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Introducing Nebaj

Hidden in a remote fold of the Cuchumatanes mountains north of Sacapulas is the Triángulo Ixil (Ixil Triangle), a 2300-sq-km zone comprising the towns of Santa María Nebaj, San Juan Cotzal and San Gaspar Chajul, as well as dozens of outlying villages and hamlets. The local Ixil Maya people, though they suffered perhaps more than anybody in Guatemala's civil war, cling proudly to their traditions and speak the Ixil language. Nebaj women are celebrated for their beautiful purple, green and yellow pom-pommed hair braids, scarlet cortes, and their huipiles and rebozos (shawls), with many bird and animal motifs.

Living in this beautiful mountain vastness has long been both a blessing and a curse. The invading Spaniards found it difficult to conquer, and they laid waste to the inhabitants when they did. During the civil war years, massacres and disappearances were rife, with more than two dozen villages destroyed. According to estimates by church groups and human-rights organizations, some 25,000 Ixil inhabitants (of a population of 85,000) were either killed or displaced by the army between 1978 and 1983 as part of the campaign to expunge guerrilla activity. You may hear some appalling personal experiences from locals while you're here.

The people of the Ixil Triangle are making a heroic effort to build a new future with the help of development organizations and NGOs, whose workers you're likely to encounter during your visit.