In 2019 Guatemala had an average population density of
158 residents per km2; The closest, besides the
metropolitan area, is the western volcanic highlands, where
a majority of Indians live.
Countryaah, the country's Native American population has a child
mortality rate that is much higher than the average for
Guatemala's entire population, and the average life
expectancy is also significantly lower.
In 2019, 49 percent of the population lived in the
countryside, but the cities and especially the capital have
grown rapidly as a result of the prolonged political
violence; the Indians who fled from the massacres in the
countryside during the now-ending civil war (the peace
agreement was signed in 1996) hid in the slums of the
cities. The country's largest cities are Guatemala City
(994,300 residents, 2018), Villa Nueva (489,000) and Mixco
For information on life expectancy and other demographic
statistics, see Country facts.
Nearly half of Guatemalan population is Native American,
which is the highest proportion in Central America. Only
about 5 percent are white, the rest are miserable.
The Indians can be divided into twenty ethno-linguistic
groups, most descendants of highland Maya. The largest of
these people are q'uichÚ (9.1 percent), kaqchikel (8.4
percent), mam, (7.9 percent) and k'ekchÝ (6.3 percent).
Kanjobal, ixil and other Mayan-speaking people amount to
about 8.6 percent.
Most of these people are small farmers, who mainly grow
maize for self-sufficiency. The Mayan Indians are known
today for their craft, especially their weaving art, and
their colorful clothing. There are a number of common
features in their cultures, including language and religious
conceptions, but the features are also evident. Many of the
major Native American languages have many dialects, and
locally there can be great cultural variation.
The relationship with the Spanish-speaking miseries,
"ladinos", is very tense, and the social stratification in
the country is reminiscent of a caste system with the whites
in leading positions, the miseries as an official class and
the Indians as "caste" servants, guardians and day laborers.
The differences in status are not least noticeable in
statistics relating to education and health issues.
The official language is Spanish. However, the mother
tongue of about half of the population is one of the more
than twenty Mayan languages spoken in the country. These
were recognized in 2003 as national languages alongside
Spanish, like the Arabic language garÝfa, spoken on the
Caribbean coast. In the central highlands, northwest of the
capital, different k'iche languages are spoken, of which
the two largest are k'iche '(quiche) and kaqchikel. K'iche
'has a special position as a trading language in
marketplaces around the country and is increasingly used in
teaching and in the media. Further west, in the region
bordering Mexico, different native languages dominate,
while q'eqchi '(kekchÝ) is found in the eastern parts of
Catholicism has been dominating religion since the
colonial era. After independence in 1825 came Bible
societies, Lutherans, Methodists and Baptists. A strong
Mayor unites a living Mayan religion and Christianity. An
interreligious dialogue is ongoing between Christian and
religious Mayan traditions.