The Maya peoples constitute a diverse range of the Native American people of southern Mexico and northern Central America. The overarching term “Maya” is a convenient collective designation to include the peoples of the region who share some degree of cultural and linguistic heritage; however, the term embraces many distinct populations, societies, and ethnic groups, who each have their own particular traditions, cultures, and historical identity.
There are an estimated 7 million Maya living in this area at the start of the 21st century. Ethnic Maya of southern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and western Honduras have managed to maintain substantial remnants of their ancient cultural heritage. Some are quite integrated into the modern cultures of the nations in which they reside, while others continue a more traditional culturally distinct life, often speaking one of the Mayan languages as a primary language.
The largest populations of contemporary Maya inhabit the Mexican states of Yucat?n, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, and Chiapas, and in the Central American countries of Belize, Guatemala, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador.