Quiché (kēchāˈ) [key], indigenous peoples of Mayan linguistic stock, in the western highlands of Guatemala; most important group of the ancient southern Maya. The largest of the contemporary native groups of Guatemala, numbering over a million, they live principally in the region between Quezaltenango and Chichicastenango. From their origins, as told in the Popol Vuh, the Quiché have retained many ancient traditions, blending them with Western customs to create a distinctive mode of life. Pedro de Alvarado, with the help of the Cakchiquel or Kakchiquel, a neighboring but rival group similar in language and stock, conquered them in 1524. However, the Quiché waged periodic uprisings against both the Spanish and, later, the Guatemalan government. During the political upheaval of the 1970s and 80s in Guatemala, many Quiché fled the country for Mexico and the United States. Studies of modern Quiché communities include Ruth Bunzel, Chichicastenango (1952) and Manning Nash, Machine Age Maya (1958).
See also R. M. Carmack, Quichean Civilization (1973).