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People, Culture

Rafael Arevalo Martinez, Miguel Angel Asturias, Maya peoples, Comalapa, Jose Castaneda

The contrast between the modern ways of Guatemala City, the center of Guatemalan cultural activity, and the traditional customs and crafts of the Maya peoples gives Guatemala a colorful and dynamic culture. Spanish colonists gave Guatemala its official language and many architectural and art treasures. Magnificent buildings of the colonial period remain at Antigua Guatemala, the colonial capital, located about 40 km (about 25 mi) from Guatemala City. Contemporary crafts such as weaving, jewelry making, and ceramics combine indigenous design and color patterns with Spanish technical skills. Throughout Guatemala, the marimba remains the typical Guatemalan musical medium, although it is often challenged now by Mexican ranchera music and North American rock.

Guatemala’s literary heritage includes the 16th-century Popol Vuh, a Maya account of the creation and history of the world. Among 20th-century Guatemalan artists of international repute are writers Enrique Gomez Carrillo, Rafael Arevalo Martinez, Mario Monteforte Toledo, and Miguel Angel Asturias, winner of the 1967 Nobel Prize in literature. Twentieth-century painters Carlos Merida, Alfredo Galvez Suarez, and Valentin Abascal, among many others, have been inspired by the indigenous heritage of their nation, while a whole community of primitive painters at Comalapa has achieved international recognition. A number of Guatemalan social scientists have been recognized for their work in exile during times of conflict and repression in their own country. These include sociologist Edelberto Torres Rivas, historian Julio Castellano Cambranes, and author Victor Perera. A notable Guatemalan composer is Jose Castaneda, while Dieter Lehnhoff has done much to preserve the musical heritage of colonial and modern Guatemala.

Guatemala City is home to many of the nation’s libraries and museums, including the National Archives, the National Library, and the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, which has an excellent collection of Maya artifacts. The Colonial Museum, in Antigua Guatemala, has large exhibits of colonial artwork.

Article key phrases:

Rafael Arevalo Martinez, Miguel Angel Asturias, Maya peoples, Comalapa, Jose Castaneda, colonial capital, Antigua Guatemala, Spanish colonists, art treasures, Museum of Archaeology, marimba, Nobel Prize, Guatemala City, Ethnology, National Archives, exile, colonial period, color patterns, official language, repression, jewelry, winner, ceramics, museums, contrast, creation, world, literature, history, work, home, National Library


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