Guatemala is one of the indigenous countries in Latin America (Peru, Paraguay, Ecuador are others), although there are indigenous people in many of the other countries. Forty-three percent of the people of Guatemala still self-identify as indigenous, although the vast majority of Guatemalans are descended from indigenous people. (When they change their dress and customs they identify as ¨Ladino¨ (not Latino, because Ladino emphasizes the indigenous history.) There are 23 distinct indigenous people groups in Guatemala, and the Quiché are the most numerous, at 29% of all indigenous people in Guatemala. Estimates range up to 2.4 million people. They have 6 dialects and although they are mostly highland dwellers, they are scattered over 7 departments (22 departments in Guatemala).
There are 400 million Indigenous people throughout the world and they share similar problems. They are always the poorest in whatever country they reside. In the case of Guatemala, 93% of rural indigenous dwellers live in extreme poverty, which makes human needs ministries, coupled with the Gospel, very effective in reaching them. All health statistics for indigenous people are worse than for others in their countries. In the case of Guatemala, the levels of chronic malnutrition, causing permanent stunting, is among the highest in the world. It is the highest in this hemisphere.