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Introduction

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ABOUT GUATEMALA

The name Guatemala was derived from Cuauhtemallan, meaning the land of many trees, the name that the Nahuatl-speaking soldiers from Tlaxcalla who came with the Spanish, gave to Iximché, the capital of the Cakchiquel tribe, and generalized to name the country, by the Spanish.

Guatemala, officially the Republic of Guatemala (Spanish: República de Guatemala), is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the northwest, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize and the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast.

The largest and most populous nation in Central America, Guatemala is best known for its historical role as a major seat of Pre-Columbian cultures, particularly the Mayans. Numerous sites of major archaeological significance have been discovered, including the ruins of the ancient city of Tikal. The abundance of sites has led the BBC to name Guatemala as the first cultural destination in the world and helps supply the nation with a healthy stream of tourists (1.4 million in 2006). Other than tourism, Guatemala's economy depends largely upon agriculture, with coffee and sugar among its main exports.

Guatemala is a representative democracy with its capital at Guatemala City. Although the nation has been relatively stable since 1996, Guatemala's recent history has been plagued by civil war and military coups, which have slowed the nation's development. Large portions of Guatemala's interior remain wholly undeveloped, including the nation's many rainforests and wetlands. Guatemala's abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems contribute to Mesoamerica's designation as an important biodiversity hotspot.

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