Pick a Region
:. . Central America:. . Maya Biosphere Reserve

The classic Maya civilization began around 250 CE, but began to decline around 900 CE When the Spanish arrived at the beginning of the 16th century, the Maya were the largest group of indigenous people in Central America, especially Guatemala and Honduras. There were tens of thousands of Maya living in Central America. Today the Maya make up nearly 50% of the Guatemalan population. Many have become part of the more modern ladino culture, but many have also tried to maintain their own cultural traditions, like speaking a Mayan language.

In recent decades, the Maya have received international attention due to the Guatemalan civil war. Generally speaking, the civil war was between those who held a privileged position in Guatemala (such as wealthy landowners) and the poorer groups in Guatemalen society that wanted democracy and economic reform. The military, which was controlled by the wealthier groups, fought a long bloody war against the rebels. Many Maya fought with the rebel groups that were trying to overthrow the government. It is estimated that 100,000 Guatemalans died in the civil war. Of this number, a significant percent of the deaths as well as a vast number of human rights violations, such as rape, torture, and illegal imprisonment, were suffered by the Maya population.

Rigoberta Menchú is the person most responsible for calling world attention to the human rights violations that were committed against the Maya. In the early 1980s Menchú wrote a book that described in detail some of the human rights abuses committed against the indigenous people of Guatemala. Publication of Menchú's book provided her with opportunities to speak throughout the world and to bring attention to the problems faced by the Maya.

The rainforests in Guatemala are important to the Maya (as well as Iadinos). These rainforests offer them a way to survive. Since the rainforests are rich in plants and animals, the Maya can find food, medicine, and other important products there. The rainforests also draw the Maya, and other poor Guatemalans who do not own land. They use the land and the rainforests to grow their crops. Unfortunately, the type of farming--slash and burn--that they use has negatively affected the rainforests.


The Maya..Rainforests..| .Sustainable Development .|. The Maya Biosphere Reserve..|..Challenges to the Reserve

Privacy Statement and Copyright © 1999-2002 by Wheeling Jesuit University/Center for Educational Technologies®. All rights reserved.