Indigenous in Guatemala

Though I’ve given this blog the basic principle to not be political, sometimes it’s hard to separate culture and politics. It will be like this in today’s topic, the situation of Indigenous in Guatemala and how it developed in the past years. Guatemala is homeplace of many wonderful sites: Tikal, Lake Atitlán. It is also the land, that Pedro de Alvarado conquered, who was object of the second post of this blog.

The flag of Guatemala
(note the Quetzal bird)

You would think, that the situation of Indigenous people should have substantially improved over the last ten years. After all, president Álvaro Colom told the people on the occasion of his inauguration, that he would reign with a “Maya face” and improve the situation of all Indigenous citizens in Guatemala. That was in September 2007, three years ago, and not much has changed for them. As a new government report states, the rates of poverty only increased marginally from 56.2 to 51% in the last ten years. The ones that are most affected by that situation are the Indigenous people: around 80% of them are affected, but only around 40% of the “white” people. The malnutrition of children is almost double as high in Indigenous communities (58.6%) than in “white” areas (30.6%).

The reasons for that are complex and multifaceted. One of the main points is education: only 13.2% of all students with secondary education are Indigenous. Overmore the Indigenous communities often live in areas that are rich with resources and raw materials. As of now, the interests of mining corporations often seemed more important than the conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) of the UN, which Guatemala wanted to proceed.

According to official numbers, roughly 40% of the citizens of Guatemala are Indigenous, 40% Mestizos, 16% White. The biggest ethnic Maya groups are K’iche’, Kaqchikel, Mam and Q’eqchi. But in the north you can even find the Itza language spoken; that’s the same Itza as in Chichen Itza. Additionally to the enonomical problems, the Indigenous around the Lake Atitlán also feel the effects of environmental pollution. But this is another story for another post.

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