Izabal Department

Izabal is a department of Guatemala and is located in the northeast of the country ( region III). Izabal stretches over 9,000 square kilometers and has about 400,000 inhabitants. The capital of the department is Puerto Barrios.

Provincial nature

With Izabal Guatemala has a small access to the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. In the north, Belize and Petén connect, bordered to the west of Alta Verapaz Izabal, Zacapa to the south and Honduras. In the center of the department is the largest lake in Guatemala, 48 km long and 20 km wide Lago de Izabal. It is surrounded by the mountain range Sierra Santa Cruz in the north west, the foothills of the Sierra de las Minas in the southwest and the Montañas del Mico in the east. The numerous coming from these mountains, rivers flow mainly in the Lake Izabal, which is connected by the Río Dulce to the Caribbean. The South East of the department is crossed by the valley of the Río Motagua. About this longest river in Guatemala, a large part of the central highlands is dewatered in Izabal and the southeastern mountain ranges and the Sierra del Merendon on the border with Honduras.

The climate Izabals is due to its location on the Caribbean and because of the low country around Lake Izabal and the de Motagua valley mostly tropical with high rainfall in the summer months. In the remaining months of the year, the weather can be relatively changeable. Temperatures range in the lowlands 24-34 ° C, in the higher elevations, the climate is a little cooler. The very rich vegetation includes tropical rainforest, next to palm trees, orchids, cypress, bromeliads etc. There are several large nature reserves.


A large part of the population speaks Spanish and Kekchi or Garifuna. On the Caribbean coast, and there particularly in Livingston, live Garifuna, an Afro Caribbean community. They came as slaves to the Caribbean and then the end of the 18th century from the island of Roatan to Guatemala. The approximately 400,000 inhabitants of the department of Izabal live in five municipios ( large municipalities or counties ):

The Department as state administrative district is headed by a delegated by the central government governor. The Municipalities are autonomous local authorities with elected mayors and elected assemblies and are divided into Aldeas ( rural communities ) and Caseríos, Parajes or fincas ( hamlets and farms ).


Traditionally most important economic sector is agriculture and in particular the cultivation of bananas. In this area, strongly been criticized United Fruit Company in the mid-20th century played an ambiguous role. Other agricultural products include rice, beans, maize, citrus and other tropical fruits. Also of importance are animal husbandry and handicrafts. Increasingly important is the tourism, especially on the Rio Dulce and the Lake Izabal, where have now settled yacht owners from North America and Europe. Outstanding economic significance of the seaports Puerto Barrios and Puerto Santo Tomás de Castilla: Much of the overseas trade with North America and Europe is handled here. Lack of adequate rail connection is handled by semi-trailer, the entire container traffic, which leads to chronic congestion of the Atlantic route CA -9. Their expansion to a highway has made little progress. The capital city of Puerto Barrios has an airfield for general aviation.


Starting point for boat trips on the Lake Izabal and towards the Caribbean are the places Fronteras (also called Rio Dulce ) and El Relleno at the bridge over the Río Dulce. To the south of Fronteras ( Rio Dulce ), at the beginning of the Izabal Lake, the Castillo de San Felipe de Lara, a fort, built by the Spaniards in the 16th century to defend against raids English pirate is. On the north shore of the lake, the Finca El Paraíso is a horse breeding and the Río Agua Caliente with its natural thermal pools. Further west is the town of El Estor, whose name comes from an old Anglo-German grocery store, at the time of " The Store " was. On Golfete, the widest portion of the Río Dulce, the pristine lagoons and forests of Biotopo Chocón Machacas were put under protection. At the mouth of the Río Dulce to the Caribbean is Livingston, a village in the Garifuna, Ladino, Maya and whites live. The Bahía de Amatique offers few beaches, including Playa Blanca, Punta de Palma and Punta de Manabique. Between the Playa Blanca and Livingston are the thermal pools " Siete altar ". In Los Amates is located in the Parque Nacional Cerro Azul the Mayan ruins Quiriguá, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Izabal played because of its protected access to the sea and its ports and warehouses at Lake Izabal always played an important role in the economy of Guatemala. For a long time it had therefore to suffer from pirate raids. During the colonial period, the area was part of the " Corregimiento de Chiquimula de la Sierra ." After independence, initially formed an administrative district. From 1842-1854 almost half Disktrikt was Belgian concession area, Belgian colonists settled in Santo Tomás de Castilla.

On May 18, 1866, the Government of the Republic of Guatemala founded the department of Izabal. During the reign of Justo Rufino Barrios Auyón (1873-1885), the construction of the railway line from Guatemala City began for later Caribbean port of Puerto Barrios. The line was not completed until 1908. Izabal was in the years after the main banana -growing region of the United Fruit Company, on the one hand significantly contributed to the improvement of the economy and infrastructure Izabals, but on the other hand, developed a state within a state, the unrestrained advantage of a position of power gained, especially in financial and political terms. Once in particular the Government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán had tried the UFC in check, and to distribute UFC unused land to destitute farmers, accused the UFC management and its associated political circles in Washington DC Arbenz a communist coup attempts. This led to a U.S. intervention and ultimately to civil war. From the UFC time now is proved by numerous disused narrow gauge railway lines in the Motagua Valley and a number of settlements with English names, including Dartmouth and York.