Guatemala has a population of about 14 million. Circa 60% are indigenous - descendent of the ancient Mayan. There are more than 20 tribes with their own languages. There are also Mestizos (Latinos) and Garifunas (black Guatemalans), living on the Caribbean coast. The Latinos form the middle class and the elite class of the country. Racism marks the relationship between Latinos and the indigenous people - caused mostly by the 'ruling class' of the Latinos.
Guatemala’s economy is dependent on its production for export. Agriculture alone produces 50 % of the export volume. Because of low coffee prices, the coffee industry with 12 % of export share, shrank by half. Banana and sugar production is increasing (8 %).
The second most important economy sector is tourism, with circa 900.000 tourists a year.
Guatemala’s most important foreign trade partners are the Central American states with 38 % followed by the USA with 34%. Europe 6 %.
The balance of trade has always been negative.
According to UN reports in 2000, one quarter of the population earns less than 1 dollar daily. A further 57% earns less than 2 dollar per day. The majority of the poor live in rural areas. Like other third world countries the children have to support their families. In the country they are integrated in the daily work of their families. In the cities thousands of children work as shoeshine’s, car washers and as other casual labourers, to support their families.
Despite an economic growth of 3% annually the economic situation of the ordinary Guatemalans did not improve. The per - capita income in the last number of years continuously went down. The minimum wage is about 3.50 US Dollar per day. This minimum wage is often not paid out in the agriculture sector, which worsens the situation of the small farmers and labourers (despite the same work, women receive only half wage). A teacher earns c. 150 dollar a month - a government official between 3,ooo - 5,ooo dollars. 3% of the population own 70% of the land. This injustice causes a lot of conflict in the country. It is worrying that Guatemala has to import maize now. One of the reasons is the declining productivity of the land. Expensive fertilizer has to be bought to survive.
|Community of Raxnam|
The country has one of the highest percentages of illiteracy in the world. Because of poor infrastructure, the illiteracy is substantially higher in the country side than in urban areas. That means that the indigenous people, especially the women, are most disadvantaged. The situation in the Verapaces, in Quiche and in the Department San Marcos is devastating.
In Guatemala a doctor has to look after up to 20.000 inhabitants. The hospitals are in a pitiful condition and don't have the necessary medical equipment for sufficient aid. The state of health of the Guatemalans is the worst in Central America . Large parts of the population have scarcely any access to medical aid. To see a doctor costs money that the country people don’t have. Poor hygiene, catastrophic sanitary conditions and malnutrition are further causes for the worrying situation, above all for the indigenous people. A lot of children are dying in the poorest regions in the highlands, because of the pollution of drinking water, especially in the beginning of the rain season. After the purchase of manure for the next maize sowing the families don’t have the money for medicines.