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This page is about the Native American people; for other uses, the dish, see Quiché .

K'iche' (or Quiché in Spanish spelling), are a Native American people, one of the Maya ethnic groups. Their indigenous language, the K'iche' language, is a Mesoamerican language of the Mayan language family. The highland K'iche' states in the pre-Columbian era are associated with the ancient Maya civilization, and reached the peak of their power and influence during the postclassic period.

The meaning of the word "k'iche'" is "many trees." The word is broken into two parts, "k'i," meaning "many" and "che'," meaning "tree." The Nahuatl translation is Cuauhtēmallān which gave the name to the modern Nation of Guatemala. El Quichémarker is also the name of a department of modern Guatemalamarker.

Rigoberta Menchú, an activist for indigenous rights who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, is perhaps the best-known K'iche'.


The large majority of K'iche' people live in the highlands of Guatemala, notably in the departments of El Quiché, Totonicapánmarker and Quetzaltenangomarker. With more than half the K'iche' population, El Quichémarker forms the heartland of the K'iche' people. In pre-Columbian times, the K'iche' settlements and influence reached beyond the highlands, including the valley of Antiguamarker and coastal areas in Escuintlamarker.

Most K'iche' speak their native language and have at least a working knowledge of Spanish, with the exception of some remote and isolated rural communities. Maya languages closely related to K'iche' are Uspantek, Sakapultek, Kaqchikel and Tzutujil.


In pre-Columbian times, the K'iche' Kingdom of Q'umarkajmarker was one of the most powerful states in the region. K’iche' was an independent state that existed after the decline of the Maya Civilization with the Classic collapse. K'iche' lay in a highland mountain valley of Guatemalamarker, and during this time they were also founded in parts of El Salvador. The Spanishmarker conquerors have described the splendid towns such as Q'umarkajmarker (Utatlanmarker), the capital of K'iche'. They bordered the Kaqchikel.

The K'iche' were conquered by the conquistador Pedro de Alvarado in 1524. Their last military commander, Tecún Umán, led the K'iche' armies against the combined forces of Pedro de Alvarado and their Kaqchikel allies, in an epic battle in the valley of Xelaju (Quetzaltenangomarker). The K'iche' armies were defeated, and close to 10,000 K'iche' lost their lives, including Tecún Umán, who has since lived on as a legendary figure in the K'iche' oral tradition. After the battle, the K'iche' surrendered and invited Alvarado to their capital, Q'umarkajmarker. However, Alvarado suspected an ambush and had the city burned. The ruins of the city can still be seen, just a short distance from Santa Cruz del Quichémarker.

One of the most significant surviving Mesoamerican literary documents and primary sources of knowledge about Maya societal traditions, beliefs and mythological accounts is a product of the 16th century K'iche' people. This document, known as the Popol Wuj ("Pop wuj" in proper K'iche - "the book of events") and originally written around the 1550s, contains a compilation of mythological and ethno-historical narratives known to these people at that time, which were drawn from earlier pre-Columbian sources (now lost) and also oral traditional storytelling. This narrative includes a telling of their version of the creation myth, relating how world and humans were created by the gods, the story of the divine brothers, and the history of the K'iche' from their migration into their homeland up to the Spanish conquest.



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