Q’eqchi’ Maya Language

Q’eqchi’ speakers are the predominant Maya group in the central highlands and northern lowlands of Guatemala. Geographically, Q’eqchi’ is the largest Maya language group in Guatemala. Q’eqchi’ is spoken in the northern Quiche’, in Alta and Baja Verapaz, Isabal, Peten and Belize.

The Q’eqchi’ language is part of the greater Quiche’an language family. The ancestral territory of the Q’eqchi’ runs from Coban and the mountain of Xucaneb in the west along the Sierra Yalijux and Cahabon river valley eastward to Lanquin / Cahabon and the mountain of Itzamna’ in the east. When the Spanish arrived, the Q’eqchi’ were among the least significant of the Maya people of the region. Historically, the Q’eqchi’ were a highland people, marginalized by more powerful groups: the Chol, Lacandon and Acalas whose ancient territory was lower in elevation. In the last hundred years the Q’eqchi’ have increased in population and territory. They immigrated (or were displaced for plantation work) to the lowlands of Izabal and Belize and then to the lowlands of northern Alta Verapaz and the Peten. These migrations have made the Q’eqchi’ language the widest spoken Maya language of Guatemala by territory.

The Q’eqchi’ Maya consider themselves heirs of the rich culture and history of the ancient Maya. The Q’eqchi’ language derived from proto-maya and there is a wide sharing of vocabulary between proto-maya and Q’eqchi’.Although Q’eqchi’ is a member of the Quiche’an language family, its geographic proximity through history to the Cholean languages of their closest neighbors has also left its mark on their vocaulary and grammar.

Pre-Columbian History

Traditionally Q’eqchi’ believe themselves to be the children of the 13 sacred mountains, the 13 summits from Xukaneb to Itzamna’ along the Sierra Yalijux. One folkloric story tells of their deliverance from the hands of the Spanish by the intervension of Xukaneb and Itzamna’.

In the classic period (ca. 200BC to 800AD) and into the post classic period, urban centers flourished in Chichen (between Chamelco and Santa Cruz), Chamelco, Coban, Ulpan, Chijolom and Lanquin. Today, some of these are only ruins, such as Chichen, Ulpan and Chijolom. Others, such as Chamelco, Coban and Lanquin, continue as urban centers.

The Q’eqchi’ concept of the divine can be partly understood by their ancient name for the creator God: Q’awa Tzul Taqa the mountain-valley god. Tzul Taqa¬†should be understood as a merism.

Q’eqchi’s nearest relative is Uspantec, a small languge group west of the Rio Negro. Nothing much else is closely related to Q’eqchi’. Other Quiche’an languages seem to share more in common.

Post-Columbian History

Initially the Q’eqchi’ withstood military conquest by the Spanish. Since then other forms of colonization and euro-imperialism have come to occupy and transform the structure of society.

Christianity in the Verapaz Region

The German Plantations

Armed Conflict