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Profile of Poverty and Life in Guatemala

To understand the need for support of education for children in rural Guatemala, it’s important to have some basic facts about poverty in Chichicastenango and the surrounding area.  As government support for funding of education shrinks, the ability of families to afford to children to school is increasingly challenged.  As you read the information below, keep in mind that most children who receive scholarships from ACEBAR through the funding of MayaCREW would likely otherwise not be able to attend school.  Dropout rates for our scholarship students is well below the national average in Guatemala.  Of our 21 scholarship high school graduates in 2010, virtually all had been receiving a scholarship from ACEBAR/MayaCREW since the inception of the program.  Without this support, they almost certainly would not have continued their education past primary school.



Many scholarship recipients live in simple adobe block construction dwellings with a corrugated metal roof and mud floor. Few have electricity and even fewer have running water or indoor plumbing.


Cooking often takes place on an iron grate using small pieces of wood for fuel. Often these cooking places do not have ventilation, leaving walls black, and contributing to chronic respiratory issues.


Washing and personal care is often done in an outdoor sink with only cold water and used by multiple families.

Notes on Poverty in Guatemala and Chichicastenango:

Guatemala’s rural indigenous population continues to suffer from an increased level of poverty.  Between 1989 and 2000, the percentage of rural residents living below the national poverty line has increased from 71.9% to 74.5%.

Latest available census data indicate that Guatemala has shown one of the largest increases in number of individuals living on less than $1 per day.  Chichicastenango resides in the “Department” (county) of Quiché and Quiché has the highest incidence of poverty of any Guatemalan department. With an approximate department population of 777,000, approximately 197,000 (26%) are “very poor,” with annual incomes of less than $401 per year.  An additional 426,000 (55%) of the total population are categorized as “poor,” with incomes of $812 per year.  Together, the categories of “poor” and “very poor” represent 81% of the total population of the department, with the indigenous poverty rate in Quiché slightly higher at 84%.

Data compilation by Max Kintner, PhD.

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