The Maya civilization was one of the grandest in the history of the world and the reason for its collapse is still shrouded in mystery. The ancient Maya occupied a vast geographic area in Central and South America from around 2000 BC until 1500 AD. The Mayan culture extended to parts of what is now Mexico, Honduras, and El Salvador, and most of Guatemala and Belize. During the Classical Period which lasted from the third to the ninth century, Maya civilization built awe-inspiring temples, pyramids and cities and formed a complex social and political order. Many of the remnants in Tikal reveal the culture of this ancient civilization. The Mayan culture excelled in many different fields, and testaments of their achievements are found throughout the area.
Today descendents of the old Maya, or the Indigenous as the are locally referred to, account for more than 50% of the Guatemalan population. Their present culture is vibrant and thriving, best shown by the many traditionally dressed woman and children seen along the streets in the entire country. Weaving is one of the outstanding Maya craft, an ancient art that has survived uninterrupted for centuries and is now becoming famous all over the world. The Maya also make baskets, pottery and wood carved of animals, saints and brightly-painted toys and chests. Chichicastenango hosts the traditional handicrafts market every Thursday and Sunday and a more typical Mayan market can be experienced every Saturday in Solola on the way to Lake Atitlan.
The First Hemispheric Indigenous Education Conference was held in Guatemala in July 2001. The conference brought together various aspects of education for indigenous communities of America and facilitated participant’s exchange of experiences, practical knowledge, and educational materials that are relevant to the development of bilingual, intercultural education in their respective countries