Guatemala Essay, Research Paper
It has been said that a country that goes through hard times, will often rebound and become stronger as time passes by. Guatemala is one of those countries. It may not be situated in an area of peace and wealth. It may not have the best medicine. It may not have enough of an army to defend its patriots. All in all, Guatemala has survived through the many hardships and warring and has come out as the stronger of the nations. Guatemala may not be the best of the best, but it has survived through it all.Guatemala is a small and cramped country. Situated in Central America, has an area of 108,889 square kilometers. It has a maximum length of 457 kilometers and a maximum width of 428 kilometers. “It is bounded on the Southeast by Honduras and El Salvador, on the South by the Pacific Ocean, and on the West and North by Mexico. It has a total boundary length of 1,931 kilometers.” Guatemala has held claim to certain parts of Belize. In 1821, just after achieving independence, Guatemala “considered itself the rightful inheritor of this former Spanish possession and continued to regard Belize as an administrative adjunct of Guatemala.” The UK, Belize, and the UN General Assembly have rejected Guatemala’s claim. (WorldMark 153) About two-thirds of the land area is mountainous, some of which are volcanic. (Encarta 1) There are two main mountain ranges in Guatemala: The Altos Cuchumatane and the Sierra Madre. The Altos Cuchumatane range is situated in the northern half. It is much older than the Sierra Madre range and is greatly eroded as a result. The latter range is situated in the south. It is much younger and has over thirty-three volcanoes. Only a few of these are active. (World Geography 446)As the volcanoes exploded over the years, the volcanic ash has made the soil very fertile. (WorldMark 157) As a result, agriculture is a main form of export. Coffee, sugar, bananas,cotton, hemp, essential oils, and cacao are the main cash crops. (World Geography 446) Coffee is the main crop, with four hundred ninety-three million dollars exported in 1986. The other crops fell sorely behind, with bananas at seventy-six million, sugar at sixty million, cotton at thirty-five million, and all other exports at only 452 million. Guatemala trades mainly with the US, importing 366 million dollars worth of Guatemalan product. Other high trading countries include El Salvador at 120 million, France at seventy-five million, Japan at thirty-three million, Nicaragua at fifteen million, and all other countries at 451 million. (WorldMark 157 – 158) Guatemala has a very characteristic climate. “The climate of Guatemala varies considerably according to altitude.” Between the altitudes of 915m and 2440m above sea level, the days are warm and the nights are cool. This is where most of the population is concentrated. The average annual temperature is about twenty degrees Celsius (sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit). The weather in the lower regions has a tropical character, with an average temperature of twenty-eight point three degrees Celsius (eighty-three degrees Fahrenheit).”The rainy season is from May to October with a corresponding dry season from November to April.” Annual rainfall in the north ranges between 1525 and 2540 mm (sixty and one hundred inches). In Guatemala City, in the southern highlands, the average is about 1320mm (fifty-two inches) annually. (Encarta 1) Guatemala has been nicknamed “The Land of the Eternal Spring” because of its consistently temperate climate. (WorldMark 153)Guatemala has an abundance of plant life. Most plants that are commonly found in a tropical zone are usually found in the lowlands of Guatemala. In addition to the great number of plant life, especially flowers, there are also medicinal, industrial, and fibrous types abundant.Guatemala has many different types of animals. The country’s main types of animals are armadillo, bear, coyote, dear, fox, jaguar, monkey, puma, tapir, and manatee. (WorldMark 153) “There is also an abundance of bird life, with the Quetzal as the national bird.” (Encarta 2) Last, but not least, there are over one hundred species of reptiles, including bushmaster, fer-de-lance, water moccasin, and iguana. (WorldMark 153) Guatemala has an unstable government. “Constitutionally, the Guatemalan government is considered democratic and representative, and the new constitution that took effect on January 14th, 1986 reaffirms that definition.” Ever since 1950, the civil warring in the area has forced the government to suspend the constitutional guarantees, most recently in 1982. There are certain laws pertaining to the elected offices in the government. The elected president must be forty years old and native born. He is elected by direct vote to a five-year term and cannot be reelected. A vice president must also be voted for.”There is a five-member Court of Constitutionality, which officially advises the president.” These members are appointed by the following associations who are allowed to pick one member a piece: Supreme Court, Congress, President, University of San Carlos, and the Bar Association. The president also appoints a cabinet of thirteen ministers who assists him in his duties. (WorldMark 156) In 1946, the government established a social security program in a voted law. This law required all businesses with over five employees to participate. The program covers the following aspects: accidents, maternity, hospitalization, disability, and old age. (World Geography 446) Guatemala has a rich history. “Guatemala was the center of the old Maya civilization?” (Encarta 6) The Maya was the first civilization to inhabit the Guatemalan area. (WorldMark 154) or what seemed to be their capital, was Tikal, in the northern lowlands. They assembled some 3000 structures, which included tall temple pyramids, plazas, and monuments. Tikal covered an area of about fifteen square kilometers and was thought to have sustained a population of around 50,000 in the classic period of the nation. A Spanish explorer conquered the territory by the name of Pedro de Alvarado starting in 1523 and continuing into 1524. (Encarta 6) This conqueror founded the first capital, dubbed Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala, in 1524. Due to an enormous amount of earthquakes, it was moved a number of times until it made a permanent stay at its current location in Guatemala City, in 1776. The nation proclaimed its independence on September 15th, 1821. (Encarta 6) “Almost at once, Agust?n de Iturbide incorporated the territory into his Mexican Empire.” This was a fairly quick inclusion, and soon after they broke loose, they formed a union with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. This union was called the United Provinces of Central America, and was formed in 1824. This federation lasted until 1839, when Guatemala once again proclaimed its independence. Several Dictators has held office, but most of the earlier ones were self-appointed. They were usually military leaders, who had come up through the ranks by way of “frequent revolutions”. (WorldMark 154) One of the first was Rafael Carrera, who made himself dictator of Guatemala and most of Central America in 1840, and became dictator for life some fourteen years later.In 1873, eight years after his death, Justo Rufino Barrios, formerly supreme commander of the army was elected to office. (Encarta 6) He was nicknamed “the reformer”. This was because he was thought to be responsible for the reformation of Guatemala from the colonial era to the modern era. (WorldMark 154) “In December of 1944, the Guatemalan educator Juan Jose Arevalo, who had the support of the National Renovation and the Popular Front Liberation parties, was elected president.” A new constitution was agreed upon in March of that same year. In 1945, Guatemala became a charter member of the UN. Many other renovations occurred during his presidency, which ended in 1950. Many other presidents came after him, including Fuentes, Montenegro, Osorio, Garcia, Montt, and others.In recent presidency, Igoyen narrowly defeated Alfonso Portillo of the FRG in a presidential runoff election. With the country in a civil war during his term, he vowed to end it by the latter part of 1996. He dismissed several military officials that had been thought to be involved in the human right violations in February of that month. This president ended most warring and civil disputes in Guatemala and brought peace back to the region. (Encarta 6-10) Guatemala may not be the most peaceful, cleanest, best placed country in Central America, or the World, for that matter, but it has come through all its hardest times. Again, many people say that struggle makes a person, or in this case, a country stronger. This is essentially how Guatemala came to be. Struggle after struggle formed a great country in the midst of poverty, weakness, and war. Mankind will continue to better itself in this fashion time and time again as the need arises to be great and strong in the face of defeat. The world must try to better itself by struggle, conflict, and hardship as we move into the twenty-first century.