• The republic of Guatemala’s 108,890 square kilometres include dozens of volcanoes (four are active), 328km of Pacific coastline and 74km of Caribbean coast.

Guatemala’s population was estimated at 15.1 million in 2012, with a growth rate of 2.3 percent per annum (the highest in the Western hemisphere).

Ethnically, the population is almost equally divided between indigenous Maya and ladinos (who are mainly of mixed race), although there are tiny numbers of black Garífuna (about eight thousand in all), ethnic Chinese and non-Maya Xinca.

Ron Centenario Zacapa, a fabulously smooth rum made in Guatemala, was the first rum to be included in the International Rum Festival’s Hall of Fame.

• Tourism is the nation’s main income earner, followed by coffee, sugar, clothing exports and bananas.

About sixty percent of Guatemalans are nominally Roman Catholic – the lowest figure in Latin America – though many highland Maya practise a unique mix of religions that’s heavily dependent on ancient religious ritual.

Guatemala’s 36-year civil war ended in 1996. The nation is now a democratic republic, headed by a president who is head of both state and government.

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