Guatemala is one of the countries that make up Central America. It was home to the Maya civilization for centuries, and there are many archaeological sites in the country. The Spaniards arrived in 1523; at that time Guatemala encompassed most of Central America and Chiapas. Guatemala declared its independence from Spain in 1821. Several decades later the Central American countries (as we know them today) broke free of the union and became independent nations.

Guatemala has a diverse ethnic population--Spanish is the official language, but there are 21 recognized Mayan-based languages spoken in the country.

The Motagua Fault runs roughly east-west through Guatemala, from the Atlantic Ocean to the border with Mexico. This is the division between the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates. In general, the area to north of the fault is primarily limestone, and the area to the south is mostly volcanic. There are many volcanoes along the fault, including some that are active. Guatemala has a long history of powerful earthquakes.

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