Xinka identity2021-02-08T20:19:49+00:00

Xinka History

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Prior to the arrival of the Spanish colonizers, the Xinka political and territorial organization extended from the Guatemalan pacific coast to the mountains of Jalapa.

One of the first historical references to the Xinka is found in the second letter written by Alvarado to Cortes on July 28, 1524. There are also historical references from Indigenous Mayan texts related to the existence of the Xinka people.

During the conquest, the Xinka people confronted six thousand Spanish troops, which included Indigenous auxiliary troops. The Spanish waged two fierce battles against the Xinka defenders but did not emerge victorious in either one. Indeed, the Spanish did not find submissive people in Xinka territory, rather they encountered the only peoples in the region that were never defeated in combat.

Unable to defeat the Xinka in battle, the Spanish instead used the strategy of negotiation, which allowed them to deceive the Xinka and enslave them. The Spanish declared the Xinka people rebels and forced them to abandon their spiritual practice.

The Xinka people remained enslaved for more than nine years, the time that it took them to build the Los Esclavos bridge. When construction was complete, the Spanish liberated the Xinka, but forced them to buy back their land. The Xinka continued living under great repression; their spiritual practice was met with cruel punishment.

Today, many of the stolen lands that were bought back from the Spanish during this time period are still administered under communal tenure, by Xinka’s own local government organized through directive boards. The boards are elected by the population that gathers in general assembly and to elect this maximum authority of the community. This is the case, for example, in the communities of Jumaytepeque, Santa María Xalapán, Las Lomas del Pajal Chiquimulilla, Quesada, Jutiapa, Yupiltepeque, San Carlos Alzatate, Buena Vista, among others.

The Xinka people have suffered numerous waves of harsh repression, forcing them to leave behind their spiritual practice and their language. This, in addition to a racist and discriminatory system, has contributed to the fact that today Xinka people continue to be made invisible and, on occasion, to have their existence questioned. Despite this, we can say that today that Xinka are alive and that they have survived all of the humiliations and assaults to emerge stronger every day.

National census

According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), in 2002, 16,216 people identified as Xinka in the departments of Jalapa, Jutiapa and Santa Rosa. However, in the most recent census in 2018, 264,167 people identified as Xinka. This represents 1.77% of the Guatemalan population.

Photo: CPR.Urbana

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