Guatemala’s literary tradition extends back many centuries. The Popul Vuh, a poem of over 9,000 lines, was written by a Quiche shortly after the Conquest to preserve Quiche history and beliefs. The poem describes the creation of the world and humanity, and the migration of the Quiche people from their northern ancestral homeland to establish a civilization in highland Guatemala. In the 20th century, the novelist Miguel Angel Asturias was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1967 for his series of books about Guatemala, including El Senõr Presidente (The President) and Hombres de Maiz (Men of Maize).

Music also has a long and rich tradition in Guatemala. The national instrument is the marimba, a type of wooden xylophone so large that up to six people can play it at once. Most towns have at least one marimba band. A drum made out of a hollow log and a flute-like instrument accompany the marimba in traditional settings, while at ladino fiestas a band may include guitars, saxophones and rattles made out of hollow gourds. Many younger Guatemalans also love contemporary pop music. Music may be accompanied by dance, though except during certain fiestas, Guatemalans do not have traditional forms of dancing styles that they follow.

While Guatemala produces beautiful ceramics, paintings, jewellery and baskets, it is most famous for its weavings, which serve practical and cultural purposes. The intricate and vibrant weaving designs express aspects of spirituality and community. Patterns date back to pre-Conquest times, and each is associated with a specific village or group, thus serving as a badge of identity for the wearers. Many indigenas textiles are homemade using backstrap looms.

  Did you know?
At fiestas, dancers sometimes perform pieces that act out historical events. In the Dance of the Conquerors, performers wear masks with pink skin and large noses to represent Europeans. The Dance of the Volcano reenacts a battle between the Spanish and Indians near the volcano Agua during the Conquest.

  Did you know?
Tikal National Park in the Petén region houses some of Guatemala’s most spectacular ancient architecture. At 70 metres, the pyramids of Tikal are the highest in the Americas and are still among the highest structures in Central America. Achaeologists have reconstructed 130 square kilometres of the ancient city, including over 300 buildings and temples.