The Guatemalan quetzal hints back at the Mayan empire, and since a peace accord was finalised in 1996 the economy has been looking forward.
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History and Culture | Travel Guide
Fast Facts: Guatemalan quetzal
- Symbol: Q
- Plural: quetzales
- Currency Code: GTQ
- Subunits: centavo (1/100)
- Banknotes: 50 centavos, 1 quetzal, 5,10, 20,50,100, 200 quetzales
- Coins: 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, centavos, 1 quetzal
- Central Bank: Central Bank of Guatemala
- Guatemala GDP: $125.9 billion
- Guatemala inflation: 3.86%
Long before the modern Guatemalan quetzal was introduced the Mayan civilisation used the tail feathers of the resplendent quetzal (yes ‘resplendent quetzal’ is its official name). The quetzal is now the country’s national bird, and the GTQ was named in honour of the Mayans unique use of the quetzal’s tailfeathers.
Before this, the currency used in colonial Spain was the Spanish colonial real, known in the English world as the Spanish dollar. Spanish dollars were used throughout South America by the Spanish, but also often by the British, French, and other colonial powers from 16th century onwards.
In the 19th century the Spanish colonial real was replaced by the Central American Republic real. The Federal Republic of Central America was formed after declaring independence from Spain in 1821, and began circulating Central American reals in 1824.
In 1839 the Central American Republic was dissolved and twenty years later Guatemala formally introduced the Guatemalan peso, which lasted until 1925 when it was finally replaced by the Guatemalan quetzal.
The first coins in 1925 were minted in denominations of 1, 5, 10 centavos, ¼, ½, and 1 quetzal. Currently the only coins in circulation are:
- 1 centavo
- 5 centavo
- 10 centavo
- 25 centavo
- 50 centavo
- 1 quetzal
When the quetzal was introduced in 1925 banknotes were printed in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 100 quetzales, with ½ quetzal notes printed in 1933. Today the obverse side of each note contains Mayan numerals in the top right corner.
*Not in circulation but still recognised
|Brown||Tecun Uman – Prince of the Quiche Realm at the time of the Spanish Conquest||Tikal’s Temple also known as the Temple of the Great Jaguar|
|Q1||Green||President Jose Maria Orellana who introduced the quetzal||Main building of the Central Bank of Guatemala|
|Q5||Violet||Leader of the Liberal revolution of 1871 Justo Rufino Barrios||Education allegory|
|Q10||Red||Miguel Garcia Granados, leader of Liberal Revolution of 1871||Guatemalan National Assembly of 1872|
|Q20||Blue||Mariano Galvez, leader of the State of Guatemala when it was part of the United Provinces of Central America||Signing of the declaration of Central American Independence|
|Q50||Orange||Carlos Zachrisson (Former finance minister from 1923 to 1926)||Allegory of coffee’s importance to the country|
|Q100||Sepia||Francisco Marroquin (First Bishop of Goathemala and Founder of Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala)||The first university building in Antigua Guatemala|
|Q200||Aqua||Sebastian Hurtado, Mariano Valverde, German Alcantara, three marimba composers||Marimba – the national instrument|
Over the last five years the GTQ has hit a low of of 1 USD = 7.89, and a high of 1 USD = 7.46.
The 1996 peace accords which ended nearly 40 years of civil war triggered a new period of foreign direct investment in Guatemala. Despite this the country’s GDP per capita remain about ⅓ of Brazils, and 54% of the population remains below the poverty line. Bananas, coffee and sugar are the country’s main industries. The United States is the country’s main import and export partner, followed by other Central American countries. The private sector generates 85% of GDP.
The Bottom Line
It has been a tough road to recovery since the end of the civil war, but now Guatemala looks to overcome its economic problems going forward.
Keep exploring Guatemala with our Country Profile and Travel Guide!
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