Guatemala ,.I. A republic of Central America, lying between lat, 13° 50' and 18° 15' N, and Ion. 88° 14' and 93° 12' W., bounded N. by Yucatan, E. by British Honduras, the bay of Honduras, and the republics of Honduras and San Salvador, S. by the Pacific ocean, and W. by the Mexican state of Chiapas. Its greatest length from N. E. to S. W. is 325 m., greatest breadth about 300 m.; area estimated at 40,777 sq. m.; pop. about 1,200,000. The Pacific coast presents a slightly convex line extending from S. E. to N. W.; the shore being in some parts extremely low, and in others high and rocky, and bordered with a succession of rocky barriers not far from the mainland. The Atlantic shore line is very irregular, presenting here and there abrupt cliffs reaching to the very edge of the sea. The only port now frequented to any considerable extent on the Pacific side is that of San Jose, which, however, has only an open roadstead which affords no shelter for shipping; debarkation is at all times difficult, and sometimes impossible for weeks together. San Jose is a miserable village of not more than 200 inhabitants, mostly Indians, situated at the mouth of the river Michatoya. One or two other ports further northward might be available but for the want of an adequate population.
The port of Izabal, on the Atlantic side, situated on the S. shore of the gulf of Dulce, which communicates with the sea by the river Dulce, is a wretched place of about 150 houses, and owes its importance to its proximity to the capital, for all the merchandise in transitu to and from which it is the exclusive port of reception on that side of the republic. The shallowness of the water on the bar at the mouth of the river closes the port to large vessels. Santo Tomas, on the bay of Honduras, is the principal seaport of Guatemala; it has a picturesque harbor, sheltered by high mountains, and always affording safe and commodious anchorage for ships of the deepest draught, which moor close to the shore in six fathoms of water. - Almost the whole surface of the republic is composed of an elevated plateau, which is a continuation of the table land of Yucatan, intersected by numberless mountains, with deep and extensive valleys, particularly in the west and northwest, adjacent to Chiapas; but no continuous chain traverses the country.
The depression of the table land toward the Pacific coast, however, is so rapid and presents so many steep acclivities that, when viewed from the sea, it looks like an elevated mountain range; the illusion is the more complete as the edge of the plain appears marked by a number of volcanoes, some of which are still active. Remarkable among the extinct volcanoes is the Volcan de Agua, so named from a torrent of water which burst from its crater in 1541 and overwhelmed the first city of Guatemala, the ruins of which still exist under the name of Ciudad Vieja. It has an elevation of about 14,000 ft. above the sea. Near it is the Volcan de Fuego, which vomits forth fire and smoke every day, and which, with the Volcan de Agua, and that of Amilpas (13,200 ft. high), constitutes the principal volcanic hearth of Central America. Other volcanoes are Sapotitlan and Atitlan, each nearly 13,000 ft. high. All the volcanoes of Guatemala, whether extinct or active, are in the same line with those of Nicaragua and San Salvador. The shore region consists of a strip of flat low country, not more than 30 m. broad.
The slope of the plain eastward to the bay of Honduras is intersected by detached mountain groups, forming parallel ridges, which nowhere attain a greater elevation than 500 or 600 ft. above the plain, and alternate with extensive valleys. Some of these heights reach to the shores of the sea; but to the W. and N. W. of the gulf of Dulce they are entirely lost in a low plain. The table land attains an elevation of 5,000 ft. in the volcanic zone; and the maximum height is reached in the vicinity of Que-zaltenango, at the S. border of the department i of Vera Paz. - Little is known of the geological structure of the country. Although gold, silver, copper, and iron are sufficiently abundant to be worked with profit, the only minim: operations are those in the department of To-tonicapan, where lead mines are worked in the vicinity of Chiautla, chiefly by the Indians. Salt is made from springs near Ixtatan in the same department, and in large quantities on the Pacific coast. Sulphur is found in great quantities, and jasper is abundant. - The country is watered by numerous rivers, the principal of which is the Usumasinta, whose main stream rises in the mountains near San Geronimo, flows W. by N. 150 m., receives the waters of the Lacan-dones, and thence, bending N. and afterward N. W., leaves the republic and falls into the gulf of Mexico through the Lago de Terminos in Yucatan. Throughout the whole course of this river in Guatemala, about 350 m., it is unfavorable to navigation.
Its affluents are numerous. The Motagua, descending from the S. declivities of the same mountains as the Usumasinta, curves around their base, and, after a course of nearly 300 m., falls by several mouths into the bay of Honduras, near the E. boundary of the republic; in the upper portion it is called the Rio Grande; it is only navigable by canoes and barges. The Polochique, which rises in the hills adjacent to Cohan, is a large, deep, and beautiful stream, 150 m. long; but owing to the rapidity of its current, and a bar across its mouth with but 4 ft. of water, it can only be navigated by light craft. On the W. side, a host of minor streams hurry down to the Pacific by short precipitous courses, one of them, the Michatoya, passing the port of San Jose. Among the many lakes, a few of which are of considerable size, are Dulce, through which the most of the shipping traffic is carried on; Amatitlan, near the town of the same name, 12 m. long by 3 m. broad, and remarkable for the large pieces of pumice stone lying along its shores and floating on its surface; and Atitlan, 30 m. long by 10 m. broad, in which no soundings have been found with a line of 300 fathoms, and which, though fed by numerous rivers, has no visible outlet.
Peten lake, in Vera Paz, is about 70 m. in circuit, and dotted with a number of islands, on the largest of which stands the town of Flores. At Quirigua and other places are remarkable ruins, which attest the high proficiency of the ancient inhabitants in architecture and sculpture. (See American Antiquities.) - The climate, excessively hot in the low and cool in the elevated regions, is generally salubrious. During the wet season, from May to October, heavy rains fall, though rarely in the forenoon. Snow is seldom seen, but frosts are frequent. The highbinders are much afflicted with goitre and cretinism. Earthquakes are frequent, and at times disastrous. The soil is exceedingly fertile; but agriculture is rudely conducted with the same kind of implements used by the first colonists. Modern machinery, however, has been introduced by some of the wealthier planters. Maize, wheat, and other cereals, cotton, sugar cane, and tobacco are extensively produced; but the chief staple is coffee, the cultivation of which began in 1872, to take the place of that of cochineal, owing to a distemper prevailing among the insects.
Indigo, cacao, and vanilla are abundant; the vine and olive thrive well in the valleys; and the supply of tropical fruits, and of those of the temperate zone also, is very plentiful. The arboreal vegetation is remarkably luxuriant. The fauna of Guatemala precisely resembles that of Mexico, to which the reader is referred. Horses, mules, black cattle, sheep, swine, and poultry are reared in large numbers, particularly in Totonicapan, Quezaltenango, and Chiquimula. The manufactures consist of cotton and woollen fabrics for home consumption, such as ponchos and jergas (coarse stuffs); and in Totonicapan the inhabitants are mainly occupied in making household utensils of earthenware, wood, etc. The value of the exports in 1871 was $2,747,784. In Guatemala, as in other Hispano-American countries, the want of adequate highways is a great hindrance to the development of the material resources; the chief signs of awakening energy on the part of the government in this respect were the making of one or two new roads in 1860 and following years, and the ordering a bridge to be built over the Rio Negro in 1872. - The territory of Guatemala is divided into seven departments or corregi-mientos: Guatemala, Sacatepeque, Solala, Quezaltenango, Totonicapan, Chiquimula, and Vera Paz. The population is made up of whites (12,000), mostly descended from the early Spanish settlers; mestizos or ladinos (430,000), the children of whites and Indians; negroes, pure and mixed (8,000); and pure-blooded Indians (750,000). The Indians mostly live by themselves, and the civil authorities immediately governing them are commonly chosen from their own race.
The different families are mild, temperate, and industrious, unless corrupted by military chiefs, when they become rapacious, fierce, and barbarous. Indolence and licentiousness are the besetting vices of the other classes of the population. By the constitution of Oct. 19, 1851, the legislative power is vested in a congress consisting of a council of state and a house of representatives, the former with 24 members elected by the 52 members of the latter, these being elected by the people, and both for a term of four years. The executive power is vested in a president, elected for a like period, who is aided by the three ministers of interior and justice, foreign affairs, and war and finance. The chief sources of the national revenue are the customs, direct and indirect imposts, and the tobacco monopoly. The revenue amounted in 1872 to $1,798,000, and the expenditures for the same year to $1,785,000. In 1869 a loan of $2,500,000 was contracted in England, including which the total debt of Guatemala in 1872 was $4,320,000. Besides this debt, there is another floating debt, the amount of which is unknown.
Education, for a while so much neglected that of 280 public schools which existed in the republic in 1860, with about 7,000 pupils, scarcely half were open in 1865, is now again becoming an object of importance in the eyes of the government. A free school was established at Quezaltenango in 1872, toward which many citizens gave handsome contributions, and the governor his entire salary for that year. The Roman Catholic is the only religion tolerated. - The coast of this region was discovered by Columbus in 1502; the country became a Spanish dependency in 1524, and was erected into a captain-generalcy in 1527 by Charles V. In 1821 Guatemala threw off the yoke of Spain, and was annexed to the Mexican empire under Iturbide; but it became a part of the Central American federal republic in 1823. In 1839 the territory of the latter was diminished by the secession of Honduras; and eight years later Guatemala separated from the confederation, becoming an independent republic on March 21, 1847. Guatemala kept out of the many wars which, up to 1862, proved so disastrous to the other Spanish American states; but shortly after that time its finances were considerably embarrassed and its material development retarded by a succession of petty wars.
In 1870 several towns and villages were severely damaged by earthquakes. In May, 1871, a revolution broke out against President Cerna, and terminated in his deposition by Granados, who was installed in the executive chair. The new government was soon obliged to exile the archbishop of Guatemala, and banish the Jesuits, who were charged with stirring up a new revolution in favor of Cerna. The port of Champerico was opened in 1872, and a road was to be constructed thence to Quezaltenango. Corporal punishment was abolished in the schools. A law passed in March restricted the liberty of the press. The collection of inland duties was abolished, and all cities were opened to commerce, except those on the frontiers of Chiapas, San Salvador, and Honduras. The order of Jesuits was declared extinct, and its property confiscated. A treaty of alliance offensive and defensive was made with San Salvador in this year, the principal stipulations of which were: mutual protection in the event of internal dissensions; the connecting of the two republics by telegraph lines; and the complete interdiction of the Jesuits. Contracts were signed for the construction of a line of railway from San Jose to the capital, and of six lines of telegraph, the first of which was to be from Guatemala la Nueva to the river Paz. II. Guatemala la Nueva (New Guatemala), a city, capital of the republic, and of a department of the same name, in lat. 14° 37' N, Ion. 90° 30' W.; pop. about 40,000. This city, by far the finest in Central America, stands upon a picturesque plateau 100 ft. high, 3 m. long and 1 m. broad, and occupies the northern extremity of a plain 21 m. long and 12 m. broad, with a mean elevation of 4,500 ft. above the sea.
Its situation is unfavorable for commerce, being nearly 90 m. from San Jose on the Pacific, and 120 m. from Izabal on the Atlantic side. The volcanoes Agua and Fuego rise on either side of the town. The streets, all 40 ft. wide, are laid out with severe regularity; they cross each other at right angles, are badly paved, and not very clean; only a few of them have sidewalks. Water being scarce on the plateau, the supply for the city is brought from a distance of 9 m. by two aqueducts, and distributed by numerous fountains. On account of the frequency of earthquakes, the houses are but one story high, so that at a distance only a monotonous succession of roofs is seen, relieved here and there by the domes and clock towers of the churches. The houses of the suburbs are mere thatched hovels, separated from each other by hedges or by open spaces. The city proper, however, contains many large and well constructed private dwellings, each surrounding a large courtyard embellished with statuary and fountains, and orange, oleander, and other fragrant and flowering trees. The internal decorations of these mansions are at once tasteful and magnificent, but glazed windows are almost unknown.
The most usual building materials are a species of indurated clay, a variety of pozzuolana, and mortar, the walls being universally plastered and whitewashed. The roofs are either flat or covered with tiles; and the general style of architecture is that of the south of Spain. There are several public squares. The largest, a rectangle 625 ft. long by 535 ft. wide, has on the E. side the cathedral and the archicpiscopal palace; on the W. the governor's palace, ministerial offices, etc, with the mint in the rear; on the N. the city hall; and on the S. a line of shops. In the centre is a fountain and basin formerly surmounted by an equestrian statue of Charles TV., the horse of which alone remains; and a great part of the area is occupied by rows of miserable little huts in which pottery, iron utensils, agave thread, and other small wares are vended, and the rent of which forms a part of the municipal revenue. In the centre of another square is the theatre, equal in size and elegance to any in Spanish America: rows of orange, oleander, and other trees of brilliant flowers and grateful fragrance surround the building, while a profusion of statues, fountains, etc, placed at intervals throughout the square, enhances the beauty of this the fashionable evening promenade.
Foremost among the public buildings is the cathedral, built in 1780, of simple and elegant design, and occupying a space of 450 ft. square. In the decoration of the interior a chaste variety is observed; and there are sculptures in wood and some fine paintings by native artists, There are 24 other churches, a hospital, and a prison. Guatemala has the largest number of educational institutions of any city in Central America; many of the wealthy people of the other states send their children here tor instruction. In 1873 there were 27 common schools, mostly supported by private contributions, 16 of them being for females, and a number of schools for the working classes of all ages. Mechanical industry is little cultivated, and the instruments and tools are of the most primitive character. In spite of the diversity of races and castes, there is little variety of costume. The wealthy adopt the European fashions. The garb of the people consists of a short woollen jacket of native manufacture, cotton pantaloons, a palm-leaf hat covered with oilcloth, and a many-colored serape or shawl.
The dress of the women more closely imitates that of their superiors, except that of the Indian women, which is simple in the extreme, being a piece of blue cotton cloth drawn round the body above the hips, and occasionally a white chemise, which is often embroidered, while their hair, interbraided with a red cord, is wound around the temples. The climate is mild, but changeable; the average temperature is 05° F., the maximum 80°, and the minimum 45°. The chief occupations are agriculture and the manufacture of a few coarse woollen and cotton stuffs, earthenware, and other objects for domestic use. The city was founded in 1776, three years after the destruction of the old capital. III. Guatemala la Autigua (Old Guatemala), a city, once among the finest in America, and capital of Guatemala, picturesquely situated 30 m. W. of New Guatemala; pop. about 20,000. It was founded in 1524 by Pedro de Alvarado, who named it Santiago de los Caballeros, made a bishopric in 1533, and destroyed in 1541 by a flood of water from the Volcan de Agua, at the foot of which the ruins still stand, designated by the name Ciudad Vieja (old city). The city was rebuilt between the Volcan de Agua and the Volcan de Fuego. In 1773, the population being 60,000, it was almost totally razed by an earthquake; and the rebuilding, commenced in 1799, has since continued steadily, the surrounding country being peculiarly suited to the production of cochineal.
It had before the earthquake good streets, many fine edifices, 20 monasteries, and 100 churches; the cathedral, now rootless, was 300 ft. long, 120 wide, and 70 high, and lighted by 50 windows.
Guatemala la Antigua.