Mesoamerica is a region and cultural area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries.
As a cultural area, Mesoamerica is defined by a mosaic of cultural traits developed and shared by its indigenous cultures. Beginning as early as 7000 BC the domestication of maize, beans, squash and chili, as well as the turkey and dog, caused a transition from paleo-Indian hunter-gatherer tribal grouping to the organization of sedentary agricultural villages. In the subsequent formative period, agriculture and cultural traits such as a complex mythological and religious tradition, a vigesimal numeric system, and a complex calendric system, a tradition of ball playing, and a distinct architectural style, were diffused through the area. Also in this period villages began to become socially stratified and develop into chiefdoms with the development of large ceremonial centers, interconnected by a network of trade routes for the exchange of luxury goods such as obsidian, jade, cacao, cinnabar, Spondylus shells, hematite, and ceramics. While Mesoamerican civilization did know of the wheel and basic metallurgy, neither of these technologies became culturally important.
The demographics of Guatemala are diverse, constituting primarily of Mestizos, Amerindians and Europeans. About 60% of the population speak Spanish, with nearly all of the rest speaking Amerindian languages.
According to the CIA World Fact Book, Mestizo (mixed Amerindian-Spanish - in local Spanish called Ladino) and European made 59.4% of the population, and K'iche 9.1%, Kaqchikel 8.4%, Mam 7.9%, Q'eqchi 6.3%, other Mayan 8.6%, indigenous non-Mayan 0.2%, other 0.1%. Therefore, 40% of the population is Amerindian. Pure European population is not known because the country combines mestizos with whites.
Most of Guatemala's population is rural, though urbanization is accelerating. The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism, once the main faith of the population, into which many indigenous Guatemalans have incorporated traditional forms of worship. Protestantism and traditional Maya religions are practiced by an estimated 40% and 1% of the population, respectively.
Though the official language is Spanish, it is often the second language among the indigenous population. However, the Peace Accords signed in December 1996 provide for the translation of some official documents and voting materials into several indigenous languages (see summary of main substantive accords).