Guatemala City is home to many of the country’s libraries and museums, including the National Archives, the National Library and the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, which has an extensive collection of Mayan artefacts. There are also private museums such as the Ixchel, which focuses on textiles, and the Popol Vuh, which deals with Mayan archaeology. Both museums are located on the campus of the Universidad Francisco Marroquín. Most of the country’s 329 municipalities have at least one small museum.
Guatemala has produced many indigenous artists who follow centuries-old pre-Columbian traditions. Reflecting Guatemala’s colonial and post-colonial history, encounters with various global art movements have also produced a variety of artists who have combined traditional primitivist or naïve aesthetics with European, North American and other traditions.
The Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas “Rafael Rodríguez Padilla” is Guatemala’s most important art school, and several prominent indigenous artists who also graduated from this school have works in the permanent collection of the Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno in the capital. Contemporary Guatemalan artists who have made a name for themselves outside Guatemala include Dagoberto Vásquez, Luis Rolando Ixquiac Xicara, Carlos Mérida, Aníbal López, Roberto González Goyri and Elmar René Rojas.
Guatemalan music encompasses a variety of styles and forms of expression. Social change in Guatemala has been fostered by music such as the Nueva Cancion, which combines history, contemporary issues, political values and the struggles of ordinary people. The Maya had an intense musical practice, as evidenced by their iconography. Guatemala was also one of the first regions in the New World to be introduced to European music, starting in 1524. Numerous composers from the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and contemporary periods have contributed to the creation of works of all genres. The marimba is the national instrument; it has developed a wide repertoire of very attractive pieces that have been popular for over a century.
The Historia General de Guatemala has released a series of CDs of Guatemala’s historical music, representing all styles, from Mayan, colonial, independent and republican times to the present. Many contemporary music groups in Guatemala play Caribbean music, salsa, Garifuna-influenced punta, Latin pop, regional Mexican music and mariachi.
Many of the traditional dishes of Guatemalan cuisine are based on Mayan cuisine and have maize, chillies and black beans as main ingredients. Some foods are also eaten on certain days of the week, such as the popular custom of eating paches (a type of potato-based tamale) on Thursdays. Some dishes are also associated with special occasions, such as fiambre for All Saints’ Day, 1 November, or tamales and ponche (fruit punch), both very common at Christmas.