GUAMAP - Guatemala Acupuncture and Medical Aid Project
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Geography of Service Area

In 2008 GUAMAP's work continues in the northern region of the Peten Department. The geographic service area represents 33% of Guatemalan territory and approximately 12% of the population.

The Peten was a largely uninhabited area until the 1960s when land colonization program for poor ladinos and indigenous was promoted by the government. The Peten rainforest is of great biological importance to the Western world and, as a part of the intercontinental oxygen-producing rain forests, to the entire world. Its semi-tropical to tropical climate is hot and humid, resting only 127 meters above sea level. Some species are dying out and others are threatened in Peten through an over concentration of population, drastic lumber cutting, use of dangerous insecticides and, during the recent war era, unregulated pollution, land mines, bombs, and defoliants. This delicate semi-rainforest region is a unique source of plant medicines. Peten contains many rivers, lakes and swamps, and two mountain ranges.

It shares the Sierra de Lacandon with Mexico on its western border, and the Montañas Mayas with Belize on its eastern side. It supplies natural rubber that is harvested by the low-impact methods of the rubber cutters, known as los chicleros. The Peten is not in a volcanic zone. The Mexican states of Chiapas, Campeche, and Quintana Roo border the Peten on the west and north, and Belize borders it on the east. It represents some 33% of all of Guatemala land area. There are few paved roads in its interior, and torrential rains flood out large stretches of low lying swamp areas.

The population center of the Peten is the island town of Flores, situated in Lake Peten Itza, and the adjoining towns of San Benito and Santa Elena. One of only two international airports in Guatemala is located there. Indigenous population prior to the 1990s included: Itzá, Ke'kchí, Lacandon Chol, Lacandon del Norte, Maya Mopán, and Maya Yucateco. By the late 1990s, Maya from the highlands in mixed populations settled in Peten adding to the indigenous population. The ancient Maya city of Tikal is a common destination for tourists who travel to it on a paved road. There is continual bus service (about 12-hour trip) from Flores to Guatemala City.

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