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szdaily -> Speak Shenzhen
Guatemala: ‘Soul of the Earth’
    2017-July-18  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

James Baquet

The Central American country of Guatemala was once at the heart of the Mayan civilization, a culture which stretched up Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and into neighboring Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador, an area called “Mesoamerica.” Squeezed between the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, it is Central America’s most populous country.

The sole official language, Spanish, is spoken by 93 percent of the population, though some speak it as a second language. In addition, over 20 Mayan languages are spoken, typically in rural areas. There are also two non-Mayan native languages, and some speakers of German, Chinese, French and English.

The name “Guatemala” comes from a word in Nahuatl (an Aztec, not a Mayan, language) meaning “the place of many trees.” And in modern times, the Maya Biosphere Reserve, located in the far north of the country, is the second-largest forest in Central America. Mesoamerica has been called a “biodiversity hotspot,” due in no small part to Guatemala’s abundant and varied ecosystems.

Conquered by Spain in the 16th century, Guatemala became independent in 1821. At that time it was part of the “Federal Republic of Central America,” an entity which dissolved 20 years later. In 1847, it became an independent republic. Today, Guatemala is a representative democracy; the current constitution dates to 1985.

The history of post-colonial Guatemala is a history of unstable governments, civil war and struggle between dictators and democracy. The current peace was negotiated by the United Nations in 1996, and despite continuing problems of poverty and crime, there has been notable economic growth and a stable government.

Modern tourists enjoy visiting Guatemala City (the country’s capital) and nearby Antigua, a colonial town. Excursions include visiting the ruins of “lost” Mayan cities, with broad plazas surrounded by ancient pyramids, the villages around Lake Atitlan, whose inhabitants still wear traditional clothing, the natural pools of Semuc Champey, as well as trekking into mountains and up active volcanoes.

Vocabulary:

Which word above means:

1. not steady

2. open spaces in the center of a town or city

3. trips, tours

4. put in a tight spot

5. lively or popular place

6. variety of plants and wildlife

7. one and only

8. conflict within one country

9. community of living things

10. hiking

 

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