Guatemala's Maya community
The majority of indigenous peoples in Guatemala are of Mayan descent. The Maya are essentially a regional group. In all an estimated 5 million Mayans live in the different Central American countries,
The Mayans of Guatemala are the only indigenous culture that constitutes a majority of the population in a Central American republic. There are 21 different Maya groups in Guatemala making up an estimated 51 per cent of the national population.
Maya are dispersed throughout Guatemala especially in the western highlands. The largest populations are in rural departments north and west of Guatemala City, most notably, Alta Verapaz, Sololá, Totonicapán and Quiché. Maya are also located on farms in Guatemala's southern area known as Boca Costa.
Mayan groups are distinguished by language. The most common of the approximately 26 indigenous Mayan languages that are still spoken are Q'eqchi, Cakchiquel, Mam (Maya), Tzutujil, Achi and Pokoman.
Economic and political power has been in the hands of ladinos since the dispossession of the indigenous population by Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century. Ever since then, the Maya have suffered a history of discrimination, marginalization and periodic genocide.
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