Last summer I traveled to Guatemala and I did not know that I would fall in love with the country and its diverse cultures. Guatemala or “Guate” as they call it is a small country in Latin America between Mexico, Honduras, Salvador, and Belize. I was petty impressed by the wildlife of the country. But even more, impressed by the diverse communities in the country.
According to the World Population Prospects, the total population estimate was 16,582,469 in 2016. Guatemala City, the largest city in Central America, is home to over 3 million inhabitants.
Approximately 39.8% of the population is indigenous and consist of 32 Maya groups and one non-Maya group. These are divided as follows: (K’iche 9.1%, 8.4% Kaqchikel, Mam 7.9%, 6.3% Q’eqchi’, other Maya peoples 8.6%, 0.2% indigenous non-Maya). They live all over the country.
In Guatemala city, I had the chance to meet with locals and get a traditional Nebaj Quiché dress from the market for my 30th birthday. During my trip, I also had the opportunity to talk and visit the Academy of Mayan Languages.
Here the full video: LaPolyglotte at La academia de las lenguas Mayas
Afro-Latino in Guatemala: The Garifuna
The Garifuna are mixed-race descendants of West African, Central African, Island Carib, European, and Arawak people They arrived there after being exiled from the islands of the Lesser Antilles by British colonial administration as Black Caribs after a series of slave revolts. Those Caribs deemed to have had less African admixture was not exiled, and are still living in the islands. Most of them live in the west coast of the country with a high concentration in Livingston. When I was in Livingston the city really remind me Kingston in Jamaica.
The Garifuna language
The Garifuna language is a Carib language spoken in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, and Nicaragua by the Garifuna people. It is an Arawakan language with French, English, and Spanish influences, reflecting their long interaction with various colonial peoples. Garifuna has a vocabulary featuring some terms used by women and others used primarily by men. This may derive from historical Carib practices: in the colonial era, the Carib of both sexes spoke Island Carib. Men additionally used a distinct pidgin based on the unrelated mainland Carib language.
Almost all Garifuna people that I met in Livingston are bilingual or multilingual. They generally speak the official languages of the countries they inhabit, such as Spanish and English, most commonly as a first language. Many also speak Garifuna, mostly as a cultural language, as a part of their families heritage.
Basic sentences you should know when you go to Livingstone
Hello!- Buiti binafi
How are you?- Ida biña?
Do you speak English ? – Ariengatibu Ingles?
There is a wide variety of Garifuna dishes, including the more commonly known ereba (cassava bread) made from grated cassava root, yucca. The process of making “ereba” is arguably the most important tradition practiced by the Garifuna people. Cassava is so closely tied to the Garifuna culture that the very name Garifuna draws its origin from the Caribs who were originally called “Karifuna” of the cassava clan.
With African traditional roots, there is a lot of similitude between Garifuna culture and West African culture using drums.
I had an amazing experience in Guatemala. I strongly advice you to put Guate in your bucket list 🙂