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    Cuba: Sandy beach. Go Now!

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    Many people fear the unknowns of Cuba, but the history, culture, food, and impressive beaches lure many visitors every year. Explore Cuba!

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Culture & Identity of Guatemala

Introduction

Guatemalan Culture - Good Friday
Good Friday

The people of Guatemala are quite diverse as the country is home to a large number of Native American Indians. However, there are also numerous people with mixed ancestry and some who are fully European. For many of these people, the way of life reflects their ethnicity, but also their location.

Guatemala is evenly divided with about half the population living in urban areas and about half in rural areas. For many of the people in more rural areas farming is their occupation. For many of these people life revolves around the sun, the weather, and the seasons. However, many of these people are also Native American Indians, which further contributes to their way of life and culture.

The lifestyle in the cities can be quite different. Most people have jobs in the services sector and urban life permeates the culture. For many people public transportation is their means of getting around, shops are closer, and more items are accessible. Among people with higher wages, most also live in the cities, meaning there are a great number of amenities in the cities available.

For most children school is an important part of life as most kids go to school starting at age six. Like many jobs, the day runs from about 8:00 am to about 1:00 pm, at which time children often go home for lunch and their school day is over (sadly most working adults return to work). For many children, the afternoon is spent with friends playing soccer (football), basketball, or another game, sport, or activity.

Once finished with elementary school most children have to commute to a larger town or city to attend high school. Many children, especially kids in urban areas, go to high school, but for others the working world is waiting. In fact, for many children in rural areas schools can be a great distance and help is greatly needed on the farm so kids often times move straight from elementary school to the work life.

A final element that greatly contributes to the way of life in Guatemala is religion. Most of the people are Catholic and this faith often makes up a significant part of the people's lives. Many people attend church each Sunday and this often leads to community gatherings and socialization. For some it may also contribute to socially acceptable behaviors, altering the entertainment scene in the country, which is already muted outside some cities.

Identity

The Guatemalans tend to identify as either Guatemalan (also referred to as "Chapines") or by their indigenous ethnicity, such as Mayan, but both identities are closely linked to the pre-Colombian people of the region. For the people who prefer to identify with Native American groups, they generally identify with their language, not their ethnicity, although all the people are closely related and all share a similar history. Those who identify as Guatemalans, or Chapines, also hold a close connection to their indigenous roots, but being "too" Native American can be viewed negatively as many of these people refer to themselves a "Ladinos," a reference to their Spanish ancestry. A final group of people, the Garifunas, are generally identified by their ancestry, which is a mix of African and American ethnicity.

Many people also cling to a second identity of being "Hispanic" or "Latin American," as already mentioned. People who identify as Hispanic (in the Americas) are generally a mix of Spanish and Native American ancestry who speak Spanish. It is this ethnic and linguistic link that is the true definition of the term, although today the foods, music, religion, and dress of the people are also closely associated with the term. Although the word "Hispanic" can refer to anyone with a historic tie to Spain or Portugal, in the Americas it tends to be an inclusive identity only referring to Spanish-speaking people from the Americas. Latin American is more inclusive as it refers to anyone from Latin America, no matter a person's ethnicity or linguistic affiliation.

This page was last updated: December, 2013