Three names, one town!

Did you know, that many places in Guatemala have two or three names? Why?

1.Spanish names from the colonial period

Most places in Guatemala have a Spanish name. As a former Spanish colony, this is not surprising. Often one finds the names of the saints and apostles. There are many places called Santa Maria, San Pedro, Santiago, San Juan etc. In order to distinguish the places, there are often nicknames in Spanish. For example San Pedro la Laguna (San Pedro the lagoon, at Lake Atitlan) or San Francisco el Alto (San Francisco high above).

2.Names in Nahuatl

Many city names in Guatemala are not Mayan names. Although some Guatemalans believe they are mayan, this is often not the case. Why?

The Spanish conquerors came from Mexico with Indian auxiliary troops. Those tribes spoke the language of the Aztecs, namely Nahuatl. After the conquest, these allies were settled in Guatemala and gave their new places of residence a name, in their own language. All names that end with ango or peque are an example of this. The well-known places Quetzaltenango, Momostenango, Jocotenango or Chimaltenango, are therefore names given by the Indian co-conquerors of the country.
In few corners of the country, at the time of the conquest, there still lived Pipiles (who had already disappeared from Guatemala at the beginning of the last century). The Pipiles also spoke a variant of the Nahuatl called Nahua language. Therefore, in the south and southeast of the country, you still find village names, which go back to them.

3.Names in Mayan languages

Of course, many cities also have a name derived from a Mayan language. In former settlements of the Mayas, the old original name is used officially or informally. Sometimes it’s the main name. For example, Tecpan, Patzicia and Patzun are mayan names (Kaqchiquel). Sometimes the Mayan designation is the nickname. Examples are Santa Cruz Quiche and Santa Cruz Balanya. In many places, the Mayan name is known only to the indigenous population.


Chimaltenango, called by the Spaniards Ciudad de los escudos (Town of shields), is called b’oko or b’okob in Kaqchikel.

Comalapa, complete name San Juan Comalapa, to the Kaqchiqueles is Chixot.

Itzapa, complete name San Andres Itzapa, is Pachax.


So do not be amazed about the fact, that there are many towns and villages in Guatemala, with two or three names!


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