San Marcos Department

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San Marcos
San Marcos
San Marcos
Country Flag of Guatemala.svg Guatemala
Department San Marcos
Capital San Marcos
Municipalities 30
 • Type Departmental
Population (Census 2002)[1][2]
 • Religions Roman Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Maya
Time zone -6
Finca El Platanillo coffee plantation, with the Tajumulco volcano behind

San Marcos is a department in Guatemala. The capital is the city of San Marcos.

Departmental history[edit]

The department was created by a governmental decree on 8 May 1866, together with Huehuetenango, Izabal and Petén departments.[3] Before this it was known as the Barrio of San Marcos ("District of San Marcos"), which was a part of the department of Quetzaltenango.[3]

In 1902 the eruption of the Santa María volcano in the neighbouring department of Quetzaltenango was responsible for the destruction of the twin towns of San Marcos and San Pedro Sacatepéquez.[4] The towns were rebuilt and in 1935 were joined to form the new municipality of San Marcos La Unión.[4] This new municipality did not last long and the unified municipalities were again split in 1945 with San Marcos remaining the departmental capital.[4]


Location San Marcos within Guatemala

San Marcos is bordered on the north by the department of Huehuetenango, on the east by the department of Quetzaltenango, to the south by the department of Retalhuleu and by the Pacific Ocean, and on the west by the Mexican state of Chiapas.[5] The department has a total territory of 2,397 square kilometres (925 sq mi).[6]

The northern portion of the department is mountainous, being crossed by the Sierra Madre mountain range, with the two highest volcanoes in Central America being located within its borders.[5] These are Tajumulco (4,220 metres (13,850 ft) high) and Tacaná (4,092 metres (13,425 ft) high).[5][7] The Tajumulco volcano is the highest peak in Central America.[8] Other notable peaks include San Antonio Ichiguán at 4,022 metres (13,196 ft) above mean sea level.[5] The southern portion of the department drops away towards the Pacific coast.[9]

The Tacaná volcano, which occupies the border with Mexico and has slopes in both countries, has been historically active, with activity recorded in 1855, 1878, from 1900 through to 1903, from 1949 to 1950 and from 1986 to 1987.[7]

Principal rivers in the department include the Suchiate River, which marks the border between San Marcos and Mexico and flows into the Pacific.[9] The Cabuz River has its source on the slopes of the Tajumulco volcano.[9] Other rivers include the El Pajapa, El Rodeo, Ixlamá, Ixtal, Meléndrez, Nahuatán, Ocosito and Tilapa Rivers.[9]

The climate varies widely within the department, due to the dramatic differences in altitude, with the north possessing a cold highland climate and the south having a temperate or hot climate, depending on the specific altitude.[9]


The 2002 census recorded the total population of San Marcos department as 794,951.[10] Languages spoken in the department include Spanish, Mam and Sipakapense.[11]

Economy and agriculture[edit]

Farming communities below Volcán Tajumulco in San Marcos.

The wide variety of climates within the department resulting from differences in altitude gives rise to a variety of agricultural products.[9] Agricultural products include apples, bananas, barley, beans, cacao, coffee, maize, oats, peaches, plantains, potatoes, rice, sugarcane and wheat.[12] Livestock include cattle, horses and sheep.[9] San Marcos department produces more wool than any other department of Guatemala.[9] It is generally exported to the departments of Quetzaltenango and Totonicapán, where it is processed into finished products.[9] The department produces wooden furniture, with production being concentrated in the Pacific lowlands due to the greater variety of wood available, including cedar, ceiba and tepemixte.[9]

The department is notable for the importation of black market Mexican products, which are sold openly in local markets throughout its territory and from there are exported throughout Guatemala.[13]


The department of San Marcos is divided into 30 municipalities:[11]

Municipality[10] Ethnicity Population[10][nb 1] Festival[14] Altitude[13] Extent[13]
Ayutla 27,435 1st Friday of Lent 24 metres (79 ft) 204 square kilometres (79 sq mi)
Catarina 24,561 25 November 233 metres (764 ft) 76 square kilometres (29 sq mi)
Comitancillo 46,371 3 May 2,280 metres (7,480 ft) 113 square kilometres (44 sq mi)
Concepción Tutuapa 49,363 8 December 2,910 metres (9,550 ft) 176 square kilometres (68 sq mi)
El Quetzal 18,979 12 November & 6 January 940 metres (3,080 ft) 88 square kilometres (34 sq mi)
El Rodeo 14,125 19 March 700 metres (2,300 ft) 81 square kilometres (31 sq mi)
El Tumbador 35,501 6 January 920 metres (3,020 ft) 84 square kilometres (32 sq mi)
Esquipulas Palo Gordo 8,613 15 January 2,474 metres (8,117 ft) 21 square kilometres (8.1 sq mi)
Ixchiguan 20,324 5th Friday of Lent, 23 January & 29 July 3,200 metres (10,500 ft) 183 square kilometres (71 sq mi)
La Reforma 14,623 1 January 1,139 metres (3,737 ft) 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi)
Malacatán 70,834 13 December 390 metres (1,280 ft) 204 square kilometres (79 sq mi)
Nuevo Progreso 26,140 12 December 660 metres (2,170 ft) 140 square kilometres (54 sq mi)
Ocós 29,257 3 metres (9.8 ft) 205 square kilometres (79 sq mi)
Pajapita 16,600 8 December 97 metres (318 ft) 84 square kilometres (32 sq mi)
Río Blanco Mam[15] 4,872 8 July[15] 2,650 metres (8,690 ft) 21 square kilometres (8.1 sq mi)
San Antonio Sacatepéquez 14,658 17 January 2,338 metres (7,671 ft) 79 square kilometres (31 sq mi)
San Cristóbal Cucho 13,928 29 July 2,350 metres (7,710 ft) 36 square kilometres (14 sq mi)
San José Ojetenam 16,541 19 March 3,050 metres (10,010 ft) 37 square kilometres (14 sq mi)
San Lorenzo 9,714 10 August 1,620 metres (5,310 ft) 25 square kilometres (9.7 sq mi)
San Marcos 36,325 25 April 2,397 metres (7,864 ft) 121 square kilometres (47 sq mi)
San Miguel Ixtahuacán 29,658 29 September 2,050 metres (6,730 ft) 184 square kilometres (71 sq mi)
San Pablo 36,535 25 January 610 metres (2,000 ft) 124 square kilometres (48 sq mi)
San Pedro Sacatepéquez 58,005 29 June 2,330 metres (7,640 ft) 253 square kilometres (98 sq mi)
San Rafael Pie de La Cuesta 13,072 24 October 1,038 metres (3,406 ft) 60 square kilometres (23 sq mi)
Sibinal 13,268 29 September 2,510 metres (8,230 ft) 176 square kilometres (68 sq mi)
Sipacapa 14,043 24 August 1,970 metres (6,460 ft) 152 square kilometres (59 sq mi)
Tacaná 62,620 15 August 2,410 metres (7,910 ft) 302 square kilometres (117 sq mi)
Tajumulco 41,308 8 July 2,050 metres (6,730 ft) 300 square kilometres (120 sq mi)
Tejutla 27,672 25 July 2,520 metres (8,270 ft) 142 square kilometres (55 sq mi)
La Blanca[16]


Sunset at Tilapa beach, Ocos, San Marcos

The main tourist attractions of the San Marcos department are its various Pacific beaches.[6] Other attractions include thermal baths and the caves of Castalia.[6]


  1. ^ 2002 census.


  1. ^ "XI Censo Nacional de Poblacion y VI de Habitación (Censo 2002)". INE. 2002. 
  2. ^ "Comunidad Lingüística Ch'orti'". Academia de Lenguas Mayas. 2008. Retrieved 2008. 
  3. ^ a b del Aguila 2005, p.2.
  4. ^ a b c Hernández & Martínez 2004.
  5. ^ a b c d del Aguila 2005, p.13.
  6. ^ a b c Servicio de Información Municipal de Inforpress (1).
  7. ^ a b INSIVUMEH
  8. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Online 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j del Aguila 2005, p.14.
  10. ^ a b c del Aguila 2005, p.9.
  11. ^ a b del Aguila 2005, p.15.
  12. ^ del Aguila 2005, p.14. Hernández & Martínez 2004.
  13. ^ a b c del Aguila 2005, p.16.
  14. ^ del Aguila 2005, p.17.
  15. ^ a b Servicio de Información Municipal de Inforpress (2).
  16. ^ Crean nuevo municipio en San Marcos. Agencia Guatemalteca de Noticias, 24 January 2014.


del Aguila Bernasconi, Juan Enrique (2005). San Marcos: Información Histórica - Geográfica del Departamento (in Spanish). Guatemala: Del Aguila Consultores. 
Encyclopædia Britannica Online (2011). "Tajumulco Volcano.". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
Hernández, Gonzalo; Martínez, Mildred (2004). "San Marcos: La capital de la hospitalidad" (PDF) (in Spanish). Guatemala: Prensa Libre. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
INSIVUMEH. "Volcanes de Guatemala" (in Spanish). Guatemala City: Instituto Nacional de Sismología, Vulcanología, Meteorologíá e Hidrologíá (INSIVUMEH) - Ministerio de Comunicaciones, Infraestructura y Vivienda. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
Servicio de Información Municipal de Inforpress (1). "Departamento de San Marcos" (in Spanish). Guatemala City: INFORPRESSCA. Retrieved 2010-01-12. 
Servicio de Información Municipal de Inforpress (2). "Río Blanco, San Marcos" (in Spanish). Guatemala City: INFORPRESSCA. Retrieved 2010-01-12. 

Coordinates: 14°57′40″N 91°47′44″W / 14.96111°N 91.79556°W / 14.96111; -91.79556