The GFA is a charity for families living in Britain, who have adopted or are in the process of adopting children from Guatemala. Our primary goal is to support internationally adopted Guatemalan children, now living in Britain, actively to keep a connection with and understand their roots and Guatemalan culture. We are also happy to help, with our own experiences, those in the process of Guatemalan adoption.

About Guatemala

Thought to be named after the many trees that blanket the volcanoes, mountains and lowlands, this tiny country situated in Central America has a population of only 14,000,000.  The major portion of the population is settled around the current capital, Guatemala City, and La Antigua (literally 'the old' capital).  Smaller towns and villages are scattered throughout the 22 regions. 

Bordered by Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Belize, Guatemala also has coastal regions on both the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean.  The topography is mainly mountainous but also extends to black volcanic sandy beaches, mangrove forests, the rainforests of Tikal, lakes, rivers, wetlands, and towering volcanoes.  Tikal National Park was named the first mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Also a World Heritage Site, the cobbled streets and colonial facades of the city of La Antigua, attract international visitors, specifically during the annual Lenten festivities.  Celebrations  involve processions of giant floats containing biblical characters carried by locals through streets lined with alfombras  (literally carpets of flower petals, fruit and vegetables created by local homeowners and businesses).  To be involved in the processiones and Easter re-enactments is a great honour for Guatemalans and preparations take place many months in advance.

The Catholic faith is the dominant religion throughout the country, though indigenous beliefs are still practised, (often interwoven and adapted in the smaller communities where it is not unheard of for traditional Catholic church buildings to house idols and symbols of Maya ritual).

Guatemala's journey to the present winds a treacherous path beginning with unearthed artefacts that date back as far as 12,000BC.  Pre-Columbian  arrowheads and evidence of maize production suggest the foundations of a hunter-gatherer society which evolved to become a part of the mighty Maya heritage.

Evidence of the Maya survives long after the collapse of the civilisation in 900AD.  The colourful dress of the remaining indigenous population is common on the streets of modern-day Guatemala, in stark contrast to the introduction of modern strip malls and office blocks.  Apart from the officially-spoken Spanish, 22 Maya languages have been identified in Guatemala including K'iche (spoken by a minority 9% of the population), Kaqchikel, Mam and Q'eqchi. 

The geography of Guatemala lends itself easily to natural disasters and earthquakes, mudslides, volcanic eruptions, and hurricanes have all been the source of major disruption and loss of life.

In the Colonial period of Spanish leadership, Guatemala was both Audencia and a Captaincy General until its independence was declared on September 15, 1821. 

The politics of Guatemala have proved over the years to have been as tumultous and damaging as natural forces beginning with the dictatorship of Juan Manuel Cabrera (helped to power by the United Fruit Company).  The Peace Accord was signed in 1996 and ended the most recent period of armed conflict.

In 1871 Guatemala's Liberal Revolution was assisted by Justo Rufino Barrios who attempted to modernise, improve trade, introduce new crops and manufacturing facilities.  It was at this point in time that coffee was introduced as a means of crop production.  Today, many coffee plantations continue to produce quality coffee beans that are exported worldwide to places such as the famous Starbucks chain.

Poverty and violence are now the focus for change for Guatemala. 

In 2005 the World Health Organisation published figures that suggested that 21.5% of the population were living on less than $1 a day and in 2008 an estimated 40 murders a week were reported in Guatemala City.  Domestic violence and crimes against women are endemic and often go unreported.  Guatemala has the third lowest rate of contraceptive use in the Americas, 49% of children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition and this figure rises to 68% amongst the indigenous population.  It is estimated that 30% of pregnant women have nutritional deficiencies.

Raising awareness of the social issues in Guatemala today is crucial in the effort to increase standards of living throughout the population.  In 1992, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Rigoberto Menchu for her work raising international awareness of the government sponsored genocide against the indigenous population during the Guatemalan Civil War (1990-96).  Many charities work within the country to continue to promote issues of health, hygiene and well-being.

A country of contrasts and diversity, from its ancient roots in the Maya ruins of Tikal, through the earthquake-ravaged colonial facades, to the modern day McDonalds and hypermarkets. Everywhere in Guatemala there is evidence of hard times, but for every image of destruction and decay there is another of hope and rebirth, whether the repeatedly rebuilt churches of Antigua or the giant cross and message of biblical hope mounted atop a city slum.  An inner strength shines through in the warmth and welcoming smiles of the people and the beauty of the environment and underlines the uniqueness that is Guatemala.