Historically, the Maya civilization occupied the territory of Guatemala as well as neighboring regions, and remained the only presence in the country until the beginning of the 16th century, when Spanish contact was made. Until roughly three centuries later, Guatemala acted as a Spanish colony, and in 1821 gained its independence. Throughout time it was exposed to various types of governments, as well as a prolonged guerilla war. After 36 years of war, which took a toll on the country’s demographics, a peace treaty was signed by the government in 1996. The country's official language is Spanish, although numerous Maya languages are still spoken in Guatemala.
Economically speaking, Guatemala’s progress is hindered by corruption, poverty, and poor infrastructure. Additionally, people have to cope with violence caused by organized crime including murder, drug trafficking, arms smuggling, and other illegal activities. In 2017, the country’s GDP was estimated to amount to over 70 billion U.S. dollars, maintaining a steady economic growth rate. The inflation rate in Guatemala hovers between 3 and 5 percent and is expected to stabilize in the following years. The government reports a budget deficit and has been doing so for years, however, it is estimated the deficit will remain under 2 percent until 2020.
Agriculture accounts for the smallest share in the country’s GDP generation and employs roughly one-third of Guatemala’s workforce. Still, Guatemala is one of the leading exporters of goods such as sugar, coffee, and bananas. The lion's share of all exports from Guatemala goes to the United States.
Although the country is periodically affected by natural disasters, such as volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, and floods, it has high potential for tourism. In 2016 alone, 1.59 million international tourists arrived in Guatemala and generated a revenue of 1.55 billion U.S. dollars.