Guatemala is a multi-ethnic and multilingual country, the country is divided into four ‘Culture Groups’ with 25 ‘ethnic groups’, the four culture groups are the Mayan, Ladina, Xinca (Xinka) and Garífuna.
To understand the definition of ‘Ethnic’, this word defines a group of people with different characteristics or features, such as arts, habits or customs, language, clothing, activities and even religion. In Guatemala, although many ethnic groups share historical events, they have managed to preserve their identity over time. They are also called 'indigenous people'.
The mayan culture is the oldest of the cultures groups, it has over 5,000 years of existence. Its territory is mainly located in the north and west of the country, occupying more than 300 thousand square kilometers of land.
So, technically, Guatemala has 4 ‘Cultural Groups’, divided in 25 ‘Ethnic Groups’, 22 of these belong to the Mayan Culture, each one with its own language or mayan tongue, therefore Guatemala is considered one of the most multicultural territories in Latin America.
Cultural Group ‘Mayan’
Just it was mentioned before, this culture is the oldest one of them all, with over 5 thousand years of history (recent discoveries suggest that it could be even more). This culture’s activities are in the agriculture and folkloric art, which includes the famous handwoven ‘typical textiles’ using back-strap looms.
Their costumes vary a lot depending on the ethnic groups and regions of the country. Nowadays, women use Güipiles and skirts called ‘corte’. Each costume has a spiritual symbolism, however, it is something that has been lost over time. Indigenous women have assumed the responsibility of preserving the typical costumes that please the aesthetic and spiritual tradition that distinguishes this culture.
Other customs of this culture include typical dances and public rituals of Mayan origin.
Cultural Group ‘Ladino’
This culture is divided in two groups, White and Mestizo. The term ‘Ladino’ comes from the old Spanish Post-Colonial times. Mestizo : This culture is born from the miscegenation of European Spaniards and indigenous people. White : White Ladinos comes from the miscegenation of European and Mestizo people.
This culture is located in the center of the country, mostly in Guatemala City. Ladino people use Spanish as their only language, although, it has some elements of the indigenous culture in it.
Cultural Group ‘Xincas’
This culture belongs to three specific areas of the country, these are : Jalapa, Santa Rosa and Jutiapa. This culture has its own language. This culture is known to have its own architectural models that differ from other cultures.
One of the traditional customs of this culture is to get up early at 4 in the morning to stop working at 5 in the afternoon. Xinca language has shrunk considerably in recent times, but the heirs of this culture are making efforts to recover it.
Cultural Group ‘Garífuna’
This is an ethnic cultural group descended from Africa and multiple regions of the Caribbean and Central America. The name Garifuna is given to the individual of this culture, and also to their own language, they are also known as Garinagu (in reference to a group of people). Its population today is not very large.
They do not have a textile tradition as other cultures do in Guatemala due to European and Spanish influences in their early history, however this culture has adapted styles of patterns and cuts designs for women, complemented by scarves to cover their heads.