It is used today by outsiders, as well as by most citizens, although for many purposes the descendants of the original inhabitants still prefer to identify themselves by the names of their specific language dialects, which reflect political divisions from the sixteenth century.
The pejorative terms indio and natural have been replaced in polite conversation and publication by Indígena .
Ash-filled basins and scenic lakes are scattered throughout this region.
The sierras provide a major barrier between the heavily occupied volcanic landscape to the south and the sparsely populated Petén to the north.
Starting in 1954, Guatemala’s governments faced formidable guerrilla opposition that sparked civil war that lasted for 36 years until peace accords were signed in 1996.
The struggles of Guatemala’s Indians during the war years were illuminated when A slow political and economic recovery continued into the early 21st century.
The limestone surface of the Petén produces shallow and stony soils that are difficult to farm.
The alignment of volcanic cones begins with the Tacaná Volcano (13,428 feet [4,093 metres]), located on the frontier with Mexico, and continues eastward across Guatemala into El Salvador.The city of Antigua Guatemala is precariously situated beneath three volcanoes: Agua Volcano (12,350 feet [3,760 metres]), Fuego Volcano (12,336 feet [3,763 metres]), and Acatenango Volcano (13,045 feet [3,976 metres]).Lava flow from Pacaya is sometimes visible from Guatemala City.The volcanic belt of southern Guatemala contains some of the most productive soils; nevertheless, the northernmost sector of this region is particularly subject to erosion induced by the prevalence of steep slopes and deforestation.
Within the sierra region, heavier rainfall—combined with centuries of cultivation of the thinner soils on the steep slopes and the wanton destruction of forests—has led to widespread erosion there too.
From the base of the volcanic row, at an elevation of about 1,500 feet (450 metres), the Pacific coastal plain gradually slopes south to sea level at the shoreline of the ocean.