The cradle of Mayan civilisation, Guatemala's great natural beauty and strong indigenous culture are often overshadowed by civil war. It is also highly vulnerable to natural disasters. There are a number of active volcanoes in Guatemala and the nation is positioned on three tectonic plates, causing frequent seismic movements.
Social inequality is widespread, particularly in rural and indigenous communities, which make up 40 per cent of the population. Indigenous groups are particularly vulnerable, and tend to have a lower level of education, unequal access to land and assets, and fewer life opportunities in general.
Like many of its neighbours, Guatemala experiences frequent and senseless violent incidents, and suffers with organised crime and street gangs. Sadly, life expectancy is among the lowest in Latin America; half the population is younger than 19.