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Culture Report: Guatemala in Central America

Guatemala, from the Mayan name meaning “land of many trees” is a country where the ancient Maya heritage lives colorfully and with intense vitality in the 21st century. It is located in Central America and covers an area of 42,043 square miles bordered by Mexico, Belize, the Caribbean, Honduras, El Salvador, and Pacific Ocean. Prior to the arrival of Spanish conquistador, Pedro de Alvarado in early 1524, the region thrived with the Mayan civilization, expressing its extraordinary legacy in the richness of their intricate and colorful hand woven textiles, regional and ceremonial costumes, handmade handicrafts, and unique hospitality. The population landscape consists of Ladinos, over 20 different Mayan ethnic groups, Garifunas in Belize, and Xincas by the Pacific side. The population manages to coexist in the lush green landscape of unusual volcanoes, lakes, mountains, rivers, forests, and tropical forests. Guatemala is also known as “the land of eternal spring” for its unique environment.

Unfortunately, with a booming population of 15.08 million, Guatemala is ridden with human rights violations and rampant poverty in which 53% of the population lives without the basic necessities, and another 14% lives in extreme poverty. Its dire United Nations Human Development Index in 2012 ranks 133 out of 187 worldwide. This poverty, including severe hunger, affects mostly groups of indigenous women and young girls and boys living in the highlands. Even more severe is for the population living in the “dry corridor” which is the semi-arid zone of the region that endures long periods of droughts, low agricultural yields due to degraded soils. This translates to an extraordinary social and economic inequality in which literacy rates are dismal since the gross school enrollment rates are low, drastically dropping after the first years of primary school. In the health spectrum, the infant mortality rate is 55 per 1,000 live births dan the maternal rate is 110 per 100,000 live births. For others, the lack of access to the basic health care costs many lives.

Today, my mission, woven deep in a childhood dream to give back to the beautiful and hardworking people of Guatemala, is to empower the artisan women to become leaders in creating change. My vision is that the women embrace their own independence, weave a positive impact in their own lives, their families, and their rural communities, while promoting opportunities for health care, education, and economic growth for future sustainability.


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