Guatemala Cultural Orientation by Xela AID Baord Member John Douglass  PDF  


The modern history of the Mayan peoples of Guatemala is a story of 500 years of marginalization, oppression and struggle to preserve their rich culture, their spiritual traditions, and the integrity of their families and communities. It is a story of resistance and a story of survival in the face of war, poverty and persecution.

Guatemala is recovering from three decades of civil war. Of the approximately 200,000 persons killed or “disappeared” during these decades, a recent report from the Truth Commission of Guatemala affirms that 85% were Mayan. 

Marginalization of the Maya has taken many forms. The languages of the Maya are not taught in Guatemalan public schools. The agricultural export economy has usurped the land once tilled by families. The lack of land for growing food has forced the people to accept below-subsistence employment on large plantations whose crops serve an international market.   

Through our Education, Health, Economic Development, Clean Environment and Emergency Relief programs, Xela AID empowers children and their families to break the cycle of poverty and to become healthy, educated and self reliant. Self-reliance builds self-esteem.

In a new exhibit that will be located at Xela AID headquarters in San Martín Chiquito, “Discovering the Maya,” Xela AID is working with local people to tell the story of the Guatemalan Maya, particularly, the Mam speaking Maya of the area;  to provide an opportunity for indigenous and non-indigenous students, families and adults to discover and understand Maya culture, history and knowledge; and to promote and contribute to reconciliation by increasing awareness and understanding that Maya people are from a unique and diverse number of cultures who are an active and vibrant part of Guatemala today. 

Check back for more information about this exhibit as it progresses.