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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.
The Maya peoples are a large group of indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica. They inhabit southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. The overarching term "Maya" is a collective designation to include the peoples of the region that share some degree of cultural and linguistic heritage; however, the term embraces many distinct populations, societies and ethnic groups that each have their own particular traditions, cultures and historical identity.
Guatemala, officially the Republic of Guatemala, is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south. With an estimated population of around 16.6 million, it is the most populated country in Central America. Guatemala is a representative democracy; its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City.
The Ladino people are a mix of mestizo or hispanicized peoples in Latin America, principally in Central America, as well as the Philippines. The demonym Ladino is a Spanish word that derives from Latino. Ladino is an exonym invented of the colonial era to refer to those Spanish-speakers who were not colonial elites of Peninsulares, Criollos, or indigenous peoples.
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.
Antigua Guatemala, commonly referred to as just Antigua or la Antigua, is a city in the central highlands of Guatemala famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture as well as a number of ruins of colonial churches. It served as the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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.
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 a host of strategies, such as hunting, foraging, and large-scale agricultural production. Plant domestication focused on several core foods, the most important of which was maize.
An enchilada is a corn tortilla rolled around a filling and covered with a chili pepper sauce. Enchiladas can be filled with a variety of ingredients, including various meats, cheese, beans, potatoes, vegetables or combinations. Originating in Mexico, enchiladas are a popular dish throughout Mexico and the American Southwest.
A quesadilla, or sometimes specifically a cheese quesadilla, is a Mexican dish, consisting of a tortilla that is filled primarily with cheese, and sometimes meats, beans, vegetables, and spices, and then cooked on a griddle. Traditionally, a corn tortilla is used, but it can also be made with a flour tortilla, particularly in northern Mexico and the United States.
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.
A tamale is a traditional Mesoamerican 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 be used as a plate, the tamale eaten from within. 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.
Fiambre is a traditional Guatemalan salad that is prepared and eaten yearly to celebrate the Day of the Dead and the All Saints Day. It is served chilled and may be made with dozens of ingredients.
Christmas is an annual festival, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is preceded by the season of Advent or the Nativity Fast and initiates the season of Christmastide, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night; in some traditions, Christmastide includes an octave. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world's nations, is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians, as well as culturally by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the holiday season centered around it.
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.
Masa is a corn dough or flour that has been soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution in the nixtamalization process. It is used for making corn tortillas, tamales, pupusas, and many other Latin American dishes. Its full name is masa de maíz and the dried and powdered form is called masa harina, masa de harina, and sometimes Maseca, the name of one commercial brand. The flour is reconstituted with water to make a dough before it is used in cooking.
Rice is the seed of the grass species Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima. As a cereal grain, it is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in Asia. It is the agricultural commodity with the third-highest worldwide production, after sugarcane and maize.
Maize, also known as corn, is a cereal grain first domesticated by indigenous peoples in southern Mexico about 10,000 years ago. The leafy stalk of the plant produces pollen inflorescences and separate ovuliferous inflorescences called ears that yield kernels or seeds, which are fruits.
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.
The marimba is a percussion instrument consisting of a set of wooden bars struck with yarn or rubber mallets to produce musical tones. Resonators or pipes suspended underneath the bars amplify their sound. The bars of a chromatic marimba are arranged like the keys of a piano, with the groups of two and three accidentals raised vertically, overlapping the natural bars to aid the performer both visually and physically. This instrument is a type of idiophone, but with a more resonant and lower-pitched tessitura than the xylophone. A person who plays the marimba is called a marimbist or a marimba player.
An idiophone is any musical instrument that creates sound primarily by the instrument as a whole vibrating—without the use of strings or membranes. It is the first of the four main divisions in the original Hornbostel–Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification. The early classification of Victor-Charles Mahillon called this group of instruments autophones. The most common are struck idiophones, or concussion idiophones, which are made to vibrate by being struck, either directly with a stick or hand or indirectly, by way of a scraping or shaking motion. Various types of bells fall into both categories. A common plucked idiophone is the Jew's harp.
Lent is a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego. This event is observed in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Oriental Orthodox, Reformed, and Roman Catholic Churches. Some Anabaptist and evangelical churches also observe the Lenten season.
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 kernels that have been treated with an alkali, in a process called nixtamalization.
Mexican cuisine began about 9,000 years ago, when agricultural communities such as the Maya formed, domesticating maize, creating the standard process of corn 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.
In North America and Central America, a corn tortilla or just tortilla is a type of thin, unleavened flatbread, made from powdered 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 the United States, 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 harina, which is used for making 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 that holds various cuisines that vary from nation to nation. 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.
Guatemalan people 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 food practices of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Modern-day native peoples retain a varied culture of traditional foods, some of which have become iconic of present-day Native American social gatherings. Foods like cornbread, turkey, cranberry, blueberry, hominy and mush are known to have been adopted into the cuisine of the United States from Native American groups. In other cases, documents from the early periods of contact with European, African, and Asian peoples allow the recovery of food practices which passed out of popularity. The most important native American crops include corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, sunflowers, wild rice, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, peanuts, avocados, papayas, potatoes and chocolate.
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 ingredientes depending on the region.
Honduran cuisine is a fusion of indigenous (Lenca) cuisine, Spanish cuisine, Caribbean cuisine and African cuisine. There are also dishes from the Garifuna people. Coconut and coconut milk are featured in both sweet and savory dishes. Regional specialties include fried fish, tamales, carne asada and baleadas. Other popular dishes include meat roasted with chismol and carne asada, chicken with rice and corn, and fried fish with pickled onions and jalapeños. In the coastal areas and in the Bay Islands, seafood and some meats are prepared in many ways, some of which include coconut milk.
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 is similar to 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.
Kenkey or kormi or kokoe or dorkunu is a staple dish similar to sourdough dumpling from the Ga-inhabited regions of West Africa, usually served with pepper sauce and fried fish or soup, stew. Areas where kenkey is eaten are Ghana, eastern Côte d'Ivoire, Togo, western Benin, Guyana, and Jamaica. It is usually made from ground corn (maize), like sadza and ugali. It is also known in Jamaica as dokunoo, dokono, dokunu, blue drawers, and tie-a-leaf. In Trinidad it is called "paime" and differs in that it does not contain plantain but may include pumpkin and coconut. In the cuisine of the Caribbean, it is made with cornmeal, plantain, green banana, sweet potato or cassava, wrapped in banana leaves. The food is derived from African cooking traditions.
Most traditional foods in Guatemalan cuisine are based on Maya cuisine and prominently feature corn, chilies and beans as key ingredients.
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 tracked back to the pre-Columbian era in Puerto Rico.