Who Are The K'iche People?

A woman performs a traditional Mayan ceremony in Guatemala. Editorial credit: Peek Creative Collective / Shutterstock.com.
A woman performs a traditional Mayan ceremony in Guatemala. Editorial credit: Peek Creative Collective / Shutterstock.com.

One in nine Guatemalans belongs to the K'iche subgroup of the Mayan people. The word K'iche means “many trees.” There are about 14,636,487 K'iche people spread across Central and South America. The Guatemalan population is found mainly in the central highlands in El Quiche (622,163), Totonicapan (453,237), Quetzaltenango (205,228), and Sololá (151,992). There is also a K'iche population in the United States and Canada. 

2. Kiche History

In the almost three millenniums from 2,500 BC to 800 AD, the Mayan peoples developed into a powerful nation. The Mayan Empire encompassed the Yucatan Peninsula and at its height of power included Guatemala, Central Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Belize. However, in 800 AD, their empire started to decline. The Spaniards reached Guatemala at about the same time and defeated the Kiche people with the help of the Kacqchiquel. an adjoining rival kingdom. Unfortunately, they were also conquered after they rebelled against the Spanish conquistadors. Although Veracruz Maya people were converted to Christianity without bloodshed. Modern times brought more sufferings to the Kiche and other Maya indigenous peoples in Guatemala. The years 1944 to 1951 were years of leftist rule while from 1954 onwards, Guatemala was ruled by American-backed regimes. Civil unrest started in 1960 to 1996 as a result of these regimes.

1. Arts, Culture, and Cuisine

The K'iche people were and are still a religious people who allowed their native animism religion and Christianity to meld into their lives. These mixture of folklore, animism beliefs, and Christian beliefs resulted in a strange way of worship that remains today. The K'iche also believe in traditional medicine. The K'iche, as a Mayan people, have similar but distinct cuisine form each other. There are sweets made out of fruits, nuts, and seeds sweetened with honey. Some familiar food names like enchilada and quesadilla are totally different from their Mexican version. Maize (corn) is their main staple dish, alongside another cereal called amaranth. Daily life was punctuated with xylophone marimba musical instruments. The daily wear of the K'iche is made out of colorful yarn weavings that are each identified with a village, making it easy to tell where the wearer hails from.


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