Guatemala

Guatemala is located in Central America, bordering the Pacific Ocean to the East and the Caribbean Sea to the West. It is bordered by Belize to the Northeast, Mexico to the north, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast. The official language is Spanish, but it is often the second language among the indigenous population. 23 Mayan language dialects are still spoken, especially in rural areas. Guatemala's currency is the Quetzal, named for its national bird, the Resplendent Quetzal. Guatemala has a history of revolutions, coups and non-democratic governments. The last guerilla war ended in December 1996 with the signing of the peace accords, which ended 36 years of civil war, leading to successful democratic elections in 1999, 2003 and 2007. The agricultural sector exports, coffee, sugar, and bananas and occupies one half of the labor force. Tourism has now become an important part of the country's income. The country is divided into 22 states called departments, each with a capital.

 

Guatemala is the only Central American country where the indigenous Indian people are in the majority, and their culture is vividly conveyed in their bright, often hand-woven textiles. Before the Spanish Conquest, the Maya civilization was probably the most advanced in the Americas at that time. Actually it began to fall before Columbus arrived, and many of the Maya cities are still being discovered in the thick jungle in the north,   is mountainous, except for the south coastal area and the vast northern low lands of Petén department. Two mountain chains enter Guatemala from west to east, dividing the country into three major regions: the highlands, where the mountains are located; the Pacific coast, south of the mountains; and the Petén region, north of the mountains. All major cities are located in the highlands and Pacific coast regions; by comparison, Petén is sparsely populated. These three regions vary in climate, elevation, and landscape, providing dramatic contrasts between hot and humid tropical lowlands and colder and drier highland peaks. The rivers are short and shallow in the Pacific drainage basin, larger and deeper in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico drainage basins, which include the Polochic and Dulce Rivers, which drain into Lake Izabal, the Motagua River, the Sarstún that forms the boundary with Belize, and the Usumacinta River, which forms the boundary between Petén and Chiapas, Mexico.

 

In this context, AMG Guatemala operates each of its many programs, spread over the entire city and rural areas.  Here we present an overview of each area in which the projects are located:

(Click below to learn more about each area AMG Guatemala focuses on)

Guatemala is a country in need of the love of Christ,

as well as, an excellent and safe environment for learning and opportunities to achieve higher levels of education and career opportunities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The City: (La Florida, Amparo, 4th. Of February, Limón, Alameda, and El Cerro day care centers, Verbena and Las Vistas schools)

Guatemala City is subdivided into 22 zones, each zone with its own streets and avenues. Zones are numbered 1-25 with Zones 20, 22 and 23 not yet existing. Addresses are assigned according to the street or avenue number, followed by a dash and the number of meters it is away from the intersection further simplifying address location. The city's metro area has recently grown very rapidly and has absorbed most of the neighboring municipalities of Villa Nueva, San Miguel Petapa, Mixco, San Juan Sacatepéquez, San José Pinula, Santa Catarina Pinula, Fraijanes, San Pedro Ayampuc, Amatitlán, Villa Canales, Palencia and Chinautla forming what is now known as the Guatemala City Metropolitan Area. As of the 2002 census, the metropolitan area had a population of 2.3 million, which is more than that of Kathmandu, Nepal. However, it has grown in excessive amounts throughout recent years. Guatemalans have a diversity of origins, with Spanish and mestizo descent being the most common. Guatemala City also has a sizeable Indigenous population and minority groups such as Germans and other Europeans, Jewish, Koreans, and many groups of other Latin American origins such as Peruvian, and Colombian amongst others.

 

Jutiapa: (Jutiapa School)

The Department of Jutiapa is located in southeastern section of Guatemala. It includes an area of 3.219 square kilometers. According to the census of year 2002 it has 389.085 inhabitants including all the Department of Jutiapa, and in the municipality 109.910 inhabitants. For the next census a projection of 421.984 inhabitants in the Department of Jutiapa is expected and in the municipality 127.848. Jutiapa is vulnerable to natural disasters such as flood and hurricanes.

 

Santa Rosa: (Oratorio, Matochos, Villa Lauradaycare centers)

The department of Santa Rosa is located in southeastern region of Guatemala. It includes land totaling 2,295 square kilometers. The commerce and the fertility of the earth gave economic prosperity to the region. This area is an important point of commerce for Guatemala, as good are transported to and from Honduras and El Salvador through this area.  The population of Matochos and Villa Laura is 547 and 359 respectively including children, young people and adults.  In this areas is located the “dry corridor” consisting of seven of the 22 departments, and more than120,000 families have lost up to 90 percent of their agricultural crops, cultivated on small plots and devoted mainly to subsistence (data to September2009).  Much earthquake activity has taken place in this are as of late, causing damage to homes and buildings.

 

Sololá: (Santiago and San Pedro projects)

In the department of Sololá the projects present/display characteristics similar to the previous ones, since the economy is also toed to agriculture as in other areas.  As far as education, there exists both public and private sector options. As far as the poverty situation, 60% of the population lives in humble conditions and in the majority of the families it is necessary that all the members of the family work to obtain sufficient income.

 

Chimaltenango:(Patzun, Patzicia, Filadelfia)

The department of Chimaltenango is located in region V, or the Central region. Its departmental head is Chimaltenango. This area is 54kilometers from the Capital City of Guatemala. It covers a land area of 1,979square kilometers.

 

Quetzaltenango:(Chorjalé, San Martin, San José, San Juan, Ebenezer day care center)

In this area the percentage of those living in poverty is84.02% and they have a level 3 in the index of human development. Several areas also have high percentages of people living in extreme poverty. The characteristics of the people are the same as in the previous section.

 

Solola: (Nahuala daycare center)

This area has a level of poverty of 85.76% and an extreme poverty level of 38%. This puts it at level 4 poverty.  In the ranking of municipal poverty, Nahualáis in the position number 242 of the 333 municipalities of the country making it among the poorest areas in the country.

The government runs a number of public elementary and secondary-level schools. These schools are free, though the cost of uniforms, books, supplies, and transportation makes them less accessible to the poorer segments of society and significant numbers of poor children do not attend school. Many middle and upper-class children go to private schools. The country also has one public university (USAC or Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala), and 9 private ones.

 

 More than the 31.7%of the population with more than 14 years of age do not know how to read or write.  More than the half of the female population is illiterate.  In rural areas nearly 78% of adults are illiterate and do not understand the value of education.

 

This lack of understanding yields a very high dropout rate among children (especially in rural locations) with parents preferring their children work, earning necessary income for the family.  According to INE (Guatemala Institute of Statistics) 57,000 children between the ages of 7 and 14 years old are working.

 

The Guatemalan government instituted the policy of “free education” last year, without fiscal regard, and has experienced financial shortfalls, lack of funds to pay teachers and lack of supplies and food for children.  The Guatemala press has been reporting all year of the shortfalls and failure of the new public education program.

 

According to the most recent ranking by the World Economic Forum, related to the quality of Math and Science , Guatemala has ranked 127thout of 133 countries, and in the overall quality of its educational system, 125th(Below Nicaragua and other Central and South American countries).   We believe that this reflects the passive attitude of the Guatemalan government towards education investment, allocating just 2% of the general budget to education.   If this 2% alone were used correctly it would cover at least the basic needs of the system, however, it is reported that a great deal of the budget is misused and/or lost to corruption.  This makes it nearly impossible to experience advances in the current education system.  For positive change to take place, the government must not only allocate more than 2% to education, they must be sure that the money is spent as designated.

 

The index of illiteracy in the Department of Jutiapa includes 125,454 women and 107,654 men. In the municipality (city of Jutiapa) the index of illiteracy includes 38,181women and 31,701 men. The department of Jutiapa is 124 kilometers from the capital city.

 

In Santa Rosa, the majority of the children and young people have access to at least primary education. In Cuilapa, there are 91 primary schools, 21 junior high schools and 10 high schools. The rate of promotion is 39%.

 

In relation to education, these communities report that 90%of the population receives education of the pre-primary and primary levels. This is because there is a presence of national and some institutions of the private sector.

Corruption within the government, police, military and private sector affects nearly every aspect of life here, leaving people without confidence in these institutions and wondering what hope there is for real justice. The impunity prevails with just 2-3% of murders tried and most gang activity completely without punishment. Insecurity and violence contributes to a life of fear for many living in and around the capital city.  More than 400 bus drivers have been murdered from 2009 - 2011. Homicides have reached an all-time high of nearly 20 per day in 2011.  The intangible effects of this situation are difficult to measure but palpable. Youth exposure and involvement with gangs has increased the level of criminality in and around the capital city.  Youth are recruited into gangs in order to undertake criminal acts such as extortion and robbery.  Desensitization to crime and death hardens hearts and creates an atmosphere of little hope for many youth.  Absent parents and immigration to the U.S., fuels gang involvement by causing children to seek acceptance by anyone willing to offer it.  Nearly 800 children per year die from violent means.  50% are murders by gun.  Drug trafficking has reached an all-time high with nearly all major cartels from Mexico present. Life expectancy falls short of world norms at 68 years for men and 71 years for women.

According to the CIA World Fact book, Guatemala's GDP (PPP) per capita is US $5,000; however, this developing country still faces many social problems and is among the 10 poorest countries in Latin America. The distribution of income remains highly unequal with more than half of the population below the national poverty line and just over 400,000 (3.2%) unemployed. The CIA World Fact Book considers 56.2% of the population of Guatemala to be living in poverty.

 

Remittances from Guatemalans who fled to the United States during the civil war now constitute the largest single source of foreign income (more than the combined value of exports and tourism).

 

In recent years the exporter sector of nontraditional products has grown dynamically representing more than 53 percent of global exports. Some of the main products for export are fruits, vegetables, flowers, handicrafts, cloths and others.

 

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in purchasing power parity (PPP) in 2006 was estimated at $61.38 billion USD. The service sector is the largest component of GDP at 58.7%, followed by the agriculture sector at 22.1% (2006 est.). The industrial sector represents only 19.1% of GDP (2006 est.). Mines produce gold, silver, zinc, cobalt and nickel. The agricultural sector accounts for about one-fourth of GDP, two-fifths of exports, and half of the labor force. Organic coffee, sugar, textiles, fresh vegetables, and bananas are the country's main exports. Inflation was 5.7% in 2006.

 

It is the largest country in Central America (population is reported to be 13.68 million, 41% of which are 14 years old or younger) and faces the following acute challenges:

 

                    -56 % of the population is living in poverty

                    -An estimated 65% (according to recent UN reports) live on less than $2 per day.

                    -Poor funding and inappropriate fiscal decisions have left the public education system without the necessary resources to support its teachers and

                      students. Less than 1.7% of the government’s budget goes towards education. (Poor tax collection system)

                    -Between 20 and 46% of the population wrestles with malnutrition. 15 out of 22 departments suffer malnutrition problems.

 

In Jutiapa 40% of the population is dedicated to the raising of cattle, and another large percentage produce crops such as onions, tomatoes, corn, beans, rice, tobacco, chiles, jalapeños, and chile peppers.

 

In Chimaltenango the economy is based especially in agriculture, since the majority of the people are dedicated to seed vegetables to export them to other places. As far as the poverty situation in these communities, there is a poverty level that oscillates between 60 and 70% of people.

Guatemala is characterized by great socio-cultural resistances. This, historically a disadvantage, is now a great opportunity. Every Guatemalan  is familiarized with the social differences that each one of the small groups mark, which, in spite of subdividing itself in almost infinite form, represent social status,  even though is not based on competitiveness, individual competitions or other characteristics. Examples are, in the different layers from a tzutujil social pyramid, or the distrusts between different Mayan groups, as well as the differences and prejudices between racially mixed, Judeo-Spanish groups and European emigrants. Existing as much in a group as in another one. The tendency nevertheless is positive.  With each Generation great social movements exist. Some raise the social pyramid and others lower the social pyramid, at the same time the communications and organizations of social development have made great emphasis in the social opening and the reduction of racist, existing mainly in the groups better defined by their ancestors. A multicultural population that knows to surpass its differences is advantageous for all the country. And this it is the wonderful case of Guatemala. We can see when measuring the economic growth of municipalities in the outside of the country, in the ethnic diversity of new industrialists, in the amount of currencies that were, now less, generated by emigrants. In summary we have a great and diverse group of people in Guatemala, in its majority between the 15 and 25 years, with less prejudice to other social groups and with great desire to learn, to undertake and to surpass themselves.

 

In the rural areas, the communities mentioned are very threatened by some chronic diseases of respiratory natures and other diseases caused by undernourishment.

 

Also, the government healthcare system is insufficient for the population causing health problems to become worse.

 

Malnutrition in Nahualá is one of the predominant concerns. The occurrence of malnutrition occurs mostly in the children, according to collected data of the Center of Health and in the evangelical clinic of AMG here.

 

In San Marcos the percentage of poverty in this area is 83.53. Most of the families are large (between 5 or 6 children each).  Most families depend on the father´s income and most of the time this is not sufficient. Besides, there exist family disintegration due to alcoholism problems and immigration of one of the members of the family to the capital city or other countries to work, which contributes to the abandonment risk factors of the families.

 

Because they do not have steady work and have little academic preparation, the head of the family often works as a farmer on small plots of land. The women dedicate themselves to doing domestic work and often try to earn extra money by doing seamstress work, washing and ironing clothes, etc. The work is not on a daily basis but usually two to three times per week. These combined efforts still don’t always provide enough basic sustenance for families.

 

Guatemala had achieved modest progress in reducing malnutrition, but due to the drought affecting the country in 2009 and the effects of climate change, there was a setback. The chronic child malnutrition is currently 43 per cent, but in the dry corridor, the eastern region of the country most affected by droughts last year went from 1-10 percent in children and 14 percent in young mothers.

50–60% of the population is Catholic,40% Protestant, and 1% follow the indigenous Mayan faith. Catholicism was the official religion during the colonial era. However, Protestantism has increased markedly in recent decades. More than one third of Guatemalans are Protestant, chiefly Evangelicals and Pentecostals. It is common for traditional Mayan practices to be incorporated into Catholic ceremonies and worship, a phenomenon known as syncretism. The practice of traditional Mayan religion is increasing as a result of the cultural protections established under the peace accords. The government has instituted a policy of providing altars at every Mayan ruin found in the country so that traditional ceremonies may be perfor1med there.

 

There are also small communities of Jews estimated between 1200 and 2000, Muslims (1200), Buddhists at around 9000 to 12000, and members of other faiths and those who do not profess any faith. There are many atheists in the country, but the subject is not openly discussed and no reliable statistics are available for this population.

AMG Guatemala  •  14 Calle 10-80, Zona 7, Col. La Verbana, Guatemala, C.A., APDO. 2936  •  (502) 2471-5730