Forever Changed International - Missions Handbook

Guatemalan Culture


Guatemala MapWeather conditions vary from season to season and region to region. The dry season is from October to early May. The rainy season is from late May until the end of September. Temperatures vary little during the year: the average high is 77℉ and the low is 55℉. 


Guatemala is in Central America. It borders Mexico to the north and Honduras to the south.

Geographically, the country is divided into three regions: Northern Plain, Central Highlands, and Pacific Lowland. The Central Highlands, where most of Guatemala’s 13 million live, is a region dominated by a chain of mountains with many volcanoes, some of which are active. The beauty and climate of this region has given Guatemala the nickname, “Land of Eternal Spring.”


Guatemala HistoryEarly Mayan civilization and culture began to develop around 2000 B.C., all throughout the territory we currently know as southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and western Honduras.

The Maya were considered one of the most developed human cultures of their time. All of the ruins which can be seen today survived under the thick cover of the rainforest for centuries before being uncovered. Today, they help us recreate the history of the ancient Maya.

The long history of the Mayans ruling the majority of Mesoamerica ended with Spain’s conquest of their lands. Spain came to find new lands and resources to exploit; with their conquest they reduced Mayans to smaller populations while establishing their own cities on top of the Mayan ruins. Thus began three centuries of exploitation of the Mayan people by the Spanish – termed the “Colonial” era, from 1524 to 1821.

Guatemala FlagThe name Guatemala was derived from “Quauhtemallan” – meaning  “place of abundant flowers” – or from “Guauthemallan” – meaning “place of trees” in the Aztec Nahuatl language. This name was given by the Tlaxcaltecas, who came with Pedro de Alvarado to conquer this land.

In 1821, the Modern Period began with the independence of Guatemala from Spain. A political union of all the countries from Central America took place from 1823 to 1839 and was called the Central American Federation. Its central government was situated in Guatemala; but eventually all countries split, like we know them today: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

In 1960, a civil war began that lasted for 36 years, taking the life of thousands of Guatemalans and not officially concluding until the signing of Peace Accords between the government and guerilla forces in 1996.

Guatemala HistoryAccording to the national census, Guatemala’s population is currently around 13 million people.

The rural areas of Guatemala are a stark contrast to the urban centers. Most remote rural villages do not have paved roads, electricity, or running water, and education is hard to access. The intensive use of the land in rural areas reflects the fact that agricultural production is still the main economic activity for the majority of the country’s population. Some of the most prominent export products produced in Guatemala are coffee, sugar cane, bananas, flowers, and non-traditional goods, like macadamia nuts and typical textiles and souvenirs. A significant amount of Guatemala’s economy relies on tourism, as the country’s wildly diverse attractions, both natural and cultural, provide a wealth of attractions for visitors.

Guatemala PeopleLanguage

Spanish and 24 indigenous languages.


Nationality: Guatemalan.
Ethnic group: Mestizo (mixed Spanish-Indian), indigenous.

The people of Guatemala are warm and friendly. Relationships are very important; they are fully engaged with family and friends. When in Guatemala, challenge yourself to engage fully with the people – hear their stories and see the love of God through their lives.


Roman Catholic, Protestant, Traditional Mayan.