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Q'eqchi' Maya children, Belize
|Regions with significant populations|
|Q'eqchi', Spanish, Kriol, English|
|Roman Catholic, Evangelicalist, Mennonite, Maya religion, recent small communities of Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox in West Guatemala.|
Q'eqchi' (/qʼeqt͡ʃiʔ/) (K'ekchi' in the former orthography, or simply Kekchi in many English-language contexts, such as in Belize) are a Maya people of Guatemala and Belize. Their indigenous language is the Q'eqchi' language.
Before the beginning of the Spanish conquest of Guatemala in the 1520s, Q'eqchi' settlements were concentrated in what are now the departments of Alta Verapaz and Baja Verapaz. Over the course of the succeeding centuries a series of land displacements, resettlements, persecutions and migrations resulted in a wider dispersal of Q'eqchi' communities into other regions of Guatemala (Izabal, Petén, El Quiché), southern Belize (Toledo District), and smaller numbers in southern Mexico (Chiapas, Campeche). While most notably present in northern Alta Verapaz and southern Petén, contemporary Q'eqchi' language-speakers are the most widely spread geographically of all Maya peoples in Guatemala.
Not much is known about the lives and history of the Q’eqchi’ people prior to being conquered by Spanish conquistadors, however, it is known that they were a Maya group located in the central highlands and northern lowlands of Guatemala. Their land was formally known as Tezulutla or “the land of wa" and the Q’eqchi’ people had a long history of political conflict. When the Spanish began their conquest the Q’eqchi’ were hard to control due to a dispersed population. Bartolomé de las Casas was given permission to try to convert the Q’eqchi’ people to Christianity, however, only a small portion were converted and the church lost the ability to govern the Q’eqchi’. This led to the exploitation of the Q’eqchi’ by plantation owners and slavers.
During the nineteenth century plantation agriculture was a big part of the Q’eqchi’ people’s lives. This led to the seizure of the Q’eqchi’’s communal land by plantations and the service of the Q’eqchi’ to farm the plantations. By 1877, all communal landownership was abolished by the government which edged some of the Q’eqchi’ to move to Belize. This seizure of communal land along with the effects of the Spanish Conquest created a long lasting poverty in the Q’eqchi’ people.
Religion and culture
Traditionally the Q’eqchi’ people believe in the Tzuultaq’a” which are the gods of the mountains and valleys. However, they have mixed those beliefs with the beliefs of the Catholic church. The Q’eqchi’ believe in the Christian god and celebrate the saints. They also believe that Tzuultaq’a” presides over nature and dwells in the caves of the mountains. They also have three specific religious specialists that are from the Tzuultaq’a” side of their religion. There are the ilonel which are the curers who use different types of herbs and ceremonies. The aj ke who advise and predict things in the village. The last is the aj tul which are believed to be the sorcers who can cast spells. They also believe in similar rituals to those in other Latin American countries like the celebration of the Day of the Dead. They also prefer a ritual to the dead which consists of wrapping the body in a petite which is a straw mat. They are then buried with items they would need for the journey into the afterlife.
Marriage in the Q’eqchi’ culture is not so different from the culture of arranged marriages in the Hindu religion. Marriages are arranged by the parents of the children. The parents of both children meet over time and if all goes well the children are married. This happens at the ages of 12 to 15 for the women and 15 to 18 for the males. After that the family would look very similar to the normal family picture; a mother, a father, and a couple of children. When it comes to inheritance parents usually give the property and assets to the child who offers to care for the parents during their life.
Food and agriculture
The agricultural production of the Q’eqchi’ people consists mostly of subsistence farming. This means they only farm for the needs of their families not external markets. At first the Q’eqchi’ were polycultural. The plants they farmed were edible weeds, banana plants, and other companion crops. They also acquire some of their food from wild plants and some villages still hunt. However for most present day Q’eqchi’ people today their food comes from the corn fields. This comes mainly from a time where plantations dominated the Q’eqchi’ society. From the 1880s to around the 1940s the plantation owners forbid the growing of any crops other than corn and beans, so they could easily identify which crops belonged to them. This created a corn-dependent diet of the Q’eqchi’ people.
While corn doesn't prove every profitable for the Q’eqchi’ economy or their diet it does have other merits. The Q’eqchi’ use agriculture as a way to commune with God the creator in a very physical and spiritual way. It was a way to feel like a co-creator when planting new life into the soil. All the parts of planting, cultivating, and harvesting are all rituals and worship in their religion.
The QHA, which is the Q’eqchi’ Healers Association, are an association of indigenous healers that have come together to share their forms of conservation and botany. The QHA along with the Belize Indigenous Training Institute funded a project which would develop a traditional healing garden and culture center. Here the Q’eqchi’ Healers shared their similar methods that had been passed down to them in the hopes of preserving rare plant life and educating their community. They are preserving the biodiversity of their region by coming up with different options other than wild harvesting as well as was to propagate and cultivate many rare plant species.
- Cristina Coc, led 39 villages in Southern Belize in attaining a landmark ruling on the rights to their traditional lands and receipt of the Equator Prize
- Rodrigo Tot, awarded the Goldman Environment Prize in 2017
- "XI Censo Nacional de Población y VI de Habitación (Censo 2002) - Pertenencia de grupo étnico". Instituto Nacional de Estadística. 2002. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
- "Map". Mayan Orthodoxy.
- See Kahn (2006, pp.34–49) for an account of Q'eqchi' migrational history and the impetus behind these movements, and in particular pp.41–42.
- As indicated by 1998 SIL data, see "Q'eqchi': a language of Guatemala". in Ethnologue (Gordon 2005).
- Kahn (2006, p.34)
- Knowlton, Autumn. "Q’eqchi’ Mayas and the Myth of “Postconflict” Guatemala." Latin American Perspectives 44, no. 4 (July 2017): 139-151. Social Sciences Full Text (H.W. Wilson)
- "Religion and expressive culture - Q'eqchi'". www.everyculture.com. Retrieved 2017-11-22.
- "Q'eqchi'." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 1, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/qeqchi
- "Q'eqchi' Agriculture." Community Cloud Forest Conservation. Accessed November 1, 2017. http://cloudforestconservation.org/knowledge/community/qeqchi-agriculture/.
- Pablo, Sanchez-Vindas, et al. "Sustaining Rainforest Plants, People and Global Health: A Model for Learning from Traditions in Holistic Health Promotion and Community Based Conservation as Implemented by Q’eqchi’ Maya Healers, Maya Mountains, Belize." Sustainability, Vol 2, Iss 11, Pp 3383-3398 (2010) no. 11 (2010): 3383. Directory of Open Access Journals
- Fernandez, Ingrid (18 December 2015). "Maya Leaders Alliance receives Equator Prize 2015 in Paris". Belize City, Belize: The Reporter (Belize). Archived from the original on 7 December 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
- Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.) (2005). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (online version) (Fifteenth ed.). Dallas, TX: SIL International. ISBN 1-55671-159-X. OCLC 60338097. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
- Kahn, Hilary E. (2006). Seeing and Being Seen: The Q’eqchi’ Maya of Livingston, Guatemala, and Beyond. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-71348-2. OCLC 68965681.
- Wilk, Richard (1997). Household Ecology: Economic change and domestic life among the Kekchi Maya in Belize. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press. ISBN 978-0-87580-575-7. OCLC 97031713.
- Wilson, Richard (1995). Maya Resurgence in Guatemala: Q’eqchi’ Experiences. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-2690-6. OCLC 31172908.
- Wilson, Michael Robert |year=1972 |title=Highland Maya People and Their Habitat | Ph.D. dissertation | http://www.quantamike.ca/content/phd.html