World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

K'iche' people

K'iche' (Quiché)
Total population

1,610,013 [1]

11% of Guatemalan population [1]
Regions with significant populations
 Guatemala 1,610,013[1]
Quiché 622,163[1]
Totonicapán 453,237[1]
Quetzaltenango 205,228[1]
Sololá 151,992[1]
K'iche', Spanish
Catholic, Evangelicalist, Maya religion
Related ethnic groups
Kaqchikel, Tzutujil, Uspantek, Sakapultek

K'iche' (pronounced ; previous Spanish spelling: Quiché)[2] are indigenous peoples of the Americas, one of the Maya peoples. The K'iche' language is a Mesoamerican language in 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 Nahuatl translation, Cuauhtēmallān "Place of the Many Trees (People)", is the origin of the word Guatemala. Quiché Department is also named for them.

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


  • People 1
  • History 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Market day in the K'iche' town of Chichicastenango

According to the 2011 census, K'iche' people constituted 11% of the Guatemalan population. Accounting for 1,610,013 people out of a total of 14,636,487.[1] The large majority of K'iche' people live in the highlands of Guatemala, notably in the departments of: El Quiché, which is 65.1% K'iche' and has a total K'iche' population of 622,163.[1] Totonicapán, which is 95.9% K'iche' and has a total K'iche' population of 453,237.[1] Quetzaltenango, which is 25.9% K'iche' and has a total K'iche' population of 205,228.[1] Sololá, which is 35.3% K'iche' and has a total K'iche' population of 151,992.[1]

El Quiché 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 Antigua and coastal areas in Escuintla.

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'umarkaj 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 Guatemala, and during this time they were also found in parts of El Salvador. However, there is evidence for a large degree of cultural exchange between the K'iche' and the people of Central Mexico, and Nahuatl has influenced the K'iche' language greatly.[3] The Spanish conquerors described towns such as Q'umarkaj (Utatlán), the capital of K'iche'.[4] 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 Xelajú (Quetzaltenango). The K'iche' armies were defeated, and close to 10,000 K'iche' died, 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'umarkaj. 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 Quiché.

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 Vuh ("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.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l
  2. ^ Baily, John (1850). Central America; Describing Each of the States of Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. London: Trelawney Saunders. p. 83. 
  3. ^ Braswell, Geoffrey (2003), "5", The Postclassic Mesoamerican World, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, pp. 51–56,  
  4. ^ Coe, Michael D. (1999). The Maya (Sixth ed.). New York: Thames & Hudson. pp. 187–190.  


Carmack, Robert M. (1981). The Quiché Mayas of Utatlán: The Evolution of a Highland Guatemala Kingdom. Civilization of the American Indian series, no. 155. Norman:  

External links

  • K'iche' – an introduction – article at Citizendium
  • Allen J. Christenson's K'iche'-English Dictionary
  • A reversal, the English-K'iche' Dictionary
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.