A large area in Guatemala's northern part, 60% of the population are under 30, and many families have at least 5 children. It is a rural zone, with two cities close to the Vicariates' centre at San Benito (60,000) recording high rates of violence (56 deaths for every 100,000 persons). Drug gangs and drug-trafficking are amongst the greatest challenges to social life.
Most of the population are Que’qchi.
It is an agricultural area – plains, little industry, large population growth, covers one third of the nation's territory, young tropical forests, a national park, El Mirador, Tikal – World cultural heritage protected by UNESCO.
The Vicariate came into existence in 1985, separating from the diocese of Alta Verapaz, where Salesians were already working at Carcha. This means Salesians were already known before the Vicariate was entrusted per ius commissionis to the Congregation in 1995. Cf. Letter of Fr Juan E. Vecchi to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, Cardinal Jozef Tomko.
The fourth Vicar Apostolic (and second Salesian bishop) Bishop Mario Fiandri was appointed in 2009, and until now is the sole Salesian in the Vicariate, 7 hours away by car from Carcha and 1 hour by plane from Guatemala City. Clergy in the Vicariate – 17 priests: 4 of the Vicariate itself (one of them young), religious priests or priests belonging to societies of apostolic life (missionary institutes – Maryknoll, OSCA Spain etc), each with a parish. There are some 600 Christian communities throughout the Vicariate. There is no specific work for youth until now, and they lack the opportunity for cultural or sporting activity due to the high levels of violence. The Dominican Sisters look after children and neglected girls in San Benito.
From 2006 two parishes now have Salesian Family communities – Hermanas de la Resurreccion, the local Que’qchi Sisters.
The Vicariate contains the most important cultural heritage sites in the nation, sites of Mayan culture (3-9 century AD) El Tikal, El Mirador and many other ancient remains.