How Guatemalan Traditions Work

Traditional Guatemalan Food

making tortillas
A woman makes tortillas. Tortillas are staple of the Guatemalan diet.

Foods were introduced by both Mayans and the Spanish conquerors. The Mayans grew maize (corn) as their main source of food. Corn was more than just a crop to the Mayans. It was believed that when the Mayan gods wanted to create man, none of the materials like wood or clay worked well. Corn was the only material that worked, and that's why Mayans were referred to as "men of corn." Today, the majority of meals include corn in some form, most commonly corn tortillas [source: Maya Paradise].

While Guatemala was under Spanish rule from 1524 to 1821, the Spaniards introduced dishes like enchiladas, guacamole, tamales and tortillas [source: Food In Every Country]. Tortillas are consumed at just about every meal, as are black beans. In today's Guatemalan household, you'll also find that chicken, turkey and beef are the meats of choice and are commonly served in a sauce or stew. Popular dishes include hilachas, which is made with shredded meat and a tomato-based sauce, and pollo en jocón (chicken simmered in a green tomatillo-cilantro sauce).


The country's fertile land is its most important resource and coupled with the pleasant climate in Guatemala, crops from rich farmlands like sugar, coffee and cocoa are in abundance. The country is one of largest producers of the coffee in the world, and Guatemalans are very proud of that fact. Most of the coffee grown is exported.

According to the U.S. State Department, about 51 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day; 15 percent live on less than $1 a day. That's one of the reasons you travel to many places in Guatemala and find vendors, even children, selling tortillas on the street and in markets every day just to make a living.