Land of the Trees
ONE of the smallest nations in the Western Hemisphere, the
Republic of Guatemala has such a wide range of climate and
scenery and such a rich historical tradition that she has been
: the subject of perhaps more travel books than any of our
other neighbors to the south.
Hidden in the jungle regions of northern Guatemala are
unexplored remnants of the ancient Mayan Empire, which
had a highly developed civilization long before Columbus.
Only the chicle hunters have seen many of the temples and
astronomical observatories where Mayan priests charted the
seasons, developed a calendar more accurate than the Grego-
rian, had a decimal system a thousand years before the Arabic,
but knew neither iron nor the wheel. Yet railroads, a well-
built highway system, and several modern ports arc opening
most, of this interesting an4 produivoe-Country to the archeol-
ogist, the tourist, and the businessman.
Today these transportation facilities serve also to strengthen
Guatemala's strategic position as an important Caribbean
bastion in the global war which she entered on the side of the
United Nations within a matter of hours after Pearl Harbor.
Symbols of American unity, United States and Guatemalan
troops together protect this vital link in Hemisphere defense.
Hardwoods, vegetable oils, and fibres are an important con-
f tribution to the United Nations war program.
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PACIFIC SAN JOSE7
rL "76 MILES
Little record, except in stone, remains of the early Mayan
agrarian civilization based on the world's first cultivation of
corn. Yet much of it is being reconstructed from the cos-
tumes and way of life of present-day Indian villages and from
the magnificent temples and palaces which are being reclaimed
from the encroaching jungle. Archeologists, however, have
not yet discovered why the Mayans, at the height of their
civilization, abandoned their Guatemalan capitals.
Once again, during colonial days, Guatemala saw imposing
cities rise and fall.
Don Pedro de Alvarado, one of Cortes's dashing young
lieutenants, striking down from Mexico in December 1523,
subjugated the Indians (whose culture and foot-troops were
no match for horses and cannon), and established a temporary *
capital in 1524. During Don Pedro's absence in Spain, his
brother built a new capital, Santiago de los Caballeros de
Guatemala. On his return, and until his death in an Indian
skirmish in 1541, Don Pedro ruled as governor of what is today
Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and part of
Mexico, as well as Guatemala.
His widow, the amazing Beatriz de Cueva, demanded that
municipal officials name her
his successor. Just three'days
later an avalanche of water
^f l K 'poured down the valley,
sweeping Santiago, the woman
1 mmlii *! $ governor and six. hundred
l"- Spaniards to oblivion. The
Mayans attributed the flood to
the revenge of King Quencab,'
Public Healt D nt Btildin,
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buried in a volcanic lake; the Spaniards to the wrath of God
over her presumption; but modern historians blame it on either
an earthquake or a volcanic eruption.
Again a new capital was built, Guatemala Antigua, one of
the most magnificent and thriving cities of the colonies. At
one time it had more than sixty beautiful churches. Disaster
came to it, too, and Antigua was almost obliterated in 1773
by an earthquake. The new capital, Guatemala Nueva, 27
miles to the north, still stands as Guatemala City, the Repub-
LAN EXPORTS GO TO U. s.
TO U. S. A.
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Each symbol represents 10%
TO RS OF'
0 t" ujj J XDt"00t*CXIf lQIf **
For a time, after the declaration of inde-
pendence from Spain in 1821, Guatemala was
a part of Mexico. When Mexico became a
Republic a few years later, Guatemala, Hon-
duras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua
broke away and formed the United Provinces
of Central America. The first president of this
vast region, Francisco Morazan (the "George
Washington of Central America'), elected in
1830, promoted free education and immigra-
tion, outlawed slavery, and established other
important reforms. The collapse of the United.
Provinces, and finally Morazan's execution at
the hands of his political enemies, preceded
the establishment of the Republic of Guatemala
With an area of approximately 45,000 square
miles, Guatemala (Land of the Trees) Ica be
compared in size to New York St te. There are
the swampy jungle lowlands of th Atlanticand
Pacific coasts, the volcanic hig lands of the
Sierras, and the lowlands of El Peten to the.,I
The Pacific lowlands are hot, fertile, tropic
14-8 U la
PRE-WAR U. S. IMPORTS FROM GUATEMALA
Each symbol represent $500,000 worth of imports (1939)
lands in which are found many jungle animals
such as tapir, armadillo, cougar, and jaguar,
and it is in this section that Guatemala's beef
cattle, her bananas, cotton, and sugar cane
are raised. In the central highlands are the
tallest peaks in Central America and it is, here
that some of the world's finest coffee is grown.
The picturesque mountain towns in this region,
among them San Francisco de los Altos at
11,000 feet, seem always to be lost in the
clouds like almost forgotten Shangri-las.
El Peten, the dense jungle area. of the north- '
ern portion of Guatemala, covers almost 'a a ,
third of the entire country but has approxi-.
mately one person to the square mile. The
density and vastness of this jungle area has
long defied successful exploration and, with
the exception of chicle-gathering settlements
where the Sapodilla tree is tapped for the basic
ingredient of chewing gum, the Pcten region is
relatively undeveloped. OperatiOns are now
under Way which are expected to lead to the
tapping of its rich resources of tropical hard- ,
wodds, and the development of rubber and / ,, Y
UPPmER R0rr: Tapping a Tree To Obtais Chicle.
RIoHT: A Tapir ad Young. .
Cinchona (quinine), both of which can be grown well under
conditions existing there.
Guatemala is almost entirely an agricultural country and her
largest exports are coffee, bananas, sugar, timber, and chicle.
Coffee and bananas constituted more than 85 percent of Gua-
temala's total exports during the last few years and on these
crops she has become one of the more prosperous of the
American nations. In the future, the Republic may become even
more so when her deposits of mineral wealth, which experts
say exist in abundance, are developed.
To the visitor, perhaps the most striking characteristic of
the country is the charm and color of its picturesque Indian
life. According to a recent census, more than half of Guate-
mala's 3,280,000 population are pure-blooded Indians and
through centuries of white domination most of these have
maintained their tribal customs and dress, painting them both
with only a touch of civilization's veneer. Nowhere else can
such a riot of color be found as in the Indian villages of the
highlands on market day when the people travel from their
little thatched huts, often dozens of miles away, to exchange
stories and to barter their own produce for that of some other
town. All night long they can be seen along the roads, some-
times trotting downhill at breakneck speed towards the market
Pyramid Temple at Uaxactun and
Mayan Monument at Quiriga.
MAOMOGANY 40o Lm "o 0mmo
village, loaded down with pottery, crates of chickens and
vegetables, sometimes prodding flocks of goats, sheep, or pigs
in front of them.
Guatemala's current administrator is Gen. Jorge Ubico,
whose personal interest in sanitation and public health (he
helpd wipe out an epidemic of yellow fever in 1918) has been
respo sible for making Guatemala City one of the healthiest
capitals in the Hemisphere.
A vast system of excellent roads, many of them built through
difficult mountain terrain, spans the Republic in every direc-
tion. Guatemala's section of the Pan American Highway was
one of the first to be completed. An all-season highway now
connects Guatemala City with San Salvador, capital of El
Salvador, Guatemala's neighbor to the south.
By statute, education in Guatemala is free and compulsory.
Rural schools have not yet been developed in all sections as
fully as those in the larger cities and towns, but there are many
primary and secondary schools throughout the Republic, as
well as the National School of Agriculture, the Academy of
Fine Arts, the Conservatory of Music, schools for nurses, for
telegraph operators, and the Polytechnic Military Academy.
Guatemala is virtually free from crime, exceeded in this
probably only by Iceland. A probity law requires that anyone
taking public office must make an inventory at the beginning
and end of his term, and if there is any discrepancy between
salary and assets, a severe penalty is imposed.
Publi~hlsbd y ths Coordixotor of Ixtr-AmoricauAffairs
ComfferceDpwmuww Beildixg, Washixgyeu, D. C.