While Guatemala is known for their coffee industry, it doesn't provide an adequate income.Seasonal work harvesting coffee and sugarcane is plentiful for four to eight weeks, and then high unemployment rates follow in the off-season.

Guatemala Pacific Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Roman Catholic

The Weather

  • Each February, the city of Mazatenango celebrates its rich cultural heritage with parades and a carnival. Guatemala Children in Parade
  • Compassion-assisted children participate in activities that develop their gifts and talents. These girls are practicing their choreography for a presentation at the child development center. Guatemala Children Dancing
  • To counter the malnutrition that many children in this region suffer, Compassion centers provide regular, nutritious snacks and meals. Guatemala Girls Drinking
  • For people in the Pacific region, iguana meat and eggs cooked in a special sauce are a treat. Guatemala Two Women
  • The Compassion curriculum enables center workers to provide age-appropriate lessons and activities that develop all facets of children’s lives – physical, educational, social and spiritual. Guatemala Children in Class
  • Local markets are busy places, especially in the mornings before the temperature rises to an uncomfortable level. Guatemala Crowded Market

Overview: Pacific Guatemala

The Pacific area of Guatemala includes four states with altitudes ranging from sea level to 3,281 feet. The Pacific region is an extremely humid area with no real cold season. Average temperatures vary from the high 60s to 110 degrees.

Because of the heat and humidity, residents move slowly to save their energy. If money is available, a family will purchase an electric fan for the home. Air conditioning is too expensive for most residents.

This area has the highest rainfall average of the country, which can lead to flooding. Landslides and earthquakes also occur regularly.

Pacific-area residents are warm, outgoing people who are easy to be around. These Spanish-speaking people have a generous spirit and can be informal at times. Seasonal work harvesting coffee and sugarcane is plentiful for four to eight weeks, and then high unemployment rates follow in the off-season. Because of the high jobless rate, many people from Guatemala and other Central American countries try to cross the Mexican border to work at farms or to reach the U.S. border in search of work. When their attempts fail, people from other Central American countries often end up staying or settling in Guatemala.

This area receives more rain than any other part of the country. Flooding and landslides are a year-round problem. The poorest Guatemalans suffer the most in the frequent storms as their homes tend to be flimsily built of wood, corrugated metal or thatch, with dirt floors that turn to mud.

Roman Catholicism and evangelical Christianity are the most common religions. Christian churches reach large numbers of followers through evangelism and media such as television and Christian radio. Regardless of denomination, Christianity is growing in popularity in this area.


Culture Corner

Culture in Guatemala

Corn Pie

Before you eat, remember to pray for your child and his or her family.


  • 14 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1¾ cup flour
  • 4 eggs
  • Pinch of salt
    • 5 egg yolks
    • 2 cups whole milk
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 2 pounds of corn* or 2 cans of corn, 16 oz. each


    Blend and stir butter and confectioners’ sugar for three minutes.

    Add the eggs and continue, mixing for one more minute.

    Add the flour to form a paste that you’ll mold to hold the stuffing.

    For the stuffing, blend the egg yolks, milk, sugar and corn. Strain it and pour it in the paste molds, already made. Bake at 160°F for 35 minutes. Decorate with strawberries and confectioners’ sugar before serving. Yields eight portions.

    *If you use raw corn, boil it for five minutes before blending it with the other ingredients.

Life in the Pacific Region of Guatemala

Guatemala’s southwestern coastal region lies between Mexico and El Salvador. This region’s major cities include San José and Mazatenango. Pacific Guatemala has beautiful volcanic sand beaches, and the people are laid back and friendly. The climate is hot and humid year-round.

Many rivers cross this region, and during heavy rains they are prone to flooding. Flooding and strong tropical storms may cause widespread destruction, wiping out homes and livelihoods.

Because of the lack of job opportunities here, many adults emigrate to Mexico during harvest seasons for temporary work on large farms. Some bring their children with them to work as well. Often, fathers leave their families to emigrate to the United States in search of work. As a result, many children grow up in fatherless homes.

Children at Home

In this region, both parents may work. Men are generally day laborers, while women work seasonally to harvest coffee or sugar. Most families have three to four children, and when these children become old enough to work, they become harvesters with the rest of their families. The harvest season runs from November to January, and many children who leave school to work do not return.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Guatemala

Drug-trafficking cartels are prevalent, and many innocent people are caught in the crossfire of ongoing drug wars. The smuggling of goods and people across the Mexican border is also common.

The Pacific region experiences high rates of sexual molestation and child neglect, while high unemployment contributes to drug and alcohol abuse.

Local Needs and Challenges

Children in the Pacific region of Guatemala face many challenges. Family disintegration is widespread because fathers frequently desert their families, leaving mothers to raise several children on their own. Also, about 85 percent of the population doesn’t have enough food, and malnutrition among children is common. Drug trafficking is another serious regional issue, and many people are lured into the trade to make money. Child labor is common, especially in the region’s sugarcane fields.


Schools and Education Education in Guatemala

Each town has at least one school, but schools sometimes don’t have enough supplies for the children. Some don’t even have desks or chairs. Low teacher salaries contribute to a shortage of teachers.

Often children leave school to work with their fathers as seasonal day laborers; many do not return to their studies so they can continue to work. School attendance varies, but generally as few as 10 percent of youths finish high school. Countrywide, only about 2 percent of Guatemalans attend a university, and only half of those graduate.

Because children don’t get enough to eat or have enough variety in their diets, they commonly are malnourished. They also are prone to respiratory infections and intestinal parasites.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Throughout the Pacific region, Compassion has 26 child development centers. Children are separated into age-appropriate classes to learn about topics that will help them develop into healthy young adults. At the center, they eat nutritious food and also receive health checkups regularly. And each day at the center means they will study God’s Word to better understand His love for them. The children also spend time writing to and praying for their sponsors.


Working Through the Local Church

Each of the 24 different ethnic groups in Guatemala has its own language and culture. Because the church is an integral part of its community, staff members understand the needs of the local people and what works best to meet those needs in the context of their unique culture. Churches also have credibility in their communities, which is vital for launching any new program.

Local churches have the God-given responsibility of affecting their communities for Christ, but in Guatemala, they are limited by a lack of resources. Compassion’s support, combined with the church’s understanding of the needs of local children, is an ideal partnership that is changing the country, one child at a time.

How Compassion Works in Guatemala Compassion in Guatemala

Compassion's work in Guatemala began in 1976. Currently, more than 39,400 children participate in 183 child development centers.

Compassion partners with local churches, helping them provide Guatemalan children with a long-term program of physical, educational, socio-emotional and spiritual development. Through this partnership between Compassion and local churches, children in need have the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and become all that God has created them to be.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

Partnership Facilitators play an important role in the alliance between Compassion and the local church. They are charged with nurturing that relationship to ensure that assisted children receive what they need to grow into healthy, responsible Christian adults.

Juan Díaz has been a Partnership Facilitator for Compassion Guatemala for seven years. Under his care are 11 local churches that operate Compassion centers. Juan enjoys his time at each partner church, training and encouraging staff. He also enjoys visiting children’s homes to hear what parents have to say about Compassion’s effect on their children’s lives.

“I think of Compassion as a blessing and opportunity to help others,” says Juan. “We get to support families, the community, the church and the children.”


Prayer Requests

  • Please pray for protection of children as they grow.
  • Pray for parents to understand biblical principles and to behave accordingly.
  • Pray for more effective sex education for teenagers. The region has a high rate of single young mothers, sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS.