Guatemala covers 42,000 square miles and is at the northern end of the Central American cape. It is approximately the size of the state of Kentucky. It is bordered by Mexico to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea and Belize to the east and El Salvador and Honduras to the southeast.
The country is comprised of towering mountains and majestic volcanoes, temperate plateaus, tropical lowlands, desert-like river valleys, lowland jungles and swamps. The total population is approximately 12,639,939 (July 2000 est.). There is a population of U.S., Canadian and European residents, as well as Guatemalans. Ethnic groups include Mestizo (mixed Amerindian-Spanish), approximately 56%, and Amerindian the remaining 44%. Religions range from Roman Catholic, Protestant, to indigenous Mayan beliefs.
Guatemala was freed of Spanish colonial rule in 1821. During the second half of the 20th century, it experienced a variety of military and civilian governments as well as a 36-year guerrilla war. In 1996, the government signed a peace agreement formally ending the conflict, which had led to the death of more than 100,000 people and had created some 1 million refugees.