Yukateko - Orientation

Identification. The term "Maya" is of indeterminable antiquity and today is usually used by the Yukateko to refer only to their language, not to themselves. For self-identification, the terms used are "Mayero," which refers to a speaker of Maya; mestizo, which in Spanish means "mixed people"; or "Máasehual," an adapted Nahuatl word that denotes "poor people."

Location. In pre-Columbian times and today, the Yukateko have inhabited much of the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, including the states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo, and Campeche. They live adjacently with other Maya groups such as the Kekchi and Mopan to the south near Belize, Guatemala, and the Mexican state of Tabasco.

Demography. It is difficult to enumerate the Yukateko population because classification criteria used by the Mexican government and those used by anthropologists differ, owing in part to the mestizaje, or Spanish/Maya "mixture" process, as well as the isolation of hundreds of communities. The best estimate is about 500,000, which suggests a recovery to near precontact levels.

Linguistic Affiliation. Yukateko belongs to the Maya Language Family and is believed to have separated from other languages about 1000 B . C . Although there are regional Maya dialectal differences identifiable by native speakers, the language used among all Maya is rather homogeneous, the result of frequent population movements during colonial and contemporary times.

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