Latin America

Indigenous Guatemalans relive centuries of persecution in land dispute

Guatemala is home to a vast but disadvantaged indigenous population. Fed up with the government's inaction, communities have taken the state to court over land disputes

Indigenous Guatemalans relive centuries of persecution in land dispute
Mayan Q’eqchi people selling flowers on market day in front of the church Iglesia de Santo Tomás in Chichicastenango, El Quiché. Photo: Marica van der Meer/Alamy

Over 43 percent of Guatemalans identify as indigenous, and reports suggest the real percentage could be much higher. However, for this large share of the Central American nation’s population, life is not straightforward for people descended from traditional communities. Data from the country’s 2018 census shows that 75 percent of Guatemala’s indigenous population lives under the poverty line, compared to 36 percent among the rest of the country.

Besides challenges related to self-identification, citizens belonging to Guatemala’s 24 indigenous ethnicities feel they have been left to their own devices by the state. While the government in Guatemala City...

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