Guatemala is roughly the size of the Canadian province Newfoundland or the state of Tennessee. Its diverse beautiful landscape includes tropical rainforests, mountains, valleys, lowland forests, beaches, and more than thirty volcanoes.

There are a multitude of natural resources and key exports, yet Guatemala has one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world and continues to struggle with drug trafficking and rampant crime/corruption.

Guatemala, Central America

Guatemala has a population of 18.50 million (2021) and ranks 127 out of 189 countries in the 2020 United Nations Human Development Index.

Approximately 52% of the population is urban.

With regard to ethnicity and culture, approximately 55% is indigenous, and 45% ladina (Spanish-speaking). The main ethnic groups are the Maya, the Garifuna, the Xinca and the Ladina.

Twenty-one languages are spoken, although the dominant language is Spanish.

Population demographics:

  • 00 – 09 years old  29%
  • 10 – 19 years old    24% ***
  • 20 – 39 years old  28%
  • 40 – 59 years old  13%
  • 60+ years old         06%

*** PILAS key target demographic

Poverty, income inequality and social exclusion are some of the main challenges that are prevalent in Guatemala. 

The denial of the rural poor from opportunities of personal growth and development reflects their disadvantaged economic circumstances.

Income inequality is high in Guatemala. According to a study conducted by the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), 260 Guatemalans own 56% percent of the national economy. 

Malnutrition is especially severe: 

  • Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world.
  • 46.5% of children under the age of five are stunted.
  • Chronic malnutrition can skyrocket (up to 80%) with indigenous populations living in the highlands/rural areas.

The poverty rate in Guatemala is very high. According to the World Bank:

  • 59.3% lives below the poverty line. 
  • 23% live in extreme poverty.

Femicide in Guatemala is an extremely serious problem. According to a 2012 report by the Small Arms Survey, Guatemala has the third highest rate of femicide in the world, behind only El Salvador and Jamaica.

Sexual violence is widespread in Guatemala. There are about 10,000 cases of reported rape per year, but the total number is likely much higher because of under-reporting due to social stigma.

Guatemala has one of the highest teen pregnancy and preteen pregnancy rates in Latin America. Girls as young as 10 years old are impregnated by rape, and they usually carry these pregnancies to birth. Most of these instances of sexual violence are perpetrated by the girl’s father or other close male relative (89%). 

According to UNESCO, Guatemala has an adult literacy rate of 81.29%. (Male literacy rate is 86.76%, for females is 76.37%.)

Approximately 30% of all Guatemalan adults over 15 cannot read or write.

The current state of the education system is substandard. Many classrooms, especially in rural Guatemala, do not have adequate teaching materials.

Only 22% of children who complete the sixth grade move on to the Junior High level. Most families can’t afford the costs for an education (school fees, uniforms, books, supplies and transportation), and young people are expected to support the family after the sixth grade.  

This situation is even more extreme among the indigenous population with 53.5% of Maya people aged 15-19 not completing primary school.

Only 54% of indigenous girls are in school, compared with 71% of indigenous boys. By the age of 16, only 25% of indigenous girls are enrolled, compared with 45% of boys.

Sumpango, Guatemala

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Guatemala, and, indigenous peoples living in the rural highlands (such as Sumpango) have broken hearts, broken spirits and broken relationships.

PILAS uses the platform of education and youth group to teach of the everlasting hope that is available to everyone and found in Jesus Christ.

PILAS exists to remind those that are hurting or lacking hope that “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). 

Because they are broken, does not mean that they are worthless. 

God can take what has been broken and remake it into something better, something that He can use for His glory. 

By surrendering our lives to Christ, we can be restored and transformed.

Sources: World Food Programme, Doctors Without Borders, UNESCO,, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Global Education Fund, USAID,, Wikipedia,,, Costa Rica News.