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Baja Verapaz



Baja Verapaz

Baja Verapaz is the cradle of the Rabinal Achi´, the epic poem that is one of the most important works of the pre-Columbian period.

In addition to this example of ancestral culture, we find in this Department the Biota of Quetzal, one of the few protected sites that preserve some examples of the national bird and symbol with its prodigiously beautiful and colorful plumage.

Other attractions of Baja Verapaz are its archaeological sites, the powerful Matanzas River with its 225 meter waterfalls and the Chixoy River dam, surrounded by an impressive natural landscape.

General data
Name: Baja Verapaz.
First city: Salamá.
Population: approximately 199,303.
Cities: Cubulco, El Chol, Granados, Purulhá, San Jerónimo,
Rabinal, San Miguel Chicaj and Salamá.
Weather: From warm to cold.
Language: Achi', k'iche' and spanish.
Altitude: 940 meters above sea level.
Territorial limits: It bounds to the north with Alta Verapaz, to the south with Guatemala ad Chimaltenango, to the east with El Progreso, and to the west with Quiché.
Territorial extension: 3,214 square kilometers.
Main festivity: September 17 in honor to San Mateo.
Foundation: 1543.
Temperature: Maximum 24 degrees Celsius
Minimum 13 degrees Celsius

The land of sugar, panela and liquor

By: Alfonso Arrivillaga Cortés and Máximo Bá Tiul

In the pre-Hispanic era, this region belonged to the region of Tezulutlán and was conquered before the rest of Verapaz. Along the road known as "From Chol to Granado", which marked the colonial route, the settlements of Rabinal and San Miguel Chicaj formed, which were noted for the size of their churches. The Spanish utilized settlements such as El Chol in their attempt to control an outlet to the Caribbean Sea. From 1574 it formed part of the Province of Verapaz. This territory was inhabited by the poqomchi'es and achi'es, and possessed a rich pre-Columbian tradition, such as the Rabinal Achí (a pre-Hispanic drama), which has been preserved until today. Rabinal is the principal setting of these traditions and for this reason the religious leader Narciso Teletor wrote valuable information with respect to it. Near the principality of Salamá are found the ruins of the Hacienda de San Jerónimo that under the administration of the Dominican Order reached it ultimate splendor. The mill was in its time a great center of sugar production and from this time of sugar cane production evolved the production of rum which continues to be famous to this day. Today the mill stands converted to a museum. In 1825 the Department of Verapaz was established with its principality of Cobán. By Executive Decree Number 181 of the 4th of May 1877 the territory was divided into Alta and Baja Verapaz with the respective principalities in Cobán and in Salamá.


The mysterious semi-desert valleys

By: Luis Villar Anleu

The territory of Baja Verapaz is dominated by the mountains that are part of the Sierra de Chuacús, especially in the corresponding central and southern parts. In the eastern sector, and part of the north the elevations pertain to the Sierra de Las Minas.

In the highest elevations are established rain forests, characteristic of the Selva de Montaña bioma. In the semi-desert the Chaparral Espinoso has developed that is also the ecological environment of the southern confines and where the Valley of the Río Grande or Motagua is located.

The pride of Baja Verapaz is the "Mario Dary Rivera" Biotopo, also known as the Biotopo del Quetzal. It is a protected natural reserve of approximately 1,153 hectáreas (2,885 acres), that protects the rainforests of Quisís and Carpintero.

Among the most noted attractions of this Department are the Río Chixoy, the Chicoy Cavern, the Patal Waterfall and the Biotopo del Quetzal.


By: Francisco Rodríquez Rouanet and Aracely Esquivel

Cotton fabrics

They create güipiles, skirts and other varieties of clothing in the municipalities of Cubulco, Granados, El Chol, Rabinal, San Miguel Chicaj, Salamá and Purulhá.

Traditional ceramics

This type of ceramic is elaborated in the municipalities of Cubulco, Rabinal, San Miguel Chicaj, Salamá, San Jerónimo and El Chol, where they produce jugs, dishes for baking tortillas, and pots of various size and purpose.


This craftwork is found in the municipalities of Cubulco, San Miguel Chicaj, Salamá and Purulhá.

Wood products

They create furniture of various types in the municipalities of Cubulco, Granados, El Chol, Rabinal, San Miguel Chicaj, Salamá, San Jerónimo and Purulhá. Musical instruments such as chinchines, maracas, guitars and violins are produced in the municipalities of Rabinal, San Miguel Chicaj, Salamá and Purulhá. Toys are found in the municipality of San Jerónimo.

Ceremonial and party masks are crafted in the municipalities of Granados and Rabinal.

Metal products

Forged iron is found only in the municipalities of Cubulco, Rabinal, San Miguel Chicaj and Purulhá. Tin is crafted in the municipalities of Salamá and Rabinal into lanterns, candlesticks, doors, doorknockers, railings and lamps.

One can also find products of rope, palm, candles, leather goods, tulle, construction materials, and fireworks.



By: Carlos René García Escobar


The strength of the cofradías in Baja Verapaz resides in the associations they have built that possess within them the most profound of the k'iche' traditions. These traditions were established in the Valle de Zamaneb, now known as Rabinal, three centuries before the Spanish invasion. This is where Fray Bartolomé de las Casas and Fray Pedro de Angulo arrived in 1542 and established the Spanish language.


Without doubt, the greatest expression of the Rabinal cosmic vision is their ethnodrama. It became known to the world academic community as Rabinal Achí beginning with its unveiling in Braseur de Bourbourg. It was published in París for the first time, in 1862, in their own translation from k'iche' to French and is known in this form to the present day.

This drama represents the reasoning the Rabinals of the 13th century gave to the governors of the k'iche'es for having destroyed various settlements in the valley and for which they quit paying the corresponding tributes. In it, a k'iche' achí warrior is discovered, captured and sentenced to a sacrificial death by the Rabinal court after bidding farewell to his people. Through this drama Rabinal, like other regions of the country, represents a spectrum of traditional dances gestated in the colonial period and interpolated with pre-colonial and colonial elements that now represent the grand dance spectacle of the k'iche' region.