 stories deep, opened up in the middle of Guatemala City, swallowing a three-story building and a home. It also caused the death of a man. Because of the location of the capital—between two active volcanoes—the earth beneath is made up primarily of a substance called pumice fill, which was deposited in previous eruptions.[3] This stuff is soft and unconsolidated, so it is theorized that this sinkhole is not actually a sinkhole at all. It is, in fact, man-made.Due to the local zoning regulations being treated with as much respect as Charlie Sheen treats his own body, leaking water pipes are the likely culprit for digging a massive hole under the city. The repairs cost millions of dollars for each hole ($2.7 million for a similar sinkhole in 2007), so the impoverished government is lackadaisical at best. The 2010 hole became a minor tourist attraction, guarded by police to discourage spelunking.


The 36-Year-Long Civil War You Didn’t Hear About

During the Guatemalan Civil War, which lasted from 1960 to 1996, 200,000 people died, and at least 400 villages were simply wiped off the map. The whole affair was one long, drawn-out power struggle between the indigenous rural people and the military junta that was installed in the 1950s. As with many Central and South American nations at the time, the main concern for many was how to keep the communists out. In Guatemala, however, the story deviated a little from the script.[5]Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, the leader of the junta that was installed after the (democratically elected) communist regime was ousted, took it upon himself to systematically strip the poor of their rights, wealth, and land. The subsequent uprising in 1960 killed Colonel Armas, and a new general was put in his place to continue the fight. By 1963, he was also dead, and another new general was put in place to continue the fight. In the late 1960s, following the ousting of the military by the civilian regime of Cesar Mendez, the military—already with a reputation for extreme violence—conducted a campaign that butchered thousands of Guatemalans in their ultimately successful bid to remove Mendez and retake power. In short, the army really, really liked being in charge, and the myriad ethnic groups really, really disagreed.

Guatemala Has Been Inhabited For 20,000 Years

Today, more than half of Guatemalans are descendants of the indigenous Maya peoples. As found by many imperialist nations, drawing lines on a map and calling it your own rarely works in the long term. Before the arrival of the conquistadors in the 16th century, the region that would become Guatemala was ruled by many different Mayan kingdoms, as evidenced by the upwards of 5,000 archaeological sites spread throughout the country, dating back almost 20,000 years.[6]By the time of the Spanish conquest, the Maya were in steep decline. Smallpox had swept the continent, and internecine conflicts had weakened the once-mighty civilization. The Spanish, once the Maya were defeated, promptly subjugated the people and treated them little better than slaves. The social stratification—Maya natives at the bottom, Creole Spanish at the top—persisted for centuries. Essentially, the racial divisions imposed on the nation formed the tinder that sparked repeated bloody conflict, repression, exploitation, and misery.

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