The democratic Republic of Guatemala is often referred to as the Land of Eternal Spring. It is located in Central America and has over 3 million people in its capital of Guatemala City, making it the largest city in Central America. Guatemala is the world’s most linguistically diverse nation with 23 recognized languages other than Spanish. Nearly all of them are of Mayan origin.
The predominately Mayan culture was invaded by the Spaniards in 1542 and the living standards of the Mayans became dramatically worse as they were driven out, suffered mistreatment and hunger, and contracted diseases brought over from Europe. Guatemala became an independent nation in 1821 and for a brief time a political union was formed with other Central American countries but only lasted till 1839. Power shifted back and forth between liberal dictatorships and civil regimes until 1945 when Juan Jose Areval was elected president and began spending money on education and hospitals. His regime was short-lived and was overthrown in 1951
In 1960 civil war broke out and lasted 36 years, concluding with the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996 but not before an estimated 200,000 lives were lost. Since then, Guatemala has had relatively free elections but continues to struggle with rampant poverty, government corruption, wide income disparity, human rights abuses and extensive crime.
Unlike Albania, Guatemala promotes freedom of religion but has not had an official religion since 1882. Currently, about 40% of Guatemalans are Protestant, chiefly Evangelical.
Guatemala suffered a major earthquake in 1976 and the devastation was widespread. The most heavily affected area covered some 30,000 km, with a population of 2.5 million. 23,000 people were reported dead and 77,000 wounded. Most adobe type houses in the outlying areas of Guatemala City were destroyed. This prompted a world-wide caravan of humanitarian and spiritual aid. Among them were missionaries Mac & Peggy McKeown who made their first foray into Guatemala in 1979 and later founded Living Water Ministries. Today that effort continues with 9 feeding programs, (5 in the mountains of Quiche, two near the city of Antiqua and one in Guatemala City) 3 free medical/dental clinics, 3 youth centers and 7 churches.