Guatemala Population, People, Languages and Religions

By | January 21, 2022

Guatemala Country Overview

Where is Guatemala located? The Republic of Guatemala is a Central American country located in the south of the Yukatan Peninsula. The time zone map places Guatemala in a world time zone that is 6 hours off Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). This time zone is called “Central Standard Time” and clocks in this region are always 6 hours ahead of those showing universal time. There is no time difference to daylight saving time in Guatemala in summer.

Bordering Countries of Guatemala

According to abbreviationfinder, Guatemala is bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast, and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Mexico is Guatemala’s longest shared border at 871 kilometers. The border between Guatemala and Mexico consists of both land and water boundaries. The land boundary between the two countries extends from Ciudad Hidalgo in Chiapas all the way up to El Carmen in Petén. The portion of the boundary along Rio Usumacinta is water-based. Belize shares a 266-kilometer border with Guatemala that runs through sparsely populated areas of Petén and Izabal. This border was only established in 1992 after many years of disagreement between Belize and Guatemala. Honduras also shares a long land boundary with Guatemala that stretches for 256 kilometers across Chiquimula, Zacapa, El Progreso, Copán, Ocotepeque, Intibucá departments. This border has been disputed since 1859 when it was first demarcated by a treaty signed between Honduras and Guatemala. To its southeast lies El Salvador with whom it shares a 203-kilometer land boundary across Santa Ana and Ahuachapán departments. Finally, Guatemala has a coastline along Pacific Ocean that stretches for 402 kilometers from its southernmost point at Punta de Manabique all the way up to Mexico’s northernmost point at Ciudad Hidalgo on Usumacinta River Delta.

Guatemala National Flag

Population Distribution

As of 2023, the latest population of Guatemala is 17,153,288, based on our calculation of the current data from UN (United Nations).

Total population 17,153,288
Population growth rate 1.68%
Birth rate 24.10 births per 1,000 people
Life expectancy
Overall 71.46 years
Men 69.56 years
Women 73.45 years
Age structure
0-14 years 34.55%
15-64 years 60.98%
65 years and above 4.46%
Median age 21.40 years
Gender ratio (Male to Female) 0.97
Population density 157.53 residents per km²
Urbanization 46.30%
approx. 60% indigenous people (including Maya-Quiché, Mames, Cakchiqueles, Kekchi), 30% of European indigenous descent (Ladinos); Minorities of European, African and Asian descent
Catholics (Roman Catholic), Protestants, indigenous Mayan beliefs
Human Development Index (HDI) 0.651
HDI ranking 126th out of 194

People in Guatemala

We call the people of Guatemala Guatemalans. 39.8 percent of them are of indigenous descent. They are descendants of the Maya and belong to different ethnic groups: the Quiché in the western highlands (share 11 percent), the Kekchí in the “Middle” East (8.3 percent, in their own name Q’eqchi ‘), the Cakchiquel (also in the western highlands, 7.8 percent) and the Mam in the west on the border with Mexico (5.2 percent). Guatemala is the country in Central America with the highest proportion of indigenous people.

40.5 percent are Ladinos. This is the name given to descendants from connections between Spaniards (or other Europeans) and Indians. In other countries like Mexico they are called mestizos. For us, this term sounds derogatory, which is why we don’t use it. 18.5 percent are of European descent, i.e. whites, also called criollos (creoles).

The remaining 1.2 percent are of Asian origin and Garifuna. Garifuna live on the Caribbean coast. They are the descendants of black slaves from West Africa who mixed with the residents of the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. In 1635 two slave ships ran aground there. In 1795 the British took possession of the island and relocated the Garifuna to islands off Honduras, from where they spread to Belize and Guatemala.

  • Children: Every woman in Guatemala has an average of 2.7 children. With us, every woman has an average of 1.4 children. So the families in Guatemala are bigger than ours.
  • Urban and rural areas: Around half of Guatemala’s residents live in cities (52 percent). That is much less than ours at 75 percent.

Languages in Guatemala

Spanish is the official language in Guatemala. 65 percent of the population speak Spanish as their mother tongue. Another 28 percent learn it as a second language. This means that 93 percent of the population speak Spanish. In the country in particular, however, you can also meet Indians who do not speak Spanish, especially the elderly.

Indigenous languages

In addition to Spanish, other languages ​​are spoken in Guatemala. Quiché, the language of the Quiché Indians who live in the highlands of Guatemala, has the largest number of speakers. This is followed by the Mam language of the Mam Indios and Cakchiquel, which is spoken by the people of the same name. A total of 22 Maya languages ​​are spoken in Guatemala.

There are also two languages ​​in Guatemala that are not Mayan. The Garifuna minority on the Caribbean coast also has its own language, either called Garifuna or Igñeri. And then there is the Xinca language, an Indian language spoken by the Xinca people. It is spoken by a minority in southern Guatemala. Can you find it on the language card? Unfortunately, the language is threatened with extinction and only a few elderly people speak it.

Today the Mayan languages ​​are written in Latin letters. Before the Spanish conquest, the Maya pictorial writing was used. In the translation into Latin script, apostrophes are used. They show that the letter in front of it is spoken in a certain way, namely without inhaling or exhaling. The Popol Voh, the holy book of the Quiché, was also written in Quiché. One of the pieces reads: Are utzijoxikwa’e, k’akatz’ininoq, k’akachamamoq, katz’inonik, k’akasilanik, k’akalolinik, katolonapuchupakaj. That means: “This is the account of how everything was in tension, everything still, in silence; everything motionless, everything trembling, and the vastness of the sky was empty.”

Spanish in Guatemala

From the Spanish (Castilian) spoken in Spain, Spanish in Guatemala differs in a number of ways. For example, for “her” one says ustedes (instead of vosotros). And while in Spain the c is usually pronounced like an English th, i.e. between the teeth (as in the English word through), in Guatemala (and throughout Latin America) the c is pronounced like a sharp s (as in see).

Religions in Guatemala

Almost all residents belong to a Christian church. 47 percent are Catholic, 40 percent Protestant. 9 percent are atheists or do not belong to any church, 4 percent belong to other churches and are, for example, Muslims or Jews.