Guatemalan People
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Guatemalan People
Flag of Guatemala.svg
Total population
c. 18 million
Regions with significant populations
 Guatemala17,247,849 (2018 est)[1][2]
 United States1,416,175 (2016)a[3]
 Mexico35,225 - 50,000 b[4]
 Canada14,399 - 16,000[4]
 Honduras14,156 - 15,000[4]
 Belize9,377 - 10,000[4]
 El Salvador4,209[4]
Spanish, English, 24 indigenous linguistic groups of Amerindian languages

aGuatemalan American bGuatemalan Mexican

Guatemalans (Spanish: Guatemaltecos) are people identified with Guatemala, a multiethnic country in Central America. Guatemalans are mainly of Mestizos (mixed European and Amerindian heritage), indigenous people or Amerindians and descendants from European people. Guatemalans are also nicknamed chapines by other mainly Spanish-speaking countries of the Latin America.


Guatemala has a population of 15,824,463 (2014 est). In 1900, Guatemala had a population of 885,000.[6] Guatemala had the fastest population growth in the Western Hemisphere during 20th century. Approximately the half of the Guatemalan population live in poverty and 13.7% of them live in extreme poverty.

Guatemala is heavily centralized. Transportation, communications, business, politics, and the most relevant urban activity takes place in Guatemala City. Guatemala City has about 2 million inhabitants within the city limits and more than 5 million within the wider urban area. This is a significant percentage of the population (14 million).[7]

The estimated median age in Guatemala is 20 years old, 19.4 for males and 20.7 years for females.[7] This is the lowest median age of any country in the Western Hemisphere and comparable to most of central Africa and Iraq.

Ethnic groups

According to the Census of 2010 by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) about 41.0% of the population is Mestizo (called Ladino), Whites of European descent also called Criollo represent the 18.5% in their majority descendants of Spanish descent follow by the descendants of Germans, French, Italians, English, Swedish, Belgian, Swiss, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, Russian, Scottish, Irish, Welsh and the rest of Europe. And The Amerindian populations include the K'iche' 11.0%, Q'eqchi 8.3%, Kaqchikel 7.8%, Mam 5.2% and 7.6% of the population is "other Mayan", 0.4% is indigenous non-Mayan, making the indigenous community in Guatemala about 38.9% of the population.[8]

A language map of Guatemala. The "Castilian" areas represent Spanish.

There are smaller communities present, including about 110,000 Salvadorans. The Garífuna, who are descended primarily from Black Africans who lived with and intermarried with indigenous peoples from St. Vincent, live mainly in Livingston and Puerto Barrios. Those communities have other blacks and mulattos descended from banana workers. There are also Asians, mostly of Chinese descent. Other Asian groups include Arabs of Lebanese and Syrian descent. There is also a growing Korean community in Guatemala City and in nearby Mixco, currently numbering about 50,000.[9] Guatemala's German population is credited with bringing the tradition of a Christmas tree to the country.[10]

Mestizo Guatemalans

Guatemalan mestizos are people of mixed European and indigenous ancestry. The mestizo population in Guatemala is concentrated in urban areas of the country (the national capital and departmental capitals).[11]

Historically the mestizo population in the Kingdom of Guatemala at the time of Independence amounted to nearly 600,000 Indians, 300,000 castes (mostly mestizos and a lesser number of mulattos), and 45,000 criollos or Spanish, with a very small number of Spaniards.[12]

Indigenous people

The Amerindian populations in Guatemala include the K'iche' 9.1%, Kaqchikel 8.4%, Mam 7.9% and Q'eqchi 6.3%. 8.6% of the population is "other Mayan," 0.4% is indigenous non-Mayan, making the indigenous community in Guatemala about 38.9% of the population.[13]

White Guatemalans

According to the 2010 census, The White population of European descent also called Criollo represent the 18.5% in their majority descendants of Germans follow by the descendants of Spaniards, French, Italians, English, Swedish, Belgian, Swiss, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, Russian, Scottish, Irish, Welsh and the rest of Europe.


Spanish is the official language. As a first and second language, Spanish is spoken by 93% of the population.

Twenty-one Mayan languages are spoken, especially in rural areas, as well as two non-Mayan Amerindian languages, Xinca, an indigenous language, and Garifuna, an Arawakan language spoken on the Caribbean coast. According to the Language Law of 2003, the languages of Mayas, Xincas, and Garifunas are unrecognized as National Languages.[14]

The peace accords signed in December 1996 provide for the translation of some official documents and voting materials into several indigenous languages (see summary of main substantive accords) and mandate the provision of interpreters in legal cases for non-Spanish speakers. The accord also sanctioned bilingual education in Spanish and indigenous languages. It is common for indigenous Guatemalans to learn or speak between two and five of the nation's other languages, and Spanish.

Largest cities


Indigenous Mayan Women at Chichicastenango Market

The Civil War forced many Guatemalans to start lives outside of their country. The majority of the Guatemalan diaspora is located in the United States of America, with estimates ranging from 480,665[15] to 1,489,426.[16] The difficulty in getting accurate counts for Guatemalans abroad is because many of them are refugee claimants awaiting determination of their status.[17] Emigration to the United States of America has led to the growth of Guatemalan communities in California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Texas, Rhode Island and elsewhere since the 1970s.[18]

Below are estimates for certain countries:

Country Count
United States United States 480,665[15] - 1,489,426[16]
Mexico Mexico 23,529[16] - 190,000
Canada Canada 14,253[16] - 34,665[19]
Belize Belize 10,693[16]
Germany Germany 5,989[16]
Honduras Honduras 5,172[16]
El Salvador El Salvador 4,209[16]
Spain Spain 2,491[16] - 5,000[20]


During the colonial era Guatemala received immigrants (settlers) only from Spain. Subsequently, Guatemala received waves of immigration from Europe in the mid 19th century and early 20th century.[clarification needed] Primarily from Germany, these immigrants installed coffee and cardamom fincas in Alta Verapaz, Zacapa, Quetzaltenango, Baja Verapaz and Izabal. To a lesser extent people also arrived from Spain, France, Belgium, England, Italy, Sweden, etc.

Many Europeans who emigrated to Guatemala were politicians, refugees, families, entrepreneurs and mainly settlers, Guatemala had long been the Central American country that received the most immigrants, behind Costa Rica for 1950, that does not mean that the country no longer receive large numbers of immigrants.[clarification needed]

From the 1890s there have been small communities of Asians (in particular from Korea, China, Japan, Singapore and the Philippines) but in recent decades this has been growing. Also beginning with the First World War, the immigrant population is being strengthened by Jewish and Pakistani immigration.

During the second half of the twentieth century, Latin American immigration grew strong in Guatemala, particularly from other Central American countries, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, etc. Although the majority of them resided only temporarily to go to their final destination, which was the United States.

Place Country Count year
1  El Salvador 12,484[21] - 50,000[22] 2002-2013
2  Mexico 11,484[21] 2002
3  Germany 10,000[23] 2010
4  Spain 9,311[24] 2014
5  Nicaragua 5,604[21] 2002
6  Honduras 5,491[21] 2002
7  United States 5,417[21] 2002
8  South Korea 5,000[25] 2013
9  Italy 1,800[26] 2007
10  Belize 950[21] 2002
11  Costa Rica 906[27] 2012
12  Israel 900[28] 2012
13  France 824[29] 2014
14  Colombia 757[21] 2002
15  Chile 273[30] 2005
Other Countries 9.489[21] 2002

* Including immigrants from Taiwan, China, Japan, Palestine, Iraq, Cuba, Venezuela, Canada, Brazil, Switzerland, Russia, United Kingdom, Belgium, Sweden, among other countries.

Guatemalan culture


The Guatemalan cuisine reflects the multicultural nature of Guatemala, in that it involves food that differs in taste depending on the region. Guatemala has 22 departments of (or divisions), each of which has very different food varieties. For example, Antigua Guatemala is well known for its candy which makes use of many local ingredients fruits, seeds and nuts along with honey, condensed milk and other traditional sweeteners. Antigua's candy is very popular when tourists visit the country for the first time, and is a great choice in the search for new and interesting flavors.

Many traditional foods are based on Maya cuisine and prominently feature corn, chilis and beans as key ingredients. Various dishes may have the same name as dishes from a neighboring country, but may in fact be quite different for example the enchilada or quesadilla, which are nothing like their Mexican counterparts.

Chiltepe, a common pepper used on some Guatemalan dishes

There are also foods that it is traditional to eat on certain days of the week - for example, by tradition it is known that on Thursday, the typical food is "paches", which is like a tamale made with a base of potato, and on Sundays it is traditional to eat tamales, due to the fact that Sundays are considered holidays. Certain dishes are also associated with special occasions, such as fiambre for All Saints Day on November 1 and tamales, which are common Christmas.

There are reportedly hundreds of varieties of tamales throughout Guatemala. They key variations are what is in the masa or dough (corn, potatoes, rice), what's in the filling (meat, fruits, nuts), and what is it wrapped with (leaves, husks). The masa is made out of corn that is not sweet, such as what is known as feed corn in the U.S.A. In Guatemala, this non-sweet corn is called maize and the corn that Americans from the USA are used to eating on the cob, sweet corn, they call elote. Tamales in Guatemala are more typically wrapped in plantain or banana leaves and mashan leaves than corn husks.

The ancient Mayan civilization lasted for about six hundred years before collapsing around 900 A.D. Today, almost half of the Guatemalan population is still Mayan. These natives live throughout the country and grow maize as their staple crop. In addition, the ancient Maya ate amaranth, a breakfast cereal similar to modern day cereals.

Chipilín Tamal, a common dish usually eaten at dinner


Guatemala's national instrument is the marimba, an idiophone from the family of the xylophones, which is played all over the country, even in the remotest corners. Towns also have wind and percussion bands that play during the Lent and Easter-week processions, as well as on other occasions. The Garifuna people of Afro-Caribbean descent, who are spread thinly on the northeastern Caribbean coast, have their own distinct varieties of popular and folk music. Cumbia, from the Colombian variety, is also very popular, especially among the lower classes.


The Guatemala National Prize in Literature is a one-time only award that recognizes an individual writer's body of work. It has been given annually since 1988 by the Ministry of Culture and Sports.

Miguel Ángel Asturias won the literature Nobel Prize in 1967. Among his famous books is El Señor Presidente, a novel based on the government of Manuel Estrada Cabrera.

Rigoberta Menchú, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting oppression of indigenous people in Guatemala, is famous for her books I, Rigoberta Menchú and Crossing Borders.


Religion in Guatemala (2008)[31]

  Roman Catholicism (47.6%)
  Atheist, None or Agnostic (18.3%)
  Other Beliefs (2.4%)

Historically, Catholicism was introduced by the Spanish and was the official religion during the colonial era. However, the practice of Protestantism has increased markedly in recent decades, with nearly one third of Guatemalans identifying themselves as Protestants, chiefly Evangelicals and Pentecostals. Growth is particularly strong among the ethnic Mayan population, with National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala being an important denomination, maintaining 11 indigenous-language Presbyteries.

Traditional Mayan religion persists through the process of inculturation, whereby certain practices are incorporated into Catholic ceremonies and worship when they are sympathetic to the meaning of Catholic belief.[32][33] Indigenous religious practices are increasing as a result of the cultural protections established under the peace accords. The government has instituted a policy of providing altars at every Mayan ruin found in the country, so traditional ceremonies may be performed there.

See also


  1. ^ ""World Population prospects - Population division"". United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. Retrieved 2019.
  2. ^ ""Overall total population" - World Population Prospects: The 2019 Revision" (xslx). (custom data acquired via website). United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. Retrieved 2019.
  3. ^ US Census Bureau 2016 American Community Survey B03001 1-Year Estimates HISPANIC OR LATINO ORIGIN BY SPECIFIC ORIGIN retrieved September 14, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Investigación de la Migración Internacional en Latinoamérica (IMILA)". Retrieved .
  5. ^ "Statische Bundesamt Deutschland". Archived from the original on 2010-11-16. Retrieved .
  6. ^ "Population Statistics". Retrieved 2010.
  7. ^ a b "CIA World Factbook, Guatemala". July 2011. Retrieved 2011.
  8. ^ National population of the National Institute of Statistics (INE). demographic info 2010.
  9. ^ Luisa Rodríguez "Guatemala como residencia". Archived from the original on March 30, 2009. Retrieved 2016. 29 August 2004
  10. ^ History of the Christmas Tree Archived May 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Guatemala - Central America: guatemala history, guatemala population, culture dominant, guatemala republic, independence spain". Retrieved .
  13. ^ "Belize" (PDF). 2010 Belize Housing and Population Census. Statistical Institute of Belize. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 August 2011. Retrieved 2012.
  14. ^ "Ley de Idiomas Nacionales, Decreto Número 19-2003" (PDF) (in Spanish). El Congreso de la República de Guatemala. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 2007.
  15. ^ a b The 2000 U.S. Census recorded 480,665 Guatemalan-born respondents; see Smith (2006)
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i Smith, James (April 2006). "DRC Migration, Globalisation and Poverty". Retrieved .
  17. ^ "Guatemalans". November 2009. Archived from the original on 2008-04-20.
  18. ^ "Migration Information Statistics". Retrieved 2010.
  19. ^ "Guatemala" (PDF). Retrieved 2010.
  20. ^ "Embajada de Guatemala en España". Retrieved 2010.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h (in Spanish) Perfil Migratorio de Guatemala Archived 2016-03-05 at the Wayback Machine Organización Internacional para las Migraciones (OIM) (2012)
  22. ^ (in Spanish) Inmigrantes Ingreso masivo de salvadoreños en Fiestas Agostinas Archived 2015-09-29 at the Wayback Machine Directorio General de Migración.
  23. ^ "Deutsche Botschaft Guatemala - Startseite".
  24. ^ "Embassy of Spain in Guatemala City, Guatemala profile. Guatemala" (PDF). (in Spanish). Retrieved 2015.
  25. ^ "Prosperan colonias extranjeras en el país". Retrieved 2017.
  26. ^ "Italian Embassy in Guatemala City, Guatemala". Retrieved .
  27. ^ El perfil de la población de origen costarricense en los Estados Unidos
  28. ^ Jewish Virtual Library Jacqueline Shields The virtual Jewish World--Guatemala Archived Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  29. ^ (in French) La communauté française inscrite au registre des Français établis hors de France Archived 2015-07-03 at the Wayback Machine Ministère français des Affaires étrangères
  30. ^ Chilenos en el Exterior - Comisión Bicentenario (26 December 2005). "Más de 857 mil personas residen fuera de las fronteras de nuestro país" (ASP). Retrieved 2008.
  31. ^ The Latin American Socio-Religious Studies Program / Programa Latinoamericano de Estudios Sociorreligiosos (PROLADES) PROLADES Religion in America by country
  32. ^ From Guatemala: the focolare, a school of inculturation. Focolare. July 28, 2011. Retrieved on 2012-01-02.
  33. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-06-18. Retrieved .CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

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