Alta Verapaz Department

Alta Verapaz


Coat of arms

Alta Verapaz
Coordinates: 15°30′N 90°20′W / 15.500°N 90.333°W / 15.500; -90.333
Country Guatemala
Department Alta Verapaz
Capital Cobán
Municipalities 16
  Type Departmental
  Governor Dominga Tecúm Camil
  Department 8,686 km2 (3,354 sq mi)
Highest elevation 2,800 m (9,200 ft)
Lowest elevation 300 m (1,000 ft)
Population (2013)[1]
  Department 1,183,241
  Density 140/km2 (350/sq mi)
  Urban 273,329
  Ethnicities Q'eqchi', poqomchi', Ladino
  Religions Roman Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Maya
Time zone -6
ISO 3166 code GT-AV

Coordinates: 15°30′N 90°20′W / 15.500°N 90.333°W / 15.500; -90.333

Semuc Champey pools in the Cahabòn River, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Alta Verapaz (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈalta βeɾaˈpas]) is a department in the north central part of Guatemala. The capital and chief city of the department is Cobán. Verapaz is bordered to the north by El Petén, to the east by Izabal, to the south by Zacapa, El Progreso, and Baja Verapaz, and to the west by El Quiché.

Also in Alta Verapaz are the towns of Chisec, San Pedro Carchá and San Cristóbal Verapaz.


In Pre-Columbian times this area was part of the Maya civilization. When the Spanish Conquistadores came in the 1520s they conquered the central and southern highlands of Guatemala, but were driven back from this region by fierce native resistance. Unknown to the history books of this region, local oral history speaks of a former slave ship capsizing prior to the Spaniards arriving upon this area of Guatemala. The former African slaves moved inland, and joined forces with the local indigenous people to fight and maintain their freedom. Africans and Mayans were not conquered through the sword, but through cross. Spanish friars asked the natives for a chance to peacefully convert the land to Christianity which they succeeded in, giving the area the name "Verapaz" meaning "True Peace". In the 19th century this became an important coffee producing region as well as a sugar cane plantation during prior centuries. A museum exists today highlighting the sugar plantation history. In this region of Guatemala, families that trace back their heritage before the Spanish conquest, can trace back their Mayan features and curly hair to that local oral history. Majority of pre-Columbian heritage is seen with straight black hair throughout Guatemala.

The department was called Vera Paz by the British in the 19th century. As of 1850, the department had an estimated population of 66,000.[2]

As a result of the Mexican Drug War, the Los Zetas drug cartel members overtook much of the department and occupied many towns in December 2010. The Guatemalan government declared a state of siege on December 19 to reclaim the department, allowing the military and police forces to search and arrest any suspects without a warrant, and at least sixteen buildings were searched.[3][4]


  1. Chahal
  2. Chisec
  3. Cobán
  4. Fray Bartolomé de las Casas
  5. Lanquín
  6. Panzós
  7. Raxruha
  8. San Cristóbal Verapaz
  9. San Juan Chamelco
  10. San Pedro Carchá
  11. Santa Cruz Verapaz
  12. Santa María Cahabón
  13. Senahú
  14. Tactic
  15. Tamahú
  16. Tucurú
  17. Santa Catalina la Tinta


  1. "Caracterización departamental: Alta Verapaz 2013" (PDF). Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE). 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  2. Baily, John (1850). Central America; Describing Each of the States of Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. London: Trelawney Saunders. pp. 86–87.
  3. Wire Staff, the CNN (December 20, 2010). "Guatemalan government declares siege to fend off drug gang". Cable News Network. Archived from the original on November 9, 2012. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  4. AP, Google (December 19, 2010). "Guatemalan military seizes drug-plagued province". The Associated Press. Retrieved 20 December 2010.

External links

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