Saturday, October 22, 2011

Talking race (2): If you're new to this blog or to Guatemala

Just a quick glossary of racial/ethnic terms.
Maya:  The majority of Guatemala's population are Maya. There are 22 Maya linguistic communities (this is the figure used by the Academy of Maya Languages of Guatemala, although in everyday conversation one often hears 21 or 23). Until the 1970s people did not use the term "Maya" as a self-description. They often identified by their specific linguistic community (k'iche' or q'eq'chi, for example) or as campesinos (peasants) or naturales.
Indigenous (indígena): This is sometimes used as a synonym for Maya (which some Maya activist and intellectual friends of mine reject), and sometimes used as a general term that includes both Maya and the smaller Xinca and Garifuna communities.
Xinca: A relatively small indigenous population concentrated in the southern part of Guatemala (the most heavily Maya areas are in the western highlands).
Garifuna: The Garifuna are descended from Western African slaves brought to Central America, who
"mixed" with indigenous people.
Ladino/ladina: Usually refers to Guatemalans who are not "pure" descendants of the Spanish, but who have some Maya ancestry (often relegated to a distant past). But it is often used by Maya to describe any Guatemalans who is not indigenous. People sometimes use the terms blanco or blanca, when talking among themselves (or in predominantly Maya groups). The k'iche' word kaxlan (derived from the Spanish word castellano) sometimes refers to any outsiders (including foreigners) and sometimes specifically to ladinos and ladinas.

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