Quiché Department

El Quiché


Coat of arms

El Quiché
Coordinates: 15°1′48″N 91°9′0″W / 15.03000°N 91.15000°W / 15.03000; -91.15000Coordinates: 15°1′48″N 91°9′0″W / 15.03000°N 91.15000°W / 15.03000; -91.15000
Country  Guatemala
Department Quiché Department
Capital Santa Cruz del Quiché
Municipalities 21
  Type Departmental
  Governor Miguel Ángel Medrano Bulux
  Department 8,378 km2 (3,235 sq mi)
Highest elevation 3,200 m (10,500 ft)
Lowest elevation 150 m (490 ft)
Population (2011 Estimate)
  Department 955,705
  Urban 161,591
  Ethnicities K'iche', Ixil, Uspantek, Sakapultek, Poqomchi', Ladino
  Religions Roman Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Maya
Time zone -6
ISO 3166 code GT-QC

El Quiché (Spanish pronunciation: [el kiˈtʃe]) is a department of Guatemala.

El Quiché department is in the heartland of the K'iche' (Quiché) people, to the north-west of Guatemala City. The capital is Santa Cruz del Quiché.


El Quiché has historically been one of the most populous departments of Guatemala. Its population of 955,705 (as of 2011)[1] is predominantly of Mayan descent. (Population in 2002 census was 655,510.[2] ) Mayan's account for 88.6% of the department's population.[3] K'iche' people are the largest Mayan ethnic group in the department, and account for 65.1% of the total population.[4] The department is named after them.

While most of its indigenous population speaks the K'iche' (Quiché) language, other Mayan languages spoken in the department are Ixil (Nebaj - Chajul - Cotzal area), Uspantek (Uspantán area), Sakapultek (Sacapulas area), as well as Poqomchi' and Q'eqchi' in the North-Eastern part bordering with the Alta Verapaz department.[5]


The topographical composition of El Quiché is dominated by the central highlands and the mountain ranges of the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, Sierra de Chuacús, and the foothills of the volcanic mountain range on the department's South-Western border with Chimaltenango, which together make up for 79% of the department's territory. The northern part of the department is formed by tropical lowlands which cover 21% of the department's territory.[6]

The principal drainage basins in El Quiché are the Salinas, Motagua, Xaclbal and Ixcán river basins. The Salinas river basin (3668 km2), includes the Chixoy River which is a tributary of the Río Salinas and Río Usumacinta. The Motagua basin (1042 km2) includes the Río Grande which is an important tributary of the Río Motagua. The smaller Xaclbal (779 km2) and Ixcán basins (187 km2) are situated in the North-East of El Quiché.[7] El Quiché has a small number of shallow lakes ("lagunas"): laguna de Lemoa and the laguna de La Estancia, both in Santa Cruz del Quiché, and the laguna de San Antonio in San Antonio Ilotenango.


Chichicastenango Market, 1996

Places of interest in the department include the town of Chichicastenango and the ruins of Q'umarkaj. The department has several pre-colonial archeological sites, including Q'umarkaj (near Santa Cruz del Quiché), Pascual Abaj (in Chichicastenango), Cerro de San Andrés (in San Andrés Sajcabajá), Chutixtiox (near Sacapulas), Los Cerritos and La Laguna (in Canillá). Most of these sites are used as ceremonial centers in the Maya religion.

A regional museum can be found in Chichicastenango and Nebaj.

Though not as well known as the Santo Tomás church in Chichicastenango most other towns in the department have catholic churches dating from the colonial era.

The Visis Cabá biosphere reserve (450 km2) is the only protected natural reserve in El Quiché. It is located in the North of Chajul, on the communal lands of the Ixil communities. The creation of protected natural reserves is being considered for El Amay[8] in Chicamán and La Vega del Zope in Chinique.[9]


The department is divided into municipalities:

  1. Canillá
  2. Chajul
  3. Chicamán
  4. Chiché
  5. Chichicastenango
  6. Chinique
  7. Cunén
  8. Joyabaj
  9. Nebaj
  10. Sacapulas
  11. Patzité
  12. Pachalúm
  13. Ixcán
  14. San Andrés Sajcabajá
  15. San Antonio Ilotenango
  16. San Bartolomé Jocotenango
  17. San Juan Cotzal
  18. San Pedro Jocopilas
  19. Santa Cruz del Quiché
  20. Uspantán
  21. Zacualpa


  1. "2002 census". Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas. Retrieved 2008-05-11.
  2. "XI Censo Nacional de Poblacion y VI de Habitación (Censo 2002)". INE. 2002.
  3. http://www.ine.gob.gt/sistema/uploads/2014/02/26/L5pNHMXzxy5FFWmk9NHCrK9x7E5Qqvvy.pdf
  4. http://www.ine.gob.gt/sistema/uploads/2014/02/26/L5pNHMXzxy5FFWmk9NHCrK9x7E5Qqvvy.pdf
  5. "Estrategia de reducción de la pobreza departamental, 2003 - Quiché". SEGEPLAN.
  6. The tropical lowlands are located in the northern part of the municipalities of Chicaman, Uspantán and Chajul. "Estrategia de reducción de la pobreza departamental, 2003 - Quiché". SEGEPLAN.
  7. "Cuencas Hidrográficas- El Quiché". Instituto Nacional de Bosques (INAB). See also "Mapa de Cuencas y Ríos". INSIVUMEH.
  8. "Guatemala: Opposition to highway project threatening forest area". WRM's bulletin Nº 58, May, 2002.
  9. The Visis Cabá biosphere reserve, also known as Biósfera Ixil, is located in the North-East of Chajul, on the communal lands of the Ixil communities. See also Romeo Tiu López. "Mayan Spirituality and Lands in Guatemala" (PDF). Arizona Journal of International & Comparative Law, vol 211, 2004 (University of Arizona). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 9, 2006.

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