Jakaltek people

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Total population
c. 65,000
Regions with significant populations
 Mexicoapprox. 11,000[2]
Jakaltek (Poptí), Spanish
Roman Catholic, Evangelicalist, Maya religion
Related ethnic groups
Kanjobal - (Maya peoples)
Jakaltek Maya brocading a hair sash on a backstrap loom.

The Jakaltek people[pronunciation?] are a Mayan people of Guatemala. They have lived in the foothills of the Cuchumatán Mountains in the Department of Huehuetenango in northwestern Guatemala since pre-Columbian times, centered on the town of Jacaltenango.

Location and history[edit]

Located on a plateau overlooking Mexico, Jacaltenango is 1,437 m above sea level and its surrounding villages are located at both higher and lower elevations. The town of Jacaltenango is a governmental, religious, and market center of the region. In the Jakaltek language the town of Jacaltenango is called "Xajlaj"[pronunciation?], or “place of the big white rock slabs.”

On the path between Jacaltenango and San Marcos.
View of Jacaltenango and San Marcos beyond.
A Jakaltek holds a clay pellet between his lips as he prepares to insert it into his blowgun in Guatemala.

For many years, this area was physically and culturally the most remote from Spanish centers in the country. The 72-km trip from Huehuetenango, the capital of the department, was a two-day walk. Since 1974, when an unpaved road was built from the Pan-American Highway to Jacaltenango, it has been a five-hour bus ride from Huehuetenango to Jacaltenango. Electricity came to town in 1979.[3] This relative isolation has resulted in the preservation of many customs in the community which have been lost elsewhere. For example, a few Jakaltek people still use the blowgun[4] for hunting small animals and birds. The Jakaltek also maintain a belief system which involves Naguals and Tonals.[5]

There is a sizable Jacalteco population in South Florida, specifically in Jupiter which is where most Jacaltecos in the United States live, as well as Indiantown (where most Guatemalans first settled in Florida, West Palm Beach, Lake Worth (home to the largest Guatemalan Maya community in Florida), and Homestead Florida. http://lanic.utexas.edu/project/rla/papers/Austin.pdf


  1. ^ "Resultados Censo 2018" (PDF). Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Guatemala. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  2. ^ Estimate of the Summer Institute of Linguistics for 1998: http://www.ethnologue.com/show_country.asp?name=gt
  3. ^ Carol Ventura. Maya Hair Sashes Backstrap Woven in Jacaltenango, Guatemala, Cintas mayas tejidas con el telar de cintura de Jacaltenango, Guatemala, 2003, ISBN 0-9721253-1-0.
  4. ^ Carol Ventura. "The Jakaltek Maya Blowgun in Mythological and Historical Context", in Ancient Mesoamerica, 2003, 14.2: 257-268.
  5. ^ * Stratmeyer, Dennis & Jean , 1977,"The Jacaltec Nawal and the Soul Bearer in Concepcion Huista", in Cognitive Studies of Southern Mesoamerica, Helen L. Neuenschander and Dean E. Arnold eds.,Summer Institute of Linguistics, Museum of Anthropology Publication 3