term First Nations excludes Inuit and Métis, who
are instead recognized as aboriginal peoples.
Native Americans in Mexico
The territory of modern-day Mexico was home to numerous Native
American civilizations prior to the arrival of the European conquistadors:
The Olmecs, who flourished from between 1200 BC to about 800
BC in the coastal regions of the Gulf of Mexico; the Zapotecs
and the Mixtecs, who held sway in the mountains of Oaxaca and
the Isthmus of Tehuantepec; the Maya in the Yucatán (and
into neighbouring areas of contemporary Central America; and,
of course, the Aztecs, who, from their central capital at Tenochtitlan,
dominated much of the centre and south of the country (and the
non-Aztec inhabitants of those areas) when Hernán Cortés
first landed at Veracruz.
In contrast to what was the general rule
in the rest of North America, the history of the colony of
was one of racial
intermingling (mestizaje). Mestizos quickly came to account for
a majority of the colony's population; however, significant pockets
of pure-blood indígenas (as the native peoples are now
known) have survived to the present day.
With mestizos numbering some 60% of the modern population, estimates
for the numbers of unmixed Native Americans vary from a very modest
10% to a more liberal (and probably more accurate) 30% of the population.
The reason for this discrepancy the Mexican government's policy
of using linguistic, rather than racial, criteria as the basis
In the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca and
in the interior of the Yucatán peninsula the majority of the population is indigenous.
Large indigenous minorities, including Nahuas, Purépechas,
and Mixtecs are also present in the central regions of Mexico.
In Northern Mexico indigenous people are a small minority: they
are practically absent from the northeast but, in the northwest
and central borderlands, include the Tarahumara of Chihuahua and
the Yaquis and Seri of Sonora.
While Mexicans are universally proud
of their indigenous heritage (generally more so than of their
roots), modern-day indigenous
Mexicans are still the target of discrimination and outright racism.
In particular, in areas such as Chiapas – most famously,
but also in Oaxaca, Puebla, Guerrero, and other remote mountainous
parts – indigenous communities have been left on the margins
of national development for the past 500 years. Indigenous customs
and uses enjoy no official status. The Huichols of the states of
Jalisco, Nayarit, Zacatecas and Durango are impeded by police forces
in their ritual pilgrimages, and their religious observances are
Native Americans in Belize
Mestizos (European with Native American) number about 45% of the
population; unmixed Mayans make up another 10%.
Native Americans in Guatemala
The Native Americans of Guatemala are of Maya stock. Pure Mayans
account for some 45% of the population; although around 40% of
the population speaks an indigenous language, those tongues (of
which there are more than 20) enjoy no official status.
In 1951 Jacobo Arbenz was elected with
popular support due to his land reform policies. "Foreign capital will always be
welcome as long as it adjusts to local conditions, remains always
subordinate to Guatemalan laws, cooperates with the economic development
of the country, and strictly abstains from intervening in the nation’s
social and political life." — Arbenz, in his inaugural
American corporations didn't like what they heard and by 1954
the CIA was involved in the overthrow of Arbenz and the installation
of General Castillo Armas. A long line of dictators followed him
as did genocidal policies again the indigenous population to suppress