Q & A

By Joe and Laura

We pick up teams from the airport many times during the year, and we often get ask many strange questions while riding back from the city. Someone suggested once that we write a book about all the information we know about Guatemala. So, here it is. Enjoy!

Guatemalan Population

Q. - What is the total population of Guatemala?
A. - Population of Guatemala is around 15.8 million

Q. - What is the population of Panajachel?
A. - Population of Panajachel is around 13 thousand

Q. - What is the population of Solola?
A. - he urban center has about 14,000 people, but the municipality also includes four village communities-Los Encuentros, El Tablon, San Jorge la Laguna, and Argueta-as well as 59 smaller rural communities.

Q. - What is the population of Guatemala City?
A. - Population in Guatemala city is around 2.5 million

Q. - How dangerous is Guatemala City?
A. - Extremely dangerous. It is currently listed as the number five most dangerous city on the planet!



Guatemalan Street Food And Water

Q. - Is it ok to drink, or brush your teeth with the water right out of the tap?
A. - NO! They do not have a water treatment plant so most of the drinking water comes right out of rivers or lakes. Drink ONLY bottled water!

Q. - Is the street food safe for visitors to eat?
A. - NO! Eating street food is a personal choice. Some may eat it and enjoy all of wonderful flavors, and some people could eat the same food and get sick. It is not recommended to the faint of heart. If you do decide to enjoy some street food, go for the things that are cooked right in front of you. It's also good to look for a line of people standing in front of the food vendor or cart.

Q. - Is it ok to eat the frozen popcicles or homemade ice creams people are selling on the streets?
A. - NO!, freezing water does not kill the bacteria in the water, only boiling water for at least one minuet does. Some of the ice=cream products are made at home, meaning, non-pasteurized milk. This could also get you sick if your not use to it.

Q. - Is is safe to eat the torllias being made all over the streets of Guatemala?
A. - Again, it's a personal choice. The torllias are usually cooked right in front of you (killing off most of the bad stuff), but they are handled by hands, the same hands handing the money.

Q. - Is the fruits and veggies safe to eat from the market?
A. - Bananas are about the only item you can safely eat right from a vendor. Remember, DDT (and many other horrible pesticides), are still commonly use in Guatemala. Growing an organic garden is almost impossible due to the number of pest and plant eating bugs. All fruits and veggies must be washed with bottled or filtered water, cut with bleach or vinegar to remove the pesticides.

Guatemalan Clothing – Villages And Cities

Q. - What do they call the typical Mayan attire?
A. - It's called a traje, they may vary by village and language group. But the intent of native dressing remains the same

Q. - What are those things the men wear around the waist when they are wearing the typical Mayan attire?
A. - It's a work apron. Most Mayans make there own clothes so having a work apron will help the paints from wearing out. The men are more likely than women to adopt some Western-style clothing as it is cheaper and more practical than the traditional hand-made garments.

Q. - Why do some people wear the typical Mayan attire, and some people do not?
A. - All depends on where you live. Out in the villages most women still wear the same hand made outfits they have been wearing for years. Most villages have there own colors and designs. The closer you get to larger cities, the less the tradition of wearing the same clothes fades away.

Q. - Do people wear the same clothing in other parts of Guatemala, like up north for example?
A. - No, the closer you get to Mexico the less likely you will find people wearing typical Mayan attire.

Guatemalan Holidays

Q. - What holidays are celebrated in Guatemala?
A. - Christmas Eve/Day, New Years Eve/Day, Good Friday and Easter (week long celebration), May 1st - National Workers Day, May 10th - Mothers Day,
June 30th - Army Day, Sept 15th - Independence Day, Nov 1st & 2nd - All Saints Day,

Q. - How do they celebrate All Saints Day in Guatemala?
A. - All Saints Day is celebrated by going out to the cemetery and celebrating the day with deceased loved one. It is also the day the cemetery is cleaned and the head stones are repainted. The entire street going down to the cemetery is lined with food vendors, so in a way it's like a big party.

Q. - Why do people place cups or bottles of water on the graves?
A. - After much research, I'm still not sure.

Geography Of The Lake Atitlan Area

Q. - What is the elevation of Panajachel?
A. - The elevation is 1,597 meters (5,240 ft). About the same as Denver Co.

Q. - How deep is lake Atitlan?
A. - Lake Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America with a maximum depth of about 340 meters (1,120 ft). It is approximately 12 x 5 km

Q. - How old is lake Atitlan?
A. - The geological history of Lake Atitlan is tied to a volcano that erupted some 85,000 years ago. After the eruption of this volcano, an enormous caldera was formed. Actually there are three caldera's located at the bottom of the lake. Over time, water filled the calderas, thus providing Guatemala with one of the worlds most beautiful lakes.

Q. - What is the distance from the airport in Guatemala City, to Panajachel, and usually how long is the trip?
A. - 113 Km or about 70 miles. Depending on traffic, road blocks, protest, or road work, about 3 and 1/2 to 4 and 1/2 hours.

Q. - What is the distance from Panajachel, to Antigua, and usually how long is the trip?
A. - 76.8 Km or about 48 miles. Depending on traffic, road blocks, protest, or road work, about 2 and 1/2 to 3 and 1/2 hours.

Q. - What is the distance from airport in Guatemala City, to Antigua, and usually how long is the trip?
A. - 38.7 Km or about 24 miles. Depending on traffic, road blocks, protest, or road work, about 1 and 1/2 hours.

Q. - Why are so many dead fish floating on top of the lake around March each year?
A. - Two species, the sunfish or mojarra and the bass only breed in the shallows and also very territorial. There is literally no space for these fish to continue to breed as a majority of the shallows are taken up by dense vegetation and other fish there nesting. The stress levels increase in these fish and they die not having a place to reproduce. The dead fish have Nothing to do with pollution in the lake.

General Geography Of Guatemala

Q. - What Countries border Guatemala?
A. - Belize 266 km, El Salvador 203 km, Honduras 256 km, Mexico 962 km

Q. - How many volcanos are in Guatemala?
A. - Anywhere from 22 to 37, depending on which web site you use for information.

Q. - How many active volcanos are in Guatemala?
A. - The seven active Guatemala volcanoes are Acatenango, Santa Maria, Almolonga, Pacaya, Atitlan, Fuego, and Tajumulco.

Q. - How large is Guatemala?
A. - Guatemala has an area of 42,043 square miles (108,890 sq km), which is about the same size as the state of Tennessee.

Q. - How large are the coastlines of Guatemala?
A. - 400 Kilometers, about 248 miles.

Q. - How many major rivers and lakes are in Guatemala?
A. - About 12 major rivers, and three large lakes.

Guatemalan Energy

Q. - Where does Guatemala get it's electricity?
A. -

Guatemalan Agruaculture

Q. - What type of agriculture products are produced in Guatemala?
A. - Agriculture Products: sugarcane, corn, bananas, coffee, beans, cardamom; cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens
Q. - What is the top crop exports from Guatemala?
A. - The principal cash crops are coffee, sugar, bananas, and cotton, followed by hemp. Suprisingly corn is not a huge exported crop.
Q. - What is the number one crop in Guatemala?
A. -
Q. - When are the market days in Panajachel?
A. -
Q. - When are the market days in Solola?
A. -
Q. - Where does the water come from to irrigate the crops?
A. - I've been ask this question a lot. Water for irrigating the crops comes from many different sources. Sometimes its a well, or maybe piped in from the nearby village, sometimes water is piped in from a nearby source like a small waterfall. I've seen small local streams damed up and a pump with a generotor rigged up for watering crops.
Q. - Do the farmers own the land they are working?
A. -

Alcohol / Ileagal Drugs In Guatemala

Q. - What is the legal drinking age for alcohol in Guatemala?
A. - 18 years old. However, this is seldomly enforced.

Q. - Why are there so many guys passed out from drinking on the side of the roads?
A. - Mayans are somewhat decendents from the American Indians. There body can't process alcohol as well as anglo Americans.

Q. - Is is legal to possess or use marinaira in Guatemala?
A. - NO! It is often around, and you might even pass a group of people smoking on the streets. The police have a very laxed view on it, but you will still go to jail if caught with it in your possession.

Guatemalan History

Q. - Who were the first people to live in Central America / Guatemala?
A. - Archaeologists believe that the earliest settlers to Guatemala crossed the Bering Strait from Asia 14,000 years ago and evidence of human settlements date to around 9000 B.C. People began to farm and form villages around 1000 B.C. and some of them became the Maya who dominated Guatemala history from A.D. 250 to 900.

Q. - When did the Mayans live in Tikal?
A. - The Maya temple at Tikal was built over 1,300 years ago as a tomb to honor the Maya ruler, Ah Cacaw. Tikal, once an expansive city and home to 100,000 people, began to decline in A.D. 850, and was abandoned about 50 years later. The ruins were not discovered until 1695.

Q. - When did Guatemala gain it's independance from Spain?
A. - In 1821, Guatemala claimed independence from Spain.

Tourist Destinations in Guatemala

Q. - What are the top five places to visit in Guatemala?
A. - Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Tikal, Flores, and Chichicastenagngo

Hospital Care and Pharmacitical Medications

Q. - What does it cost for medical care in Guatemala?
A. - Public hospitals are free of charge.

Q. - What four things are required by you before you can be addmitted to a public hospital?
A. - A bar of soap, sheets, towel, and a roll of tolite paper.

Q. - What does it cost for dendal care in Guatemala and how good is it?
A. - Dental work is very cheap, and they do a great job. A full cleaning cost about $6 us dollars.

Guatemalan Animals / Street Dogs

Q. - Who owns all the dogs we see walking around town on the streets?
A. - Nobody, most of these are called "street dogs"

Q. - How does the Gutemalans deal with over population of the street dogs.
A. - Quite sad actually. Each year just before Holy Week, people place poison out for the general population of dogs to eat and then die.

Q. - What kind of wildlife is living in Guatemala?
A. - The hills of Guatemala use to be covered with deer and other animals way back in the day. They were hunted to extension for food I'm guessing. Now days, your lucky to see a squill or sometimes even a fox. Futhur North, there is more of a variety of animals, especially monkeys around and near Tikal.

Q. - Are there poisonous snakes in Guatemala?
A. - There are possibly 700 species of snakes in Guatemala and only a few of them are poisonous.

Guatemalan Cival War

Q. - When did the cival war start and when did it finish?

Q. - How many people died during the Guatemalan cival war?

Guatemalan Government / Education

Q. - How often does Guatemala have elections?
A. - Every four years. One big election, and then one more for the runners up.

Q. - Do children get to go to school for free?
A. - I have no idea!

General Guatemalan Questions

Q. - What is the official name of Guatemala?
A. - Republic of Guatemala.

Q. - What form of government is Guatemala?
A. - Democratic Republic

Q. - What is the Guatemalan national Bird?
A. - The Resplendent Quetzal, the brilliant bird found in the cloud forests of Central America, was sacred to the Mayans and figures prominently in their artwork and legends. The tail feathers used to be used for currency.

Q. - What is the capitol of Guatemala?
A. - Guatemala City

Q. - What is the official language?
A. - 60% Spanish, 40% at least 23 different Mayan dialects.

Q. - What is the currency used in Guatemala?
A. - Quetzal

Q. - What is the weather like at around the coast?
A. - The coastal lowlands are warm and humid.

Q. - How much of the population of Guatemala, lives in the highlands?
A. - Guatemala is a mountainous country with one-third of the population living in cool highland villages.

Q. - What is the National Motto of Guatemala?
A. - Guatemala: Country of the Eternal Spring

Guatemalan Transportation

Q. - How much does it cost to ride a Chicken Bus?