Modern day Guatemala is a full spectrum of cultures, running the gamut from
fully westernized (a large minority, about 40%), a blending of cultures
(the majority), and a totally Mayan lifestyle (about 10%), with minimal
western influence (mostly a blend of Catholic religious influence with traditional
The "thinker" man from Chichicastenango
Modern day Mayas
There are presently about six million Mayas. They live in Mexico, Belize,
Honduras, but the majority are in Guatemala. Some of the larger groups of
Mayas in Guatemala are: Cachikel, Mam, Quiche, Kekchi, Kanjobal, Pokomochi,
Pokomam and Chorti. And there are groups that are small and isolated like
the Itza (in 1986 there were only 12 that could speak the language), from
the Lake Peten area.
Throughout the Mayan area there are about thirty different groups that speak
sixty languages or dialects, there are approximately twenty-six distinct
The Mayans are the largest single indigenous group in Latin America. And
they have strong cultural roots extending back two thousand years.
Present day Guatemalan Mayas still preserve much of their culture and religion.
There is a mixture of Mayan and Western European traditions. This aspect
is most obvious in religious practices. In the Catholic church in Chichicastenango
you see Catholic Mayas performing the same ceremony that the Mayan priest
or "Shaman" does on the nearby hill in front of a Mayan "idol".
The shamans are also the "Keepers of the Days" which is part of
the Mayan calendric rituals.
Mayans have long been farmers and traders, and this is still true today.
Most farming is subsistence agriculture and the main crops are beans and
corn, planted in rotation. The fields are cleared by slashing and burning,
the same as it was done by the early Mayans two thousand years ago. Nowadays
some Mayans are turning to non-traditional crops for export.
Santiago woman with child, the hat is
made of a narrow ribbon that is wrapped around itself.
Population: 10,998,602 (July 1995 est.)
0-14 years: 43% (female 2,324,041; male 2,424,686)
15-64 years: 53% (female 2,939,170; male 2,934,334)
65 years and over: 4% (female 198,807; male 177,564) (July 1995 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.53% (1995 est.)
Birth rate: 34.65 births/1,000 population (1995 est.)
Death rate: 7.33 deaths/1,000 population (1995 est.)
Net migration rate: -2.04 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1995 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 52.2 deaths/1,000 live births (1995 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 64.85 years
male: 62.27 years
female: 67.56 years (1995 est.)
Total fertility rate: 4.63 children born/woman (1995 est.)
Ethnic divisions: Mestizo - mixed Amerindian-Spanish ancestry (in
local Spanish called Ladino) 56%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian
Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, traditional Mayan
Languages: Spanish 60%, Indian language 40% (23 Indian dialects,
including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi)
Literacy: age 15 and over can read and write (1990 est.)
total population: 55%
Labor force: 3.2 million (1994 est.)
by occupation: agriculture 60%, services 13%, manufacturing 12%,
commerce 7%, construction 4%, transport 3%, utilities 0.7%, mining 0.3%
From the CIA World Factbook
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