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People, Languages & Religions in Guatemala
 
 
 

People

Guatemala has a larger proportion of Amerindians in its total population than any other country in Central America. In 2002 this figure was estimated at 43%. About one-half of this number were members of various communities descended from the Maya-Quiché ethno-linguistic group. People of mixed Amerindian and Spanish ancestry, called mestizos, constituted about 55% of the national total. Amerindians who have become assimilated and no longer adhere to a traditional Amerindian life-style are also called ladinos, but this term is sometimes used to refer to mestizos. Blacks and mulattos inhabit the Caribbean lowlands. The white population is estimated at less than 2% of the total.

There are also Arabs of Lebanese and Syrian descent, and Asians, mostly of Chinese descent, and a growing Korean community in Guatemala City and in nearby Mixco. Guatemala's German population is credited with bringing the tradition of a Christmas tree to the country.

Languages

Although Spanish is the official language, it is not universally spoken among the indigenous population, nor is it often spoken as a second language. 21 distinct Mayan languages are spoken, especially in rural areas, as well as several non-Mayan Amerindian languages, such as the indigenous Xinca, and Garifuna, an Arawakan language spoken on the Caribbean coast.

The Peace Accords signed in December 1996 provide for the translation of some official documents and voting materials into several indigenous languages 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 to five of the nation's other languages, including Spanish.

Religions

Catholicism was the only official religion during the colonial era and around 50-60% of the population today are Catholics. However, Protestantism has increased markedly in recent decades. More than one third of Guatemalans are Protestant, chiefly Evangelicals and Pentecostals. Protestantism and traditional Mayan religions are practised by an estimated 40% and 1% of the population, respectively. It is common for traditional Mayan practices to be incorporated into Christian ceremonies and worship, a phenomenon known as syncretism. The practice of traditional Mayan religion is 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 that traditional ceremonies may be performed there.

There are also small communities of Jews estimated between 1,200 and 2,000, Muslims (1,200), Buddhists at around 9,000 to 12,000, and members of other faiths and those who do not profess any faith. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints claims over 205,000 members in Guatemala.

 

 
 

 



 


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