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Guatemala is a nation of 10 million people. Although it is small, its terrain and microclimates are diverse, ranging from hot and humid coastal lowlands to mist-covered mountain forests. Approximately 87 percent of the population live in poverty, with 65 percent living in extreme poverty, making Guatemala the poorest nation in Central America. The average Guatemalan has fewer than five years of formal schooling with less than 2 percent going to college.
Guatemalans have a great sense of hope. The relative calm in Guatemala is as fragile as the sense of hope and psychological space on which it rests. If the space were to close, the sense of hoplessness that led the rebels to rise against the oppressive military would return, perhaps leading to another uprising. Nurturing hope in Guatemala is particularly incumbent on Americans. Now, Guatemalan immigrants who live in the U.S. send a substantial amount of money to their families in Guatemala. Without this money, these families would be destitute, leading to a state of unrest that could quickly disintegrate into war.
The Mayan Calender is based on 2 separate
pairs of wheels, together known as the Calender Round, both tied to a linear count of days, called the long count, whose zero point is an unknown mythical event that occurred
on August 13th 3114 B.C. The Second Calender Round sequence, the Haab, is 365 days long and consists of 18 months of 20 days each, plus one month of 5 days. Some Mayan Calenders have absolute beginning dates and some count from the beginning of each rulers reign.
Religion is a very important part of Guatemalan life. Each village has a Catholic church; at home, people light candles to honor saints. While the majority of Guatemalans identify themselves as Roman Catholics, the form of Catholocism found in Guatemala, differs from that of many other countries. The Catholic church plays an important role in the lives of Guatemalans. In many Guatemalan villages, Mayan and catholic beliefs combined to produce uniquely Guatemalan forms of worship that includes rituals surrounding the figure of Maximon (a sort of anti-saint). The heart of Guatemalan religion and culture lies in the public celebration of holy days, and personal events such as birthdays, marriages, births and deaths.