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K’iche’ (Quiché) Pitek, Emily


This entry focuses on the K’iche’ living in the town of Chichicastenango, Guatemala, around the time of 1930. The principal ethnographic authority, Bunzel (1952), indicated that at this time, Chichicastenango remained relatively isolated from intensive industrialization, European Colonialism, and Christianity. Although the arrival of European (primarily Spanish) colonists brought elements of Catholocism and political changes, the traditional K’iche’ cultural and religious beliefs and practices remained. Consequently, K’iche’ religious beliefs were somewhat syncretic, blending and incorporating aspects of Catholocism with traditional beliefs. Bunzel (1952:163) described that the Church and State are one in Chichicastenango, and “the problems of the individual soul, of life and death, sin and salvation, the relationship of man to the supernatural and to his own conscience are worked out through other institutions. The Church is primarily political--a state temple in which the rules and their surrogates discharge their religious obligations to the commonwealth.” In addition to church officials, the chuchqajau serves as a religious practitioner and specializes as a professional diviner, performing ceremonies for pay. These ceremonies occur during major turning points in life, such as baptism, marriage, and death. Other events in life have ceremonial aspects as well, such as building a house, planting and harvesting, and selling land. Ceremonies typically include a feast for the officiating individual and offerings to supernatural beings (Bunzel, 1952:84). Larger, communal ceremonies occur during fiestas, which mark significant holidays and are important to religious, social, and political aspects of K’iche’ culture. Because religion permeates all aspects of life, this entry considers the religious group to be coterminous with K’iche’ society itself.

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Attribution 4.0 International