Mopan people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Mopan, English, Kriol, Spanish
Catholic, Evangelicalism, Maya religion

The Mopan people are an indigenous, sub-ethnic group of the Maya peoples. They are native to regions of Belize and Guatemala.


In the 18th and 19th centuries, the British forced the Mopan out of Belize and into Guatemala.[3] There, they endured forced labour and high taxation.[3] They migrated from Petén, Guatemala to avoid this forced labor and taxation. The Mopan originally settled near modern Pueblo Viaja, but Guatemalan officials claimed that they were still within bounds of Guatemala, so they moved further east around 1889 and founded San Antonio in Belize.[4]

In the 2010 Census, 10,557 Belizeans reported their ethnicity as Mopan Maya. This constituted approximately 3% of the population.[1]


The Mopan Maya people practice a spirituality that relates to the Maya Catholic Faith. The prominent factor that has caused the decline of these traditional practices is the influence of Protestant evangelical missionaries.[5]

There is an absence of written traditions of the Mopan Maya people, so the preservation of their culture relies on oral transmission.[6]


The language of the Mopan people is Mopan language. It is a member of the Yucatec Maya language branch of the Mayan languages.[7] Several thousand Mopan people, located in Belize and Guatemala, speak the Mopan language.[6]


The Cacao tree has played a significant role in the religious life of the Mopan Maya people. The Cacao tree is known as ceremonial tree in the Mopan Community. The tree is locally known as cucu. Both the tree itself and its beans that it produces are said to contain spirits.

The traditional religion of the Mopan people is Maya-Catholic. In this religion, the Mopan Maya people consume Cacao beverages at religious celebrations. However, since the 1970s, numerous Mopan villagers have left the Maya Catholic faith and joined Protestant groups. As a result, they reject beliefs related to spiritual aspects of the natural world.[4]


The economy of the Mopan Community is based on agriculture. The Mopan people have a long history of being small holder, independent farmers. The members of the Mopan community have extensive knowledge in the local flora and fauna.[4]

The Mopan people cultivate maize, beans, and plant rice. These crops serve as cash crops. The cacao tree, and the cultivation of Cacao, has been financially beneficial for the Mopan people. They have been able to establish relationships with companies interested in the purchasing of Cacao, including the Hummingbird Highway Hershey Company and Green and Blacks.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Census 2010 Provisional Population and Households, by Sex and Major Geographic Divisions" (PDF). Statistical Institute of Belize. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  2. ^ "Resultados Censo 2018" (PDF). Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Guatemala. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  3. ^ a b Shoman, Assad (1995). Thirteen Chapters of a History of Belize. Belize City: Angelus Press. pp. 88–89. ISBN 978-9768052193.
  4. ^ a b c d Steinberg, Michael K. (2002). "The Globalization of a Ceremonial Tree: The Case of Cacao (Theobroma cacao) among the Mopan Maya". Economic Botany. 56 (1): 58–65. doi:10.1663/0013-0001(2002)056[0058:TGOACT]2.0.CO;2. ISSN 0013-0001. JSTOR 4256520.
  5. ^ Steinberg, Michael K.; Espejo-Saavedra, Rafael (1996). "Folk House-types as Indicators of Tradition: The Case of the Mopan Maya in Southern Belize". Yearbook. Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers. 22: 87–92. ISSN 1054-3074. JSTOR 25765831.
  6. ^ a b Danziger, Eve (1996). "Parts and Their Counterparts: Spatial and Social Relationships in Mopan Maya". The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 2 (1): 67–82. doi:10.2307/3034633. ISSN 1359-0987. JSTOR 3034633.
  7. ^ Hofling, Charles Andrew (2018), "ITZAJ MAYA FROM A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE", Historical and Archaeological Perspectives on the Itzas of Petén, Guatemala, University Press of Colorado, pp. 28–39, doi:10.2307/j.ctt2111gxk.10, ISBN 9781607326687

External links[edit]

  • "Maya Homeland". University of California Berkeley Geography Department and the Toledo Maya of Southern Belize.