Guatemala, the land of trees, is located just south of Mexico and has 205 miles of coastline on the Pacific Ocean. The country is covered in forest areas as well as old Mayan ruins. Guatemala declared independence from Mexico in 1838, but it wasn’t until 1945 that a constitution was instated guaranteeing constitutional rights for Indians and women. However, Indians continued to be exploited and disparaged until recently, when international opinion forced elites to modify their attitudes and behavior. This shift was furthered by the selection of Rigoberta Menchú, a young Maya woman, for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.
Nuclear families make up the majority of homes in Guatemala, though a young married couple may live with the husband's parents at first. The children of middle-class and upper-class Latinos are cared for by their mothers, grandmothers, and young women, often from the rural areas, hired as nannies. They tend to be indulged by their caretakers. Middle-class and upper-class Latino children, especially in urban areas, are not expected to do any work until they are teenagers or beyond.
Kids start formally attending school at age 7 (if it is affordable), and spend most of their time with their extended family, most of which tend to live nearby. Soccer is the most popular sport as well as basketball, kayaking and rock climbing. There are many festivals teens will attend and comedy clubs are also popular.
Teens from the upper and middle classes dress casually with a Western influence including jeans, t-shirts, sweaters and skirts. Rural Indian Guatemalans tend to wear more traditional outfits. The temperature is always warm, so most wear light weight clothing.
Corn made into tortillas or tamales, black beans, rice, and wheat in the form of bread or pasta are staples eaten by nearly all Guatemalans. Depending on their degree of affluence, people also consume chicken, pork, and beef, and those living near bodies of water also eat fish and shellfish. With improvements in refrigeration and transport, seafood is becoming increasingly popular in Guatemala City. The country has long been known for vegetables and fruits.
It used to be customary to take a two or three hour siesta for a long lunch, but with the increase of traffic, this tradition is slowly being phased out.
Spanish is the official language of Guatemala, though there are about 22 recognized indigenous languages. Almost all Guatemalans are Christian, but it is mixed with a continued set of beliefs and practices inherited from their ancient ancestors