The culture of Guatemala, like most of Latin America, is a blend of indigenous, Spanish, and African influences. In fact, the name Guatemala is said to derive from an Indian phrase meaning “land of trees.” According to the Minority Rights Group, the Mayan communities make up an estimated 51 per cent of the national population, with at least 21 Mayan languages spoken/communities in the country. Although a brutal civil war (the longest in Central American history), lasting 36 years (1960-1996), killed over 200,000 people, in what is known as the Guatemalan genocide, Mayan genocide, and/or Silent Holocaust), the indigenous people of this Central American country have perservered. Here, we take a look at seven Guatemalan indigenous cultures that play a part in defining the country.
The Achi’ people, with an estimated population of 105,922, come from the Baja Verapaz department of Guatemala. Every January 25, they perform the Maya dance-drama Rabinal Achi‘, which dates back to the 15th century. It tells the tale about the conflict between princes Rabinal Achi’ and the K’iche Achi’.