Maya Indians, a people living in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador, whose highly developed civilization reached its peak in the seventh and eighth centuries. At that time, a number of Maya cities were home to tens of thousands of people. The Mayas reverted to a primitive state of existence after their civilization, which had long been in decline, was destroyed by Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century.

The MayasThe Mayas built elaborate cities.

The Mayas form a large part of the peasant population of the Mexican states of Yucatn, Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas, and Quintana Roo; Guatemala; and Belize. Mayas are of short, sturdy build and have broad faces and prominent noses. There are about 30 Mayan languages. The Mayan language of the Yucatn peninsula is Yucatec, or Maya proper. Other Mayan languages, found mainly in the highlands (at the base of the peninsula), include Quich, Cakchikel, Mam, Kekchi, and Pokomam. An isolated Mayan-speaking group, the Huastec, lives in northeastern Mexico.