Cultural diversity

Language: Itza, Guatemala. ©Discovery 2004
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Language: Itza, Guatemala

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Language(s): Itza

Summary/Historical Context

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Oral traditions
Endangered languages
Indigenous cultures
Rural population

About 30 Mayan languages are still spoken by indigenous peoples in southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. Some are spoken by hundreds of thousands of people; some by fewer than 5,000. The highly endangered Mayan language Itzá is spoken fluently by around 150 people living in the village of San José, on the northern shore of Lake Petén Itzá in Guatemala. There are a few hundred around 60 bilingual nonfluent speakers. Because the government banned the speaking of Itzá in the 1930s, two generations of Itzá Maya have grown up learning only Spanish. The late 1980s saw a blossoming of interest among Maya people, including the Itzá, in preserving their cultural heritage. This revitalization movement has been encouraged by the Guatemalan government, which set up an academy to promote Mayan languages.


- Itza in UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
- BOOT, Erik (compiler), "A short Itza Maya Vocabulary", 1995.
- Ethnologue - Languages of the World

Place/Country: Guatemala
Series: Connecting through culture- Celebrating diversity
Type: Documentary
Credits: Discovery Channel, producer. UNWorks, co-producer.
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