Guatemala's is a history similar to that of much of Central America. Indigenously Mayan, the region was overtaken by the Spanish in the early 1500's and colonized. The remnants of the Mayan Civilization and the initial colonization by Spain are still visible today. The twentieth century history of Guatemala is one that was caught up in the cold war. The US fearing Communist domination in Central and South America instituted many policies that lead to dictatorship, oligarchical land practices, human rights violations and eventually political turmoil. Civil War in Guatemala ended in the late 1980's and while there has some difficulties within that time, Guatemala has been able to enjoy relative political stability since then with elected civilian governments.
The Department of Santa Rosa
Created in May 1852, Santa Rosa is a civil Department of Guatemala, covering 2955 km2 (1,123 mi2) representing 2.7% of the area of the country, it is also a fairly new Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, created in 1996. Santa Rosa's current population is 314,151 representing 2% of Guatemala's residents. The Department is made up of 14 municipalities and its capital is the central city of Cuilapa, which is considered the geographic center of the American continents. Cuilapa has 31,000 residents and is the 3rd largest city in Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa has 3 distinct, natural topographic areas: the cool/cold mountainous Sierra Madre region in the center (4500 feet above sea level), the temperate northern region (3300 feet above sea level) and the hot/tropical Pacific coast region to the south (at sea level). The largest city in the northern region is Nueva Santa Rosa with 28,600 residents. The largest city in the Central Sierra Madre region is Barberena with a population of 38,900. Chiquimulilla is Santa Rosa's largest city with a population of 43,600 which also makes it the largest city in the southern coastal region. The northern and central Sierra Madre regions' economies depend on coffee cultivation; while the coastal region's economy has developed around some flat fertile farm areas and the raising of livestock and dairy. There also exists some fishing in this region, as well as minimal coastal tourism and eco-tourism along he Canal de Chiquimulilla. Other eco-tourist destinations of Santa Rosa include the four volcanoes and picturesque lakes.
76% of Santa Rosa's population lives in rural areas, and 33% of the department's population has no access to water or sanitation. 50% of residents are female. 18.3% of the population is illiterate (double for women.) 73% of the economically active population (1/3 of the total population) is unemployed or under-employed. In Santa Rosa, 76% of the population live on less than $2 per day, with average family size of 8 or less than $5840 for a family of 8 (in NJ, 9.3 % of population live below poverty level of $18.4K for a family of 4). The infant mortality rate increases to 66 per 1000 births in the poorest rural areas of Santa Rosa (or 11 times greater than NJ). The child mortality rate in Santa Rosa is 59 per 1000 children over 1 year of age. Major causes of infant and child mortality are gastro-intestinal illnesses (mainly due to poor water quality) and respiratory infections. 60% of Santa Rosa's babies are born at home, with the vast majority delivered by untrained mid-wives. The maternal morality rate is 1.3% which compares to near 0% in NJ. 49% of the population suffers from chronic malnutrition. Only 35% of the population has access to the free public health system mainly due to lace of capacity. There is only one 174 bed public hospital, located in Cuilapa, serving the entire population of Santa Rosa. The majority of the public health system depends on a few walk-in Health Centers located in health-posts, located in less populated areas, staffed with first-aid trained community volunteers. The Santa Rosa health Ministry's budget for public health is $7 per person per year (about $2.2 million per year for 314,000 people.) There is no public emergency transport (ambulance) system. Only 10% of Santa Rosa's population, located mostly in the major population centers, has the means to access a separate, private health care system of more adequate capacity and better quality. The remaining 55% of the Santa Rosa population has little or no access to health care.
There are 18 main Roman Catholic parishes in Santa Rosa, each parish made up of a main church, typically in the larger towns, and several smaller churches in surrounding communities. 90% of the Santa Rosa population is Roman Catholic, which grow2s due to the high birth rate, but evangelical protestant denominations are making fast inroads into the area, eroding this grown. The Diocese of Santa Rosa has 22 priests for a Catholic population of 283,000 or 1 priest per 12,865 Catholics (compared to 200 priests in 108 parishes of the Diocese of Metuchen, serving 550,000 Catholics i.e. 1 priest per 2,750 Catholics). The Church in Santa Rosa is typically the center of spiritual life as well as social life and provides the majority of the social services needed by the population that the civil authority cannot or will not provide. In addition to the 22 priests, the Diocese of Santa Rosa is served by over 700 lay ministers serving a very faith-filled but vulnerable population. Lack of adequate spiritual capacity in poor and vulnerable communities tends to push people in need to other means of getting those needs met, as evidenced by the growth of the evangelical protestant movement in the Diocese of Santa Rosa.
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