Mayan Culture in Guatemala

Local Culture Ancient Civilization Pre-hispanic History Traditions Cultural Heritage

Guatemalan Culture

Guatemala is a country rich in culture influenced by the Maya. This ancient civilization inhabited the Americas around 5,000 years ago! Together with them, several pre-hispanic cultural groups developed themselves in the region known as Mesoamerica. Even though the population number is uncertain, it is known that the Maya was one of the densest civilizations in human history. They covered a vast region including Southeast Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and a small portion of Western Honduras and El Salvador. Today, ancient ruins, different beliefs, several languages and a unique folklore define the importance of Guatemala's cultural heritage.

The roots left by the Maya mark an extraordinary way of living in Guatemala - Hardworking people, distinctive physical traits, languages non-derivative from Spanish and different religious practices make Guatemalans stand out from other Central American countries.

As in all countries of the continent, Guatemala is under a notable foreign influence. Back in 1524 the country was colonized by the Spanish. At that time, most of the big Mayan cities were already abandoned and the remaining groups were forced to create an alliance with the Conquistadores. The Mayas, unlike the Aztecas (Mexico) or Incas (Peru) were a society firmly divided. They all shared similar ideologies and traditions but were never united as a single empire. This represented a big controversy during the colonization in Guatemala. After several disputes and battles, they settled and the cultures began to merge. Nowadays, Guatemalan culture is an interesting fusion of ethnic groups, different beliefs and combined traditions.

Vivid evidence of the cultural blend in Guatemala can be appreciated in its gastronomy –influenced by different ingredients, the local traditional dishes are mildly spicy and most of the time accompanied by a maize-based side dish. Even though several agricultural products were newly introduced, Maize (corn) prevails as a sacred ingredient for locals.

Guatemala Culture is also a representation of lively syncretism – the fusion of Mayan Spirituality, Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity. Today, almost 60% of the population claims to be catholic, whereas their beliefs and traditions are strongly attached to the pre-hispanic life perspective.

Apart from exotic cuisine and the remarkable Syncretism the country preserves, the local handcrafts are also an important part of Guatemalan culture and traditions. Weaving is an ancient practice that has uninterruptedly survived for centuries. Many women around the Highland region of Guatemala still weave their traditional costumes. Colorful patterns are a vivid representations of the heritage that had been passed from one generation to the other.

Known as the Heart of the Mayan World, Guatemala treasures a unique heritage; traditions are strongly connected with the Maya ancestors and mysticism is widespread throughout the country. Visiting Guatemala is a journey back in time and it never fails to impress visitors!