8 junio, 2024

Ladino culture: what it is, characteristics and foreign influences

What is Ladino culture?

The Ladino culture of Guatemala is one of the country’s ethnic groups. It arose as a result of the colonization after the discovery of America.

People who are mestizo, the result of the union between Spaniards, aborigines and Africans, are called “ladinas”. Also included within the group of «ladinos» are people who do not have aboriginal blood.

In Guatemala there is not a single culture, but several. Among these, the aboriginal stands out, made up of the descendants of the first settlers of Guatemala, the Mayans. The Garífunas, who are a people from the Caribbean, made up of descendants of Africans and aborigines, and Ladinos.

The name «ladinos» comes from the Latin latino, which meant «Latin-speaking Jew» to refer to the Sephardic language in Spain.

The conquistadors called them “Ladino Indians” because it reminded them of the way the Sephardim spoke Spanish.

Subsequently, the term began to be used in America during the colonial era to refer to the Spanish-speaking population that did not belong to the class of peninsulares, Creole whites or indigenous people.

Characteristics of Ladino culture


The term ladino refers, in the first instance, to Guatemalans who do not have aboriginal blood and to mestizos, which are the result of the interaction between Spaniards, indigenous people and Africans during the colonial era.

It should be noted that the term can also refer to members of aboriginal communities who live under Western social conventions or who reject their indigenous roots.

Ladino behavior

Ladinos tend to be cheerful, lively, and boisterous people, characteristics common to most of the mixed cultures of Latin America. They are kind people with high acceptance towards foreigners.

However, not all characteristics of Ladino attitudes are positive. This culture tends to be macho and is often governed by stereotypes, such as “men should be aggressive and women should be housewives”.


The culture in Guatemala is so divided that, within the country, the inhabitants do not think of themselves as “Guatemalans”, but rather identify with the ethnic group to which they belong.

Just as Guatemalan aborigines identify with their own language, Ladinos call themselves “Ladinos”.

However, when they travel abroad they do recognize themselves as “Guatemalans” or as “chapines”, a term used by foreigners to refer to a person who comes from Guatemala.


The official language of Guatemala is Spanish. This is a characteristic feature of all Ladinos. Some ladinos, who were born or lived in areas close to indigenous communities, know how to speak an aboriginal language. However, being bilingual is not a characteristic among members of this culture.


The Guatemalan constitution guarantees freedom of worship and religion. Approximately 60% of the ladino population is Catholic. This is due to the inclusion of Catholicism through the missions during the colonial period.

It should be noted that since the 20th century, Protestant religions have acquired a certain importance, 20% or 30% of the Ladino population belongs to one of these.

Ladino culture festivals

Religious festivities attract a large group of people. During Holy Week, festivals and processions are held throughout the country. However, most Guatemalans prefer to attend services at the baroque cathedral located in Antigua Guatemala.

During Holy Week, the ingredient that stands out is cod, which can be prepared in different ways. August 15 is the day of the Patron Saint of Guatemala, the Virgin Mary, so they celebrate the Assumption with festivals and feasts.

On the other hand, on September 15, the Independence Day of Guatemala is celebrated, which was reached in 1821. During this day, it is celebrated throughout the country with fireworks, dances, parades, soccer games and cockfights. .

During All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, which are celebrated on November 1 and 2, respectively, families gather in cemeteries to honor deceased relatives and share food with them.

On these days, a special salad called “fiambre” is prepared, which includes vegetables, meat and fish. In the cemeteries near Antigua Guatemala, giant kites are flown, which represents a unique tradition of this country. Similarly, in the Guatemalan city of Todos Santos, horse races and dances are held.

On December 7, the Burning of the Devil is celebrated nationwide. Christmas Eve and Christmas are celebrated on December 24 and 25, respectively. During this festivity, gourmet tamales and punch are prepared, an alcoholic drink made from rum with spices and fruits.

Gastronomy of the Ladino culture

Ladino cuisine is simple and not as spicy as its neighboring countries. Ladino gastronomy compiles all the elements of the main cultures that have influenced Guatemala: the aboriginal, the Spanish and the African.

The main ingredients of Ladino cuisine, and that of Guatemala in general, are corn and beans, inherited from the ancient Mayas.

Likewise, guacamole, chiles and tamales, essential elements of Guatemalan gastronomy, come from the aborigines. Similarly, rice and plantains (ripe and green) are staple foods.

Among the typical dishes, corn or bean tamales, turkey soup, chiles rellenos (peppers stuffed with meat and vegetables), fricassee (Mayan dish consisting of chicken with pumpkin and sesame sauce with almonds) stand out.

Also the rellenitos de plátano (mashed green plantains with black beans), the pepian (soup made from tomatoes, onions, chilies and pumpkin seeds) and the arroz con pollo.

The most outstanding drinks are the horchata (milk and rice drink, with chocolate and cinnamon) and cocktails based on rum and lemon. The best-known desserts are pompan (papaya or milky sweet) and flan.

Ladinos prefer to eat the typical dishes of their country and prefer home-cooked food, which is why fast food restaurants do not have much influence in Guatemala.

Family in Ladino culture

Family members in Guatemala are very close. As for Ladino families, the tendency is the nuclear family, which means that the mother, father, and children live in one house.

Children often live with their parents even up to the age of 30 and, after marriage, may continue to live in the parental home for a short period of time.

If possible, the newly married couple makes sure they have a house close to their parents. In this sense, it is observed that, despite the fact that the nuclear family is the one that prevails, the members of the extended family keep in touch.

Both ladino mothers and fathers enter the labor field, which is why child care is usually entrusted to grandparents or a babysitter, if they can afford it.


Among the Ladinos, parents do not intervene in the selection of a mate. However, members of the higher social classes might plan the marriage of their children to ensure economic well-being.

Marriages are celebrated civilly, as stipulated by Guatemalan law. In general, after the civil wedding, the church wedding takes place. This ritual is considered of greater importance than legal marriage.

Although the Church disapproves of it, divorce is legal and is a common process among Ladinos. Divorced women have the right to retain their husband’s surname if they wish.


Soccer is the national sport of Guatemala and is played by both ladinos and aborigines. In Guatemala City is one of the largest soccer stadiums in Central America.


Ladino culture reflects the influence of foreign cultures, especially Western ones. This can be seen in the way Ladinos dress, who wear common garments in the United States and in Western European societies.

ethnic relations

Some ladinos consider that the movements in favor of the strengthening of aboriginal cultures are a threat to the hegemony of ladino culture. In this sense, the exclusion and marginalization of indigenous groups by some ladinos is evident.


Education in Guatemala is taught in Spanish, which represents an advantage for Ladinos since this is their mother tongue. However, this has caused social problems for the country: 40% of the adult population is illiterate.

Most of this population belongs to some aboriginal community. However, a considerable percentage belongs to the Ladino culture.

Influence of foreign cultures on Ladinos

Ladino culture is strongly influenced by other foreign cultures, not only in terms of the way they dress, but also in other aspects of their way of life.

In this sense, Guatemala imports films from the United States, mainly. Soap operas, very popular among ladinos, are imported from Mexico and Venezuela. Similarly, television includes American programs dubbed into Spanish.

On the other hand, a large number of products consumed by Ladinos are of foreign origin, such as cereals, beverages, and automobiles.


Ladino. Recovered from britannica.com.
National Dates. Retrieved from guatemalaweb.com.
People & Population. Retrieved from web.standford.edu.

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