Race and Ethnicity: Essays in Comparative Sociology

By Pierre L. Van den Berghe | Go to book overview

8
Ethnic Membership and
Cultural Change
in Guatemala

Guatemala, a country of 4.2 million ( 1964 census), is one of the least westernized countries of the hemisphere. Its population is divided into a dominant group of Spanish-speaking Ladinos (who constituted 56.7 per cent of the total in 1964) and various subordinate Indian groups speaking related Maya languages. Four of these, Quiché, Mam, Cakchiquel, and Quecchi, include over 100,000 people each. The Indian population is heavily concentrated in the western and central highlands of the country, where the elevation is highest and the soil among the poorest and most difficult to cultivate. The coastal zones, the Petén, and the east, including the capital city, are predominantly Ladino.

Ethnic relations in Guatemala have been the object of considerable study, mostly by North American anthropologists. 1 Most studies have been of small local communities, and few attempts have been made to incorporate ethnic relations in the study of the whole of Guatemala as a complex plural society. Within the relatively small area of Guatemala, local ethnic situations vary greatly in such factors as demographic ratios, local dominance

____________________
Reprinted from Social Forces 46, no. 4 ( June 1968): 514-522.

-137-

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