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The culture of Guatemala reflects strong Mayan and Spanish influences and continues to be defined as a contrast between poor Mayan villagers in the rural highlands, and the urbanized and relatively wealthy mestizos population (known in Guatemala as ladinos ) who occupy the cities and surrounding agricultural plains.
Guatemalan cuisine reflects the multicultural nature of Guatemala, in that it involves food that differs in taste depending on the region. Guatemala has 22 departments (or divisions), each of which has very different food varieties. For example, Antigua Guatemala is well known for its candy which makes use of many local ingredients fruits, seeds and nuts along with honey, condensed milk and other traditional sweeteners. Antigua's candy is very popular with tourists.
Many traditional foods are based on Maya cuisine and prominently feature corn, chilis and beans as key ingredients. Various dishes may have the same name as dishes from a neighboring country, but may in fact be quite different for example the enchilada or quesadilla, which are nothing like their Mexican counterparts.
There are also foods that it is traditional to eat on certain days of the week - for example, by tradition it is known that on Thursday, the typical food is "paches", which is like a tamale made with a base of potato, and on Sundays it is traditional to eat tamales, because Sundays are considered holidays. Certain dishes are also associated with special occasions, such as fiambre for All Saints Day on November 1 and tamales, which are common for Christmas.
There are reportedly hundreds of varieties of tamales throughout Guatemala. The key variations are what is in the masa or dough (corn, potatoes, rice), what's in the filling (meat, fruits, nuts), and what it is wrapped with (leaves, husks). The masa is made out of corn that is not sweet, such as what is known as feed corn in the U.S.A. In Guatemala, this non-sweet corn is called maize and the corn that Americans from the USA are used to eating on the cob, sweet corn, they call elote . Tamales in Guatemala are more typically wrapped in plantain or banana leaves and mashan leaves than corn husks.
The ancient Mayan civilization lasted for about six hundred years before collapsing around 900 A.D. Today, almost half of the Guatemalan population is still Mayan. These natives live throughout the country and grow maize as their staple crop. In addition, the ancient Maya ate amaranth, a breakfast cereal similar to modern day cereals.
Guatemala's national instrument is the marimba, an idiophone from the family of the xylophones, which is played all over the country, even in the remotest corners. Towns also have wind and percussion bands that play during the Lent and Easter-week processions, as well as on other occasions. The Garifuna people of Afro-Caribbean descent, who are spread thinly on the northeastern Caribbean coast, have their own distinct varieties of popular and folk music. Cumbia, from the Colombian variety, is also very popular, especially among the lower classes.
Guatemala also has an almost five-century-old tradition of art music, spanning from the first liturgical chant and polyphony, introduced in 1524 to contemporary art music. Much of the music composed in Guatemala from the 16th century to the 19th century has only recently been unearthed by scholars and is being revived by performers.
The Mayan people are known for their brightly colored yarn-based textiles, which are woven into capes, shirts, blouses, and dresses. Each village has its own distinctive pattern, making it possible to distinguish a person's home town on sight. Women's clothing consists of a shirt and a long skirt.
Roman Catholicism combined with the indigenous Maya religion to form the unique syncretic religion which prevailed throughout Guatemala and still does in the rural regions. Beginning from negligible roots prior to the 1960s, Protestant Pentecostalism has grown to become the predominant religion of Guatemala City and other urban centers and down to mid-sized towns.
The unique religion is reflected in the local saint, Maximón, who is associated with the subterranean force of masculine fertility and prostitution. Always depicted in black, he wears a black hat and sits on a chair, often with a bible in one hand, rosary in another, and religious food in his mouth at his feet. The locals know him as San Simon of Guatemala.
Hominy is a food produced from dried maize (corn) kernels that have been treated with an alkali, in a process called nixtamalization. "Lye hominy" is a type of hominy made with lye.
Mexican cuisine began about 9,000 years ago, when agricultural communities such as the Maya formed, domesticating maize, creating the standard process of maize nixtamalization, and establishing their foodways. Successive waves of other Mesoamerican groups brought with them their own cooking methods. These included the Olmec, Teotihuacanos, Toltec, Huastec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Otomi, Purépecha, Totonac, Mazatec, and Mazahua.
A tamale is a traditional Mesoamerican and South American dish, made of masa or dough, which is steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. The wrapping can either be discarded prior to eating or used as a plate. Tamales can be filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, chilies or any preparation according to taste, and both the filling and the cooking liquid may be seasoned.
In North America, a corn tortilla or just tortilla is a type of thin, unleavened flatbread, made from hominy. In Guatemala and Mexico, there are three colors of maize dough for making tortillas: white maize, yellow maize and blue maize.
Cornmeal is a meal ground from dried maize (corn). It is a common staple food, and is ground to fine, medium, and coarse consistencies, but not as fine as wheat flour. In Mexico, very finely ground cornmeal is referred to as corn flour. When fine cornmeal is made from maize that has been soaked in an alkaline solution, e.g., limewater, it is called masa flour, which is used for making arepas, tamales and tortillas. Boiled cornmeal is called polenta in Italy and is also a traditional dish and bread substitute in Romania.
Latin American cuisine is the typical foods, beverages, and cooking styles common to many of the countries and cultures in Latin America. Latin America is a highly diverse area of land whose nations have varying cuisines. Some items typical of Latin American cuisine include maize-based dishes arepas, pupusas, tacos, tamales, tortillas and various salsas and other condiments. These spices are generally what give the Latin American cuisines a distinct flavor; yet, each country of Latin America tends to use a different spice and those that share spices tend to use them at different quantities. Thus, this leads for a variety across the land. Sofrito, a culinary term that originally referred to a specific combination of sautéed or braised aromatics, exists in Latin American cuisine. It refers to a sauce of tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, garlic, onions and herbs.
Guatemalans are people identified with Guatemala, a multiethnic country in Central America. Guatemalans are mainly of Mestizos, indigenous people or Amerindians and descendants from European people. Guatemalans are also nicknamed chapines by other mainly Spanish-speaking countries of the Latin America.
Nixtamalization is a process for the preparation of maize (corn), or other grain, in which the corn is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, washed, and then hulled. This process is known to remove up to 97–100% of aflatoxins from mycotoxin-contaminated corn. The term can also refer to the removal via an alkali process of the pericarp from other grains such as sorghum.
Native American cuisine includes all cuisines and food practices of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Contemporary Native peoples retain a varied culture of traditional foods, along with the addition of some post-contact foods that have become customary and even iconic of present-day Native American social gatherings. Foods like cornbread, turkey, cranberry, blueberry, hominy and mush have been adopted into the cuisine of the broader United States population from Native American cultures. In other cases, documents from the early periods of Native American contact with European, African, and Asian peoples have allowed the recovery and revitalization of indigenous food practices that had formerly passed out of popularity. The most important Native American crops have generally included corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, sunflowers, wild rice, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, peanuts, avocados, papayas, potatoes and cacao.
Colombian cuisine is a compound of the culinary traditions of the six main regions within the country. Colombian cuisine varies regionally and is particularly influenced by Indigenous Colombian, Spanish, and African cuisines, with slight Arab influence in some regions. Furthermore, being one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, Colombia has one of the widest variety of available ingredients depending on the region.
Pasteles, also known as pastelles in the English-speaking Caribbean, are a traditional dish in several Latin American and Caribbean countries. In Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean coast of Colombia, and Panama. It looks like a tamale. In Central American cuisine, it more closely resembles a British pasty or an Italian calzone. In other Spanish-speaking countries, pastel is a generic term for pastry. In Hawaii, they are called pateles in a phonetic rendering of the Puerto Rican pronunciation of pasteles, as discussed below.
Ancient Maya cuisine was varied and extensive. Many different types of resources were consumed, including maritime, flora, and faunal material, and food was obtained or produced through strategies such as hunting, foraging, and large-scale agricultural production. Plant domestication concentrated upon several core foods, the most important of which was maize.
Kenkey is a staple dish similar to sourdough dumpling from the Ga and Fante-inhabited regions of West Africa, usually served with pepper sauce and fried fish or soup, stew.
Most traditional foods in Guatemalan cuisine are based on Maya cuisine, with Spanish influence, and prominently feature corn, chilies and beans as key ingredients. Guatemala is famously home to the Hass avocado and the birthplace of chocolate, as first created by the Mayans.
Belizean cuisine is an amalgamation of all ethnicities in the nation of Belize and their respectively wide variety of foods. Breakfast often consists of sides of bread, flour tortillas, or fry jacks that are often homemade and eaten with various cheeses. All are often accompanied with refried beans, cheeses, and various forms of eggs, etc. Inclusive is also cereal along with milk, coffee, or tea.
The cuisine of Chiapas is a style of cooking centered on the Mexican state of the same name. Like the cuisine of rest of the country, it is based on corn with a mix of indigenous and European influences. It distinguishes itself by retaining most of its indigenous heritage, including the use of the chipilín herb in tamales and soups, used nowhere else in Mexico. However, while it does use some chili peppers, including the very hot simojovel, it does not use it as much as other Mexican regional cuisines, preferring slightly sweet seasoning to its main dishes. Large regions of the state are suitable for grazing and the cuisine reflects this with meat, especially beef and the production of cheese. The most important dish is the tamal, with many varieties created through the state as well as dishes such as chanfaina, similar to menudo and sopa de pan. Although it has been promoted by the state of Chiapas for tourism purposes as well as some chefs, it is not as well known as other Mexican cuisine, such as that of neighboring Oaxaca.
Guanimes are a prepared food that can be traced back to the pre-Columbian era in Puerto Rico.